Sweating and breathless, I realized that this was no simple stroll as we ascended the steep stone staircase. About 10 minutes into our hike to St. John Fortress, we found a perfect spot for a little rest.
The overlook wasn't at much more than a couple hundred feet of elevation. Yet we could immediately see that our decision to spend the first part of our day in the town of Kotor, Montenegro, climbing this historic site was a good choice.
The views over the stunning bay are astounding. We snapped the first of our many pictures here. More than 30 minutes later and with a few more stops along the way (the views and my pumping heart require these frequent pauses), we arrived at the summit, covering some 1,350 steps and 1,200 feet of elevation.
The town of Kotor and the integrated fortress that encircles it in the hillside is a UNESCO World Heritage site and perhaps the most significant cultural site in Montenegro. You can climb the steps after paying a fee of 3 euros at a small ticket table at the trailhead, which is easily located as you enter the town square and head straight to the back of the town (pick one of the narrow alleys and start heading toward the rising hill, and you won't miss it).
While the hike is my favorite thing to do in Kotor, you can find several other things to enjoy during your day in port. Wake up early enough on the ship to enjoy the sail into the port during your morning walk around the track or over breakfast at the aft of the ship, on the lido deck or on your stateroom balcony.
Gliding in, you'll note a series of tiny islets, winding roads, villages, fishermen on the water and monasteries in the hillside. Then, around the bend, Kotor itself comes into view, with its skyline of churches and St. John's Fortress.
Here are several other activities to enjoy during your cruise stop in Kotor.
Visit a mussel farm. The bay is filled with mussel farms, as aquaculture has taken hold in the waterway. Look for a boat tour that includes visits to several sites, such as to Our Lady of the Rocks Church on one of the two islets in the bay, as well as a lunch with wine on a mussel farm so you can dive right into Montenegrin culture and cuisine over a plate full of the seafood delicacy.
Go biking. Rent a bike (I saw them go for just 8 euros for two hours or 20 euros for a full day) and pedal the road that runs along the bay for a self-guided tour.
Explore the waters. Look into a boat trip that includes swimming, snorkeling or even diving. A popular excursion is a kayak and snorkel tour to check out the Blue Cave, the largest in a series of openings accessed by boat in the nearby waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Tour Old Town. The historic old city area is enclosed within the fortifications and is easy to navigate. You will find yourself blissfully wandering along the narrow cobblestone streets and alleys, past dozens of boutiques and taverns, as well as coming upon several historic churches and monastery sites. When you need to give your feet a rest, grab a table outdoors at one of the restaurants in the main piazza area and order a giant mug of cold Niksicko, a golden beer from Montenegro.
Thanks for reading! Travel fit!