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Hiking in Kotor, Montenegro is one of the top things to do – and the best trek is along the hillside old city walls that lead up to the Kotor fortress. The Castle of San Giovanni sits at the top of the hill high above Kotor, serving as a protective fort for centuries. From the bay, the Kotor hike climbs up more than 1350 steps, passing a church and providing amazing Bay of Kotor views along the way.
Built in the 16th and 17th centuries when Kotor was under the rule of the Venetians, the hill-topping fortress, stone walls and historic Kotor Old Town are all UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hiking to the Kotor Fortress
The historic Kotor Old Town is nestled into the southern corner of Kotor Bay at the base of a steep hill. On the Kotor mountain, there are three miles of ancient protective stone walls that completely fortify the triangular, medieval town.
The ramparts extend from the sea-facing main city gate up to the San Giovanni Montenegro Castle. It took more than 1000 years to build the fortifications, which include lookout towers, gates, bastions and the Kotor castle.
From the harbor, visitors can clearly see the outline of the Kotor walls and a series of paths. The church that clings to the side of the Kotor mountain (about halfway to the top) and the expansive Castle of San Giovanni (St. John or Sveti Ivan) is also visible from the shoreline.
While the view from below is beautiful, the panoramic viewpoints from the Kotor fortress hike are breathtaking.
Kotor City Walls Walk: What You Need to Know
The Kotor, Montenegro trek from the Old Town to the fort can take anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour, depending on pace, photo stops and detours. The trail is a combination of rocky footpaths, paved track and stone steps.
Hike Kotor City Walls in Shoes (Not Flip Flops)
The route of the Kotor hike to Fortress San Giovanni has been reinforced in some places, but not in all, leaving uneven and loose rocks to negotiate. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes – and not flip flops or heeled shoes. Most everyday travel shoes will do and hiking boots are unnecessary.
Sun Protection and Water
The best time for the Kotor walk is either early in the morning or late afternoon. The Kotor mountains trail is completely exposed, so if you do go hiking in Kotor in the middle of the day, bring sunscreen or a wide-brimmed travel hat to hide your face.
Also, carry plenty of water with you; collapsible water bottles are great for travelers.
Kotor City Walls Hike Trailheads
There are two trailheads to the Kotor hike within the Old Town – one on the north end of the Old Town and one on the south end. The northern entrance is the most used, but visitors can use either, as the two trails merge at the lower Kotor Old Town Viewpoint. We include a link to a Kotor map of the hiking trail below.
Hiking Kotor Walls Cost
Once upon a time, the Kotor San Giovanni Trek was free, but that is no longer the case – at least not during the high season. The lower portion of the walk is free, but to hike beyond the first lookout point to the church and up the Kotor fortress steps requires a ticket.
As of 2022, the fee to climb the Kotor Walls is 8 euros and there are reports of a guard checking for tickets at the top of the Kotor hike.
Pro Tip: Looking for free Kotor hikes? There are two other hikes in Kotor that are free: Ladder of Kotor and Vrmac Fort. We discuss these two hikes in more detail at the end of detailed description of the Kotor Walls Hike.
Hiking Kotor to Castle of Giovanni
Whether starting from the north or south trailhead, hikers will encounter short flights of stairs and pass by historic dwellings. The beginning of the trail is well-trodden – and features a combination of stone, gravel and paved sections. Along the route, trekkers are treated to stellar Kotor views – each one better than the previous.
The First Kotor, Montenegro Viewpoint
The first point of interest is the Kotor Old Town Viewpoint where the two trails converge. We recommend stopping here to catch your breath, take in the view and snap a few photos.
Continue your Kotor Hike to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy
From the lookout point, a series of inclined switchbacks – marked with the stations of the cross – lead to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. The church is about halfway to the top…albeit the easy half.
The church was built in the year 1518. Although it appears large when viewed from the city below, it is rather small inside, with only two pews and an altar. Of the many times we have hiked to the church, the gates have always been locked, but visitors can peer inside to glance around and see the interior.
For more information about the Church of Our Lady of Remedy (and the many other churches in the city!), read our blog post: Churches in Kotor.
Kotor Hiking Along The Fortifications
From the church, the hike becomes more inclined with long switchbacks. Although this section of the trek is tougher, the views are mesmerizing. With each step, the vantage point shifts just enough to provide a new perspective. Shutterbugs – like me! – will have a difficult time resisting the urge to snap yet another picture of the incredible natural scenes.
Nearly to the top, hikers will find a small, dilapidated fort (labeled Old Town Road on the map). The explore-at-your-own-risk, historic playground is a conglomeration of shelled out rooms; the interiors overflow with overgrowing 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 our hike up the Kotor fortress steps.
Detour While Hiking Kotor Walls
Just beyond the small fort, there is a fork in the road. Hikers can keep pushing up to the Kotor San Giovanni Castle or follow the detour through a small hole in the wall.
If time allows, we highly recommend making the detour, crawling through the window and following the dirt path into the valley. Hikers walk past remnants of age-old stone homes to a small church, St. George (Sveti Juraj), in a clearing.
Some of the homes – the ones outlined with the large boulders – are believed to have been built 3,000 years ago when the area was settled by the Illyrians. The dwellings with small, more uniform and square-shaped stones are just a mere 300 years old, built in the time of Venetian rule.
St. George Church
St. George, a catholic church, is believed to be around 1,000 years old. If the church door is open, go ahead and take a look inside. While it is mostly bare, there is an old, stone altar at the far end, a connecting chapel (St. Mary Chapel, which was constructed about 500 years ago) and fragments of painted tile on the walls.
Pro Tip: We introduce this detour in the middle of the hike up to the castle. However, visitors can take the detour on the way down – and complete the hike by taking the Ladder of Kotor switchbacks down the hillside and re-entering the Old Town via the North Gate. This route passes by a small house where a man sells his homemade ham, cheese and brandy (rakija) – a very worthwhile stop, in our opinion! We detail the Ladder of Kotor later in this travel blog post.
Resume the Hike to Kotor Castle Of San Giovanni
Back through the window, complete the Kotor wall hike to the castle. Much like the small fort, what is left of the Kotor San Giovanni castle is mostly a hollowed-out shell.
Visitors are free to explore the many rooms and structures. However, the highlight of the Kotor castle hike is the phenomenal views that stretch the length of the bay around to the surrounding mountains.
Pro Tip: Pack a picnic lunch or a few afternoon beers on your Kotor hike – then enjoy them at the Castle of San Giovanni with a fabulous view!
Completing The Kotor Wall Walk
On the descent of your Kotor hiking trip, enjoy that gravity is working with you, rather than against you. Instead of facing yet another inclined switchback, marvel at the sweeping views of the bay. Take the detour route or simply retrace your steps back into the Old Town.
More Kotor Hikes
The Kotor hike to San Giovanni Fort is our favored hiking route in Kotor, Montenegro. However, there are two other popular Kotor hiking trails that are close to the Old Town – and they are both free.
Ladder of Kotor
The Ladder of Kotor trail – which connects to the Fortress hike in Kotor and we highlighted as a detour – is an excellent trail outside the city walls.
While there is a fee charged to trekkers using the Kotor hiking trails from the Old Town inside the walls, the Ladder of Kotor is completely free.
Ladder of Kotor Hike
Hiking the Ladder of Kotor includes steep switchbacks through a canyon just north of the Old Town (the trailhead is marked on our Kotor Hiking Map below). The route passes a house, where they sell cheese, meat, cold beer and rakija (a potent local liquor).
Trekkers can follow the trail to the historic dwellings and St. George Church – and continue to where the trail hooks into the Kotor Wall Hike. Just note that while this route bypasses the ticket turnstile in the Old Town, hikers may not be able to enter the Kotor Castle at the top without a ticket.
Alternatively, hikers can push on past the house where the man sells cheese and continue up the zigzagging switchbacks…all the way to the Top of the Old Fort Trail and the town of Njegusi.
An Austro-Hungarian fortress built in the late 1800s, Fort Vrmac sits high above the town of Kotor (at 2,575 feet) on the south end of the Bay of Kotor. The views from the fort extend west over the city of Tivat.
Fort Vrmac Hike
A steep, winding path from the Muo district leads hikers through a forest to the Fort. As it is a much less-frequented hike in Kotor, animals – like boar and mountain goats (and sometimes snakes) – are often seen along the trail.
Expect the hike up to take about 2 hours – and bring plenty of water and snacks, as there are no services along the route. The fort itself is abandoned (and you may or may not be able to get inside…bring a flashlight if you want to try).
Kotor Fortress Map and Nearby Hikes
Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive version of our Hiking in Kotor Map online.
More Outdoor Activities in Kotor, Montenegro
Hiking in Kotor is just one of the many nature activities in this region of Montenegro. Outdoor enthusiasts may also want to check out some of these fun things to do in Kotor.
Kotor Day Trips
Kayaking Kotor Bay
Kayaking in the Bay of Kotor is an excellent way to see regional sights and admire natural scenery. Paddle to iconic places, historic churches and beautiful beaches on a kayak tour. Get the details!
Blue Grotto Kotor Tour By Kayak
Join a morning or afternoon kayak tour to Uvala Veslo Bay – and paddle into the epic Blue Cave. Visitors are able to swim and snorkel on this trip, too! Book your spot!
Bike Rental Kotor Tour
Join an adventurous bike hire Kotor tour on a scenic downhill bicycle ride down twisting ‘serpentines’ (switchbacks). On this bike tour, the panoramic views encompass three countries (Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia). Learn more here!
Visitors who like to explore on their own can get a bicycle rental in Kotor – Reserve one now!
More Hiking in Montenegro
While the hike up to the castle is the most well-known trail, there are other tracks for hiking near Kotor. Participants to join a Kotor guide on a downhill hiking adventure from Krstac to Kotor, enjoying epic views, local cuisines and history facts along the way. Book it now!
Whitewater Rafting in Tara River Canyon
Spend a full-day rafting through 20 rapids on the world-famous Tara River. The day trip includes stunning scenery, incredible waterfalls and swimming, too. Get the details!
Cruise Kotor, Montenegro
Looking for a more relaxing Kotor excursion? Hop aboard boat for a Bay of Kotor Cruise. The Kotor boat tour includes top attractions – like the Lady of the Rocks island church, an abandoned submarine base and the Blue Grotto on Kotor Bay. On warm days, guests can even swim in the Blue Cave. Get the details here!
More Kotor Travel Tips
For more tips of what to do, use our Guide to Kotor: The Best Things To Do in Kotor, Montenegro.
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