Why Kotor is the perfect ‘off the beaten track’ alternative to Dubrovnik

With gleaming marble old towns and that sparkling Dalmatian coastline, it’s no wonder that Croatia has soared in popularity as a destination over the past few years. Yet, of course, with cruise-loads of tourists landing in Dubrovnik every day, this overcrowding can make visiting this incredible city feel a little less special, and a lot more annoying.

Looking for a less-crowded alternative? Kotor is Montenegro’s answer to Dubrovnik: a striking, polished Old Town, packed with sophisticated wine bars and high-end restaurants, set alongside the Dalmatian Coast. Like Dubrovnik, Kotor has seen an influx of visitors in recent years – but it’s streets aren’t yet as packed. It’s definitely worth visiting before the crowds arrive. Interested? Find out more about visiting Kotor here, or read on for some of our favourite things to do in Kotor.

Walk the walls

Climbing the old city walls of Kotor is a slightly more challenging experience than the gentle two-hour meander around Dubrovik’s walls. The oldest of Kotor’s walls were constructed on the craggy mountainside back in the 9th century. They were added to over the years by the Byzantines and Venetians, until they formed a full loop.

Head towards the mountain until you hit the entrance to the walls near the North Gate and St Mary’s Church, and pay a small entrance fee. Then it’s just 1350 steps to the fortress at the top, where you’ll be stunned by the sweeping views over the turquoise Bay of Kotor. Along the way you can stop to catch your breath at a number of ancient churches, forts, and bastions.

Explore the Old Town

One of the best things about Kotor is simply being in Kotor. This spellbinding city is constructed from polished white marble, and lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. While away a lazy afternoon wandering the streets snapping photos, and stopping for souvenirs and refreshing cocktails along the way. This is the best way to get off the tourist trail and discover enchanting local back-alleys with lesser-known bars and authentic restaurants. It’s also worth stopping in at the ornate churches that tower over Kotor’s many squares; these unfailingly contain beautiful treasures.

Go hiking

The nearby Lovcen National Park offers myriad stunning hiking opportunities if you’re keen to escape the old town for a little while and embrace the jaw-dropping Montenegrin scenery of the surrounding area. Climb Lovcen mountain for panoramic views from the peak. Here you’ll also discover the historical Mausoleum of Njegos, which contains the remains of Montenegrin Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrovic-Njegos, and was designed by Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic.

Alternatively, head to Vrmac – another nearby mountain promising sweeping views and peppered with ruins.

Visit the surrounding islands

Much like Dubrovnik, there’s a diversity of islands to be explored around Kotor. The iconic yet diminutive Our Lady of the Rocks is an artificial island containing a 17th century Roman Catholic church. For beaches, sail to the 28-mile-long barrier island of Sveti Dorde. As well as secluded sandy coves, this island boasts plenty of breathtaking hikes and places to camp.

History buffs should make the drive to the Island of Flowers. This tranquil island contains monastery ruins and is a pleasantly tranquil way to spend a day. Love exploring? Try the overgrown Sveti Marko Island: a deserted island wilderness with a beach that was once a resort.

Porto Montenegro

Those with a taste for the finer things shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Porto Montenegro – an elegant marina just a 20-minute drive from Kotor. The marina is located on the UNESCO-protected Boka Bay. As well as upscale hotels and a variety of expensive yachts, you’ll also find plenty of refined restaurants in this breathtaking setting.