Kotor is a wonderful small paradise in Montenegro where I wish I could spend more time and visit often. Its tranquility and location in the middle of the only fjords south of Europe is simply perfect. In one way, I would recommend to everyone to visit the city and do a tour around the bay, but thinking ahead on tourism, I would prefer for the city to remain as far as possible "unknown". This does not mean that you will not encounter tourists. Quite the opposite, there are already large cruise ships docking along the Bay of Kotor and on its port just outside the city walls. When this happens, the city core is invaded by tourists and it's almost impossible to have an enjoyable time for yourself. But you can get partly rid of them by climbing up the mountain behind town in direction to the Castle Of San Giovanni. Not many tourists are up for this task - in total 1355 steps and 4.5km long full loop up into the hillside - making it even more difficult in the summer season. Access through the Old Town Road is paid, at the time 3€, but the panoramic views will be totally worth it. The path is done through St. John Fortress, a steep and rocky climb until San Giovanni Castle, which is located about 280m above sea level. The surroundings will leave you with your mouth open, just wait for it! Just following the path a bit further and beside Castle of San Giovanni are the ruins of the Kastel Sv. Ivan. But not only during day-time is the fortress interesting, also by night you can admire the light-up walls that glow against the darkness of the mountain. Down in the old city, there are three entry gates - the Northern Gate, located along a bridge and beside the Church of St. Mary Collegiate; the Gurdic Gate or South Gate, with a lowered bridge on the River Gurdic; and the Sea Gate on the western side, which is the main passage into town and just next to the market. The cobbled alleys and stone-floor squares offer you many restaurant choices, good architecture made mostly of stone-brick walls and a cat museum. Yes, you read it correctly. Cats wander around Kotor and are part of the city. So much, that a museum was built in their name and the admission fees go towards taking care of them.
About 20-30min by car or bus, in the middle of the Bay of Kotor is the famous island "Our Lady of the Rocks" and its church. It is one of two islands - the other is called Saint George - off the coast of the town of Perast and only accessible by boat. I didn't do the boat tour myself, but if you wish to, it costs generally 5€ from Perast. Contrary to Saint George island, which is a natural island, Our Lady of the Rocks was built with rocks and parts of sinking old ships that met their fate in the area.
Tip: be prepared with good hiking shoes!
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