We have been in Kotor for a little over two weeks now, and if you ask me, the first thing I would recommend on a trip to Montenegro is taking a boat tour of the breathtaking Bay of Kotor. We still have another two more weeks here, but I already know that nothing will be as exotic as sailing along the crystal clear and calm waters of Boka.
Boka Kotorska, as it’s known by the locals, is a ~17 miles (28 km) winding bay in the Adriatic Sea. Somehow it does not get the attention it deserves, but I can guarantee you, this is not just any bay…
Seeing Kotor and the surrounding villages from the water has to be one of the most spectacular sightseeing experiences we’ve ever had. It’s hard to describe the perfection of the scenery; the pictures you see online will never do it any justice. It’s one of those places that you just have to see for yourself to truly appreciate.
Yet, some planning never hurts, and that’s why I decided to create this blog post (and also to put the word out about how beautiful Montenegro is!).
Our Bay of Kotor boat tour: the logistics
After a lot of research, we decided to go on a 3.5 hours tour from Kotor. Technically, you could join a similar tour from any of the towns around Boka. Since we were staying in Dobrota, near Old Town Kotor, Golden Wave was very convenient.
Their speed boats depart from the Kotor harbour, located across the street from the main entrance to the Old Town. I contacted them via WhatsApp a few days before the tour. They were quick to respond, very reliable and professional. I don’t know much about boats, but that one seemed pretty new and modern, it was also clean.
Igor was our captain and guide. We felt safe and were not rushed at any of the stops. We got to use some jackets they had on the boat, and they also had plenty of life jackets should you want one. Igor even arranged to take us on a private driving tour of Mount Lovcen & Cetinje the following day! Highly recommended.
Here is their contact information in case you are interested:
Golden Wave Tours | +382 69 727487 | http://www.goldenwave.me
Now for the itinerary…
There are several tour options, and different price points. We were traveling during exceptional times (thanks Corona!), and during April, which is still considered the low season. A private tour was kind of our only option. However, if the budget allows and for obvious reasons, I would highly recommend to avoid a shared tour.
The reason why we decided to do the 3.5 hours tour instead of a shorter one is because this one went to the Lustica Blue Grotto. As you can see in the short video below, this was one of the highlights of our tour, especially considering that the temperatures were around 55 F (13 C)!
Watch until the end to see what I mean. While you are there, also consider subscribing 🙂
Since it was cold (for Miami standards, anyway), we decided to leave at around 11 am. That allowed us to make the best of the sunshine. Bring something to eat or make sure to eat before leaving. We were starving by the time we made it back to Kotor!
Our Itinerary Summary
Below is a summary of the tour itinerary. You’ll get breathtaking views of the fjords-like mountains, the villages and the impressive blue Adriatic waters from the moment you jump on the boat. More details below!
- Stop 1: Perast Old Town
- Stop 2: Our Lady of the Rocks Catholic Church & St George Island
- Stop 3: Yugoslav Army Submarine Tunnels
- Stop 4: Sailing around Island Mamula
- Stop 5: Visit to Lustica Blue Grotto (Kotor Blue Cave)
First stop: Perast Old Town
Just a few miles northwest of Kotor is one of the most picturesque coastal towns of the Bay, Perast. This charming little village was the first stop from our boat tour.
Its rich history dates back to the 13th century. The town is known for being the birthplace of brave shipbuilders and fishermen who were among the first to defend Kotor during the conflicts between Venice and Turkey.
A short stroll around the romantic Perast waterfront is enough to admire the unique buildings and villas.
There are several small cafes and churches in the area, but the main attraction is the Church of St Nicholas. Its 55-meter-high bell tower is the highest building in all of the Bay of Kotor! Unfortunately, as with many attractions in early 2021, the church was closed and we were not able to make it to the top of the tower. We spent a few minutes admiring the scenery and felt like it was a great addition to our tour.
Second stop: Our Lady of the Rocks & The Island of St. George
Right in the middle of the bay, across from Perast, are two of the most famous landmarks of the Bay of Kotor: Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) & the Island of St George (Sveti Đorđe).
Our Lady of the Rocks is a small artificial island with an enchanting history. Here you can visit its beautiful catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a small, yet very interesting museum. Entrance to the church is free of charge, but there is a €1.50 per person fee to access the museum.
Unlike Our Lady of the Rocks, the smaller Island of Saint George is a natural island. The Saint George Benedictine monastery (12th century) is situated here. The island is also home to an old graveyard. As a way to show respect and for privacy purposes, visiting this island is not allowed. No worries, you will still be able to appreciate it from the water!
More about Our Lady of the Rocks and its enchanting history … just in case you’re curious!
*Skip this section if you’re just interested in the “How to”
One of my favorite things about our Bay of Kotor boat tour was learning more about the history behind Our Lady of the Rocks. The guide from the church gave us a fantastic tour of the facility!
According to the legend, two fisherman brothers from Perast found a painting of the Virgin on a sea-cliff and took it home. The following morning it was gone, and appeared on the same sea-cliff where they had found it earlier. They took it home one more time, but the same thing happened again. The brothers perceived this as a sign of the Virgin wishing to stay on the cliff forever and decided to build a church where the cliff was to house the artwork.
The island was made by the people from Perast who started throwing rocks and stones around the cliff. Some say that sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks are also part of the sediment. Every year, on July 22, the people from Perast keep the history alive by taking their boats filled with rocks and throwing them around the island!
Visiting the chapel was quite an experience… Perhaps it’s because I’m Cuban and the Virgin Mary is a huge part of our cultural backgrounds, but I have never felt so emotional in a church or temple! Maybe it was just a state of mind… who knows…
Aside from visiting the church, I highly recommend a visit to the museum. It is full of amazing paintings and artworks brought from people from all over the world as a way to show gratitude to the Virgin.
The most interesting one we saw was a tapestry embroidered with gold and silver threads, and even human hair (picture to the right below)! I won’t ramble for another paragraph about its story and spoil it for you… but remember to ask about it. I am sure you will be as mesmerized as we were!
One more thing before moving on to the next stop!
There is a dark space between the altar and the wall, you can find a cut in its base and into the altar. It’s technically a hole where you can place your hand to get close to the altar and pray for a miracle. Again, maybe I was just in the mood, but I had never seen anything similar, and thought it was just plain beautiful.
All I am saying is, whether you are religious or not, don’t miss this unique opportunity to pray and hope for your own miracle!
Third Stop: Submarine tunnels
There are several submarine tunnels along the Adriatic coast of Montenegro, all which are former military structures built during World War II. The entrance is covered by fake rocks, designed to render the tunnels invisible to satellites or spy planes. The Yugoslav army based their submarines there for almost 50 years!
The tunnels are pretty big, running about 490 ft (120 m) into the coastline. Our boat went inside three of them and they were very impressive… and humid… and cold! I can only imagine what it must feel like to be trapped in one of those for a long period of time.
Fourth Stop: Island Mamula/Mamula Fortress
As we approached the open Adriatic Sea, we sailed close to Island Mamula, a small circular islet located at the entrance of the Bay of Kotor. Most of the island is covered by the Mamula fortress, built during the Austro-Hungarian period. We couldn’t help but notice the ongoing on-site construction right away!
Turns out that they are currently in the process of developing a luxury beach resort and casino on this 656 ft (200 m) piece of land surrounded by water! Given the dreamy geographic location, these plans seemed very exciting at first. I had no idea that Mamula had a dark past!
Yes, sadly, Mamula has a terrible history of cruelty and torture. It was converted into a prison and concentration camp during World War II. I don’t think I would feel comfortable staying in such a hotel given its history. But, ethics aside, it is indeed a beautiful spot.
Fifth & Final Stop: Blue Cave (Lustica Blue Grotto)
We made it all the way to the navy blue and choppy Adriatic Sea for our final stop. This was definitely one of the most exciting parts of the tour, entering the stunning Lustica Peninsula Blue Grotto, also known as the Blue Cave. The area reminded me a lot of Capri, except that we were not able to make it to the Blue Grotto in Italy thanks to the crowds.
Notorious for the iridescent blue that’s reflected throughout the cave on a sunny day, the Blue Cave is one of Montenegro’s most popular attractions. Luckily, we picked a gorgeous sunny day and the grotto did not fail to impress! I read several negative reviews from people who visited on cloudy days and were not able to enjoy the cave because the light was not reflecting as expected. Something to keep in mind when planning your trip.
Most tours will allow some time for swimming in the cave. We visited in early April and as you can imagine with 55 F weather, swimming was not part of the plan. Well… maybe it was not part of my plan…my husband was brave enough to get in and enjoy the sea all to himself. He even brought shorts and a towel!
There was no one around when we visited, but I imagine it can get quite crowded during the Summer.
A word of caution! Apparently safety is a concern when the cave gets busy. I read that boats tend to keep moving even when there are multiple people swimming in the cave. It also sounded like some tours don’t even offer life jackets! The diesel fumes inside the cave can be annoying and dangerous.
What’s supposed to be an amazing experience can go south very quickly, so that’s another thing to keep in mind when planning your trip!
The Blue Cave was our last stop, but not the end of our tour. We went back into Boka and all the way to Kotor Old Town, which gave us another 40 minutes or so of sightseeing. I even had a chance to drive the boat for a few minutes!
Overall it was a fantastic tour and I certainly believe that it is one of the best, if not the best, thing to do in Kotor and all of Montenegro. The Bay of Kotor is one of the most beautiful places we have seen, and apparently it is not as touristy as other areas of Europe.
Hope you found this blog post useful and get to experience Boka Bay from the water soon! Let me know how it goes if you do!