This year we visited Montenegro for the first time and were completely bewitched by its lovely coastal towns and enchanting bays. The Bay of Kotor is spectacularly beautiful, and the towns around the bay all delightful in their own way. The scenery is redolent of Norway, with soaring mountains and deep fjords – but, unlike Norway, reasonable prices and hot sunshine.
We spent a week in Kotor – which is even lovelier than Dubrovnik in its prime, before it became over-commercialised and overcrowded and is rightfully challenging it for the title of ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. With its large and unspoiled old town, still surrounded by its medieval walls it is truly atmospheric, If you are feeling particularly adventurous you can climb up the hill and walk around the walls but be warned, they are far more challenging than those in Dubrovnik. We thought about it for at least 30 seconds, but eventually decided that a cold beer in one of the delightful open air cafes in the town square, whilst watching others, younger and fitter, clambering up the 1350 steps, to be followed by a delicious seafood lunch and a little light souvenir shopping in the reasonably-priced shops was a better plan.
One day we caught the bus to Budva, another delightful small medieval town, and later in the week visited several villages on the Bay of Kotor by boat, all of which were charming, especially Perast with its plethora of medieval churches and palatial palazzos, reminders of when it was the most prosperous town on the Bay. We also went boat to a tiny island in the middle of the bay to see the diminutive but very evocative chapel of Our Lady of the Rocks, which the local inhabitants believe keeps the bay safe from marauders.
We travelled via Dubrovnik and thence to Kotor by a local bus, which was cheap, comfortable and air-conditioned. As Montenegro is not in the EU there is a ‘hard border’ between it and Croatia which brought back nostalgic memories of travelling across Europe in my younger days – and, for the first time in about 30 years, resulted in a stamp in my passport. But if local buses and border checks are not your preferred way to travel, Tivat, in Montenegro itself, is a closer airport, only about 20 minutes away from Kotor. Seen from the bus on the way to Budva it looks disturbingly like a slightly larger version of Biggin Hill, but it is becoming more and more popular and Easyjet now flies there from Gatwick. We met a couple who had taken that route and were very impressed with the speed their luggage arrived and how quickly they were on their way out of the terminal.
But however you decide to travel, go now, before Montenegro joins the EU, prices go up and the giant cruise ships discover lovely Kotor. You won’t regret it.