It was time to move on to my next country in the Balkans, Montenegro, just south of Croatia. Arranging transport from Dubrovnik was easy enough since it’s very close to the border. Fairly regular buses run daily to Herceg Novi, Kotor, Budva and Ulcinj. I booked my bus on GetByBus and printed my ticket just because it was easier. Even if you don’t do that, it’s worth checking the website for the schedule. My ticket cost €18 for the journey to Kotor.
It was supposed to be a short two hour hop but I can’t ever see the journey being less than 3 hours (it took me about 3.5 hours) because the road approaching the border is narrow, meaning if there’s any backlog whatsoever you end up with long queues. In addition, unlike most other European borders I’ve crossed, passengers actually had to alight the bus to get their passports checked, both leaving Croatia and entering Montenegro. I got a nice shiny stamp for my troubles but obviously it took a bit more time.
As well as this, there is no way to travel from Herceg Novi, the first Montenegrin city you come to, further south without winding through the Bay of Kotor. This adds time to the journey but by God it’s worth it. The entire bay is stunning and even if you’re not stopping in the bay itself (though frankly why wouldn’t you?) the journey is truly magnificent. Sit on the right hand side of the bus for the truly breathtaking views. The bus finally wound into Kotor’s bus station. Kotor is pretty small so the bus station is walking distance from the Old Town and most accommodation. My hostel, Hostel Pupa, sat outside of Old Town but right on the harbour, commanding wonderful views of the water and the mountains in the background.
Perhaps it’s becoming tiresome me keeping mentioning how stunning the Balkans are. But the Balkans are stunning. Montenegro had a lot to live up to after Croatia and Bosnia but it more than did so. Kotor is a fabulous little town and should be on every Montenegro itinerary. The Old Town is compact but lovely, with loads of little squares giving it a less dense feel than the likes of Dubrovnik. The prices are much more palatable as well. The Old Town has an abundance of restaurants where you can eat and drink for around €10. Beers are cheap, most pints going for around €2.50-€3. I found a nameless bar in the Old Town where all drinks (beer, wine, soft drinks) were €2. It’s right opposite the restaurant Bokun and you spot the chalkboard sign advertising their fantastic prices. My wallet was sincerely grateful after the shock of Dubrovnik.
I have detailed some of the incredible opportunities to explore the outdoors in and around Kotor in a separate post. In the town itself, the joy lies mainly within wandering amongst the Old Town and wistfully admiring the gorgeous bay. In addition to this, most people will embark on a day trip to one of the many lovely towns along the bay, the most popular of which is Perast. It’s a tiny town but has stunning views and a more chilled out atmosphere than (the admittedly already incredibly chilled) Kotor. Boat trips there are offered from Kotor’s harbour for around €15 or, alternatively, the Blue Line bus takes you there for €1 each way. The bus stops right outside the fruit market by the Old Town walls – look for the bus stop sign. The timetable remains pretty elusive but in October, the bus passed through at quarter past the hour, taking about 25 minutes to reach Perast. Getting back required a bit more guesswork but I think the bus heads through Perast around quarter past/twenty past the hour. The schedule might be more frequent during peak season.
Perast offers more delightful architecture and plenty of lovely bay views with the mountains looming in the background. There are boat trips to a couple of tiny islands in the bay and a selection of well-priced restaurants to wile away the hours. I was definitely glad I paid it a visit.
Kotor is the sort of place that matures like a fine wine. I stayed there for four nights – I could have stayed longer. Especially in the autumn, it’s not too busy but the weather is good, there’s still an atmosphere and the setting is just perfect. Any place that follows Croatia has got a tough job but Kotor more than stepped up to the plate. I keep waiting for the Balkans to stop delivering so I can be a negative, miserable sod but it just refuses to relent. This is a seriously stunning part of the world and Kotor epitomises that in ways I didn’t expect. If you go nowhere else in Montenegro, if you go nowhere else in the Balkans, please go here.