Often referred to as Europe’s most southerly fjord, Boka Kotorska or Kotor Bay is also one of Europe’s most spectacular destinations. Imagine all the splendour of a fjord – deep waters reflecting the sheer sides of icy cliffs – but in this case the cliffs are breathtaking mountains, the water is warm and the climate is luxuriously Mediterranean. This butterfly shaped expanse of azure blue sea enchants all visitors, who are invariably seduced by the coastal scenery and the charming villages and towns strung along the shoreline.
Of these, the old city of Kotor is one of the most impressive and most beguiling, thanks in part to its stunning setting. Exquisitely preserved, its medieval centre is a charming jumble of narrow alleyways, piazzas, churches and palaces, cafés and clubs, bars and restaurants, creating a bustling atmosphere within the ancient walls of the city. The walls, almost five kilometres long, are an attraction in themselves. Built in the twelfth century, they climb 200 metres up the sheer mountain face, forming an impressive backdrop to Kotor’s annual Venetian carnival.
The Venetian influence is one that pervades the immediate area – the nearby village Perast is littered with the palaces of seventeenth-century Venetian traders, each vying for the best view over the bay to the beautiful island monastery of St. George. Perast is incredibly pretty, peaceful and perched right on the waterfront, with numerous spots for sunbathing and swimming.
There are any number of charming towns to choose from though – from Herceg Novi, right at the entrance of the bay, with its own impressive walls and fortress-studded old town, to picturesque Prcanj, with its waterfront dotted with cafes and churches. Dobrota is one of the most appealing, backed by rocky cliffs that tumble into the dramatic bay, with a long and lovely promenade lined with splendid old palaces.
All these seaside towns are so full of charm that it doesn’t really matter which one you choose as a base. In any case it’s easy to explore – and a delight too, given the staggering scenery at every turn. The mountains are a constant backdrop, the sea, warm and sheltered, allows for wonderful swimming, and boats can be hired everywhere. It’s little wonder that this bay, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, has remained a magnet for centuries – for sailors, traders and sightseers alike.