If you are staying in Dubrovnik, consider taking a day trip to Montenegro. Montenegro is an idyllic country with several charming small towns along the Bay of Kotor. As it borders Croatia, taking a day trip from Dubrovnik to Kotor is very easy and something you don’t want to miss.
The top towns to visit for the day are Perast and Kotor old town, both of which are quite beautiful to see. But if you have extra time, I will include some other stops and places to stay if you choose to spend the night.
Initially I was hesitant to drive but I am so glad I did, as driving in Croatia and Montenegro is no problem at all with excellent roads.
Plus, you really can’t get lost driving to Kotor as there is only one main road to get there.
Montenegro is becoming more popular, but it still doesn’t see the volume of tourism as its neighbor, Croatia does.
It’s less touristy than many European cities offering a slower pace of life that can be a much-needed welcome.
Keep reading to find out the best things to do in Kotor, border crossing info, and what to see along the way on a Dubrovnik day trip to Kotor!
Day Trip From Dubrovnik To Kotor
Renting A Car In Dubrovnik, Croatia
Reserve a rental car at the Dubrovnik Airport (DBV) as it is the best place to rent a car and it’s on the way to Montenegro.
Book early if you are going during the summer months. This is especially important if you do not know how to drive a manual (stick) vehicle. Most rental cars are manual and not automatic.
After taking an Uber or taxi to the Dubrovnik Airport, you can pick up your rental car. For U.S. citizens, you will need both your driver’s license and passport in order to drive the rental car.
The car rental company might say you need to purchase a border crossing fee into Montenegro. I’d heard that there was no need to purchase the border crossing fee as it was just a way for car rental companies to add another charge.
Even though I’d been warned, the rental company said I wouldn’t be able to cross the border if I didn’t have it and they were firm on this.
Well, I gave in and purchased the $80 fee (U.S. dollars) and soon regretted it… Yep, I fell for the scam and a bit embarrassed about it.
And when crossing the border from into Montenegro, customs never asked for it.
The two companies that I use and have found the best car rental rates with are:
Tip: I would plan this road trip at the end of your stay in Dubrovnik as you don’t need a car while in Dubrovnik old town. The parking fees aren’t worth it unless you are heading to the next city in your Croatia itinerary.
Dubrovnik To Montenegro Border Crossing
Once you have your rental car, it takes about 20 -30 minutes from the airport to reach the Croatia/Montenegro border driving on the M2 road
When crossing the border, it was pretty simple and only took a few minutes. But be aware that during the peak summer months expect it to take between 1 to 3 hours. So, get an early start!
After crossing the Croatia border there will be another stop a few miles further that is the Montenegro border checkpoint.
This is Debeli Brijeg, the main border checkpoint into Montenegro.
So, keep your passport out and handy as it will get checked each way. After that you are off on your day trip to Montenegro!
Note: I did not opt for the extra insurance as I have coverage with my own auto insurance and travel insurance that would fully cover for any issues. Just make sure you know your coverage ahead of time.
Driving Along The Bay of Kotor
From the border, continue driving on the M2 road to the town of Perast. It will take between 1 – 1.5 hours to reach Perast which is nestled along the Bay of Kotor.
Since there are so many great places to stop on the way to take a photo or grab a coffee, you might want to take your time.
There aren’t many roads for you to divert off of but do watch for signs to Perast. Get ready to be overwhelmed with incredible beauty as you drive along the water.
Keep in mind that although Montenegro is not a part of the European Union (EU), the currency used is the Euro.
You could easily spend days wandering all the charming small towns in Montenegro and should do so if you have the time.
But for this post we will focus on a Dubrovnik to Montenegro day trip! I would recommend leaving as early as possible, especially during the summer months.
Best Things To Do In Perast
Once you arrive in Perast, park off of the M2 in a parking lot right along the Bay of Kotor. You can’t miss it as it is pretty much the only parking lot entering Perast old town.
If you are wondering what to do in Perast, let’s explore the top activities in this fairytale-like town.
Our Lady of the Rocks
The top attraction in Perast is the man-made island Our Lady of the Rocks that sits beautifully in the Bay of Kotor.
This is by far one of the coolest things to do in Perast. There will likely be locals that will ask if you want a boat ride over to the island.
Go with one that seems reasonable and expect to pay between 5 and 10 Euros (that includes your return trip).
The boats will drop you off and tell you to return in 30-45 mins. I recommend staying 45 mins to an hour, especially if it is crowded at mid-day or during the summer months.
That way, you have time to tour the church and the lovely surroundings that make for excellent photo opportunities.
As the boat takes you over to the island, have your camera ready to take photos of the idyllic island. And don’t forget to turn around to capture charming Perast old town behind you!
Take notice of the tiny natural island near Our Lady of the Rocks that is Sveti Djordje, also known as “Island of the Dead”.
Why the name? Well, a Benedictine monastery and cemetery call Sveti Djorde home and it is supposedly cursed. I heard varying stories of why it is thought to be cursed, all very intriguing but not sure which are true!
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed on Sveti Djorde but you get a great view of it from Our Lady of the Rocks.
In 1452, the building of Our Lady of the Rocks starts out with a story of a fisherman. It’s said the tradition to pray prior to going out to sea on fishing trips was because so many never made it home.
Upon returning one trip, the fisherman spotted a Virgin Mary statue wedged on the rocks.
Grateful that she kept him and his men safe, they promised to build an island in that very spot to honor her. Gradually stones and pieces of old ships were used to create this beautiful island.
It became a tradition for sailors to leave small silver plaques in the church to show their appreciation for the Virgin Mary watching over them. You can see these plaques still today inside the church.
Stroll Through Perast Old Town
After your excursion over to the island, walk along Perast’s waterfront that has a captivating setting. Exploring Perast is pretty simple as there is only one main street that hugs the waterfront.
It is also pedestrian-only, that is except for locals! It is a great place to enjoy the tranquil bay, slow down and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants with outstanding views.
Visit St. Nikola’s Church
You will likely walk by St. Nikola’s Church that deserves a visit inside and for 1 Euro you can climb the bell tower. From the bell tower, you can admire stunning views of the town and the Bay of Kotor.
If time permits, visit the Perast Museum to find a lot of information about the history of Perast and its famous noble families.
Tip: Although you can take a boat to Our Lady of The Rocks from Kotor, it’s better from Perast. It is much quicker and allows you to take your time wandering the town of Perast.
Best Things To Do In Kotor
Continuing on the M2 from Perast, you will arrive in Kotor in about 20 minutes. There are a few places along the way to pull over and take photos which I recommend for great shots.
Kotor definitely has a whimsical and enchanting-like vibe that will elicit a serene feeling upon arrival.
Upon entering the town, you will see a large parking lot on your left, right before you come to Kula Kampana.
Kula Kampana is a medieval citadel and tower that lies along the Skurda River (flows into the Bay of Kotor). Go up to the tower to get a better viewpoint of the bay and town.
Commonly referred to as Kampana Tower (14th century), it makes for a pretty dramatic backdrop with the mountains behind it.
Adding to the spectacular sight is the emerald-green water of the Skurda River flowing along it.
The mighty walls of the citadel enclose the pedestrian-only old town of Kotor and a beautiful area to wander.
Eat A Delicious Lunch At Tanjga Restaurant
Before we dive into what to do in Kotor, let’s fill up on some delicious food before exploring the town. You especially want to have some energy prior to hiking up to the fortress.
Although there are plenty of places to get a great meal, Tanjga Restaurant is excellent! Family-owned with great hospitality in a casual space.
It is located just a few minutes outside of the city walls and serves delicious food. If you like meat and chicken, then you won’t be disappointed. Most of the dishes are very meat centric.
It gets busy, so join a table with others and quickly find great conversation among locals and other travelers.
Explore Kotor Old Town
Now that you are satiated from the delightful lunch at Tanjga’s, it’s time to enter Kotor Old Town.
The Old Town of Kotor is a walled medieval city at the base of the mountain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kotor’s city walls are quite impressive as they are up to 20 meters high and 16 meters thick.
The full distance of the city walls that surround Old Town and the upper hillside above is 4.5 km (2.8 miles). There are three gates to enter the Old Town of Kotor.
The first gate that you will encounter coming into Kotor from Perast, is the River Gate (North Gate).
The Main Gate or Sea Gate is right in the center along the waterfront. At one time, the sea came right up to this gate, hence its name.
On the opposite side of the River Gate (North), is the Gurdic Gate (South Gate). There is a small drawbridge to cross over into Old Town at Gurdic Gate.
Once inside the gates of Kotor Old Town, give yourself some time to wander all the beautiful squares, alleyways, and cafés. It really isn’t possible to get lost, but if you do, give in to finding delightful surprises around every corner.
Visit A Church In Kotor
For such a small town, it is amazing at how many churches there are in Kotor, all of which are beautiful to see.
The churches that are of particular interest to visit are St. Tryphon’s Cathedral (Sveti Tripun), a Roman Catholic Church and St. Nicholas’ Church (Sveti Nikola), a Serbian Orthodox Church.
Then there is St. Luke’s Church (Sveti Luka) which has served as both an Orthodox and a Catholic church.
As you meander the winding streets of Kotor’s Old Town, you might notice there are the most adorable cats everywhere! They are super friendly and are perfect subjects to photograph.
And if you haven’t gotten your fill of cats yet, visit the Cat Museum in the center of Old Town. The museum is dedicated to all things cats ranging from writings, artwork, and furry feline related memorabilia.
Hike To The Fortress Of Kotor
Of all the places to visit in Kotor, walking up to the San Giovanni Fortress (St. John Fortress) is a must.
No question it has the best view of Kotor and worth climbing up 1,355 stone steps!
The stunning vistas from the San Giovanni Fortress are remarkable and a reward for making it to the top.
On a hot day, leave hiking up to San Giovanni’s Fortress for the morning or later in the afternoon. That way it will be a little cooler and less crowded.
It takes about 60-90 minutes to get to the top. Overall expect to spend 3 – 3.5 hours hiking it, taking plenty of photos, and relaxing at the top for a bit.
There are a few areas to start the trek up the hill, the easiest via the Main Gate. From Main Gate, head straight back to the base of the mountain. You should see the sign below (across from Caffe Bar Perper).
As you zig-zag up the stone steps, take breaks, turn around, and capture incredible views of the Bay of Kotor.
At different vantage points, you’ll also see cruise ships, Old Town and the Our Lady of Remedy Church tower.
Once you reach the top of the San Giovanni Fortress, take your time, and explore the ruins. Each level and section of the fortress provides various viewpoints.
The fortress was built in the 6th century, and it is amazing to see it so well preserved. No question, the hike to the top is one of the most unforgettable things to do in Kotor!
Tips: Go to the bathroom prior to starting and take plenty of water as there are no facilities along the way.
Admission: The fee is 8 Euros per person from 8am to 8pm, free if you go earlier.
Back in Kotor’s Old Town
Once you get back down to Old Town, indulge yourself with a tasty gelato. Then sit back in a square to appreciate your accomplishment!
You will likely feel like napping in the sun like so many of the local cats do…
Additional Places To Visit In Montenegro
If you have the opportunity to stay a night or two in Montenegro, here are some of the best places to go in Montenegro in addition to Perast and Kotor!
Lounge On The Budva Riviera
If the sun is out and you are seeking a gorgeous beach to hang out on then look no further than the stunning Budva Riviera.
Budva is a mere 30-minutes by car from Kotor and a great place to relax and unplug especially during the spring through fall months.
Each of the best beaches in Budva have clear turquoise waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking.
If you are staying overnight in Kotor, take a side trip up to Mount Lovcen to visit the Njegos Mausoleum.
It is about a 1-hour drive on a winding road from Kotor to the mausoleum in Mount Lovcen National Park.
The Njegos Mausoleum is located on the second-highest peak on Mount Lovcen and with no surprise it offers up spectacular views. Who does the mausoleum belong to you might ask?
It is the resting place for Petar Petrovic Njego’s who was a poet, prince, and leader of Montenegro until 1851 with his last wishes to be buried at the top of Mount Lovcen. Once you arrive, there are 461 steps to the mausoleum itself.
As you leave Kotor behind and drive along the Bay of Kotor back to Dubrovnik, head to the town of Herceg Novi for dinner. It is the perfect spot to have dinner, enjoy the sunset, and walk along the waterfront promenade.
Herceg Novi is often overlooked as people are more focused on visiting Perast and Kotor. But don’t underestimate this beauty lying on a dreamy beach on the bay.
It is a small town that boasts a lot more charm than its size. Located close to the Montenegro and Croatian border, it is about 40 mins away from the Dubrovnik airport.
If you can, stay a night and explore the tranquil Old Town of Herceg Novi as time seems to pause here. After exploring Old Town and getting in some beach time, visit Kanli Kula, also known as the “Bloody Tower”.
It got its nickname as it was once a prison where there was a lot of bloody torturing happening. On top of being a prison, it was also a fortress, a castle, and a theater.
Yes, they definitely multi-tasked when using the same location!
Forte Mare or the “Sea Fortress” is another photogenic spot right along the bay in Herceg Novi to see. And if you are feeling adventurous, take a kayaking tour on the Bay of Kotor and enjoy the turquoise blue waters.
Hotels In Kotor
If you are staying in Kotor overnight, the best area to stay is in Old Town (within the city walls). I had researched places to stay but time didn’t allow for it in the end as I visited it on a day trip from Dubrovnik to Kotor.
After looking at reviews and location, next time I would stay at one of the following:
Best Kotor Tours
If you do indeed decide to stay overnight, then the following tours will be a fun way to explore Kotor further!
From Dubrovnik: Full Day Tour To Kotor – If you don’t want to drive yourself to Kotor, this is the top rated guided tour that includes Perast and Kotor!
Kotor Old Town Walking Tour – This is a great tour to take if you are on a day trip to Kotor or spending the night. Learn about Kotor’s history and hidden gems.
Bay of Kotor Kayak Tour – Looking for a bit of adventure and want to explore the Bay of Kotor? Going on a kayak tour is an excellent way to see Kotor from the water, visit idyllic beaches, and snorkel!
Kotor Blue Cave Tour – This private tour will take you to see Our Lady of the Rocks church and to the famous Blue Cave where you can swim in!
Montenegro Full-Day Tour – If you took a bus to Kotor but want to see more of the nearby areas then this full-day tour will take you to see Lovcen National Park, Njegusi village, Cetinje, River Crnojevica, and Sveti Stefan.
Where Is Kotor?
Montenegro lies along the Adriatic Sea with 5 countries bordering it, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania, and Kosovo (disputed territory).
The country of Montenegro is about the size of Connecticut in the United States, which is pretty small!
Previously part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro became an independent country in 2006 and growing as a must-see European destination.
Kotor is located on a secluded section on the Bay of Kotor. Nestled in its own bay within the larger bay, Kotor is approximately 2 hours from Dubrovnik and 20 minutes from Perast. You will pass the town of Perast on your day trip to Kotor from Dubrovnik.
Although you can get around Montenegro by bus or on a tour, the best way to see Montenegro is by renting a car. Take to the open road and see many sights and towns that aren’t as accessible by other means.
No need to worry about the ease of driving in Montenegro or whether it is safe. Driving is no different than in the United States as driving on the right-hand side is familiar and convenient.
When To Visit Kotor, Montenegro
Visiting Montenegro like the other Balkan countries is best visited between April and October to ensure good weather.
But if you are looking to avoid the summer crowds, I recommend visiting April/May or September/October for great weather (most of the time!) and some room to wander.
If you get the chance, spend a few days exploring Montenegro as I wish I had spent more time here. A good reason to go back I guess. Have a great road trip to Kotor, Montenegro!
Before You Go…
Make sure you find out the top things to do in Dubrovnik during your stay including tours, historic attractions, best ways to enjoy Croatian food and where to stay…
Read More: 19 Best Things To Do In Dubrovnik, Croatia!
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Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.