Whilst in Dubrovnik for vacation in May, I also took a day trip to Montenegro, as it wasn’t too far away. I was interested in seeing more of the Balkans and had heard good things about Montenegro so as to visit. That said, I opted for an organized tour for convenience, and I spent my whole second day visiting the small country.
I headed out early from my hostel to the meeting point, which was just a 5-minute walk away. Along with a few other tourists, we headed to another meeting point to transfer to a large bus, which already had a good amount of people in it. The tour happened to be in both English and French that day, and so the bus had a mixture of North Americans and French people. The tour guide did a fantastic job of juggling between the two languages, and I, knowing both languages, got the best of both worlds!
Soon enough, we headed south to the border, where we would have to go through border control. The situation between Croatia and Montenegro is an interesting one, as the former is *sort of* part of the EU and the latter isn’t (but interestingly uses the euro). Any case, since we were “leaving” an EU country, we needed to be inspected. It was a matter of bringing out passports and giving them to the border control officer to collect, scan, and stamp: I got stamps, which I suppose make for a lovely souvenir aside from being proof that I *legally* visited Montenegro.
The procedure to enter Montenegro took perhaps an hour, which wasn’t so bad and soon enough, we were breezing through the jaw-dropping gorgeous countryside. With sweeping green mountains and powder-blue bays, I instantly found the small country a beauty to admire. We made brief stop at the roadside to take photos of Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe, or “Saint George’s Island,” which is an islet in the Bay of Kotor. With the green hills and the vast blue bay in front of them, the views were quite lovely, and it was good to get out and stretch our legs for a bit before continuing to the next stop.
Around 11:00, we arrived in Kotor, a fortified city located along the eponymous bay. It has a distinctive Venetian history, with its walls and Old Town reflecting the influence. Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s no wonder that so many people come to see the rustic beauty of this Montenegrin city.
Our tour guide gave us two hours to explore on our own, and I immediately booked it to hike up St. John’s Fortress. Considering that the tour guide had said it takes about 75 minutes to hike (and the fact we only had two hours in Kotor), I definitely wanted to make the most out of it.
Paying 8€ for the entrance, I began the hike. Much of it was on uneven, narrow steps along the hill’s edge, which made for a tricky climb, as there were people going up and down both ways, and the steps were wide enough for only one person. It was also blazing at midday, and you can bet that I was sweating profusely on my way up. All the same, though, I powered through it.
I managed to make it to the top in 45 to 50 minutes, which certainly was better than spending 75 minutes doing so– certainly helped that I didn’t stop much for photo opportunities, and that I only took a brief, 5-minute break at the halfway point, the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. The views were gorgeous up high, despite the *slightly-overcast* skies. Reminded me much of the French Riviera like in Nice with its red rooftops and aqua-blue bay.
However, I would say that the best views of Kotor are found just a bit past the Church of Our Lady of Remedy– besides getting views of the bay and Old Town, you also have the church’s tower jutting out for a distinctive photo. Otherwise, it might be mistaken for a coastal city in Croatia.
After my photo opportunities, I made my way down the fortress walls, which were less strenuous, but riskier as it was quite steep on uneven steps and slippery rocks. I made my way down in 40 minutes and returned to the Old Town, where I wandered around, treated myself to a 1€ gelato, and bought a postcard. Soon enough, it was time to head back to the coach and leave Kotor for our next destination.
While the weather had been hot and *relatively* clear in Kotor, unfortunately it turned for the worse as we made our way to Budva– by the time we arrived, it was raining quite hard and not the most ideal to want to explore town. All the same, the tour guide gave us about 90 minutes to explore on our own, and I braved the weather to head into Old Town. I found the narrow, cobblestone streets charming, although I wouldn’t say that they were any distinctive than those in Dubrovnik or Kotor. I did visit the Citadella, where I paid 3€ to visit, let alone get views from the top of the fortress. The views weren’t that high up, so I didn’t find it to be really worth it.
I wandered the Old Town a bit more, but eventually I gave in to the miserable weather and popped into a restaurant for a drink (and fries on the side). Soon enough, we returned to our coach and left Budva. Personally, I didn’t find the town as interesting as Kotor (which really had set my expectations high), but all the same, it was great to have visited a bit more of Montenegro.
From Budva, we made our way back to Dubrovnik for the day. We took a “shortcut” on a boat across the bay before continuing our drive back to the border. We ended up getting stuck at border control for almost two-and-a-half hours, which our tour guide said was unusual– apparently, a tour bus in front of us was being inspected thoroughly, pulling passenger’s luggage out one-by-one, which caused everything to get backed up. Eventually, we made it back to Dubrovnik around 20:00, and that was it for the day.
I found my day trip to Montenegro quite pleasant, although I’d say that Kotor was by far the highlight of the tour. It was nice to have gotten a glimpse of the small country, and it got me excited to discover more of the Balkans to come.
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