The Bay of Kotor, commonly called Boka Bay, is the largest bay on the Adriatic Sea and Europe’s southernmost fjord. The dramatic mountains plunge into the deep, tranquil waters of the bay. From the Adriatic Sea, a channel opens into an expansive inlet and on the north side is a narrow passage – only 340 meters across – called the Verige Straight that leads into an equally large body of water and directly to Perast.
The city of Kotor is hidden in the furthest southern alcove of the bay, providing the town with natural protection from weather and invaders (for a time in history, a much coveted position). Many other small, historic towns dot the coast along the bay and a road conveniently connects the 66 miles of shoreline. A visit to the seaside town of Perast, a town north of Kotor and located directly across from the Verige Straight, was highly recommended by our Airbnb host.
Utilizing the local public bus (€1), it took a half hour to get from Kotor to Perast, where we were dropped off on the main square that fronts the water. So different from the walled city of Kotor, Perast has an air of a posh waterfront town, yet the feel of a fishing village.
A clutter of uniform stone buildings are stacked on the foothill of Mount St. Elijah with sea view cafes spilling out onto piers where small fishing boats float on crystal clear water. The church in the center of Perast has a soaring bell tower that stands out against the backdrop of snowcapped mountains, but seems slightly too tall for the town’s size.
Two islands sit just off shore: one is natural with tall evergreens surrounding a monastery (and prohibited to visitors) and the other is man-made with a Catholic Church and an intriguing legend.
It is said that in 1452 an icon of the Virgin Mary was found by two fisherman on a reef that was barely exposed above water. Over the centuries, people visited that reef and dropped stones into the water where the icon had appeared. The popularity of this ritual grew to the point that entire ships were loaded with rocks and sunk into the sea on the very spot. All of those stones, rocks and ships created an island.
Our Lady of the Rocks church was constructed in 1632 and is centered on the reef where the icon was seen. We paid €5 each for a local man to shuttle us out to the island in his boat. The church was closed, but the ride out to the island was worth it for the views alone.
Even with a lack of ‘sights’ to see and mostly everything closed, we lingered in Perast until the late afternoon. As we were visiting in the off season, there were no other tourists around and even the locals seemed rather quiet, almost as if we had the entire place to ourselves. We slowly strolled along the shore from one end of town to the other watching fisherman tend to their boats.
We settled in at a sea side table at the only open café on the shore and while locals sipped their coffee, we braved the potent, homemade grappa. Filled with awe, we admired our natural surroundings, feeling as if we had been let in on a secret that few others knew.
We want to know: Have you been to Perast, Montenegro? What were your impressions of the small town? Tell us in the comments!