Find out everything you need to know about the Bay of Kotor Montenegro. What to see, when to visit, how to get there and much more...
The Bay of Kotor Montenegro is a stunningly beautiful place full of history, beautiful architecture and a warm Mediterranean seaside atmosphere. It’s a fantastic place for a sun-drenched holiday of swimming, eating and exploring.
But how do you get there?
Can you swim in the sea there?
And what country is it in?
If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, you’re not the only one. Phew!
Below are the most common questions about the Bay of Kotor Montenegro, asked and answered.
The Bay of Kotor is in the country of Montenegro. Montenegro is a small country of just over 600,000 people on the Balkan Peninsula. It lies between Croatia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo and used to be part of the country of Yugoslavia, before it broke apart in the 1990’s.
The Bay of Kotor lies on the coastal part of Montenegro, which lies on the Adriatic Sea. Part of the bay forms the border with Croatia, and the bay is less than an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik in Croatia.
The bay, or Boka, as it’s known locally, is one of the most beautiful parts of Montenegro and is a must-see when you visit Montenegro.
Although the Bay of Kotor is often called ‘Europe’s southernmost fjord’, Boka Kotorska isn’t actually a fjord, it’s a ria.
What’s the difference?
Fjords are submerged glaciers, which is why they’re found in countries like Norway, which lies closer to the North Pole. When a glacier melts and gets flooded with seawater, this creates a fjord coast.
Rias, on the other hand, can be found all over the world because they weren’t formed by ice. Rias are formed when rising sea levels submerge a river valley, and this is how the Bay of Kotor was formed. San Francisco and Sydney Harbour are both examples of rias.
The Bay of Kotor ria has an outer bay which is made up of Herceg Novi and Tivat bays. Then there’s a narrow passage called Verige Strait and the bay opens up again to Risan and Kotor bays. This protected shape and the bay’s location has made the Bay of Kotor an important location for shipping for centuries.
You can swim in the Bay of Kotor… and I’d highly recommend it! The Bay of Kotor is blessed with calm, warm water, around 26°C (79°F) in summer, and it’s the ideal place for swimming and water sports.
Average sea temperatures in the Bay of Kotor Montenegro:
The bay is dotted with small beaches and pontas, small jetties for tying up boats and sunbathing, so a stay in a Bay of Kotor hotel usually comes with drop dead gorgeous views and will be within walking distance of a beach.
The only place that doesn’t have a beach is Kotor town itself. The seafront in Kotor is dedicated to the port and marina, but there are beaches either side in Muo and Dobrota. You can find more information about these places and other places to stay in the Bay of Kotor further down this page.
Most Bay of Kotor beaches are pebble or a mix of pebble and sand. The bay is around 60m deep and it can get deep quickly, so it pays to keep an eye on small children when swimming in the bay. However you’ll also find shallow sandy beaches, like in Morinj and Igalo (near Herceg Novi), which are popular with families with small children. The water in Morinj tends to be a little cooler than elsewhere in the bay because there are a lot of freshwater springs here, but it’s still perfectly fine for enjoying a swim.
The water in the Bay of Kotor is very clear. The best visibility is closest to the entrance of the Bay, along the Herceg Novi Riviera, but you can swim throughout the bay and see small fish, crabs, shrimp and shellfish in the shallows. If you plan to swim here bring some goggles or a snorkel set!
The great thing about swimming in the Bay of Kotor is it’s almost always calm. The shape of the Bay means it’s sheltered from swell that can kick up in the Adriatic Sea. This makes it ideal not only for swimming, but for kayaking and stand up paddling, even if you’ve never tried these before.
The weather in the Bay of Kotor is described as being Mediterranean. Winters in the bay are usually mild and wet and the summers are hot and dry. Interestingly, Herceg Novi, in the Bay of Kotor, is one of the sunniest places in Europe, while Crkvice, just above the Bay of Kotor, is one of the wettest places in Europe.
Average weather in the Bay of Kotor Montenegro:
Winters in Kotor Bay are mild and the temperature rarely falls below 0°C, even at night. The weather alternates between mild wet periods and cold sunny periods. During rainy periods the daytime temperature hovers around 10°C. Rainy periods often last for several days and the rain can be torrential, causing surface flooding in flat areas.
Sunny periods are usually accompanied by the bura wind. The bura comes from the interior of Montenegro, where snow covers the ground between December and April, and it’s very cold. The bura brings the daytime temperature down to around 5°C, but it can feel much colder with the wind chill factor.
Spring in the bay is usually changeable. Temperatures are variable and a fine spring day can easily reach 23°C (74°F).
Summers in the bay are almost always hot and dry. You can count on hot sunny beach weather particularly in July and August. Sometimes thunderstorms rush through the bay, but these are usually gone and the beaches full again within an hour.
Autumn offers some of the most pleasant weather in the Bay of Kotor. In September and October the highs drop out of the 30’s and into the 20’s which are still great for days on the beach, but are also more comfortable for walking around the towns and exploring.
The Bay of Kotor has an airport in Tivat. Tivat Airport lies in Kotor Bay and is just 5km from Tivat town and 8km from Kotor old town.
Tivat Airport has direct flights from a range of destinations including:
Flights to Tivat are seasonal, so there are more flights available between April and October. If you can’t fly into Tivat Airport, the next best options are Podgorica Airport in the capital city or Dubrovnik Airport in neighboring Croatia.
Dubrovnik Airport is a popular choice for travel to the Bay of Kotor because it’s less than an hour’s drive from the bay, however you should take into consideration the border crossing between the two countries.
Montenegro is not part of the European Union which means you’ll need to pass through two checkpoints to exit Croatia and enter Montenegro. These checkpoints can be busy during the peak months of July and August.
The Bay of Kotor is shaped roughly like a butterfly and divided into four internal bays:
Each bay is made of several villages, and you’ll find accommodation, beaches and traditional-style waterfront restaurants called konoba in each village.
My answer to this one can only be a resounding ‘yes!’
Kotor is a small town, but so full of character, beauty and uniqueness. Believed by locals to be founded by the Greek fairy, Alkima, Kotor is a fairy tale-like town of cobbled streets, winding alleyways, untamed greenery and sunbathing cats.
The town is over 2,000 years old and has been shaped by the Illyrians, Romans and Venetians among others. Kotor is one of the few walled towns left in Europe and its walls are one of its stand out features. Said to be the most expensive ever built, you can follow the ancient path up the walls to the fortress at the top for jaw-dropping views of Kotor Bay.
Inside the old town below, you’ll find history, beauty and a vibrant town. This is one of those rare tourist destinations that hasn’t been taken over by tourists. It’s still an integral part of life in Kotor and people still live in the town and, most importantly, still come here to have coffee with friends in the piazzas.
Exploring Kotor with the help of a guide is essential. Although you can get maps of the town at the entrance, they have no information and you’ll miss a lot of the best sights and stories about the town if you just walk around without a guide.
Group or private walking tours that take 1-2 hours give you a great foundation for exploring the town. If you prefer exploring on your own I recommend exploring with the help of my book Kotor Beyond the Wall: Guide Yourself Around the Highlights and Hidden Gems of Kotor, Montenegro. Or for a fun twist, do the Kotor Secret City Trail, a self-guided walking tour crossed with a fun scavenger hunt through the town.
There are several good boat trips you can do in the Bay of Kotor, but two stand out as the most popular:
This is a great tour to see some of the highlights of the Bay of Kotor in a short time. The tour takes you by speed boat from Kotor past Perast to Our Lady of the Rocks. You have a short stop to visit the church and museum and then you continue on to see Yugoslav-era submarine tunnels and head out of the bay for a drive by Mamula Island. The highlight of the tour is a swim in the Blue Cave before you speed back to Kotor.
If you have more time, the Boka Bay Day Cruise is a leisurely full day out cruising around the Bay of Kotor. This tour also takes you to see Our Lady of the rocks, Yugoslav submarine tunnels, Mamula and the Blue Cave.
In addition, it stops at Porto Montenegro, the luxurious platinum-rated marina for lunch and has several swimming stops during the day.
There are dozens of excellent Bay of Kotor hotels to choose from. You’ll find everything from 5* luxury hotels to small, atmospheric boutique hotels.
When choosing your hotel, it’s important to consider the location in the bay. Each bay has its own benefits and drawbacks, but ultimately the Bay of Kotor is a beautiful place to stay and guarantees you an unforgettable vacation. Here’s a little bit about each to help you decide on the perfect location.
Kotor Bay is the most popular area to stay in the Bay of Kotor because it’s closest to the bay’s star attraction, Kotor old town. Although Kotor is the bay’s star attraction, it’s not the best place to stay if you want sea views or a beach within walking distance. The old town can also be noisy, with lots of tourists throughout the day and bars playing music until 1am.
Either side of Kotor, Muo and Dobrota offer lots of accommodation options within walking distance of the old town. Accommodation in Muo offers views of the old town which are especially pretty at night when the town walls are lit up. Dobrota, on the other side of Kotor, offers upmarket seaside hotels like Boutique Hotel Casa del Mare – Vizura and HUMA Kotor Bay Hotel and Villas.
Another popular place to stay in Kotor Bay is Perast. Perast is a stunningly beautiful seaside village full of preserved Baroque palaces. With two island churches in front of the town and endless sunshine, this is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the bay. There are several top-notch places to stay in Perast include the Heritage Grand Perast, Conte Hotel and Restaurant and Monte Bay Retreat.
Kotor Bay villages: Kotor, Muo, Dobrota, Sveti Stasije, Orahovac, Ljuta, Orahovac, Dražin Vrt, Prčanj and Stoliv.
Heritage Grand Perast is a luxurious 5* hotel on the waterfront in Perast. The hotel used to be a palace and it's a stunning hotel in one of the most beautiful locations in Europe.
Monte Bay Retreat is a luxury boutique hotel in Perast. With those famous Perast views, an outdoor pool, just steps to the sea and fantastic food, this hotel is a real retreat.
Palazzo Drusko is a converted 600-year old former noble’s house. Obligatory comforts like Wi-Fi and air-conditioning are married with 150 year-old furniture and genuine antiques from Kotor.
Blue Kotor Bay Premium Spa Resort is an adults-only seaside resort in Prčanj. Book a room with a private jacuzzi on your terrace for the ultimate getaway with your special someone!
What Tivat lacks in historic atmosphere (the town was built after a 1979 earthquake brought down buildings in Kotor and people needed accommodation), it more than makes up for in convenience and modernity.
Tivat centre is just 5km from the airport, the town is very pedestrian friendly and it has Porto Montenegro, a luxury marina full of upmarket restaurants and boutiques. Tivat also has great nightlife, try the Clubhouse for a pub scene or Platinum night club for dancing, but you’ll also find casual waterfront cafes full with people until late at night all through the warmer months.
Tivat Bay villages: Seljanovo, Donja Lastva, Bijelila and Krašići.
Regent Porto Montenegro is a 5* hotel in the beautiful marina, Porto Montenegro. Just steps from Tivat town, this hotel offers luxurious accommodation surrounded by all the conveniences of the marina and Tivat.
Eco Hotel Carrubba is a boutique hotel in Donja Lastva, 2km from Tivat centre. This is the ideal place for a quiet seaside getaway while still being close to Kotor and Tivat.
Nikki Beach Montenegro is a 5* hotel on the Luštica Peninsula side of Tivat Bay. This area is great for a seaside getaway and it's a short drive to Tivat, Kotor or Budva (although summer traffic can make it longer).
Herceg Novi Bay has the clearest water in the bay and it’s the sunniest part of the Bay of Kotor. Herceg Novi has a pretty old town and fewer tourists so the atmosphere here is more authentic and less crowded. It also has the best beaches in the bay, with pebble beaches all along the coast to Igalo’s large shallow, sandy beach at the north end of the bay.
In Kumbor, 10 minutes from Herceg Novi centre, you’ll find Portonovi, a luxury marina with villas and a village. This is a popular place to walk, eat and drink and 5* hotel One&Only Portonovi is arguably one of the best hotels in Montenegro.
I recommend hiring a car for a stay in Herceg Novi. The drive around the Bay of Kotor to Kotor offers stunning scenery and you can easily explore wider Montenegro and even Dubrovnik in Croatia from here. Local Rent has cheap car hire and excellent service throughout Montenegro.
Herceg Novi Bay villages: Igalo, Topla, Meljine, Zelenika, Kumbor, Đenovići, Baošići, Bijela and Kamenari.
One&Only Portonovi is an ultra-luxurious 5* hotel that's part of the exclusive One&Only chain. This hotel is on the waterfront in Portonovi Marina. Portonovi village has stores and restaurants and it's just 10 minutes from Herceg Novi.
Hotel Perla lies seafront in a beautiful and quite part of Herceg Novi called Savina. The hotel has its own beach, a very good restaurant and is an easy walk along the promenade to Herceg Novi old town and the marina.
Lazure Hotel and Marina is a beautiful hotel in the old Lazaret, the Bay of Kotor's quarantine facility. The buildings have been painstakingly renovated into this hotel and the accommodation and facilities are some of the best in the bay.
Risan Bay has fewer attractions and facilities than the other three bays in the Bay of Kotor, but that might suit you if you’re looking for a quiet getaway.
Risan itself was one of the earliest settlements in the Bay of Kotor and its main attraction is a set of Roman mosaics that were once part of a noble family’s villa from the 2nd century AD.
One of the best places to stay in Risan Bay is Morinj. Morinj is a small hamlet, but it has Ćatovića Mlini, one of the best restaurants in the bay, and large beach.
Risan Bay villages: Morinj, Lipci, Strp, Risan.
There are no hotels in Risan Bay, but there is some stunning self-catering accommodation that are great for a relaxed family holiday.
Villa D'amore Montenegro is a spacious villa a few minutes' walk to the beach in Morinj. It has everything you need for an unforgettable family holiday, including 4 bedrooms, a pool and barbecue.
Villa Strp has the stand out feature of having its own private beach just a few steps from the house. With 3 bedrooms and full amenities, Villa Strp is a fantastic location for a relaxed seaside holiday.
Vacation Home Naluka lies on the river in Morinj, a short walk from the beach, supermarket and restaurants. This self-catering home offers seclusion and convenience in a beautiful location.
The best place to watch the sunset in Kotor Bay is from Rose. Inside the bay, the sun sets behind Njivice hill, near Herceg Novi. Across the bay from Herceg Novi, the pretty fishing village of Rose is where you’ll get the best sunset views as the sun goes down behind the hill.
Rose has cute stone houses lining the seaside, swimming platforms and restaurants. Grab a glass of bubbly and a seaside table at Adriatic Restaurant and watch the sun go down on another idyllic day in Montenegro.