Herceg Novi’s claim to fame is that is has the highest number of sunny days per year of all cities that made up Yugoslavia. So prior to leaving Lake Ohrid we checked the weather in Herceg Novi – thunderstorms and flash flooding. Not quite the ideal weather for our three days that were meant to be spent beachside!
Based on its impressive weather, the majority of Herceg Novi’s tourist attractions are parts of Stari Grad (the old town) and there has been very little development of anything else. Fair enough, as according to the photos that we’ve seen on google it looks like a great place to be when it’s sunny.
Unfortunately for us the weather forecast was correct…
On the bright side, we did manage to eat at an amazing restaurant called Tri Lipe twice for dinner. It’s rated number one on Trip Advisor and rightfully so. Normally you need to reserve a table in advance but the horrible weather must have put people off going because we were lucky to walk in off the street (like drowned rats) and score a table both nights. The food and standard of service was up there with the best that we’ve come across over the eight weeks we’ve been on the road. It was also very good value, €40 for two including wine!
Thankfully the weather gods weren’t too awful to us and we managed to get one fine day in to explore Kotor and Perast, two other towns about 30-45minutes from Herceg Novi.
Busses from Herceg Novi to Kotor drop you right at the base of the fortress and entrance to the Old Town. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most well preserved medieval towns in the Adriatic. We weren’t fans of the cruise ship tourists who seem to travel in swarms, so we made a beeline for the hike to the top of the city walls, accessible via the Old Town. Walking through the narrow maze-like network of the town’s cobbled streets made us feel as though we were back in Venice. Then we noticed the winged lion above the entrance to the city walls and realised a majority of the town was actually built by the Venetian Empire!
The walls were added and developed over time by everyone who occupied Kotor, from the Ottomans and Byzantines all the way to the Venetians. In the 15th century the closed loop was completed as it is today, an odd mix of walls, churches, fortresses and gates. Through earthquakes, invasions and wars, the walls have stood the test of time.
It takes 1350 steps and 45minutes minutes to reach the top, and you’re rewarded with amazing views over the whole bay of Kotor.
Despite the forecast, when we walked to the top the sky was clear and the sun was beating down. Thankfully we’d packed enough water and made use of the fountain just before the gate at the base of the hill. As with many tourist attractions and viewpoints in Europe, if you don’t have enough water theres someone with a cooler bag willing to sell you one for an extortionate price!
The walk to the top isn’t easy, with only a small part of the path being solid stone steps and the remainder being loose scree. The track varies from a couple of meters wider to a large flat terrace in other areas where you can pretend to take pictures while you rest.
Our first stop was the Church of Our Lady Remedy, where residents of Kotor have historically visited to be cured. This is only 100m up, but based on the sweaty back and lack of conversation, we quickly agreed to a rest stop to take in the view.
After the church its up another 150m up the hill all the way to the top, bringing the total to about 1400!
St Johns Fortress at the top is definitely not very well preserved. But walking through the ruins you can really appreciate why it took so long to be completed. I was out of breath carrying a litre of water and a camera to the top – I can only imagine if it was lumps of rock to build the fortress!
After the obligatory photo shoot at the top we hight tailed it back down the hill to try and make it to Perast for sunset.
Perast is famous for the two small islands off its shores. One man-made and the other naturally occurring and each has its own church. Our Lady of the Rocks, the more famous of the two, is man made and dates back to 1452 when local fisherman found the icon of Madonna and Child. The island was built by the local seafarers who threw rocks into the ocean on the return from every voyage. Eventually once the island rose from the water, the church you can see today was built. Even today the locals continue the tradition and throw rocks into the sea at sunset on the 22nd of June to continue to expand the island.
Unfortunately for us we were a few minutes late and Mark (the designated photographer) missed the money shot as the sun set. Nonetheless we got a boat to take us out to the man made island in the middle of the lake before darkness set in completely.We didn’t get off the ‘explore’ the island as the church was closed and its actually quite small. In all honesty though, what we saw was enough and I would do the same thing if I visited again!
As the sunset finally set we wandered the waterfront of Perast trying to choose where to eat. Eventually we decided on a dinner at Cafe Armonia on the lakeside, a decision we definitely didn’t regret!
While our time in Montenegro wasn’t quite as sun drenched or action packed as we had hoped, we still had a blast. The sleep-ins, big meals and a dose of relaxation means that we’re well prepared for the 7 days of punishment that our party cruise on Sail Croatia is going to put us through!