I have been based in Kotor Bay since March this year, using it as one of two bases for my Balkan explorations. Kotor Bay with its 107km (66mile) coast line is overwhelming in every sense of the word. Its beauty and history are rich even by Balkan standards.
Known as the “most southern European fjord” Kotor Bay is in fact a ria or a drowned river valley that remains open to the sea. A friend who is a geographer called it a “freak of nature” which I found a little inadequate because the beauty of this “freak” is just so breath taking that I think it deserves a better description. Kotor Bay attracts thousands of tourists cruising the Adriatic each year. It is one of those “must see” places where cruisers stop, people “tick it off” their bucket lists.
It is interesting to live in a “must see” place, especially out of season. The town of Kotor is virtually empty in late March, only locals sitting in the cafes, waiting for tourists to arrive while watching the pouring rain. The Bay of Kotor lies within the Mediterranean and northwards the humid subtropical climate zone, but its peculiar topography and the high mountains make it one of the wettest places in Europe. Most visitors don’t know this, because they come in the “dry period” from April until the end of September, thus avoiding the wettest month in the region, November.
I am lucky to have an unobscured view directly on the bay. I have never seen the bay looking the same twice, and whenever I look I am always taken aback by the views, whether it is the drama od a sunset, the reflection of the moon or the calmness of the mirror like image on the surface of the sea that captures my attention.
For me the attraction of this spot in Montenegro is not just the Bay. The sea cuts through the Dinaric Alps into the massifs of Lovcen and Orijen mountain, thus making it a paradise for hikers. I always enjoy seeing people’s faces when they come down Lovcen mountain and are hit with the views of Kotor Bay opening right in front of them.
The area is very close to the border with Croatia and Bosnia, making it a great starting point for further explorations of the region.
Its well preserved medieval towns of Kotor, Risan, Perast and Tivat are major tourist attractions and the region has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.
The religious heritage of the land around the bay, as well as the surrounding mountains— its numerous Orthodox and Catholic churches and monasteries — makes it one of the most visited spots in the region.
Given its rich heritage, and the fact that it changed rulers throughout history, a lot of nations see it as “theirs”. In my view that is probably why it is a UNESCO site, because it belongs to more than just one culture or nation. Today, it proudly stands on the map of Montenegro and features on many of its tourism brochures and videos.
I mentioned the cruisers which arrive in the town of Kotor bringing thousands of tourists. I see people taking photos and thinking they have seen it, but so far after being a resident of Kotor Bay for months I am aware that I have seen only a fraction of this beautiful region on the Adriatic coast. I have only started scratching under the surface of stories and identities that mix, influences on the cuisine, beautiful trails, set by Austro-Hungarian soldiers or villagers crossing from one olive orchard to another.
And the best treat of all, standing on Lovcen mountain, enjoying the views and looking at the rolling Balkan mountains, going further towards Kosovo and Albania and then into Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria. It was at this spot two years ago that the idea to hike the Balkans was born, so for me Kotor and Montenegro will always be a place of inspiration.