We had planned to hike in nearby Lovćen National Park the day after our trip to Cetinje but knew that there weren’t any campsites in the area so intended to head back down to the coast to camp and then drive back up the following morning. With a foresight that is unusual for us we thought that we may as well pop into the park visitor centre before heading down the hill so that we would be ready and armed with the information to set off first thing in the morning. The woman at the visitor centre was very friendly and helpful and when we asked, on the off chance, if she knew somewhere that we could camp nearby she said that we were welcome to park up there for the night if we wanted. There were some toilets about 300m away down the road and we didn’t need water or electricity so it suited us perfectly. It was also free. We don’t know if this was official park policy or if the woman was just kind but it is definitely worth asking if you do plan to hike in the area. We immediately set about transforming or natural idyll into a makeshift laundry.
As we had gained back a couple of hours we ventured out to explore the park a bit before calling it a day and made our way up to Njegos Mausoleum. We paid the National Park entry at the bottom of the hill, which was completely worth it, but didn’t fancy forking out again to climb up to the mausoleum itself. If we are honest we think we probably had just as good a view over the park from where we were.
Rather incongruously, there was also a donkey up there. We have no idea what purpose it served but it did make Caro very happy.
We retired to our campsite for noodles and sleep, waking up early the next day to tackle our walk. The lady at the visitor centre had told us that there are loads of walks in the National Park but the trail markers for all of them are confusing and unhelpful. She had assured us that the loop walk that we had chosen to do was easy to follow so long as you stick to the widest, most obvious track. The advice about the trail markers was very good but the bit about loop being easy to follow was not true all of the time, particularly at the beginning and end. As a result, Caro will be writing a walking guide which will definitely be of help to make sure you stay on the right track. There will be lots of pictures in the guide so we will only share a couple here just to illustrate how beautiful Lovćen National Park is and encourage you to visit. The views from the tops of the hills and over the Bay of Kotor were wonderful and we were fortunate enough to be there when the slopes were covered with wildflowers and butterflies.
After our walk we made our way back to the coast, this time towards the Bay of Kotor via the appropriately named Serpentine Road which was still being built or rebuilt as we wound our way down it.
Despite the rubble it is a beautiful drive with lovely views.
If you happen to suffer from travel sickness the winding track may be too much for you, even if you are in the driver’s seat.
If you really want to make yourself feel sick there is an option to zipline across one of the valleys for the bargain price of €10. We found it cheaper and safer to watch.
The coastline around the bay well earns its reputation as the most beautiful in Montenegro and the perhaps the whole of the Adriatic. Almost all of it is lined with small villages and each and every bit of beach and pier played host to groups of people enjoying the sun and the sea and yet it didn’t feel crowded or overly touristy. Small scale fish and mussel farms float 20 metres or so from the shore. Kotor itself was quite busy so we carried on around the coastline to the village of Donji Morinj and camped at peaceful Autocamp Nakula which sits on a river inlet. The weather had turned in our favour and as soon as we were set up we made a dash for the beach and the blissful cool of the sea. That evening we indulged in a rare dinner out at Sutvara where we enjoyed tasty and cheap local food.
The next morning we made our way back to Kotor to look around the old town. Once again, arriving early(ish) worked in our favour as we found parking relatively easily and the tour groups hadn’t descended yet. That being said, even once the tours had arrived we didn’t find that the volume of people was unmanageable at all. Trusty Lonely Planet advised that we check out the “comically large bench” just outside the main gate and it did provide simple amusement. As did the selection of other oversized furniture that we found scattered around.
We picked up a free map from the tourist information just outside the Sea Gate and took ourselves on a tour of the old town which houses an inordinate number of palaces and churches for its small size. A vast period of time is represented in the architecture, 8th – 19th centuries, and the whole place is beautifully maintained.
There is also a large stray cat population which appears to be fed by every resident of Kotor and so they are some of the most rotund strays that we have ever come across. As expected in such a place, there were tourist shops galore and we were spoiled for choice for the next additions to our salt and pepper selection. We had a lovely morning stroll through the town, marred only ever so slightly by Caro stepping in dog poo and spending the next half an hour dragging her left shoe around to get it off. Ordinarily, we would have plumped for climbing up the city walls that rise steeply behind the main town but we decided that it was too hot and Caro was desperate to wash her shoes. As we made our way back through the Sea Gate we noticed this delightful welcome party, which we had missed on the way in.
We had reached the end of our Montenegro itinerary and enjoyed a gorgeous drive around the coast to finish it in style before crossing into Croatia.
We only drove for an hour or so before finding a spot to camp just shy of Dubrovnik. We spent the remainder of the afternoon on the beach, as you do.
Despite its many charms, Dubrovnik’s most recent claim to fame is drastic overcrowding, an issue that put its UNESCO World Heritage status at risk in 2017. It probably doesn’t help that parts of Game of Thrones were filmed there. As far as we could discover, suggestions have been made to limit the number of tourists allowed into the medieval city but nothing has actually been implemented yet. Knowing this, we showed up at 8am to avoid the crowds which actually worked quite well but didn’t change the fact that spending any time at all in Dubrovnik is eye-wateringly expensive. In the end, all we felt justified paying for was our parking and at £7.20 / KN65 an hour that too made us want to cry and meant that we only spent about 55 minutes there in total. A tip that we picked up and ignored was to park up elsewhere along the cost and get a taxi boat in to the city avoiding the traffic and excessively expensive parking. That was our loss because the town is very beautiful and we would have liked to have spent another hour just wandering around, eating or actually going into anywhere was out of the question.
The most popular activity in Dubrovnik is to walk the walls of the medieval town and from the moment that they open at 08:30am they are literally crawling with people making the loop. It costs KN150 to walk the walls…£18…each! That is an astonishing amount of money particularly when you are already going without lunch to pay for your parking. To be fair people do rave about the views and we are sure they are lovely but we took these photos for free from the road on the way in.
Dubrovnik is beautiful and if you get there early in the morning you can enjoy the medieval town in relative peace. It also has two Irish bars immediately next to each other, so that’s a bonus. But the crowds were already forming when we left just before 9am and when you factor in the cost, for our money, Kotor was probably our preferred old town.