17 – 19/10/2017
It was a long journey from Trebinje to Kotor, having naively pre-booked my bus ticket. The bus went the long way round – down to the capital of Montenegro (Podgorica) and then back up through Budva to Kotor, taking around six hours. I later learned that there was an even cheaper bus route that went via a coastal town in the north of Montenegro called Herceg Novi. That journey would’ve taken only a few hours. Travel lesson learned: Don’t worry about pre-booking buses during the shoulder season.
In Kotor, I was reunited with a dear friend from Tasmania, Claire – or more affectionately known in our Tassie family as Cash Money. Cash Money and I were spending the next few weeks travelling from Montenegro to Albania and Macedonia. After dropping my bags at our hostel (Hostel Old Town Kotor), we walked up along the walls of the old town to the fortress. It took approximately 30 – 40 minutes, with brief rest breaks here and there. From the fortress, the view of the fortified town and fjord was spectacular, the skies lit up a pinky-orange from the setting sun. After the sun had set behind the mountain, we made our way back down for a beer and dinner. The hostel had a pretty good meal deal – 5€ for dinner and then breakfast the next day.
The following day, we hiked up to Vrmac. Well, we tried to anyway. The track begins behind the police station, approximately 10 minutes walk from old town, up several flights of stairs, passing behind people’s homes. We didn’t end up making it to the top though because our path was blocked by a herd of goats, grazing, dozing, sparring. We counted at least 21 in total. I swear the air smelled a little like goat’s cheese. We thought it best to turn around from there. We didn’t dare move forward in case they charged and head butted us off the side of the mountain…
After a few beers, lunch, and a much-needed shower, we took a bus to the tiny town of Perast, which was highly recommended by those working at our hostel. The bus takes approximately 30 minutes from Kotor and costs 1€. There are two islets very near to Perast, only a short water taxi ride away – St George and Our Lady of the Rocks. They each have a picturesque chapel situated on them. But I think you’re only able to visit Our Lady of the Rocks. I’m sure it’s not usually, but it was such a waste. By the time we’d gotten on the water taxi, it was pouring down with rain; and it wasn’t until we’d started moving that the captain told us the chapel was closed due to poor weather. Thank you, sir, for telling us only after we’d paid and hopped on the boat. Sneaky little hobbit. So it was a speedy walk round the small islet, and then back on the boat. We didn’t stay much longer in Perast after that.
For our last day in Kotor, we went on the Great Montenegro Tour, which was strongly recommended by Cat (the Kiwi girl I’d met in Mostar). It was run through a tour company affiliated with the hostel called 360 Monte. I’m glad we decided to stay an extra night so that we could do this tour. It was a really great day. Definitely good value for money, especially if you don’t have much time in Montenegro. I think we paid 30€ or 35€ for a 12-hour day. Kotor was completely covered in fog when we set off that morning. We could barely see two metres in front of us. But as we travelled along the serpentine road up the mountain, in a matter of seconds, we went from seeing thick grey fog to sweeping panoramas.
Kotor, engulfed by fog.
After a quick photo stop, we continued further up the mountain to Njeguši village, where we had a traditional breakfast of homemade bread, smoked prosciutto and cheese. The drive up to the village and onto Lovćen National Park was stunning. We drove through forests of trees with leaves of copper, red, brown, yellow. The main pit stop at Lovćen National Park was Njegoš’ Mausoleum. He was a Prince-Bishop of Montenegro. The view from behind the mausoleum was incredible. I could’ve sat on that ledge for hours, breathing in the crisp air and simply watching the clouds float by.
We then continued on to the Old Royal Capital of Montenegro (Cetinje) and Skadar Lake National Park. While in Cetinje, we stopped at the monastery, which houses several relics such as the right hand of John the Baptist and a piece of the cross. Lake Skadar wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it was just a random stop. After being spoiled by such stunning vistas in the morning, I was left a bit underwhelmed.
After lunch, we had some free time at a small town situated on the lake, before our last stop – Budva. It’s mentioned in most travel guides and blogs as a highlight of Montenegro. But when we asked the locals about their thoughts on the Budva Riviera, it was unanimous that it wasn’t really worth a visit. Maybe because it was off-season. It felt compact and chilled. You could walk through the entire old town in ten minutes. But I can see it being overrun and hectic in the summer months.
Looking back, I think Montenegro is one of the most scenic places I’ve ever been. I’d love to come back and explore more of its coastline and national parks.