Hiking in Kotor: Climb the ramparts to the castle

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Since arriving in Kotor, Montenegro, we’ve been determined to hike the town walls – and all 1355 steps – to the San Giovanni Castle that sits at the top of the hill high above the city. A few days ago, we started the hike, propelled by the stunning scenery even though the skies were covered in dark clouds, but only made it halfway before a storm swept through. This time around, the sun was shining and, despite the gusty winds, we took the stairs from our front door and started hiking in Kotor, making the climb along the ramparts to the castle above. We paused at all the same places we had on our previous shorter hike, finding the views even more vibrant under a sky of blue.

Hiking in Kotor: The first views over the city

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which is about halfway to the top ~ albeit, the easy half. The church was built in 1518 and although it appears large when viewed from the city below, it is rather small inside with two pews and room for no more than 20 people standing. The gates were locked, but we could peer inside to glance around and see the altar.

Hiking in Kotor: The Church of Our Lady of Remedy

Hiking in Kotor: View through the gates at The Church of Our Lady of Remedy

From the church, the hike becomes more steadily inclined with long switchbacks. Although my lungs were bursting, the views were mesmerizing and shifting just enough with each new perspective that I couldn’t resist snapping yet another picture of the scene below us.Hiking in Kotor: The views of the Bay of Kotor were stunning

Hiking in Kotor: Steps and a gravel path lead the way to the top

Nearing the top, we first came to the small fort: an explore-at-your-own-risk, historic playground of shelled out rooms with floors overgrowing with vegetation. We navigated our way through the crumbling walls, going up stairs just to see where they led and poking our heads through doorways and windows before continuing on.Hiking in Kotor: A fort is open for exploration on the way to the top

Hiking in Kotor: The walls of Kotor

Hiking in Kotor: Little is left of the fort besides the shell

Just beyond the small fort, we came to a fork in the road. We could keep pushing up to the castle or we take the road less traveled and detour through a small window in the walls and see where it led. Driven by an adventurous spirit, we made our way through the wall and followed a dirt path into a valley between two hills.

Hiking in Kotor: A sign pointed to an alternate route that led to an old church

Hiking in Kotor: A detour through the walls

We walked past remnants of age-old stone homes to a clearing where a small church stood. The door was open, so we took a look inside to find an open space with an old, stone altar at the far end, a connecting chapel and fragments of painted tile on the walls.

Hiking in Kotor: St. George Catholic Church

Hiking in Kotor: The interior of St. George Catholic Church

We hadn’t been there long when we were approached by a man – only the second person we’d seen since we started hiking in Kotor – who was able to communicate with us through a bit of broken English (which was far and away better than our Montenegrin!). He explained that his family has owned the land we were standing on for generations and he graciously provided some details of the area.

The homes with bases of large boulders were built 3000 years ago when the area was settled by the Illyrians; the homes with smaller, more uniform, square-shaped stones are a mere 300 years old, built under the rule of the Venetians. The Catholic Church we were standing in front of, St. George, was 1000 years old, with the chapel, St. Mary, being added 500 year ago.

Hiking in Kotor: Remnants of 1000 year old homes

Hiking in Kotor: The outlines of 1000 year old homes are still visible

Hiking in Kotor: St. George Catholic Church - off the beaten path

Back through the wall, we completed our hike to the castle. Much like the fort, what is left is mostly a hollowed out shell, but it is bigger with more rooms and levels to explore. The phenomenal views stretched the length of the bay, with uninterrupted views of the mountains that completely surrounded us. The sun’s rays kept us warm, even though the wind continued to whip down the hill. We sat on the top wall and ate our picnic lunch and I contemplated the history of the place where we sat. How many people – over how many centuries – had taken in the same view? Were they nearly as impressed with the stunning blue of the sea and the height of the surrounding mountains as we are?

Hiking in Kotor: Making our way back through the walls

Hiking in Kotor: Stunning views of the Bay of Kotor

Hiking in Kotor: Not much remains of the San Giovanni Castle at the top of the hill

We walked through the castle a bit more, suddenly aware of the growing number of other people who were hiking in Kotor and had also made the climb – one woman doing so in her chunky, heeled boots (I barely made it in Sketchers!). As we made our descent, our shaking legs were glad to have gravity working with us, rather than against us. And, instead of being faced with another inclined switchback, we had a full view of the bay spread out below. We will, no doubt, be sore for a day or two, but we are already looking forward to hiking in Kotor again.

Hiking in Kotor: Sarah and Kris at the San Giovanni Castle at the top of the hill

We want to know: Have you been hiking in Kotor? Did you take the detour to St. George’s Church outside the walls? What did you think of the hike and the views? Tell us in the comments!

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Hiking Kotor Montenegro Climbing the ramparts to the castle JetSetting Fools

 

18 thoughts on “Hiking in Kotor: Climb the ramparts to the castle

  1. Pingback: Kotor, Montenegro : How to Spend 2 Days in the City - Itinerary Ideas

  2. Planning this year’s balkan trip I just realized I never thanked you for this tip of climbing through the hole in the wall and visit the small church. It was amazing made it in Sept last year2016. I also walked past the goats and the small “bar” selling fresh pomegranate juice. I climbed the mountain all the way up to the trees which took me some time. I walked so far I couldnt see the city anymore but a thunderatorm was building up and I had to walk down again but luckily no rain so I had time to visit san giovanni. That evening it did rain like crazy. Amazing views going back to Kotor this year for my 3rd time for a day. Anyway thanks again. Have a great life travelling. Cheers Filip

    • So fantastic! We loved the detour through the wall – and on our second time through Kotor, we stopped at the ‘bar’ and had shots…which made the hike down slightly more….interesting! ha! We just love Kotor – and everything about it….sounds like you’ve had some good times there, too. Read your blog post about your trip through the Balkans – ambitious, but incredible!! Hope it all goes to plan! (We loved our time in Prizren, Pristina, Ohrid, Skopje and Belgrade – hope you do, too!)

  3. Oregon Follower!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What an amazing time in your lives!!!!!!!!!!!!! And what incredible memories you’re creating!!! Your pictures are like a book….we just keep turning another page!!!!

  4. Tom Smith

    I agree. I feel like I’m traveling with you and truly enjoying the trip. Places I will never get to and of course I’ll not have to climb that mountain to the church. Keep it up….I love it.

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