Drive From Croatia Through Montenegro to Kotor

The drive from Croatia through Montenegro to Kotor follows the route around the shores of the beautiful, mountain-framed Kotor Bay. When you get to Kotor on Kotor Bay’s western shore you will see that Kotor Old Town is rich in medieval history and has stunning walled defences. You can continue the drive through Montenegro to Bosnia to complete the road trip across Montenegro.

As you drive through Montenegro to Kotor you will see how the region is dominated by the rugged mountains of the Dinaric Alps. It is for this reason that Montenegro has the reputation of being one of the most mountainous regions in Europe. The drive from Croatia to Kotor through Montenegro is also enhanced by the vastness and azure waters of Kotor Bay, waters that are shared with the nearby beaches of Montenegro’s Adriatic coastline. The combination makes Montenegro a most inviting place to visit. When you arrive at Kotor you will find a small, modern city with an approximate population of 14,000.

The Drive from Croatia Through Montenegro to Kotor

One of the most popular drives into Montenegro from Croatia is from Dubrovnik.

A beautiful panorama of Dubrovnik from the road leading to Montenegro
Dubrovnik on the road trip to Montenegro
Montenegro’s north-western border is only a 40 minute drive from Dubrovnik and the route frequently overlooks the Adriatic.

The Adriatic provides constant scenery on the drive towards Montenegro

The Croatian and Montenegrin borders at Karasovici are separated by 1-2 kilometres and the crossing can be quite slow depending on the time of year. The border guards are very thorough, particularly on the Montenegrin side, and it is important that you have all your documents in order. This also applies particularly if you are driving a rented or leased vehicle. You must be able to show licences, registration and insurance papers to prove that the car is accounted for.

Once through the border the M8 morphs into the E65 and you drive directly towards the Gulf of Kotor, one of the two places where the Adriatic penetrates the Montenegrin coastline. The other opening in the Montenegrin coastline is the entrance to Skadar Lake

Skadar Lake Link to Skadar Lake

where Montenegro shares the border with Albania.

The Gulf is approximately 30 kilometres in length and its shoreline, which encompasses four sizeable inlets, traces out over 100 kilometres. Two of these inlets are on the eastern side of the Verige Strait, a natural corridor that then opens up into two inner inlets, one of which is Kotor Bay.

The E65 passes through the historical Montenegrin town of Herceg Novi which has an Old Town and fortress, and then follows the northern shoreline of the gulf past the pretty coastal holiday towns of Nemila, Meljine, Kumbor and Bijela after which you will reach Kamena. All of these towns are located within the two outer bays that make up the Gulf of Kotor.

The first outer bay that is open to the sea is clearly seen from Kumbor.

The first outer bay that is open to the sea is clearly seen from Kumbor
The first bay closest to the sea as seen from Kumbor

The second outer bay, more protected from the sea, can be seen from Bjela.

The second outer bay, more protected from the sea, can be seen from Bjela
The second outer bay as seen from Bjela

A little further along the E65 there is a small promontory at Josice. Josice provides an excellent view along the Verige Strait that opens into the two inner bays. The image below shows the narrowing of the Gulf of Kotor with Perast in the background on the eastern shore of an inner bay. The image in its left shows the car ferry leaving Kamenari and heading for Lepetane-Kamenari on the opposite shore.

The width of the Gulf narrows at Josice, and Perast in the far background can be seen on the shore of the inner bay.
The width of the Gulf narrows at Josice, and Perast can be seen on the shore of the far inner bay.

The next location of interest on the drive to Kotor is Kamenari. At Kamenari you can decide whether to take the car ferry service across the Verige Strait to Lepetane and then continue the drive towards Pivat along the Jadranska magistrala. This road, once through Pivat, picks up the E80 and its tunnel under Mt Vrmac to Kotor.

The car ferry at Kemenari making its way across the Verige Strait to Lepetane
The car ferry making its way across the Verige Strait at Kamenari
Choose between taking the car ferry at Kemenari or continuing on the E65
Opting for the car ferry at Kememari is an alternative to driving around the shores of Kotor Bay

Alternatively, you can continue on the E65 through Kotor and visit some of the other historical towns around the shoreline.

Once through the strait and onto the northern shore don’t forget to stop at Morinj and take a break at the Ponta Morinj, where you can enjoy a coffee break and look along the length of Kotor Bay towards Kotor from your tranquil, elevated setting. And if you have the time, pop in to towns such as Perast, Drazin and Ljuta which are well worth seeing.

What’s to See at Kotor Bay on the Drive from Croatia through Montenegro

The beautiful Bay of Kotor is a major part of the attraction of driving in Montenegro as well as a major attraction of wider Kotor. The Bay is framed by Mt Lovcen to the east behind Kotor, Mt Vrmac to the west opposite Kotor, and the Dinaric Alps to the north.

The water in Kotor Bay is up to 60 metres deep along the bay’s length which provides sufficient depth for cruise ships to access the attractive port at Kotor and bring a regular stream of tourists. The colour of the deeper water is navy whereas the colours of the waters closer to the shores of Kotor Bay range across the greens and lighter blues. The colour is set by the absorption of the reds and the scattering of the blues by the sea water.

The bay at Kotor is spectacularly framed by high mountain ranges
The beautiful mountain-framed Bay of Kotor

The Bay of Kotor has all the appearances of a fjord but the bay wasn’t caused by glaciation or the submergence of deep troughs. Instead, Kotor Bay was formed due to a rise in sea level that caused the inundation of pre-existing river valleys. What remained is visually spectacular. Vertical mountains, their green-less appearance made more intimidating because of their composition of limestone and dolomite, appear as sentinels that guard their watery treasures. And not only their watery treasures. These mountains were an important natural component of the defences of Kotor.

The limestone and dolomite rock of the mountains at Kotor add to their impact
The mountains around the Bay at Kotor appear more intimidating due to the composition

What’s to See Driving into Kotor

The modern city of Kotor occupies the narrow margins along the western and eastern shores of Kotor Bay, as well as sprawling up the valley to its south. When you drive towards the centre of the small city you will see the walled Old Town and its defences that stretch up Mt Lovcen.

Kotor Old Town has walled defences that stretch up Mt Lovcen
The walled Old Town with its defences stretching up Mt Lovcen
The main road, the E65, continues through Kotor between the small, pretty port and the western wall

The E65 through Kotor passes between the western wall and the port

of Kotor Old Town.
The space outside the western wall of the Old Town is now occupied by the Riva, the major waterfront thoroughfare. Here you will find the Main Square and the Gradska pjaca the town market. Kotor is not a large city and so you should be able to walk to the walled Old Town from your accommodation.

What’s to See as You Drive Around Kotor

There are many ways to enjoy the bay around Kotor. Just jump in and cool off in one of the small beaches where families can enjoy a safe swim in still water. Additionally, a two and a half hour hop on – hop off boat tour takes visitors from Kotor to Perast Old Town and the Island of Our Lady of the Rocks which is situated in the middle of the Kotor Bay adjacent to Perast. The same tour is available by speed boat or if inclined, you can rent your own. There are walking tours as well as an assembly of excellent bay-side restaurants. And, of course, you will find a full range of shops and services that would be expected in a modern city.

Take a small detour off the E65 in Kotor and drive or cycle along the eastern bay-side street labelled Put I Bokeljske Brigade to see many of the older mansions and houses that are part of the history of Kotor. The mansion in the image may have been designed according to existing cultural influences or continued some of the Baroque influences that can be seen in the Old Town. You will see other mansions in the area that have Baroque architecture incorporated into the windows and arches, remnants of Roman occupation in the form of signs and animal icons, and representations such as lions and dragons.

Should you drive or cycle along the western shore of the Bay of Kotor on the Jadranska magistrala you will see houses in a slightly more modern precinct. But hope that a car is not approaching from the opposite direction. You’ll be lucky if driving not to end up in the bay! The lane is very narrow and it is almost impossible to pass the cars coming in the opposite direction without having to either reverse or pull to the side and stop, often with only inches of the thin air between your car and dropping into the bay. Not to mention the number of cars you see that have lost their side mirrors! We did not find the drive stress-free by any means.

Should you have access to a vehicle then take a drive up onto Mt Vrmac and see the spectacular views across the Bay towards Kotor and other towns along the eastern shore.

A panoramic view of Kotor Bay and Kotor from the peak of Mt Vrmac
Spectacular view of Kotor form the peak of Mt Vrmac

You will also see old forts and historical single nave churches along the way up to the peak.

See Other Places of Interest Near Kotor

Kotor, as mentioned, is very close to other popular venues in Montenegro.

Kotor is only a 45 minute friendly drive from the beaches and Old Town at Budva; 1.5 hours from the peace and ecology of Skadar Lake National Park; and an hour from the cultural capital of Montenegro, Cetinje. Additionally, consider taking a drive down the Montenegrin coast into Albania. The coastline is stunning.

Prepare to See Kotor Old Town

Kotor was a port city and mariners, including pirates, brought their customs and their adventures. The Old Town retains evidence of its maritime history as well as metal skills and trades that were important to the crafting of weapons and to decorating palaces and religious sites.

A panorama of Kotor Old Town taken from Mt Lovcen
Kotor Old Town with its variety of historical palaces, churches and civic buildings

The variety of churches, palaces, civic and residential buildings that have been built inside the walled city can be identified by both their historical period and architectural styles. Kotor Old Town offers the visitor examples of architecture to explore from the Byzantine and Romanesque, through the Gothic and Renaissance, to the Baroque. Sometimes, however, the facades are not nearly as fully representative of style as in other European countries and this adds to the enjoyment of interpreting elements.

The Old Town contains too many items of interest to append to this post and so a detailed discussion of both the history and architecture of many of the buildings and churches in Kotor Old Town is included in another post. You can also read about Kotor’s city walls and fortifications.

Final Thoughts on the Drive from Croatia Through Montenegro to Kotor

The drive to Kotor through Montenegro from Croatia with an eye on safety can be approached with confidence, with the assurance that there is much to see along the route you take. From Kotor you can continue to drive through Montenegro to the Budva coast and then drive from Montenegro to Bosnia via Cetinje, Lovcen National Park and Skadar Lake National Park; or head inland from Kotor over the top of Mount Lovcen.