Last Updated on January 23, 2020 by Nicole
It was June and all of a sudden, it looked like a last minute trip to Europe was in play. We would only have a week and there was going to be four of us – me and my husband, my adult and 13 year old daughters. Now the question became – Where should we go? I didn’t want to go a country that I had been before or would be drowning in summer tourists. My solution… we decided to explore Montenegro and Slovenia. I had heard about Kotor Montenegro, specifically Kotor Old Town, and already fell in love with visions of its ancient charm. I really wanted to go. Thankfully, it was an excellent decision.
We LOVED Montenegro. I can’t recommend it enough to any of you. If you are looking for an absolutely breathtaking beautiful country that is filled with friendly locals, then look no further. It is inexpensive, authentic and in many parts of the country, untouched by tourism. I don’t know how long that will last. As Croatia becomes more and more overrun by tourists, and prices increase, I see its neighbour, Montenegro, the next destination of choice.
In this blog, I am going to focus on why we chose to stay in Kotor Montenegro, specifically Kotor Old Town. It would not be the perfect place for everyone, but it was ideal for us. Here’s why.
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A Brief Overview of Montenegro
Montenegro is on the Adriatic Sea in Central Europe more commonly referred to as the Balkans. Montenegro used to be a part of Yugoslavia. However, in the 1990s, Yugoslavia collapsed. From there, six countries emerged – Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Montenegro.
Montenegro is a small country with an area of 13,812 square kilometres and a population of 640,000 people. It is filled with rugged mountains, medieval villages and small strips of beaches along the Adriatic.
Montenegro is not yet a member of the European Union. However, the euro is universally accepted everywhere. In fact, I have no idea what the local currency was. Everything was priced in euros and I never received any currency other than euros from restaurants or stores.
There are two International airports serving Montenegro. One is in Podogorica, the capital, about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Kotor Montenegro. The other is in Tivat, a 20 minute drive to Kotor Montenegro. As I will discuss later in this blog, there are hardly any major roads and traffic in and around the coast can be horrible. Accordingly, I would strongly recommend that you try and coordinate flights and accommodation that best minimizes your transfer time to and from the airports.
Kotor Old Town On The Bay Of Kotor
Kotor Montenegro is a coastal town on the Bay of Kotor on the Adriatic Sea. It is well known for two things: Kotor Old Town and the port.
Kotor Old Town
Kotor old town is a beautiful medieval city built between the 12th and 14th centuries and completely surrounded by fortified walls. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is filled with winding cobblestone paths, medieval architecture and historic monuments. Hotels, restaurants and stores are scattered throughout the city within the medieval architecture. It is a pedestrian only zone.
Kotor Old Town is not very big. I think that you could walk everywhere within 20-30 minutes. Of course, that would suggest that you actually know where you were going. One of the charms of Kotor Old Town is that it is super easy to get lost within the winding paths. Not that it takes too long to find your way back to where you want to go! Just that nothing was built in a straight line – from north to south or east to west.
The Port in the Bay of Kotor
The port is found just outside the entrance to Kotor Old Town. Every summer day, anywhere from one to four cruise ships (and counting) enter the Bay of Kotor. The port outside Kotor Old Town is not that big, so many cruise ships end up anchored in the Bay of Kotor for the day. Thankfully, the landscape is not overwhelmed by these cruise ships.
The Bay of Kotor
The Bay of Kotor is completely surrounded by enormous mountains that in many places simply dive at sheer angles into the Adriatic Sea. Where it doesn’t, beautiful little towns are perched below it. The cruise ships, even when there are a couple anchored in the Bay of Kotor, seem to easily fit into this setting.
The Rest of Kotor Montenegro
In addition to the port and the Bay of Kotor, there was a thriving (relatively) modern town outside the walls of Kotor Old Town. Many houses, hotels and businesses exist a short distance from Kotor Old Town.
Why We Chose To Stay in Kotor Old Town
We stayed at Hotel Vardar in Kotor Old Town and we couldn’t have been happier.
Hotel Vadar was a lovely boutique hotel around 50 meters inside the main gate of Kotor Old Town. It had a huge outdoor dining area, as well as a lovely air conditioned lounge just inside. The rooms were large, well priced and very quiet at night. I liked the location and the ease in which we could hang out at the hotel to eat, drink and people watch. In addition, we were an easy 5- 10 minute walk from countless restaurants.
However, initially, I found it very confusing trying to figure out where we should stay in Montenegro. Montenegro is very mountainous, without a lot of roads or highways. Accordingly, many coastal towns are relatively isolated. They are far from the airports and popular tourist attractions. That was not the case with Kotor Montenegro.
Why Kotor Montenegro Was A Great Place To Stay.
Here are four reasons why Kotor Montenegro was a great choice for us.
1. Kotor Montenegro was a convenient location.
Kotor Old Town was very close to Tivat airport. In addition, we were in an ideal location to visit several tourist attractions in which we were interested. For example, we were a short boat ride from Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks in the Bay of Kotor. We were also ideally placed for our road trip to the north of Montenegro to see, among other things, Black Lake in Durmitor National Park and Tara Canyon, one of the deepest river canyons in the world.
For more information about our one day road trip to Black Lake in Durmitor National Park and Tara Canyon, please read Exploring Montenegro: A Breathtaking Road Trip.)
Download my personally crafted 4 day Montenegro travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.
2. We didn’t need a rental car or rely on taxis in Kotor Old Town.
We only had 4 nights/4 days in Montenegro. I didn’t want to rent a car or rely on taxis while we were there. Before arriving, I had read many negative stories about tourists being taken advantage of by taxi drivers. Uber and Lyft did not yet exist when we were there.
3. We had easy access to restaurants, bars and shops in Kotor Old Town.
I knew that everyday, we would be sightseeing all over Montenegro. At night, I wanted to be able to walk from our hotel to great restaurants, bars and shops without needing to plan anything. I also wanted to be some place with a little bit of hustle and bustle. Normally, I shy away from that. I prefer to be somewhere quiet and then, find my way to the action when I feel like it. However, again, we only had a few days and the purpose of the trip was to experience as much as of Montenegro as we could.
4. We avoided traffic along the coast staying in Kotor Montenegro.
Traffic in Montenegro is a bit tricky. For most of the coast, where the majority of the tourists go, there was only two lanes of traffic – one lane each way. And boy was there traffic. Budva, probably the most popular town in Montenegro along the Adriatic, was a much larger town than Kotor with lots of sandy beaches, hotels, and a diverse night life. It is 23 km between Budva and Kotor along a largely straight road, but travel between the two can easily take between 1 – 1 1/2 hours during the summer at all times of the day and night.
Accommodation In Kotor Montenegro
For accommodation in Kotor Montenegro or elsewhere in Montenegro, I would recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find your ideal location at the best prices.
Why You Shouldn’t Stay In Kotor Old Town
Here are three reasons why Kotor Old Town may not be the right choice for you.
1. There wasn’t really a beach in Kotor Montenegro.
If you want to spend anytime at the beach, then Kotor Old Town would not be my first choice. You have easy access to the Adriatic Sea for a quick swim. However, the Bay of Kotor and the port are busy. I didn’t spot any beaches while there or see anyone lounging near the water.
2. Kotor Old Town was busy during the day with cruise ship passengers.
I would not choose Kotor Old Town if you are looking for a quiet and restful holiday, mostly hanging out near your hotel. Kotor Old Town welcomes thousands of cruise passengers a day. Many of them leave Kotor and explore other parts of Montenegro. However, many of them spend at least part of their day exploring Kotor Old Town. This makes Kotor extremely crowded during the day.
The good news is that the cruise ships all left around dinner. By the time we returned from our day exploring Montenegro, Kotor Old Town had a great vibe. We really enjoyed ending our day walking with dinner and drinks in Kotor Old Town.
3. Kotor Montenegro would not be an ideal location if need to drive through Budva.
Finally, I would not stay in Kotor if you think that your daily excursions exploring Montenegro would require you to go through Budva. As I said earlier, traffic between the two towns was very bad. Luckily, we chose excursions that limited the amount of time that we had to spend on the road between the two.
Montenegro was an absolutely stunning country. There was lots to see and do. However, in order to get the most out of your trip, you need to make sure that you book accommodation in a town that makes the most sense for the kind of holiday that you want. If you want an exciting town with beautiful medieval architecture and fantastic restaurants, then Kotor Old Town is the place for you. Kotor Montenegro gives you excellent access to popular tourist attractions while bypassing a lot of the traffic along the coast.
If you would like to read more about our time in Montenegro with tips to make your stay fantastic, please refer to my other blogs:
Kotor Old Town, Montengero: The Best And Worst Location;
Montenegro: Discovering The Bay of Kotor and Adriatic Sea;
Lake Skadar, Montenegro: The Perfect Day Trip; and
Exploring Montenegro: A Breathtaking Road Trip
Download my personally crafted 4 day Montenegro travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.
If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on the “Save” button on one of the photos below.
Thanks Nicole! Informative post on Montenegro.
Nothing like a medieval central European town with cobblestones, etc. Ivan
I didn’t know much about Montenegro, but I now see that it is an emerging destination for good reason! That photo of the bay is breathtaking. Definitely another country to add to our list!
I didn’t know much about it too until I started to research. I think that is why it is still relatively untouched from tourism in many places in the country. However, it is so beautiful and welcoming, I don’t think that will last.
I’m a huge history and architecture buff and loved the architecture in Kotor old town. Such beautiful buildings. Never see that style anywhere else.
I agree. It is a really beautiful town.
I mean the inner part of the country is still quite inexpensive, but there are some places on the coastline that can be a bit pricey. But if you do your research then you can get a really nice deal on everything, and the country is beautiful, glad you had a nice time there 😀
Although some places are fairly inexpensive, a few tend to be on the pricier side, but with good research you can go by fairly cheaply, and it is really one of the hidden gems on the Adriatic coastline 😀
You are right Matija. There can be pricey restaurants and bars along the coast, but I was also surprised at how there were still really inexpensive places too. And it didn’t take too much effort to find them. In Kotor old town, we had some exceptional well priced meals which I thought wouldn’t be possible. In the interior, it was really inexpensive and so beautiful.
Oh that’s a beautiful place! I did not have much exposure to Montenegro, but it really seems to be a very beautiful country. I am heading to Croatia next year, now I am reconsidering to change the itinerary and include Montenegro in the plan. I will surely cross the border and get there after I visit Dubrovnik. Kotor is a must now!
Dubrovnik and Kotor would be very similar although Dubrovnik is much bigger. I know that many people chose to do a day trip from Dubrovnik to Kotor but I’d highly recommend exploring the region a bit more and staying a few days. It is so beautiful.
I loved Montenegro too, and Kotor is absolutely gorgeous! I visited Kotor Old Town, but didn’t stay there. It really seems like a good place to base yourself while there.
Yes, Kotor really worked for us and what we wanted to do. I’d love to hear about where you stayed. I was curious while I was there how other places would work.
Wow, Kotor looks beautiful 🙂 I haven’t actually heard much about the city, I have to confess – and I’ve never been to Montenegro before. But I am definitely adding this to my bucket list now I know a bit more 🙂 your photos are lovely x
Thank you. It’s a wonderful place to visit in Europe.
I like that you have tipped us that on a trip to Montenegro during summer, we should watch out for the heavy traffic all day. My wife and daughters are also suggesting me to go there. We could use some help from a summer tourism expert for alternative routes in case we actually go there. https://visitsevierville.com/YourStoriesStartHere.aspx
Because it is so mountainous, sometimes there aren’t any alternative routes, or the routes are through a hazardous route with scary drops over the side of mountains. Once you settle on your accommodation, I would reach out to the hotel or owner and ask for their suggestions for best routes when traffic is heavy.
I hadnt even heard of Montenegro before. Kotor is a place right up my alley with the architecture and the mountains. Two of my favorite things. It looks beautiful!
If you love architecture and mountains, then Montenegro would be an awesome destination for you!
I’m sorry about your experience. I wouldn’t expect that the old city can get so busy and disturbing. But I’m still happy that you like the country.
My experience was amazing. We loved Montenegro and Kotor. I would have loved it to be less busy during the day, but for the most part, we weren’t there so it didn’t bother us. I stay in Kotor again.
Kotor looks amazing – breathtaking views and such a great old city to explore. Definitely saving for later!
You will love it.
Kotor has been on my list forever! Your photos sold me and makes me want to go ASAP! The Bay looks so beautiful, would love to go there!
It is a very alluring destination with so much history. The huge advantage is how unbelievably beautiful the rest of the Montenegro is as well. So far, it is pretty untouched by tourism.
Montenegro was not on our list but now maybe it should be. Great information.
You are welcome. It is worthwhile thinking about it.
Wooooooooow… I really need to add Montenegro to my travel list this year.
It’s a beautiful place.
I haven’t heard too much of Montenegro (compared to other European places) but it looks stunning!
It really is a stunning country. It is literally mountains, forests and then, water. Very Very beautiful!
It’s so interesting that the euro isn’t the local currency but is what is used in all transactions. My dad talked a lot about Montenegro and even mentioned buying a second home there at one point, I now understand why
That sounds wonderful! I would keep encouraging him to buy that second home!
This is some great insight – I’m planning on visiting Montenegro this spring so I’ll be bookmarking this post!
Have a great time!