Montenegro is a fairly young country which gained its independence from Serbia only about a decade ago. Although Montenegro, which means “Black Mountains”, got its name from the majestic mountains that covers a majority of this country, it is more popular for its ancient coastal towns each having their own long and colorful history. With 300 kilometers of coastline, the country’s main industry is tourism. Just like its neighboring countries, the Montenegral language is derived from the Slavic language although most of the local people are very fluent in English. They use both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets and Euro is the country’s currency.
Coming from Dubrovnik, we drove about an hour and a half to catch the ferry boat on the port of Kamenari. It was a short yet lovely treat to see the Bay from the water. The ferry docked on Lepetane port in Tivat and from there, we drove about an hour more to reach our first stop for the day, the coastal town of Budva.
This lovely little town is a popular tourist destination due to its diverse nightlife, numerous beaches and beautiful Mediterranean architecture with distinct Venetian and Roman influences.
The town has many different tales about its origin but it is said to be discovered by a Greek sailor named Boutoua. It has a number of written historical facts dating back to the 5th century BC and is one of the oldest settlements in the Adriatic Coast.
After exploring a little bit of the Old Town and grabbing a quick bite for lunch, we met up with the rest of our group and headed on to our next stop…
About half an hour away from Budva is the UNESCO World Heritage town of Kotor, famous for its port and Old Town. This ancient city has gathered influences from various settlers throughout history from the ancient Romans to the Venetians to the Austro-Hungarians and many others who have conquered and lived within its walls.
Tucked away in a secluded bay, the view of this town on approach is one of the most stunning sights I’ve seen. One thing that caught my eye were the City Walls situated directly above the fortified Old Town and stands almost vertically on the cliffs. The Castle Of San Giovanni is the highest point of the fortress and is a steep and rocky 1355 steps up.
The town has 3 gates. The main entrance is through the Sea Gate (left) which leads to the Clock Tower (right). The interesting pyramid structure in front of the Clock Tower used to be a pillar of shame where local criminals were once tied as a punishment.
For such a small town, Kotor has a number of beautiful churches.
Compared to other churches in town, St. Nicholas Church, built in 1909, is practically brand new. It is the most important Orthodox Church in town and its domes and size make it the most prominent building when viewed from the upper fortress walls.
The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon was built in 1166 on the foundations of a smaller church from the 9th century. St. Tryphon is the patron saint and protector of the city.
The lovely Church of St. Luke is an inspiring testimony of the harmonious co-existence of the Croats and the Serbs with their respective faiths. Although it is currently an Orthodox Church, what made it unique is that the Catholics and Orthodox used to take turns in holding their own service with the two altars located within. The church floor is made of tomb panels which are graves of the citizens of Kotor who were buried inside this small church until 1930.
Unfortunately due to time constraints, we didn’t make it all the way to The Castle Of San Giovanni. But we made it halfway to the Crkva Gospe od Zdravlja (Church of Our Lady of Remedy) which is a Roman Catholic Church dating back from 1518. What’s most impressive about this church is that underneath its structure is the oldest known building in the country dating from the 6th century. Despite its difficult, steep and rocky climb, a number of tourists and locals still visit this church everyday and it was definitely worth the climb.
To view Old Town Kotor and its fjord like coast from this perspective was the highlight of the day for me. As I stood there admiring the panoramic views, I was filled with such awe to witness such beauty survive and exist for centuries.
After a few photos and a breather, we headed back down to our bus stop and headed back to Dubrovnik. Before finally leaving Montenegro, we made a quick stop along the coast of Perast to have a quick look at these two interesting and quite mysterious islands.
Driving to Montenegro by car is one of the several ways to explore the country at your own pace. There are also several tours and day trips available from Dubrovnik.
There is also the option to fly directly to Montenegro using one of the two international airports in the country: Tivat Airport and Podgorica Airport. Tivat Airport is the busier of the 2 and is recommended by our guide due to its close proximity to Kotor and Budva.
Find flights here: