A Variety of Adventure: Kotor, Montenegro

The doors looked like the were ripped apart by a monstrous beast. Grey and splintered, they lay thrown apart, a gaping wound. Files and blueprints, mixed with rotting army jackets, gas masks, and mismatched boots, lay spilled out of the hole, like the wound was in mid clot. What had happened here, on this mountain top in Montenegro? – At the Vrmac Abandoned Fortress 

Vmrac Fortress outside Kotor

Vmrac Fortress outside Kotor

Kotor, compared to it’s Adriatic neighbor in the north, is still relatively unknown. Only two hours south of Dubrovnik, Kotor could not be more in feel from Croatia’s famous coastal town. There might be a cruise ship in the Bay almost every other day, but the crowds are relatively small, and limited to midday when the ship is in port. The walled Old Town, and surrounding complex of ruins clinging to the steep mountain backdrop are more than impressive, they are of the utmost calibre. It’s no wonder the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kotor’s quality can’t be understated, offering pristine, Adriatic coastline, infinite mountains, and some breathing room to enjoy it all. Kotor offers variety, and with variety, the seed of adventure has more chances to find purchase.

Adventures

•Vrmac Fortress Hike•

Take an ancient pedestrian and horse path up to a mountain plateau to explore an abandoned Austro-Hungarian fortress, and it’s outer structures. Within a fifteen minute walk from Kotor’s Old Town, walk around the shore of the bay to the VRMAC trailhead. The trail is steadily steep, switchbacking more times than you will count, to the top of the mountain. You can explore the innards of the fortress, but it is dark inside so bring some form of light. At some points there are gapes in the floor that can be spanned by walking across a wooden beam. There are also bats in the area, and any contact with them should be avoided at all costs. There are a few out buildings in the area as well that are pretty awesome to explore. Gas masks, army jackets, and official files lay scattered all over place. It’s a fun hike, with awesome views, and a unique reward at the end!

•Cycle the Bay of Kotor•

25 miles (41km) round trip of gently graded, and paved roads circumnavigating the Bay of Kotor. You don’t have to love cycling to enjoy yourself on this trip. For 10 euros, rent a bike in the Old Town (right next to the Old Town Hostel near the Southern Gate) and head off south first, keeping the bay on your right. Take the 2 euro Kamenari – Lepetane ferry over the neck of the Bay and continue onwards towards Strp and Risan. The Bay views never stop, and there are plenty of places to stop and jump into the clear water. Cheap little cafes dot the road, where decent food can be found. One of the main highlights is the small town of Perast. Not only is the two beautiful in and among itself, there are a few islets located off the coast. Locals will take you on a quick boat trip to the islets if you so desire.

•St. John’s Fortress•

Rising from the walls of the Old Town, straight up the side of the mountain, a massive network of ruins and fortifications lace the rock. The experience is very intuitive. If you are making your way up, you are going in the right direction. There are markers and some rudimentary signs pointing the way for the different routes you can take. Which ever way you go, you must explore St. John’s fortress, and if possible, at sunset. The views of Kotor and the Bay are spectacular, and there is just something kinetic and alive about sitting on a ruined castle and watching the sun set. There is a side trail you  can take that meets with a small families home. With some language barriers, this multigenerational family sells delicious homemade cheese, bread and spirits. You can go as high as you want, eventually reaching Mount Lovcen Park.

•The Old Town•

Spend time exploring the narrow streets and alleys of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stay at the Old Town Hostel for around $10 a night, in clean, renovated, air conditioned rooms, wifi, and a kitchen. There is a grocery store just outside the southern gate where you can buy cheap food and cook it in one of the two kitchens. Otherwise, the restaurants in the Old Town are going to be rather expensive.

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