The Balkan country of Montenegro is still emerging as a tourist destination, and the beautiful city of Kotor is really helping the country get its name out there. Kotor is home to stunning coastal scenery, moody historic buildings, and a few quirks here and there that make it everything you could ask for in an Adriatic destination. What’s great is that once you’ve spent a day or two exploring Kotor, there are plenty more places nearby that showcase this spectacular corner of Europe. Our list of the best day trips from Kotor will show you not only the best places to visit in Montenegro but some of the best places in the Balkans. So, let’s take a look.
How to Get Around
Although many of these day trips can be undertaken with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. Your own four wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
For a short trip from Kotor, travelers should look to the adorable village of Perast, which sits on the Bay of Kotor to the north of the city. Most visitors come through Perast for the boat tour to the two picturesque islets of Our Lady of the Rocks and St. George Island, but this village deserves just as much attention. A walk along the village’s waterfront treats visitors to splendid views of Perast’s classic Venetian palaces and architecture, more of which can be seen if you head off into its narrow backstreets. The tower of the Church of St. Nicholas – one of sixteen churches in Perast – offers breathtaking views of the Bay of Kotor and is the highest building on the bay.
Getting there: Perast is just a 15-minute drive from Kotor and can also be reached by public bus in around 30 minutes.
2. Lovćen National Park and Cetinje
Beautiful mountains surround Kotor, and a trip to nearby Lovćen National Park is the best way to see them. With this Kotor day trip, you get to journey into the bay’s rugged hinterland and to the top of Mount Lovćen, which gives the national park its name. Right at the summit, at the end of a 461-step staircase, sits the impressive Njegoš Mausoleum; from there, the views of Kotor and the bay area are unparalleled. With a visit to Lovćen National Park, it’s also worth stopping in Cetinje along the way. This old royal capital of Montenegro offers several historic sites such as the Cetinje Monastery and the National Museum of Montenegro.
Getting there: The drive from Kotor to the top of Mount Lovćen takes roughly an hour and an extra 30 minutes if you include Cetinje in the trip. Alternatively, you can visit both destinations and several others on a comprehensive guided tour of the region.
While it may be better known for its nightlife, the coastal town of Budva is definitely one of the best side trips from Kotor. Look beyond its clubs and beaches, and Budva has plenty to offer day trippers, starting with its gorgeous old town. Within the historic part of Budva, the main attractions are the fortifications of the Citadela Fortress and the ancient St. Ivan Church. From the old town, be sure to take a walk along the waterfront out to the memorable Ballet Dancer statue for great views back to the historical center. If you have time, add a quick visit to Sveti Stefan to see the iconic view from this historic islet.
Getting there: It takes 30 minutes to drive from Kotor to Budva. Otherwise, there are frequent bus departures between the towns, with the trip taking around 45 minutes.
Dubrovnik is one of the most popular destinations anywhere on the Adriatic coast thanks to its picture-perfect historical center. The Croatian city is also among the best places to visit from Kotor because of its proximity to the Montenegrin border. Begin your visit with a walk down the old town’s main street, Stradun, to see some elegant Venetian architecture. At the end, you’ll find St. Blaise Church and Sponza Palace, two major historic sites worth a visit. For the best views of Dubrovnik’s sea of orange-tiled rooftops, journey up one of the city’s iconic never-ending staircases or walk around its impressive fortified walls. Finish up with a relaxed drink at one of the city’s fun cliffside bars.
Getting there: Getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik takes a little under two hours by car. It is also possible to reach the city by bus, with the journey taking almost 2.5 hours.
Read more: The Ultimate 3-Day Dubrovnik Itinerary
5. Boka Bay Boat Tour
While many visitors get a small taste of the Bay of Kotor with a short boat tour to Our Lady of the Rocks, the island is just a fraction of what the bay has to offer. To thoroughly see the beauty of the Bay of Kotor, otherwise known as Boka Bay, travelers need to hop aboard a full day tour from Kotor. While this kind of tour does include a stop at the island church, it continues to other attractions around the bay, such as the iridescent waters of the Blue Cave, the luxury stores of Porto Montenegro, and bay’s disused submarine tunnels. Of course, being out on the water, these trips include plenty of swimming breaks for you to cool off in the bay’s refreshing waters.
Getting there: The only real way to experience these parts of Boka Bay is with a guided boat tour.
6. Ostrog Monastery
Both spectacular to see and immensely important, the Ostrog Monastery is one of the most interesting things to see in Montenegro outside of Kotor. This historic monastery in central Montenegro is a sacred site and pilgrimage destination for Orthodox Christians. Ostrog Monastery was built into a sheer cliffside in the Zeta Valley and dates back to the 17th century. The oldest and most photographed part of the monastery is the Upper Monastery, which receives so much attention due to the mystery surrounding how exactly it was constructed in such a precarious spot. It’s in the Upper Monastery that you’ll find faded frescoes in its cave church. As you walk up the two kilometers (under 1.5 miles) from the Lower to Upper Monasteries, you may notice other visitors walking along barefoot – a local tradition for pilgrims here.
Getting there: It takes just under two hours to drive from Kotor to Ostrog Monastery. However, you can also visit with a guided tour of major Montenegrin destinations.
7. Durmitor National Park
Much of Montenegro is covered in dramatic mountains, and Durmitor National Park is where visitors should go to experience them. This UNESCO-listed national park in the northwest of Montenegro boasts the country’s highest peaks, deepest canyons, and many serene glacial lakes, making it a great destination for both outdoor activities and sightseeing. Popular sightseeing spots in Durmitor include beautiful Black Lake, set among the mountains, and the massive Đurđevića Tara Bridge. Outdoor activities here include zip-lining and hiking, but what draws many visitors to Durmitor National Park is the chance to go white water rafting in the Tara Canyon, the deepest gorge in Europe.
Getting there: The drive from Kotor to Durmitor National Park takes around 2.5 hours. If you choose to visit the region with a guided tour instead, you will need to choose between a sightseeing tour or one dedicated to an activity like white water rafting.
8. Lake Skadar National Park
Another option if you want to see the pristine nature of Montenegro is Lake Skadar National Park. Skadar Lake sits along the border with Albania and is the largest lake anywhere in the Balkans. The national park’s most famous attraction is the view from the Pavlova Strana Viewpoint, which features the horseshoe bend in the Rijeka Crnojevića river as it flows into Skadar Lake. Of course it’s also popular to take a take a boat cruise out onto the lake to admire the lake’s beauty from the water and visit islands you often can’t reach any other way. One interesting island attraction you can reach by land or water is the 18th century fortress of Lesendro; the island is also home to a variety of local birdlife.
Getting there: It takes roughly one hour to drive to the shores of Lake Skadar from Kotor. However, to reach certain places on the lake, you will need to take a guided tour.
9. Herceg Novi
Kotor is not the only impressive historical town on Boka Bay. The city of Herceg Novi lies at the western end of the bay, a stone’s throw from the Croatian border, and is a severely underrated destination in Montenegro. Focus your visit on the town’s historical center, with its marble streets, 19th-century architecture, and pretty Belavista Square, but be sure to stroll along the waterfront as well. Directly above Belavista Square, you’ll find the formidable defenses of the Kanli Kula fortress, used as a prison during the city’s Ottoman rule. Herceg Novi is home to several picturesque churches, such as the delicate Archangel Michael’s Church in the town center, but it’s most atmospheric religious landmark is the Savina Monastery at the eastern edge of town.
Getting there: Getting to Herceg Novi from Kotor takes just under an hour by car or by bus.
While it may not be the closest destination to Kotor, there’s no doubt that the historic city of Mostar is worth the journey. With one day in Mostar, you can see an awful lot of the city but especially its quaint, characterful old town. As you stroll through its picturesque center, make your way to the city’s most famous landmark, the Stari Most bridge. If you see a crowd growing around the bridge, it means you’re in luck, as there’s a local tradition where young men dive off the bridge into the Neretva River below. Other attractions to visit around the old town include the pretty bazaar area, which is home to souvenir stalls and traditional inns, and the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, where you’ll find one of the best views in the entire city.
Getting there: It takes roughly three hours to drive from Kotor to Mostar.
You should now have plenty of day-trip ideas for your visit to Kotor. Clearly, there’s plenty to see in Montenegro and the neighboring regions of the Balkans, so don’t miss out.