Are you visiting Kotor Montenegro? One of my favourite things to do in Kotor is hike and I highly recommend you give it a whirl too. For the absolute best views of the bay of Kotor Montenegro and Kotor Old Town, make sure to be a step above the rest doing the Kotor fortress hike to San Giovanni (also known as St. John’s castle). Instead, take the alternative route up the Ladder of Kotor for the ultimate Kotor hike!
This easy hiking project can easily be done in 4 hours if you go as far as Krstac Pass and back. This time includes photo stops, a coffee break and cute candid animal moments. Kotor is famous for its cats of Kotor after all, so make sure to spend some time with them alongside the mountain goats and dogs.
This is a perfect Montenegro hiking activity to do if you have one day in Kotor – most likely if you’re visiting Kotor port on a cruise. This is exactly what I did as I voyaged around the Mediterranean Sea on the brand new Sky Princess Cruise Ship.
Worried you won’t make the 4 hours? No sweat. There are plenty of opportunities to cut this route shorter if you’re feeling tired or are running out of time. I’ll let you know at which points you can make the route shorter throughout this article.
My sponsored Sky Princess experience was made possible thanks to Princess Cruises. Opinions, as always, remain my own = open, honest and straight to the point.
Short on time? Here’s what you need to know straight up.
Kotor monténégro (spelt Котор in Montenegrin Cyrillic) is a city on the coast nestled in a secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor.
It’s marked on the map below! Do not head where everyone is going for the castle climbing. Instead head for Apartments Ana which is next to the where the trail starts.
Hike! But if your plans change at the last minute or you have more time, check out these other Kotor tourist attractions
The Ladder of Kotor, also known as the Ladder of Cattaro, is a path that stretches 6.4km (4 miles) one way and 12.8km (8 miles) as a round trip.
It reaches 940 meters at the very top if you hike up to Krstac Pass. Historically, this path was created to connect Kotor with Njegusi Village and Cetinje.
Taking this hike rather than directly to Kotor Castle will give you more expansive and ‘wow’ views. I got some great shots on my camera and I loved meeting all of the different animal residents along the way but…
Since September 2019, security guards are now guarding the rear access to the castle walls where hikers taking the Ladder of Kotor used to get in to get back into town. I suspect it’s because coming this way meant you did not have to buy an entry ticket in town, and officials have had enough of that.
Me and my friend Sandy learnt the hard way at the end of our hike, that we were not going to get through this way to head back down into Kotor Old Town. We tried flirting. We tried bribery. The security guard wasn’t having any of it hehe.
But, depending on what time of day you arrive, and if luck is on your side, there may not be a security guard here at all. My followers on the Teacake Travels Instagram have had different experiences depending on what time of the day and year they’ve been hiking here.
It really isn’t a problem if you can’t get through. You can easily take a track back to the first cafe which is easily accessible from this point – it just means that you unfortunately won’t be able to return via the castle walls. It took 20 minutes for me and my mate Sandy to get down this way.
Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!
If you are coming into Kotor on a cruise, which in my case was with Princess Cruises, then you will be dropped off at Kotor Port. From here, the start of the trail is going to be on the left side of the Old Town straight ahead if you’re looking at Kotor mountain. Check out the exact starting point on the map!
As Kotor is so small, you can afford to happily get lost in the tiny side streets as you make your way to the start. Or, save your aimless wanderings for when you get back down. Just a heads up: there are plenty of shopping opportunities here so you may get a little sidetracked and lose track of time!
Me and my mate Sandy took a route through town that naturally led us to crossing a bridge across the Scurda river before taking a sharp right to get to the start of the trail.
You may wonder if you’re even in the right place when you start this hike. There is overgrowth, some random buildings and a dusty path with not much else on it. No signs. Do not be put off. If you’re where you are, where I’ve marked on the map, you’re good to go. And you should see that the shape of a ladder is forming in the trail already, with it going back and forth in a zig-zag shape!
Yes, they absolutely stink but my word, the facial expressions goats can pull will never fail to amuse me. Me and Sandy did not encounter any goats on our way up here, but on the way back down we were spoilt.
There were goats munching on the vegetation left, right and centre that it almost turned into a temporary goat traffic jam! If goats are not your cup of tea; please do not worry. They are too busy munching on the greens to worry about munching on you. Just bring a hanky or a clothes peg for your nose to hang back from that unmistakable goat aroma!
This cafe next to the castle walls was too early on the Ladder of Kotor path to stop at for me and Sandy. We consider ourselves as fit hikers and probably too excited about everything – so we were happy to go on. However, this is your adventure and you must do what’s best for you. There’s plenty of drinks to be had and some snacks too. The owner was serving customers when we passed and appeared to be very lovely (and was speaking English) so this might influence you to stop here instead of the second cafe.
Yes there’s cats. There’s dogs. But wolves?! Me and Sandy didn’t know how seriously to take it. So we didn’t take it seriously at all. Perfect spot for a photoshoot! Let me know in the comments if you find a wolf pack on your way up. That’s if you live to tell the tale…
On your way up you will no doubt come across some furry friends nonetheless. Kotor has come to be known as a location with hundreds of stray cats and they are very much a part of the community as much as the locals are. They’re a symbol of good luck and with plenty of mountains and water around, they’re said to be excellent at keeping the rats and snakes at bay!
If you’re a cat lady like me, you’ll be excited to know that there are plenty of shops in town selling kitty handicrafts and memorabilia. If you want to hang with your feline friends in town just as much as in the mountains too, I recommend heading for the main square where they’re known to congregate.
And I so wish I had had more time here, because wait for it…there’s a cat museum! For just €1 you can enter the Kotor Cats Museum once you get back down from your hike. Puuuurfect!
As you work your way up the ladder path, you will soon reach the second cafe on your hike called Perovici! They don’t speak English here but of course they’re lovely (and there’s cats!) so do stop by if you wish.
They also have a super friendly dog, on who first impressions, looks like he’s gonna cause mayhem. But with everything in life, don’t judge a book by its cover. This dog is a big softie and will encourage you to throw back and forth his favourite stick to him! We unofficially have named him Brutus.
This is the point where you can follow the trail to the right to Sveti Đorđe church. You can explore the ruins and try and get through the guarded exit of the fort. But as noted above in this article – this is now not always possible!
The views are simply brilliant all of the way up, but if you need motivation to keep going, then you’ll come upon an old base. This is a picture perfect location for the instagrammers and meditators, to look out upon and soak up how far you’ve come on the Ladder of Kotor already.
Make the most of it. And if you’ve come via cruise ship, you’ll no doubt be able to spot yours out on the water. We could see the Sky Princess the whole way up.
You’re doing great. Keep going adventurer! When you get to the top of here, you will start to appreciate just how back and forth you’ve been going on this ladder. The zig zag path opens up beneath you and your mouth will be saying ‘Wow!’
If you’ve made it to the second viewpoint then you’re just another 5 minutes away from your third viewpoint which is Krstac Pass woohoo! Congratulations if you make it to this point. This is the top of the Old Kotor Fort Trail and a well-deserved spot to reach. From here you’ll be standing on the border between Kotor and Catinje. You can now see what is below you to the left just as much as to the right. What a view eh?!
From here, me and Sandy turned back to make it to our cruise ship in time.
You can carry on if you wish to the end of the trail where it meets the P1 road next to Restaurant Nevjesta Jadrana. But please allow more time for this! You will most likely not make it here and back to your ship in 4 hours if you go this far.
Especially because I’m sure you’ll want to spend some time exploring Saint John church, the ruins and try and make it into Saint Giovanni Castle.
Turn back on the trail and make your way back to Perovici cafe! From here you can take the path to the left to go and visit the church and hopefully get into the castle and fort the back way.
As noted at the start of this article, there is now a guard at the back of the fort who is not letting hikers in this way. However, depending on the time of day you visit, and whether there is even a guard there, there’s a chance you’ll still get in. Plan your time to prepare for the unexpected and hike back down the way you originally came up!
Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!
Whether you are staying for a while or stopping in for a quick visit, the Ladder of Kotor hike is an incredible way to spend the day! Have you done the hike? Were you able to get past the guarded fortress? Let us know in the comments which viewpoint was your favourite.
Kotor Montenegro was a docking city on our amazing cruise aboard the Sky Princess. Let me know if you’re going to try to hike the Ladder of Kotor on your short docking stop!