A Day Trip to Scenic Montenegro: Perast & Kotor
Originally published on Friday, May 13, 2022
Admittedly, I sometimes like visiting countries for the sake of it, and I opted to take a day trip down to Montenegro (Kotor and Perast) when I was in Dubrovnik. It was beyond my expectations and so worth a trip. Kotor actually ended up being one of the highlights of my vacation and both places are on my list of favorite towns in Europe!
So without further adieu, here’s a wrap-up of Perast and Kotor in Montenegro.
A little bit of history: Perast’s most notable history is a lot more recent than some surrounding areas. It became a part of the Venetian Empire from 1420-1797, which is when it thrived and developed the look that’s still present today. Though it was once a large shipyard, its economy and importance declined with the end of the Venetian Empire. It is, however, a popular and beautiful tourist destination today on Montenegro’s coast.
As Perast is a very small place, our time was limited and I opted to just walk around and enjoy the scenery. The scenery is beautiful, by the way, and it’s really what made Perast so charming. The lush mountains towering over crystal clear waters is absolutely stunning! If I had a boat, or just wanted to relax, Perast would be a good place to do so.
If you do go to Perast on your own, there are some options for you. You can climb the bell tower for views over the town and the bay. You’ll also notice and can visit the Perast Museum, which is housed in a gorgeous former palace. I believe it’s the only palace in Perast still open to the public, as many are now hotels or otherwise private.
A place you need not miss is Our Lady of the Rocks, one of Montenegro’s most iconic sights. The legend is the site was deemed sacred after someone found an icon of Madonna and Child in that location on the bay. A bunch of boats were then sunk to create an artificial island. I personally find sunken boats very creepy and eerie! But this church is magnificent and a short ferry ride away from Perast town. The interior has beautiful artwork and metal engravings. There’s also a smaller island that you can visit if you have your own boat. I believe it may be “off limits” but there were definitely people visiting when I was there.
Though Perast may be small, it doesn’t lack any on charm. I definitely recommend having a visit if possible.
A little bit of history: Kotor has one of the most turbulent political histories I’ve ever read about. The city dates back a few thousand years when it was settled by the Illyrians, Romans, Byzantine Empire, the Serbian Empire, and also Hungary, Bulgaria and Bosnia before it became its own independent republic. For all this political musical chairs, we’re only up to 1391-1420. In 1420 it gave itself to the Venetian Empire. While the walls and fortress date to this time, Kotor was a center of conflict and often used for battles (not that you can tell today, as it’s very well preserved). When the Venetian Empire ended, Kotor went through another round of hands and belonged to the Austrians, Russians, French, and eventually Yugoslavia. I only did a bit of research on the city’s history but there is so much to unpack here if you’re interested to.
Today, old town Kotor is a walled city, very well preserved, and absolutely beautiful. It’s also part of a much larger city if you’re interested in staying a bit longer.
At first glance, it may look like there’s not a lot to do in Kotor. A lot of people opt to spend their time climbing the Venetian fortress that dominates the city. I however opted to explore the old walled town on foot and had a wonderful time. The walled part is pedestrian-only and there are so many charming streets to explore. There are so many small passageways and stone carvings on buildings. For such a small place, there’s a lot of architectural detail.
There’s a map outside the town walls that marks notable buildings, and you can also opt to take a walking tour. It’s fascinating to me how places that may now serve cheap pasta were once government buildings or housed plague victims. There are also quite a few places of worship and one of the churches (pictured at the very end) amazed me with its age. It’s 1000 years old! It all adds to the uniqueness of each of Kotor’s buildings.
You can also spend some time walking along the Venetian walls of Kotor for free. There is a maritime museum but I opted not to visit. There’s also a cat museum but it was closed when I went.
I also loved that there were so many independent shops and restaurants in Kotor. It’s a wee bit touristy but not too difficult to find shops that sell cute, usable things. Montenegro’s incredibly cheap, too, and I got a full meal for less than 10 euros. Though I stayed in the old walled section of the town, Kotor is actually much bigger. When you leave the old section, there are a lot of waterfront restaurants and some shopping.
A lot of tours, like the one I did, spend about 2-3 hours in Kotor but I felt this wasn’t nearly enough time. It was enough to walk around the old town and grab a bite to eat, but if you want to climb the Venetian fortress, you cannot do both. For that, I recommend adding 2 hours or having a full day in Kotor.
You’ll notice the town is dominated by cats. In medieval times, it was believed that cats helped get rid of plague by eliminating rats. Therefore the cat is Kotor’s protector animal and you can see cute kitties virtually everywhere.
I very much recommend a trip to Montenegro, particularly Kotor. It’s easily doable as a day trip from Dubrovnik if you’re short on time. Both are small so you can cover a lot of ground in less time.
I believe some busses and trains used to go to certain parts of the country from Dubrovnik but I went in the times of COVID and ended up on an organised day trip. It doesn’t leave enough time to climb the fortress in Kotor or to sit and have lunch in Perast but you can easily wander both old towns in that amount of time. Montenegro also has stunning natural beauty so definitely consider a trip in its dramatic mountains or on its beautiful, crystal clear waters.
Another great thing about Montenegro is that it’s very cheap. Lunch with a drink can easily be found for under 10 euro. I went with only 20 euros for myself and had a lot left over after buying lunch, snacks, and souvenirs. It’s a great break from Dubrovnik, which can be very expensive and crowded.
Montenegro’s a small country that some people haven’t even heard of, but it’s well worth a visit.
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Tags: europe, kotor, montenegro, perast