Hike in a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Kotor, Montenegro
One the the best attractions in Kotor, Montenegro, if not the best, is the hike amongst its old mountain fortifications. The ancient stone fortifications pull your eyes up the mountain no matter where you are situated in the bay area. If you have ever wanted to hike in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you need to visit Montenegro.
History of the UNESCO site
As stated above, the fortifications on the mountain are listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. If that doesn’t get you excited to visit, perhaps a little of its history might. The Illyrians landed in Kotor Bay about 200 BCE and built a castle at the top of the mountain. Eight hundred years later the Greeks rebuilt the castle and added to it. Another six hundred years, and the city of Kotor known as Cattaro fell to the Venetians. The Venetians expanded the fortifications to what we can see today. However, the walls failed to prevent two Ottoman sieges and resulting occupations.
In the late 1700s, the city still known as Cattaro was given to the Hapsburgs then the French, through various treaties, and was occupied by the Russians all due to Napoleon’s maneuvering in the European continent. The British Navy attacked the city in 1813 in an effort to expel the French from the region and returned the land to the Austrians. After WWI, the fortress wasn’t used until the Axis forces occupied the city in WWII. The city was liberated from the Axis forces on November 21, 1944 a date memorialized above the cities main gate. To sum it up, practically every political power has wanted it over the past 1000 years, proving that this city is pretty special. Kotor is a highlight of Montenegro’s Adriatic coastline. It’s importance was officially recognized when the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 after suffering severe damage from an earthquake.
Best path to take to the top
There are a few entrances into the fortress from the old town, but I will focus on what I consider the best path. Just south of the North Gate, you will enter into the fortifications. If you are traveling during high season, expect to pay 2 euro per person as an entry fee. Off season, the entrance isn’t manned so you can just walk right on in. The path splits just south of the Church of the Lady of Remedy. The split will take you back down to Old Town. Continue climbing on the upward path. Note about the split: it is slightly more cumbersome than the main path listed above, but a good option to use on your descent to escape the crowds going up. Continue on up until you reach St. John’s Castle.
When to hike
This climb is something that should be experienced in any season; however I will note a few precautions you should take. First, do not attempt the climb if it is raining, has just rained, or looks like it is about to rain. The rocks are surprisingly smooth and dangerous when wet. Second, if you are going during high season, go early to avoid congestion on the path. If you think you might get caught in the dark, bring your headlamp along. The lights that shine on the fortress at night do not light the path.
How long does it take
With me huffing and puffing the whole way, I made it to the Church of the Lady of Remedy in 45 minutes despite a few water breaks and photo breaks. From there it took me another 30 minutes to get to the top. Going down was much faster and I was back inside the city walls within 45 minutes.
You will be climbing 1350 steps. You need at least two hours to complete the round trip hike, but I think it might be more fun if you allow four hours and take a picnic lunch.
Public Service Announcement
Please, Please, PLEEEEAAASSSEEEEE pack out your trash. It is upsetting to see the amount of empty water bottles and random pieces of trash strewn amongst these beautiful pieces of history. It is true that the country itself hasn’t developed an ethos against littering, but I urge you to not be part of the problem.
Review the top five things to know about the hike in Kotor, Montenegro
- UNESCO world heritage site dating back to 200 BCE
- 1350 steps to the top (what goes up, must…..)
- Hydrate and bring a picnic
- Be careful and watch your step
- Leave no trace!
Read how I traveled from Croatia to Montenegro here and check back for more to come.
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