Kotor and the bay on which it sits is a great place to explore. Whether on the water, strolling through the Old Town, or taking a hike or ride up into the mountains for a million dollar view, there’s plenty to fill a few days here. We found a few things to do during our brief visit that might inspire you as well.
Bike Along the Inlet Coast
The road that encircles the Bay of Kotor is custom made for motorbike riding. There are views from most of the 65 kilometers along the waterfront. There’s also lots of great stops along the way, of the course the town of Kotor, restaurants, and cafes, and don’t miss the little towns of Herceg Novi, Perast, and Risan, to name a few. From the main loop road you can find roads to climb up into the hills to get great views of the bay and surrounding mountains. It’s a great way to explore.
Visit the Risan Mosaics
As we drove along the main road around the bay, we saw a sign for ancient mosaic ruins. Although we planned to head to Bitola in Macedonia to see the real deal, our interest was piqued to see what the ruins of Risan offered. So we pulled up to a small unassuming building and walked in the entrance. There were a couple young women at the main desk and they seemed a little surprised to see visitors. When we told them we were interested in seeing the mosaics, they showed us where they were and charged us the $2 entry fee. They seemed proud of the display, but not terribly interested in taking us around and showing them to us. What we found on our own were several beautiful examples of second century Roman mosaic floors with some incredibly detailed patterns, as well as a figure of Hypnos, the goddess of sleep and the only known image of the goddess.
Climb the Fortification to Our Lady of Health (& beyond)
You can climb the fortification from Old Town to the top where there are panoramic views of Kotor and the bay, as well as the surrounding mountains. Lots of switchbacks to get up there and it’s good to pack some extra lungs. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart. you’ll get progressively better views as you head up, and pass by the Church of our Lady of Health, stop in and light a candle, take a peek at the church, then keep climbing. You’ll eventually reach the top at the old San Giovanni (St. John) fortress, just ruins now, but the effort is worth the view!
Walk the Streets of Old Town Kotor
Kotor is another of the many Old Towns in the Balkans that great to walk through for a day. While not exactly Dubrovnik, there are many charming side streets, walkways, and squares with restaurants and cafe to sit and while the days away. Although we only had a brief visit here, it was well worth the time and I only wish we had a bit more time to really dive deep into the town.
The medieval Old Town of Kotor is likely one of the best preserved in all the Balkans and perhaps all of the Adriatic. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. The city is encircled by a 3 mile long wall that not only surrounds the Old Town on level ground at the water’s edge but also goes clear up the hillside! It’s pretty incredible to see and then imagine them building this thing centuries ago. There must have been some forced labor for this job, I can’t imagine who would do it willingly. The fortifications were started in the 600s and the walls that are in place today were largely completed in the 1400s. The walls are up to 60 feet tall and range in thickness from 5 to 50 feet! You can hike up all the way to the top and visit some ruins and churches along the way. If you don’t have the stamina to make it to the top, there are several churches and castles to explore closer to sea level.
Drive the treacherous M2.3 from Risan to Pluzine
So as we headed out of Kotor and stopped by Risan to see the mosaics, we found a switchback road that appeared to lead up and out of Risan into the mountains and away from the bay. Although the main road wasn’t too far back from the way we came earlier in the morning, we decided to save a little time and take the adventure up the hill. Well it was quite the adventure alright. In the end the road turned out to be OK, but when you’re heading up a mountain switchback road that gets worse and worse as you go up, and it feels you could just tip over into the bay at any moment, you start to wonder what happened to your decision making skills. It was basically a one lane road (mostly paved) that must at one time have been the main way up the mountain. Now with the new road in, it has fallen out of favor and into disrepair. But how exhilarating once we reached the top and survived! I almost wanted to go back and do it again but there was definitely a sigh of relief as we joined the main road.
The route through the mountains at the top was great fun. Good roads and great vistas, we were headed in the right direction. As we reached Pluzine near Durmitor National Park, we found another dicey switchback road to take up into the park. Apparently one of the main ways into the park, this is not something that would fly in the states. The switchbacks went through tunnels in the mountains, but the tunnels were not in any way finished nicely with concrete or any protection from falling debris in the tunnels. It looked like they just dug the tunnel and walked away. It was a fun ride and after the trip up and out of Risan, seemed like a walk in the park, or at least to it…