Climbing Kotor Fortress a 3 hour odyesse

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Our time in Kotor, Montenegro, would 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 were excited to visit Kotor. We arrived on the Dubrovnik-Kotor bus after spending a few days in Croatia. The Kotor bus station is a few hundred meters from the Kotor Old Town. Towering above the Old Town is Kotor Fortress, otherwise known as The Castle of San Giovanni Kotor. The Fortifications of Kotor Fortress run 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 catches your attention no matter where you look in Kotor. We had read about Kotor Castle and seen pictures of it, 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 that 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 than looking down from it, if you get my drift. 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 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. 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, 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, 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 until we reached the steps’ start. 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 that 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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At this stage, we thought it would be a small miracle if we made it to the Church of Our Lady of Health. 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. 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. We reached the church in what seemed like an eternity but was more like 40 minutes of slow, snail-like pace. We sat down for 10 minutes and drank water; the kids patted a few cats running around. It was all very nice and relaxed. Somewhere between the first step and the church, my ambition overtook my fitness level, and at my urging, ignoring my family’s calls of ‘Are you crazy?’ we all continued.

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

The march to the top started, and 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 nearing their 700th year. 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. A hole in the fortifications wall leads 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 must step onto the small rocky ledge with a 3-meter drop below you and walk along the fortification wall until you hit land. For me, this was maybe the highlight. The ruins of a 12th-century village were 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, and it was serene, 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, we reached the top of Kotor Fortress.

Kotor Fortress
Marley is 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. This was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back for my wife. I could see beads of sweat on her forehead and a look of sheer panic, similar to when the jug of sangria was 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 to 1200 meters above Kotor Old Town, the Kotor City walls, and 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

kotor fortress

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 travelled through Tivat airport ( including Wyld Family Travel ).
  • The main carriers at Tivat are Aeroflot and AirSerbia, which 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, to name a few. Search for bus tickets to Kotor with GoEuro.
  • Being 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, a 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 a $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 is from Kotor, and one is from Montenegro’s neighbouring country of Serbia. We hope you enjoy them. Just click the image to read them.

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. Looks like your effort was well rewarded. The view from the fortress is spectacular!

  6. 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!

  7. 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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