Kotor’s City Walls – only 1350 steps to the fort that overlooks the Bay of Kotor. Sounded easy! On arrival into Kotor Montenegro by bus a few days prior, the imposing wall, church and fort towered over the city and the Bay of Kotor. We knew that we would climb it, 1200 metres and 1350 steps would not deter us.
Maybe the crowds would, but if we started when the gate opened at 8 am in the morning, hopefully, we would beat them and also beat the high temperatures at that time of the year. You don’t need to hire a local Kotor guide to climb to the top.
Montenegro was always on our mind to visit but when Lonely Planet announced that Montenegro was one of its top destinations in 2016 we just had to visit it.
But first some reading needed to be done so that we could make the most of our 2 weeks.
Where is Montenegro
Montenegro is part of the Balkans and is one of the oldest European states. Montenegro has over 290km of coastline and is classified as part of southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Montenegro borders the countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania and the Adriatic Sea.
Editor updated 2019
The Climb to Kotor’s City Walls and Fortress
Starting at the North Gate in Kotor Old Town (which dates from 1540) at 8.15 am we paid our entrance fee of 3 euros per person and started the long ascent. It is always wise not to count the steps, I tend to do that, but chatting and stopping for the many photographic opportunities took my mind off it. Anyway, it was 520 steps to the small church on the hill of St John – Our Lady of the Health. (no I did not count them, promotional material gave me the information)
Our Lady of the Health Church was constructed as a votive church during the 15th century in baroque style but with a gothic arch. The Church tower with 3 bells was an added addition during the 18th century, the bells are famous, they were made in the bell foundry De Poli in Vittorio Veneto (Italy).
The crypt inside the small church relates to the Kotor family – Bolic. In the front of the church lies the tomb of Count Anton Lukovic, a citizen of Kotor.
Kotor experienced the effects of the plague during 1435 where it wiped out most of the town including the Canons of the church. Fears abounded that the powerful walls and the soldiers were not enough to protect the town, they needed God’s protection as well – our Lady of the Health Church was constructed to provide God’s protection over the city and its peoples.
At this point of the climb, you can stop and sit down on the concrete benches and enjoy the view of Kotor Bay glistening below. Believe me, take the time to rest at this point, you are only a little over one-third of the way there.
The walls date back to medieval times and were gradually built over quite a lengthy period between the 9th and 19th century. The walls form an arch over the sheer cliffs of the Hill of St John and are 4.5 kilometres in length, the breadth ranges from 2 and 16 metres and the height varies up to 20 metres in certain sections. At night it is a spectacular sight, at intervals, there are lights creating a magical archway around the mountain.
1200 metres later you reach the Castle of St John (260 metres above sea level). The Castle is a crumbled ruin, but you can still climb over some of the ramparts for awesome views over the Port of Kotor. The earthquakes of 1563, 1667 and the most recent one in April 1979 caused damage to the fort. The 1979 earthquake caused quite a lot of damage in Kotor and to the fort. Kotor has listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well as the List in Danger during 1979 just after the earthquake.
Back down the stairs, we head, facing hundreds of visitors coming up. Alongside the steps, there is a very slippery rocky pathway that we had to use many times to allow those coming up to pass by.
To Travel Too Tips
- Start early, the sun will be behind you as you climb up
- Bring plenty of water, there is water for sale but at a price
- Be prepared for the whole climb to take about 2 hours
- Wear hiking shoes
- Be prepared to take lots of photos
Where to Stay in Kotor
We stayed at the Old Mariner Guest House Kotor
Airbnb has a range of properties in Kotor. If you are first-time bookers with Airbnb we have a special $$$ discount for you.
For a list of the recommended restaurants in Kotor Click here
Things To Do in Kotor
You may be interested in our blog on a tour that we did with 360monte to North Montenegro.
You may like to read our post on what to do in Kotor.
You can also catch our Youtube video on Kotor and our North Montenegro Tour.
The Old Town Kotor is a great town to wander through, enjoy a meal or just a coffee.
Some recommended reading in preparation for your visit to Kotor in Montenegro.
How To Get To Kotor
There are 3 airports:
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