Guest Traveller Tarnia Puchlenko says if you’re pining for the charm of a European old town but want to avoid the hyper-tourism of Dubrovnik or Prague, set your sights further afield to the tiny Old Town of Kotor, Montenegro. Join Tarnia as she navigates this fortified town, on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast…
Montenegro is a Balkan country lying between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania and the Adriatic sea. Nestled in the corner of a sparkling bay and bordered by four kilometres of ancient town wall, every footstep along Kotor’s cobbled laneways echoes with romance and history. But it’s not just a pretty face; this Montenegro town still has functional shops for locals dotted about, giving it a grittier look and feel compared with its polished counterparts in nearby countries.
The Old Town (Stari Grad) is a complex maze of lanes and narrow streets, and it’s a simple joy to allow yourself to be lost for a while.
Turn another corner and your lane will unexpectedly open onto one of the city’s many squares, where coffee and a burek (a filled, flaky pastry) awaits.
Make the effort to trek up the 1300-odd steps along the city walls to St John’s fortress, where you can drink in the picturesque views across the Bay of Kotor.
Then reward yourself with an actual drink – perhaps a crisp local wine – in an open-air restaurant while sampling the freshest of seafood.
Feline-lovers will be in heaven watching the many cats prowling about their business or lazing in comfortable spots.
Descended from seafaring felines of long ago when Kotor was a major port town, many people now regard the cats as a defining symbol of the city.
As lovely as this place is during the day, at night it transforms into a medieval fairy tale, with its imposing architecture and town walls all dramatically aglow against the night sky.
If you value authenticity over tourist-theme-park cuteness, Kotor is for you.
But with Montenegro constantly touted as the next big thing in tourism, and cruise ships muscling in, you’d best be quick. Get packing!
Five Tips for Travelling in Montenegro:
1 Of Vogue’s “6 Reasons Montenegro May Be This Year’s Most Tempting Travel Destination”, “smaller price tag” and “foodie dreams” stand out as the most enticing!
2 Montenegro’s coastline borders Croatia at its northern end, and Albania to the south and onward travel to Croatian towns and islands is easily arranged by public transport or hire car, as are the lesser known beaches and ancient sites of Albania. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Kosovo and Serbia are also easily accessible by bus, as reported by Fodors.
3 Lonely Planet puts Kotor as the top experience in Montenegro and says the best time to go is during the shoulder seasons of May-June and September-October because there’s plenty of sunshine, less crowds and the average water temperatures are over 20°C.
4 According to DFAT, Australian travellers do not require a visa for Montenegro for visits lasting up to 90 days within a six month period from the date of first entry. However, visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice.
5 Rough Guides recommend taking the beautiful train journey to Bar from the Serbian border for the breathtaking vistas. They say to be sure to sit on the western side of the train for the best view.
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