Kotor Harbour with cruise ships

Kotor Cruise Port:ย DIY Port Guide for Montenegro’s Jewel

Kotor is an absolute gem in the Adriatic Sea and an unforgettable stop on any Mediterranean cruise! Lucky you, if you’ve got Kotor on your cruise itinerary.

This UNESCO Heritage site is a captivating blend of history, culture and natural beauty. With this DIY guide, you’ll discover how easy it is to explore Kotor cruise port and its enchanting Old Town. So let’s dive into the magic of Montenegro’s most treasured destination!

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Kotor Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Easy Peasy)

Let’s cut to the chase: Kotor is a dream for DIY-ers! Here’s why:

  • Location, Location, Location: Yes, it’s a tender port! But from the moment those tender boats drop you off at the pier, you’re practically tripping over medieval charm. The Old Town is right there, folks! No buses, no taxis โ€“ just a short stroll and you’re in a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Famed Hike at Your Fingertips: Lace up those hiking boots (or comfy trainers, we don’t judge), because the trailhead for the epic San Giovanni Fortress hike is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the port. Get ready to sweat a little (or a lot), but those panoramic views of Kotor’s harbour and the surrounding mountains are SO worth it.
  • Get Lost, But Not Really: Kotor’s Old Town is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares, and hidden alleyways. It’s easy to lose yourself in the magic, but don’t worry, you can’t get too lost. It’s a small area and the harbour is never that far away.

Kotor Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need to Know

Kotor harbour with cruise ship
Image by Mark Foley from Pixabay

Note: Kotor is a tender port except for the smallest cruise ships. This means that you’ll arrive via tender boats and be dropped off at the pier. From the tender pier, you’ll find the city centre (Old Town) a mere few minutes’ walk away. Follow the well-marked path that leads you directly to Sea Gate, the main entrance to Old Town. Use this as your landmark to return back to the tender pier.

First Timer at a Tender Port? Then check out my blog post on what to expect – Tendering 101 & FAQs.

  • Kotor Tender Pier Address: Kotorska luka, Kotor, Montenegro – see my map below!
  • Currency: Euros
  • Language: Official language is Montenegrin, with a mixture of Serbian, Albanian, Bosnian and Croatian also spoken. About a quarter of the population also speak English – so locals working in tourism will speak English.
  • Official websites: Visit Montenegro is the official tourism site.
  • Recommended Transport App: Use Google Maps to navigate around Old Town
  • eSIM for roaming in Montenegro: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout
  • My Kotor (Montenegro) Cruise Port Map: ๐Ÿ‘‡ Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. Use buttons on bottom left to zoom in/out. If the map is not loading, click here to see it directly in Google Maps.

DIY Walking Tour: Unveiling the Treasures of Old Town Kotor

If your upcoming cruise is stopping in Kotor, then mark your calendars for an early start! The sail into Kotor is absolutely marvellous, so I would highly recommend an early morning wake up call to see the ship sail into Kotor.

Kotor is a cruise port where the DIY excursion starts on top deck of the ship (or your balcony if you prefer)! This UNESCO listed medieval labyrinth is a treasure trove of historic architecture. Here’s a suggested route for your self-guided walking tour – all stops are marked on my map above ๐Ÿ‘†:

1. Square of Arms

The Square of Arms derived its name from the Venetian era (1420-1797) when Kotor was under Venetian rule. Back then, this town square was used for weapon production and storage. The Arsenal building, still standing on the square today, was the main site for manufacturing and maintaining arms and ammunition.

Around the Square, look out for the 17th century Clock Tower, the Napoleon Theatre (built in early 19th century during French occupation) and the Beskuฤ‡a Palace, a prime example of Venetian Baroque architecture.

2. Old City Walls

Kotor’s impressive city walls stretch on for 4.5 km (2.8 miles) and reach heights of up to 20 metres (65 feet). The walls date back to the 9th century and were continually expanded and fortified over the centuries, culminating in the impressive structure you see today.

Don’t miss the scenic lookout at Kampana Tower (also known as the Bell Tower) for a 360-degree view of Kotor. From the top, you can see all the red rooftops of Old Town and the dramatic peaks of the Lovฤ‡en mountains, against the backdrop of Kotor Bay. Access via River Gate.

3. St. Tryphon Cathedral

St Tryphon Cathedral in Kotor Montenegro
Image by falco from Pixabay

The original church on this site dates back to 809 AD and was built to house the relics of St. Tryphon, a 3rd century Christian martyr from Asia Minor. These relics were believed to have miraculous powers and became a source of pilgrimage.

The present cathedral was constructed in 1166 in the Romanesque style. St. Tryphon’s is considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the Adriatic region. The impressive facade, with soaring arches and twin bell towers are also considered textbook examples of Romanesque design.

  • Opening Hours: Open daily 9am – 6pm. Note this is a working Catholic Church and will close to sightseeing visits during masses.

4. Maritime Museum of Montenegro

Housed in the 18th century Grgurina Palace, this Maritime Museum have lots of model ships, maritime-themed paintings and a range of navigational tools and instruments used by sailors through the ages. The most interesting exhibit is probably the Book Marine Fraternity Room, dedicated to a guild of Kotor seamen founded in the 9th century. Perfect for those curious about Kotor’s rich seafaring heritage.

  • Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm Saturday & Sunday from May to September. 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday from October to April
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ5 for adults, โ‚ฌ1 for kids and students

5. St Luke’s church

Built originally in 1195 as a Roman Catholic Church under Serbian rule, St Luke’s church became a shared space for both Catholic and Orthodox workshop in the 17th century, due to an influx of Orthodox Christians fleeing Ottoman rule.

So the most interesting feature you’ll notice on entering St Luke’s is the dual altars. It’s still used as a working church today but only exclusively used by the Serbian Orthodox community.

6. Cats Museum

Cat lovers unite and meet here! ๐Ÿ˜ This museum is a quirky tribute to Kotor’s beloved feline residents (and cats in general). The museum houses a collection of various cat-related items, from paintings, sculptures to postage stamps. There’s also an exhibit about the history of cats in Kotor and stories about Kotor’s famous feline inhabitants!

The museum does have some feline furry friends living there and actively supports the street cat community by donation of the proceeds to cat welfare organisations. If you’re a cat lover, check out the quirky souvenirs on sale there. Open daily 10am to 6pm from May to October. Tickets are โ‚ฌ1.

Kotor Fortress Hike: Conquering the Heights of San Giovanni

Kotor steps in hike up to San Giovanni
Image by falco from Pixabay

For those seeking a more active adventure and breathtaking panoramas, the hike up to San Giovanni Fortress (also known as St. John’s Fortress) is an absolute must-do. This challenging yet rewarding climb offers unparalleled views of Kotor Bay and the surrounding mountains.

  • Entrance Fee: There is an entrance fee to access the fortress trail – it’s โ‚ฌ8 – pay at the ticket booth. The trail is open 8am to 8pm.
  • Bring plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen, snacks and wear comfortable grippy shoes. Flip flops are no good!
  • Trailhead: The trail starts just outside of Old Town’s northern walls, near the River Gate. You’ll see a sign and a set of stone stairs marking the beginning of the ascent.
  • Length and Difficulty: The hike is approximately 1.2 km (0.75 miles) long and involves climbing around 1,350 steps. It typically takes 1-2 hours to reach the top, depending on your hiking experience. The trail is steep. And what goes up must come down!
  • Make this your first destination: If you’re planning a full day at port, I would highly recommend that you get this hike done first. Then you can browse around Old Town. In hot weather, the hike later in the day is unpleasant. Bring plenty of water with you.

My Take: The trail is well-maintained. So as long as you’re reasonably fit and don’t mind climbing some steps, you’re good to go. Start as early as you can, so you’ll be back on Old Town by lunch time. I would only hike this trail if the weather forecast is good as I think the steps can be slippery after rain.

Continuing on the Ladder of Kotor: From the fortress, you can continue your ascent via the Ladder of Kotor, if you wish. This ancient trail, once used by locals for trade and transportation, is a series of switchbacks that zigzags up the mountain side. The climb is just as steep and challenging. Allow another 1-2 hours to reach the top of the Ladder and then back down. The Ladder of Kotor is free to access – ie. no further entrance fee to pay.

Beyond Kotor: 2-3 Hr Trip to Perast Old Town and the Blue Cave

If hiking up to San Giovanni doesn’t interest you, there probably isn’t enough in Kotor’s Old Town to keep you occupied for a full day at port. So let’s see more of amazing Montenegro! Here’s a few suggestions to maximise your time ashore:

1. Perast Old Town & Our Lady of the Rocks

Our Lady of the Rocks church near Kotor, Montenegro
Image by Gerhard Zinn from Pixabay

Perast is a charming village about 20 minutes drive away from Kotor. Its picturesque waterfront is lined with Baroque palaces and churches. While strolling along the promenade is like stepping into a postcard, most people come here to visit Our Lady of the Rocks, an artificial island that’s home to a 15th century church.

Legend has it that local sailors, after finding an icon of the Virgin Mary on a rock in the sea, vowed to build a church in her honour. For over 200 years, they dropped stones and sunken ships in the same spot, gradually forming the island. The church and museum are filled with maritime artefacts and religious icons, offering a unique glimpse into the region’s history and faith.

View of Perast Old Town in Montenegro, from Our Lady of the Rocks church
View from Our Lady of the Rocks back to Perast. Photo by Dusan Stupar

How to Get There: There are no public ferries from Kotor and I couldn’t find a public bus to Perast either. But there are private boats running from Park Slobode, a few minutes away from the tender pier. Boat trips typically will drop you off at Perast, then take you to Our Lady of the Rocks for some sightseeing time, before returning to the tender pier in under 2 hours. Pre-book during summer months, as capacity is limited.

2. Blue Cave: A Natural Wonder

Perhaps not as famous as the Blue Grotto in Capri, the Blue Cave is a natural grotto known for its ethereal blue light. The sunlight filtering through the underwater opening creates a magical glow that illuminates the cave’s interior. You can swim, snorkel or simply admire the mesmerising colours from a boat. Don’t forget your swimmers, sunscreen and towel from the ship!

How to Get There: Again, limited public transport from Kotor means that it’s easiest and most time efficient to get there by private boat leaving from Park Slobode, easily accessible from the tender pier. If you combine Our Lady of the Rocks and swimming time in the Blue Cave, it’s about a 3-hour return trip back to the tender pier. Pre-book during summer months is needed as the Blue Cave is very popular.

Featured Image by Gerhard Zinn from Pixabay

I hope this DIY guide has empowered you to explore this captivating destination on your own terms, discovering its hidden corners and embracing its rich history. If this guide has been helpful, please share it with fellow cruisers in your roll-call groups!

Here’s to smooth sailing, breathtaking views and a truly unforgettable port day at Kotor!

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