One of the best surprises on my Empires of the Mediterranean cruise on the new Viking Ocean Cruises ship the Star, was discovering the small country of Montenegro. I was excited to visit because it was a new destination for me, but I never expected to be as wowed by my travel experiences there as I was. Spending the day touring the small nation, I discovered a naturally beautiful country with great natural retreats, but also some fun towns and cities as well. If you arrive by cruise ship then you will visit Kotor, and even if you don’t cruise there I wanted to share a few reasons why this small town is one that everyone should visit.
Easy to get around
Montenegro is a small country and so it makes sense that its cities are small too. Kotor has just 13,000 inhabitants, all calling this waterside town home. While the city has been settled since before the Romans, it was during the centuries of Venetian rule when it became an important city along the Adriatic. Enjoying prosperity thanks in large part to its trade in salt, the arts thrived in Kotor during this time and it quickly became one of the great cultural cities of Europe. Today you can see all of that and more through a simple walk around the small Old Town. Its walls extend high up into the hills and provide the first clue to the importance of this compact community. It’s also a very easy old town to explore on your own. The traditional downtown is very compact, but the serpentine streets and alleys make it feel as if you’re exploring a much larger city. It’s also just a fun place to visit, which is ultimately a big reason why we travel in the first place. Shops, cafes and restaurants are all in abundance, making it a wonderful place to do as much or as little as you want.
Beautiful mix of design and architectural traditions
The first thing I noticed in Kotor was how Italian everything looked – I could easily have been in Mantua or Bologna – anywhere but Montenegro. That’s actually one reason why Kotor was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, for its incredible collection of Venetian architecture. It’s a style that locals still maintain, and many of the shops and homes have been in the same families for generations. It’s for that reason that no matter where I went around town, I couldn’t help but look up at the facades and intricate details on each and every building. The colors of the buildings, contrasted against bright green palm trees and the nearby mountains make it one of the most visually unique and interesting places I’ve ever been.
Je ne sais quoi
The mark of a great travel experience is falling in love with a place for no one, single definable reason. Such was the case for me in Kotor. I quickly grew to really like the city, but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it’s because it’s one of those towns where the best thing to do is nothing at all. Sure, there are churches, museums and famous sites, but you’ll get the most out of your time in Kotor by picking any one of the many cafes and enjoying a leisurely meal in the warm comfort of the sun and swaying palms. From there you’ll watch as the town walks by and you’ll get an even better appreciation for the leisurely pace of life in this part of the world. There are few regions around the planet that I enjoy more than the Adriatic and Mediterranean. The people there understand what’s really important in life, and it’s not rushing off to the next meeting or checking your iPhone for emails incessantly. No, it’s all about appreciating what you have and the simple beauty all around us that makes life so very special. That’s what Kotor and ultimately Montenegro is all about, and it’s for that reason why I enjoyed my time there so very much.
Have you been to Kotor – what did you think?