Climbing the Walls of Kotor

On my first visit to Kotor, Montenegro I did not get the chance to climb the Walls of Kotor.  So, on a recent visit I made sure to make climbing the walls the first item on my itinerary. The first walls in St. John’s hill date back to 9th century when Kotor was under the Byzantine rule. The walls reached a height of 918 feet above sea level. A 3-mile loop was added and completed in the 14th century. Endless renovations and additions were continually made until the 19th century. So, the walls were in pretty good condition. 

From the port, I went straight to the tourist info center to inquire about the entrance to the walls.  I was handed a map with the highlighted route. Despite the map in my hand, I still managed to get lost in trying to find the entrance to the walls because I was distracted by the many photographic spots in the medieval city. There were two entrances: one from the North side and one from the South side. I walked a few steps from what seemed to be a residential area before finding the North Gate entrance where I paid eight euros. 

The path was made up of cobblestone and gravel along narrow steps. So, climbers could step aside to give way to other climbers or stop to take pictures. 

The banks along the path were dotted with fragrant wildflowers, a good excuse for me to stop and take photos. 

Minutes away from starting my climb, I emerged above the trees with my first view of the old town rooftops and the bay. 


I was determined to make it at least to the church which from the street level looked halfway through the fortress. But it was only 328 feet high above sea level.  Aptly named the Church of our Lady of Remedy, it’s said to have helped people heal from the plague. The smiling lady who was selling some religious items motioned for me to go in. I handed her my 2 euros in exchange for a 50 cents candle, I lit the candle and said a little prayer. 

With renewed energy, I continued my hike up. The walls vary in width as they zig-zag uphill. Then the notorious steps, lining switchbacks carved into the mountain. But the scenery kept getting better and better.

I met some crews from the ship who were on their way back from the fortress. We stopped for a photo-op. They then encouraged me to keep going.

The steps got narrower and widened out into terraces as we got higher. - the best viewpoints over the medieval city and the Bay of Kotor.  

I focused my camera not only on the views below but tried to capture some dramatic pictures of the silhouetted fortress.

There were small openings along the walls that was great for framing the views.

The final test for me was climbing the very narrow steps to reach the top of walls.

After going up and up and up 1350 steps (4000 feet ascent), I made it to the top of the Walls of Kotor or the St. John's Fortress or San Giovianni. There's not much left of the ruins. But it was such an incredible feeling to reach the top and soak in the views of the old town Kotor and the bay of Boka. 

It took me about an hour to get to the fortress with plenty of photo stops. Not only the hike up but the magnificent scenery gave me an adrenaline rush that getting back down was a breeze.

All photos and video by the author.



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