Along with being one of our favorite cities in the Balkans, Kotor has this amazing hiking trail. It leads you up to this fortress dating back to the 6th century. This medieval fortress has so much history and the most magical views from the top of the mountain that will leave you speechless.
St John’s Mountain where the fortress is located overlooks the beautiful bay of Kotor. It makes this hike right outside of the Old Town of Kotor absolutely worth doing if you make it to this Montenegrin beauty.
One of the beauties of hiking in Kotor is that you get a chance to get away from all the tourists. Kotor is a port city and multiple cruise ships dock on a daily basis which makes for one packed Old Town. So arrive early, explore, and start hiking up to the Kotor Walls before the herd of tourists make their way.
Thankfully the Kotor fortress has two completely different trails to get there and we will share them both with you. One is a little easier and more touristy whereas the other one is a little more challenging and harder to find the trailhead. So it’s up to you to decide which hike you would rather do but at the end of the day they both lead to the same beautiful spot which is the famous fortress of Kotor.
But before we share all the tips you need to know about hiking in Kotor we have an informative post of everything you need to know before coming to Montenegro. We drove in from Dubrovnik and had a few hiccups along the way, so here are 7 Important Things to Know When Driving to Kotor, Montenegro.
Hiking in Kotor up the wall to St John’s Fortress
The beauty of hiking up to St John’s Fortress is that it can be done if you’re going to Kotor on a day trip because it’s not that long of a hike. You can easily get up to the fortress and back down in under two hours if you take the easier trail from Old Town (which we did). If you take the harder trail (Kotor ladder) it may take you a little bit longer because you have to exit Old Town Kotor and find the trailhead which may take some time.
We didn’t have data while we were in Kotor for the day trip so we couldn’t really search where the trailhead was for the Kotor Ladder but we will make sure to explain it as simply as possible for anyone wanting to take that trail to the fortress instead of the easier one that starts in Old Town.
We were actually just walking around Old Town when we came across the entrance to this awesome walk in Kotor. We were lucky because there is actually an entrance fee of 8 Euro to hike up to St John’s Fortress (as of 2018-2019.) Up until then, it was free. That’s why we’re sharing the Ladder of Kotor trail for those who either don’t want to pay or want a more challenging hike.
2 trailheads for hiking in Kotor
So as we mentioned there are basically two starting points if you’re looking to hike up to St John’s Fortress which overlooks the bay of Kotor. You can either start from Old Town and hike along the walls of Kotor – or you can do the Ladder of Kotor which is a bunch of switchbacks up a mountain right near the city.
Both hikes are stunning and lead to the same place. The only difference is the difficulty of each trail and the time you want to spend hiking.
Walls of Kotor
The first option is from inside Old Town Kotor, which is where we started the hike up to the fortress. You can find the entrance here. You will also see signs around the “city” that say “Walls of Kotor” trail with arrows and if you ask any local guide where the entrance is for the “Kotor Fortress hike” they will be able to point you in the right direction.
One thing you have to make sure is to bring Euros since there is a fee to access the Walls of Kotor and the Church of our Lady Remedy (and they don’t take bank cards). We understand countries and cities have to make money but it seems a little excessive to have to pay 8 Euros just to walk up a mountain. Especially because people spend lots of money in the city on walking tours and other activities in Kotor.
For that reason, we wanted to let you know that if you actually start the hike before 7 am there will be no one selling tickets at the gate and you will be free to access the trail and hike up the trail to the top. You don’t have to show your ticket when you hike back down so there’s nothing to worry about. Plus you will most likely have this awesome hike all to yourself if you go that early. WIN WIN! =)
Ladder of Kotor
The second option is the more challenging one because the trailhead doesn’t actually start in Kotor Old Town but right outside it. It’s easiest to just put the coordinates into your phone. Here is the exact location for the beginning of the Kotor Ladder. Once you get to this spot you will be able to see the trail ahead of you. There should be tons of zigzags going up the mountain.
You can see the exact walking path here which shows that the hike up to Kotor fortress is 4.4 km or 2.73 miles return. It’s quite a bit longer than the first option but we do believe if you enjoy hiking and you want a more authentic feel of hiking in Kotor then you should consider doing this option.
It will be away from the tourists and have most of the hike to yourself. The only time you will likely encounter tourists is at the top of St John’s fortress because that’s where all the sightseeing of the Bay of Kotor is done. (It’s also the place where you can get some of the best pictures.) Also, this trail is free, so if there’s 2-3 of you, then you will save +20 Euros!
Don’t forget you don’t have to take the same trail up and down the mountain. If you want to hike along the famous Wall of Kotor then maybe consider taking the Kotor Ladder up to the fortress and then walk back down along the wall.
This way you can experience both trails and still hike for free! =) Plus you will be able to see the Church of our Lady Remedy on the way down since it’s along the Kotor Wall.
Practical information about hiking the walls of Kotor up to St John’s Fortress
Distance: 2.1 km return / 1.3 miles return
Elevation: 221 m / 725 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out and back
Length: 1 – 1.5 hours return
Difficulty: Moderate (Due to the heat throughout the day)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Here’s a map of the beginning of the Kotor Fortress hike
Practical information about hiking the Kotor Ladder up to St John’s Fortress
Distance: 4.4 km return / 2.73 miles return
Elevation: 243 m / 797 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out and back
Length: 1.5 – 2.5 hours return
Difficulty: Moderate to hard
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Here’s a map of the beginning of the free Kotor Ladder hike
So those are the two trails…. Hopefully, you won’t have trouble finding the trailheads and you can just enjoy the hike and the views without worrying where to go.
Before you go
Make sure to check the weather and plan accordingly. Look here to see exactly how the weather will be before you set out on your hike or even your day trip to Kotor. If the weather isn’t great then we have a list of Things To Do in the Bay of Kotor and you can save the hiking for another day!
Also, parking in Kotor is a huge problem because there basically is no place to park in the city. Luckily we found a blog that recommended a spot for free parking in Kotor and we used the directions and they actually worked.
If you put in Njegoševa Street you should be able to park for free if you need too. From Njegoševa Street it’s only a 5 minute walk to Old Town so it’s super close and free! Perfect for budget friendly traveling.
What to bring
What you should bring of course depends on the weather. Let’s say you’re lucky and it’s not boiling hot outside – because it gets really hot in Kotor. (We mean really hot – at least for a Canadian and a Dane, haha)
Thankfully when we went it was cloudy. It did start to rain about halfway up the hike so we had to get cover in the church with about 30 other hikers while we waited for the rain to settle, but it was a fun experience.
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- Plenty of water (or cash) because there are multiple locals selling water on the touristy trail – but on the Kotor Ladder you’re all by yourself so bring some water if you take that route. We use Lifestraw water bottles and they are amazing!
- Sunscreen is a must hiking, especially in Montenegro! Even if you go early in the morning or in the late afternoon we definitely recommend bringing it. We use this one from Sun Bum which we really like.
- It’s always nice to have some food once you summit a mountain. There are some awesome places to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views of the Bay of Kotor at the top of the fortress.
- Also, this is a great list of hiking gear that you may need on a hike!
Other useful info
- The currency in Montenegro is the Euro.
- If you’re visiting Montenegro you don’t need a visa if you’re staying for under 90 days.
- Montenegro is not a part of the Schengen Zone.
- You should easily be able to get a meal for under 10 Euros if you don’t eat in the center of Old Town.
We hope you enjoy hiking in Kotor. The mountains that overlook the Bay are fantastic for a short but sweet hike with rewarding views.