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Driving around the Bay of Kotor

Boka Kotorska, the spectacular fjord on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast is a bit unknown bu it clearly is a world class nature sight. We spent a day driving around the Bay of Kotor, enjoying Montenegro’s fantastic mountain scenery and the bay’s calm waters, cultural heritage and postcard-perfect villages.

This post will show you the UNESCO listed Bay of Kotor that was one of the absolute highlights of our Montenegro road trip. 

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

A bay of Kotor sailing boat

Driving around the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

I will show you where we went and what we saw on our trip around this winding waterway.

Boka Kotorska, the Bay of Kotor

Boka Kotorska and Perast

The calm waters of Boka Kotorska

The Bay of Kotor, Boka Kotorska in the local language, is a long winding bay of the Adriatic Sea, extending like a fjord deep into the country. The bay got its name from the medieval town of Kotor at its farthest end, well protected from all possible attacks from the sea.

To provide more protection against enemies they built  a row of walled cities and fortifications along the waterway. Many of these medieval towns still stand there and the most famous of them are Perast half-way the Boka and Herzeg Novi at its mouth.

The Bay of Kotor has two inner bays and its total length is almost 30 km on the waterline. Yet driving around the whole bay would mean a hundred km drive. We didn’t drive it all, we only took the best parts of the bay, the most scenic inner part and to Herzeg Novi and back.

That’s what you can do in a day, leaving a lot of time for stops along the way.  Since driving around the Bay of Kotor you will want to stop, a lot.

Cruise to Kotor, Montenegro

Cruising to Kotor

Of course renting a car and driving around is not the only way to see the bay. The Bay of Kotor is included in many Mediterranean cruises, the cruisers arrive in early morning mist and leave before the sun sets and you have a whole day in Kotor where the cruisers park right on the main street. Also there are buses or you can rent a bike.

Bay of Kotor view towards Tivat peninsula

The calm blue waters of Boka Kotorska, Montenegro

Bay of Kotor Driving Map

 

The map shows our drive along the Bay of Kotor shores, 80 km in all. We started north from Kotor, in direction Perast, and returned along the other shore in the evening.

The other places we visited were Risan, Morinj and Herzeg Novi on the north shore. From Herzeg Novi we took the same road back and crossed the bay at its narrowest point where a ferry takes you across the bay in  just a few minutes.

From Lepetani you can either take the Tivat road and the tunnel back to Kotor – or the narrow winding road along the other side of the peninsula. We took the latter which goes through small villages. Tivat is a big, modern community that has a luxury yacht harbor if you want to drive that way.

Driving around the Bay of Kotor

Bay of Kotor shoreline

Boka Kotorska shoreline north of Kotor

So we set off north, in what a scenery! My photos will tell you what the inner bay north of of Kotor looks like.

In the beginning you can choose between two roads, the upper main road where driving is smooth or you can take the other narrow road down by the water. The narrow road is even more beautiful than the main one but you will have watch for oncoming traffic.

 

Views of the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

It was May and we were almost alone on the road so we could stop wherever we wanted. But this of course will be different during peak seasons. We like traveling when others don’t and always do that if we can.

Bay of Kotor view towards Kotor

Boka Kotorska, Kotor at distance

Perast

View of Perast, Montenegro

Perast and red flowers

The old town of Perast, Kotor Bay

Perast is an old fortress town, very well preserved and probably the prettiest in the area. And it has a stunning location between the two inner bays with visibility in all directions which was an important factor in the old days when Perast was defending the bay from attacks. The fort still stands there, above the old town.

 

Views of Perast, Montenegro

You can leave your car where the first beach is, it’s impossible to park in the old town that’s strung in a narrow area along the waterfront. We however drove slowly through the city and found a second parking area where the old town ends.

The parking ticket was 2 euros and if you pay 10 they also take you to one of the two small islands in the bay.

Church of Sveti Nikola, Perast

Church of Sveti Nikola, Perast

So before we noticed we went on a boat tour.

Boat Tour to Our Lady of the Rock Island

Our Lady of the Rock island on the Bay of Kotor

Our Lady of the Rock island, the Bay of Kotor

The two islands in the bay are Our Lady of the Rock and the Benedictine Monastery of St George. The former is the one we took a boat across to.

The Lady of the Rock was built by local people and it’s a holy place for them. To begin with there was no island, just some stones so they first made an island and then built the green-domed church on it.  That needed boatloads of material and years of hard work, but Perast locals did it!

 

Visiting Our Lady of the Rock, an islet in the Boka Kotorska

The second island Monastery of St George is even smaller. It has a sea captains graveyard, massive walls around it and a group of cypress trees:

Benedictine Monastery of St George in the Bay of Kotor

Benedictine Monastery of St George island in the Bay of Kotor

These are the only Bay of Kotor islands and even when they are touristic with many groups visiting they are worth the trip, not least because of the scenes from the middle of the bay.

We took our boat back across the water and continued driving.  Risan at the innermost bend of the bay has an exhibition of old Greek ceramics and a supermarket where we bought picnic ingredients. Otherwise the town looked more modern than old (even if it is said to be the oldest town around).

Morinj

Morinj bay, Boka Katorska

The green bay of Morinj,  a hidden Boka Kotorska bay  

The next bend has the next village. Morinj is a very small village where fishermen walk around and you can walk around a little bit too, along Morinj’s dams and ponds. It doesn’t look like a very old town either but Morinj’s nature  is superb.

The water here looks SO green against the pines – and Morinj has sandy beaches, not a common feature in the Bay of Kotor.

 

Views to the Bay of Kotor from Morinj

Morinj, Bay of Kotor

Morinj, Kotor Bay

The road now turns back following the inner bay waterfront, towards the narrowest point where the shores are only 300 m apart.  There is a stylish restaurant cafe, Verige 65, that offers this kind of panorama views of the Boka:

The Bay of Kotor from Verige 65

The Bay of Kotor from Verige 65

Bay of Kotor Ferry

Bay of Kotor car ferry

Bay of Kotor car ferry

If you want to get across the bay drive to Kamenari around the corner. Kamenari has a ferry. In fact three ferries that drive all the time. They take cars, buses, trucks and pedestrians across for a few euros and there’s clearly a need for that. If you are on the way from Croatia to Albania down the Adriatic coast the ferry will save you a lot of time.

We are returning to this point later on, we first have to explore Herzeg Novi. We have now left behind the most scenic part which is the inner fjord and will only drive to Herzeg Novi and back, without any stops.

Herzeg Novi

Herzeg Novi old town and the Adriatic Sea

Herzeg Novi view to the Bay of Kotor

Herzeg Novi at the mouth of the Bay of Kotor

The old fortress town of Herzeg Novi has a strategic location watching towards the sea at the mouth of the Boka Kotorska. There is a massive upper fortress above the city and the equally massive Forte Mare castle on the seafront.

The old town is climbing uphill the steep slope between the two fortresses, well protected by thick walls. Very hard to attack…

 

Views of Herzeg Novi old town, Montenegro

Yet many nationalities tried to destroy the city but without success. The old town has kept the same and it looks like nothing has changed with time.

Herzeg Novi is along the main Adriatic highway and therefore draws a lot of visitors, not least for its beach and seaside promenade – and terraced gardens and roses.

Herzeg Novi roses

Herzeg Novi garden city

South Side of the Bay of Kotor

Now we have seen the north side of the Bay of Kotor and it’s time to take the ferry across to the south side.

The first thing we met after the ferry crossing was this little church – with great views to the bay and the two little islands Our Lady of the Rock and St George.

Gospa od Andela, Bay of Kotor

Gospa od Andela, Bay of Kotor

This shore of the inner bay is equally beautiful as the opposite shore, there’s village after village and all of them are directly on the waterfront. Neatly piled stone piers, rows of fishing boats and villages with traditional homes are lining the bay.

View across the Bay of Kotor

View across the Boka

Driving around the Bay of Kotor

Driving around the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

What a pleasure it has been to drive on these roads! This has been a great day out but now we came back to Kotor.

So what does Kotor look like? What is there to see?

Kotor

Kotor Old Town square

A Kotor Old Town square

The old and most famous part of Kotor is a well protected, well preserved medieval town. Kotor’s old town lies behind 20 m walls that are 4,5 km long. This is a kind of city that is very hard to attack.

Yet Kotor has had 14 different rulers -and none of them has destroyed the city,  if they have they have rebuilt. Like after earthquakes.

Inside the massive walls you will find a medieval labyrinth, a clock tower,  cathedral, town hall, market places, narrow lanes, squares…

 

Views of the old town of Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor Old Town is at its best in evenings when the crowds have left and mainly the locals are left. As a cruising port Kotor draws huge crowds at daytime.

Kotor stairs to fortress

Kotor stairs uphill to Fortress of St Ivan 

Kotor has a fortress above the city, up on the hill. There are different places around the old town where you can get to the fortress stairs. Above is the access point in the old town.

But this is not the right time to climb, we rather need a glass of wine after a day’s drive and then a proper dinner.

Evening by Kotor Bay

Evening by the Bay of Kotor

Chardonnay and Kotor Bay

A glass of local Chardonnay and Kotor Bay

The bayside villages north of Kotor have a long row of cozy cafes and eateries, many of them right on the waterfront. We left the car and just walked down from the apartment we were renting – and here we are!

 

Evening views of the Bay of Kotor

What more do you need after a day’s drive? These views – and watching the sunset.

Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Kotor Bay after sunset. This is Montenegro, Europe.

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