Kotor

Montenegro’s jewel
The old Rector’s Palace
St Tryphon’s Cathedral

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Kotor

Glorious history by a crystal clear sea

Sailing on an MSC cruise to the Mediterranean Sea you can see perched on the edge of a majestic bay, the medieval Old Town of Kotor; it’s the undisputed jewel in Montenegro’s crown.

Though no longer Europe’s best-kept secret, Kotor’s sudden elevation to the tour-cruise league has failed to dim the timeless delights of its cobbled alleyways and secluded piazzas. Enclosing cafés and churches galore, the town walls are themselves glowered down upon by a series of hulking peaks.

Down below, a harbour now bustling with sleek yachts marks the end of the Bay of Kotor, made fjord-like by the 1000m cliffs that rise almost vertically from the serene waters. Kotor’s charms are best appreciated by heading to the Old Town, without map, and getting lost in the labyrinthine streets. You’ll likely start your excursion entering through the Sea Gate, next to the harbour, where your MSC cruise ship awaits your return, and emerge onto the main square, Trg od Oružja.

Cafés spill out from glorious buildings, the most notable of which are the old Rector’s Palace and a leaning clock tower. Burrow through the streets and before long you’ll end up at St Tryphon’s Cathedral, backed by a wall of mountains and perfect for photos; it’s well worth the entry fee for a peek inside.

Elsewhere there are several churches that merit a look, as well as a fascinating Maritime Museum, a repository of nautical maps and model ships. The old fortress walls sit proudly above the town, and make for a rewarding climb. Allow at least ninety minutes for the round-trip to St Ivan’s Castle, from which you’ll have tremendous views of the fjord.

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Montenegro

An unexpected jewel
An unexpected jewel

The tiny state of Crna Gora is better known under its Italian name, Montenegro. The English translation – “Black Mountain” – may sound a little bleak, but it’s a land exploding with colour.

Carpeted with flowers for much of the year, the country’s muscular peaks are dappled with the dark greens of pine, beech and birch from which turquoise streams rush down to a tantalizingly azure blue sea. Its Mediterranean coastline is dotted from border to border with beaches of yellow and volcanic grey, and huddles of picturesque, orange-roofed houses – a postcard come to life to admire during your holiday to Montenegro.

While the coastline is most appealing for the traveller, Montenegro’s most precious jewel – phenomenally photogenic Kotor – sits just a little inland at the end of a fjord-like bay. The beach town of Budva is the other real highlight, but you should also try to make time for the ruins of Stari Bar.

Away from the coast, the country’s pleasures are mainly confined to the mountains, particularly the spectacular national park of Durmitor, while the old Montenegrin capital of Cetinje is also well worth a visit; the present-day capital, Podgorica, gets few visitors but certainly has its charms.