While on our Croatian Road Trip, we were originally supposed to go one of the thousand-plus Croatian Islands for the day. We thought: let’s be like those island-hoppers with their yachts, except we were all sleeping in our sedan. It was a Mercedes that we lucked out on, though. However, our Wolf of Wall Street-style dreams were short-changed as we missed our car ferry, with the next one being three hours later.
Not one to waste time, I suggested we all go to Montenegro for the day! It was only two hours from Dubrovnik, plus it’ll get another stamp on our passport! In my mind, I was thinking, “what on earth is there in Montenegro? Are we just going to see sheep and Balkan grandmothers?” But on the outside, I showed confidence in my decision, like I knew what I was talking about.
The two-hour drive was beautiful. Firstly, we actually had to drive through Bosnia to get to Dubrovnik, as we slept outside the city in a little town called Ploče the previous night. More passport stamps! I stepped outside the car briefly just to say I’ve actually planted my feet on Bosnian soil.
We then drove on the hills overlooking Dubrovnik while small islands dotted the intense hue of the Adriatic. In my mind, I thought, “wow the PCH back in Malibu looks like a hellhole compared to this!” I had never seen water so blue before I came to Croatia. The contrast of the intense blue in comparison to the dull beige hillside was comparable to an artist spilling a bottle of intense cerulean paint on a white canvas. Or, for the younger at heart, the water looked like a bottle of blue-raspberry syrup.
We then ended up in one of Croatia’s many, many mountainous terrains, covered by vibrant evergreens perked for the Spring season. We soon approached what’s probably the prettiest borderline in the world.
We got some more stamps on our passport, and we were in Montenegro! The destination of choice was a well-known day-trip from Dubrovnik: Kotor. I had no idea what it looked like or what was there, I just read that it was the “Europe’s Best Kept Secret.” I usually can’t help but read ahead, but this time I wanted to be surprised and surprised I was.
Driving through the Bay of Kotor en route to the town was ridiculously stunning.
There were fjords! Fjords! I thought those were only in Scandinavia!
I soon read that the Bay of Kotor has the southernmost fjords in Europe. It felt odd seeing fjords mixed with palm-trees in beautiful weather. We had to stop a few times to get pictures because I couldn’t stop staring in childlike awe. I even uploaded a YouTube video to show it. It’s that real.
2 hours later, we arrived in Kotor. The only word I can use my mood there was flabbergasted. The actual town had monoliths like Brazil, fjords like Norway, and prices like Southeast Asia. Kotor was unlike any of the Croatian towns we went to; unlike Dubrovnik, or Split, or Zadar, Kotor’s focus was on its raw natural beauty.
Things to Do
Piazza of the Arms – Kotor’s main town square, it has a beautiful old clock tower built in 1602.
St. Tryphon’s Cathedral – One of two Roman Catholic cathedrals in all of Montenegro
Saint Nicolas Church – Another typically pretty European cathedral!
Admire the Venetian Architecture – Kotor was set up by the Roman Empire in 146 BC, then by the Venetian Empire in 1420. Much of Venice’s influence is still noticeable through the buildings’ arches and balconies.
Highlight: Emperor Justinian’s Fortress: Fortified in 535 AD, this fortress is a long hike, but it offers the most incredible views of the city that’ll make you look back with every step.
After this long and exhausting hike, we pretty much did everything in this small town…except one thing. Kotor is famous for their stray cats which the community helps take care of. There was even a woman who vaccinated over 30 of the town’s cats and was a major force in the community effort. She disappeared after the 80’s but the Cat Museum has a little feature on her. If you’re a cat person, you’ll love Kotor; there are tons of stray cats to pet, feed, and annoy.
We then headed back to Croatia in the evening, driving through the fjords in the beautiful sunset.
As much as I adored Croatia, Kotor was definitely the highlight of the trip. We weren’t even supposed to come here in the first place! Everything about it surprised me, from the fact that fjords existed below Norway, to the cats. It’s a beautiful, quaint old town that if you’re in the area, you absolutely must visit.
Although I feel like we did all Kotor has to offer, I would gladly make the 2-hour drive from Dubrovnik again just for the views. It was one of the most beautiful places I ever visited that in all seriousness, left me at a loss for words. It absolutely is Europe’s Best Kept Secret, and I secretly hope it stays that way.