Climbing Kotor Fortress a 3 hour odyesse

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Our time in Kotor Montenegro was going to be short but we had to visit Kotor. We had read our Montenegro Lonely Planet guide and picked out Kotor as our one-stop in Montenegro.  We only had 2 days in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site and we were all so excited to visit Kotor. We arrived on the Dubrovnik-Kotor bus after spending a few days in Croatia. The Kotor bus station is located a few hundred meters from the Kotor Old Town. Towering above the Old Town is Kotor Fortress or otherwise known as The Castle of San Giovanni Kotor. The Fortifications of Kotor Fortress run all the way down the side of the hill to meet with the Kotor city walls.

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Old Town Walls with Castle Fortifications in the background

It is truly an amazing sight, it seems to catch your attention no matter where you look in Kotor. We had read about Kotor Castle and we had seen pictures of Kotor Castle but there is nothing like seeing it in person. It looks like it is hanging off the side of a cliff. After a short look, it was settled the Wyld Family Travel were going Castle climbing. Anyone who knows us knows we are more overweight than weight, we are more cable car than a hiking trail, and we are more look up at it more than looking down from it if you get my drift. Just to clarify there is no cable car up to Kotor Fortress much to the dismay of our children. But could we visit Kotor and not climb all the way to the top?


Where did we stay in Kotor

We stayed at Apartment Marko in the Kotor Old Town. Apartment Marko is located in the town walls. You can have breakfast on the Old Town Walls overlooking the harbour. Fully self-contained with cooking facilities, and washing machine. Apartment Marko is a two-bedroom apartment close to everything Kotor has to offer. This apartment is amazing to look no further than this apartment.

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A quick rundown on Kotor Fortress. There has been a fortification on the site since the time of Christ. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian I took control of the site and built the fortress. The fortress remained pretty much unchanged over the next 800 years until 1420. The rulers at this time The Republic of Cattaro finally gave in to Venetian control. Under the Venetians, the Fortress was upgraded and the Mountain fortifications were constructed. From the 14th century to the present the castle has been held by Hapsburgs, The Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire, Yugoslavia and finally an independent Montenegro. The castle and its fortifications have survived severe earthquakes that damaged its structural integrity in 1563, 1667, and most recently, on April 15, 1979.

Kotor Fortress here we come

We set out from our apartment and walked through Kotor Stari Grad past the Kotor Cathedral area till we reached the start of the steps. You won’t need a Kotor map to find the entry it is signposted very well. What an intimidating sight this is for a family of two young kids and two unfit parents. At this point, I will put my hand up and say I was not keen it was only at Rebecca’s urging that we undertook this mission. There was no ‘if you choose to accept’ it was just we were doing it…mum said so. We started the rigorous castle climbing towards Kotor Fortress at a slow pace with less than a steely resolve to make it to the top.


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To be honest, at this stage, we thought if we make it to the Church of Our Lady of Health it would be a small miracle. It would be something to celebrate through the ages of Wyld Family history, something to be shouted from mountain tops, well maybe low-level mountain sides at the very least! As you look upwards at the inspiring Kotor Fortress and endure the thought of your leg muscles contracting on every one of the 1350 steps you can’t help but say in your head I think I can, I think I can!

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Willow took off scaling the uneven broken and crumbling steps like a seasoned mountain climber. Really it had more to do with her saying I got there first. With every step, the view became more amazing as Kotor Bay came into view. The Bay of Kotor starts stretching out in front of your eyes. In what seemed like an eternity but was really more like 40 minutes of slow snail-like pace we reached the church. We sat down for 10 minutes drank some water, the kids patted a few cats that were running around, it was all very nice and relaxed. Somewhere between the first step and the church, my ambition overtook my level of fitness and at my urging ignoring my family’s calls of ‘Are you crazy?’ we all continued on.

Best things to do in Montenegro – Kotor Fortress is a must

The march to the top started, up and up we went with at times an uneasy feeling that all that stood between us and the sheer cliff drop was the crumbling fortification walls that are nearing their 700th year. There was more than one scream aimed at Willow and Marley to get back from the edge.

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winding its way to the top of Kotor Fortress

As you get closer to the stop top, you’ll see a sign on the walls pointing to your left to the Chapel of St Ivan. This is where the magic begins, an Alice in Wonderland moment was upon us. There is a hole in the fortifications wall leading to what can only be described as a step back in time, into the land from another time, a time long forgotten. The climb through the hole in the wall is not the most safety-conscious thing I have ever done with my kids that’s for sure. Actually to the point where I was pretty worried about their safety.

Alice in Wonderland here we come

You need to step onto the small rocky ledge with a 3-meter drop below you and make your way along the fortification wall until you hit land. For me, this was maybe the highlight, there were ruins of a 12th-century village that was part of the trade route that linked inland Montenegro with the Bay of Kotor and the coast. It was magical in there. It was like no one else existed, it was peaceful, it was serene, well that was until Marley Wyld fell over and bellowing howls of her crying echoed through the small valley at decibels that would wake the dead. We took Marley back to Bec and put her back through the wall and Willow and I went exploring the Chapel and its century-old paintings that are slowly fading into history.

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Kotor Fortress

After emerging from Wonderland we convened a serious Wyld Family Travel committee meeting to discuss if Marley could go on or if our ears could bear the pain of Marley’s whining. We pushed on for the final assault on this Kotor Fortress Hike. We could nearly taste the satisfaction, the feeling of accomplishment at this stage not to mention the sheer burning of our lungs as we gasped for air. Still standing but maybe closer to crawling at this stage we reached the top of Kotor Fortress.

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Marley nearly about to give up
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The winding path to the top

But like all things, one more challenge presented itself. A steel walkway over a drop was present. For my wife, this was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could see beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead and a look of sheer panic something similar to when the jug of sangria is empty. The sweat was more likely from climbing the mountain. You see my wife hates this sort of thing.


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No steel grates, glass floors or tree-top walks for her just pure fear. With a little coaxing and reassuring, she was across it faster than Usain Bolt does the 100-meter sprint. We had made it all the way to 1200 meters above Kotor Old Town above the Kotor City walls above the Kotor Montenegro Crusie Port…we had made it. There was high-fiving, fist pumping and smiles all around.

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Amazing we made it

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This may not be one of the top things to do in Kotor for everyone but I can tell you it’s not to be missed when you do visit Kotor. Words fail me when describing the views, the beauty, and the sheer magnificence of the snow-topped mountains that seem to climb vertically out of the water. The all-encompassing 360-degree views of the magnificence that is Kotor Bay. Hiking Montenegro for us even if only in this one location is something we will do again. Just between you and me going downhill was just as hard on the feet legs and ankles. Scaling Kotor Fortress is one of the true highlights of our family travel adventures

Tips for climbing to Kotor Fortress

  • Take plenty of water and food
  • Set aside 3-4 hours
  • Wear sturdy supporting shoes as the stairs and trail are uneven
  • Take warm clothes in winter its cold at altitude
  • The is a fee in summer to walk to the castle but its is free in winter
  • Stay on the path there are stinging nettles
  • Be aware that Montenegro is a developing country as such rails and safety barriers are not present in spots that you would find in other countries.

How to get to Kotor

  • Tivat International Airport is 7.6 kilometres from the Kotor Old Town. In 2017 over 1 million passengers people travelled through Tivat airport ( including Wyld Family Travel ).
  • The main carriers at Tivat are Aeroflot and AirSerbia who service the airport all year round. Airlines such as Eurowings, Easyjet and TUI service Tivat Airport during the summer season.
  • You can check the prices of international flights to Tivat with CheapOair.
  • Kotor is well connected by international buses from Split, Zagreb and Dubrovnik just to name a few. Search bus tickets to Kotor with GoEuro
  • Being so close to Kotor your transfer option includes a taxi or a booked private transfer with Suntransfers
  • You can reserve a rental car and have it waiting for you at Tivat airport.

Getting around Kotor

  • Most sights in Kotor can be seen on the Foot
  • Anywhere further out of town taxi or private car

Where to stay in Kotor

  • Kotor has accommodation options for every budget from Hostels, to apartments and hotel rooms.
  • Hostels in Kotor can start from as little as 25 euros a night for a shared dorm room.
  • Check out Trip Advisors’ top 10 hostels in Kotor and book
  •  You can search Airbnb for Kotor offerings. If you have never used Airbnb before get yourself $50 credit by signing and booking a stay right HERE
  • Hotels in Kotor generally start from around $84.00 a night for a double room 3star and increase incrementally as the luxury rating rises towards the 5-star
  • You can compare and book your stay on and Hotels Combined 
We have chosen two more stories for you to read. One more from Kotor and one from Montenegro’s neighbouring country of Serbia. We hope you enjoy them. Just click the image to read them.

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9 thoughts on “Climbing Kotor Fortress a 3 hour odyesse”

  1. We are temporarily living in Croatia and were just in Dubrovnik last weekend. Montenegro came up in my searches for Airbnb places to stay, but I thought it might be too far of a trip. It looks like an amazing place to go all by itself.

  2. I’ve read so much about Kotor that I really want to go. So do you think 2-3 days are enough, or should we book more?

  3. The castle and fortress are really amazing. The castle has always haunted me after seeing pictures and reading about it. As you mention all the pictures do not do justice to it, it must be really stunning in person. Great to see the kids completing the tough climb with grit and determination.

  4. It always feels so rewarding to see such a beautiful view after a great climb and thanks a lot for sharing it with us! Nice pictures and I should visit there when I am in Montenegro!

  5. Wow congratulations to the family, those views were well deserved. We were road tripping in Croatia last year and really had to make a choice between Kotor and Elaphiti islands. We chose the latter but we hope to make it back to Kotor some day!

  6. WOW! Thanks for sharing this. I found your article through Pinterest. Most of the blog articles I find on there are interesting, but never quite this helpful. We’ll be in Kotor next May and it looks like we will be huffing and puffing to the top now. We weren’t sold on the idea of “working out” on vacation or getting all sweaty and tired, but those views are too good to pass up.

    Also, I love the humor in your writing and your pictures! Not that it was funny that sweet Marley fell, but it reminded me of when I was little going on vacation with my parents and how our screams or cries could wake the dead! Totally hilarious.

    • Tasha

      thanks, i actually think this is my best piece of writing on our website. Alas, it was no more popular than any other but when receiving comments like this I know it’s helped someone is satisfying.



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