The Bay of Kotor

A muggy day with low clouds heralded my first day cycling through Montenegro proper.

Racing out of the mountains to the sea at Herceg Novi I was soon careening along the coast roads towards the Bay of Kotor. This flooded river canyon bears resemblance to a Scandinavian fjord and as I rolled into its sheltered surrounds, watching as sheer mountains materialised on all sides, the sun started to peep out.

Connecting up the little villages and beach towns that dot the bays northern edge

The bay in high August was being put to good use with families splashing, young men harpoon fishing, large groups playing water polo on well marked sea pitches in amongst sprawling mussel farms.

The shores too held plenty of diversions

Poking around well preserved Roman mosaics

Exploring intriguing caves

Before long I had completed the bay's languorous circuit and arrived at Kotor. A well preserved walled city filled with charming, windey streets and fit to burst with summer tourists.

The muggy clouds that had followed me all day had too hit bursting point as a heavy thunderstorm rolled across the city briefly making me consider taking a hostel room. Kotor has many of the same charms as Dubrovnik, lacking only some of the polish, but it is comparably picturesque. Alas I could not stay the night to further appreciate it as there were no rooms available at my budget. So, having lingered indecisively until 18:00, I set off up into the hill behind Kotor with the rain falling in search of a place to pitch my tent.

I felt oddly guilty at having tarried so many hours in Kotor but I might have searched a little harder for a room had I known the extent of what now awaited me.

22 hairpin turns built in 1871

In truth, while the climb was long it wasn't as bad as it looks; with the hairpins lending a gentle gradient allowing a slow and steady climb as all the while the view across the bay becomes more beautiful.

It was at the start of this long wet climb that I met Fred. 22, engineering student, cycling from Lincoln to Istanbul who set off in June. It didn't take long for us to fall in together and make our way up into the hairpins. With dark falling and the hairpins unrelenting Fred spied a bombed out abandoned building which served our purposes admirably.

It even boasted this lovely view

Fred outside our accommodation

The next morning with the clouds cleared we were able to complete the climb and really enjoy the breathtaking views.

And spectacular they were

Bidding farewell to the bay, we crested the pass and entered the high plateau where lush and green fields were lent a cool fresh air by the altitude. Intoxicating after the heat of Croatia. Here it was, now protected by Lovcren national park, that Montenegrin's would head when threatened by numerous great powers throughout their long history. Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians and many others have found themselves with the unenviable task of trying to subdue these heights. Most failed. Some, like the Ottomans, choose instead to grant them autonomy rather than fight their way up the sheer sides; suffering the occasional raid as the price occupation.

As is so often the case with the Balkans, and Montenegro in particular, a hard climb was followed by yet further climbing.

 Peddling ever higher we were at least rewarded with a pretty view over the Plateau.

With that done it was all down hill to the old Royal capital of Cetinje (wide streets, quiet shady cafe's bubbling with chatter) and the new capital of Podgorica (sprawling concrete mess lacking any redeeming features) and on wards to Albania.

Riding with Fred was a fun experience as he is younger, fitter, more experienced, carrying a lighter load on a faster bike. All this combined made keeping up with him a challenge but together we traversed western Montenegro together covering at least 145k in one day; handily making it into Albania. At the border we were proceeded across by a small family of goats. Before long we were passing through the crazy streets of Shkodër as we attempted to make it far enough south to catch a 09:00 ferry the next day.

We ended up slightly short of our intended stopping point having cycled the last hour in darkness and fell gratefully into an abandoned lakeside bunker where we cooked up a storm and tried, with varying levels of success to watch a meteor shower.

My time in Montenegro had been varied and beautiful but far too brief. Unfinished business lay in the black mountains of her interior and I look forward to a chance to return one day. For now though, Albania, the most maligned country in the Balkans lay spread welcomingly before me.


  1. More amazing cycling Tom. Those hairpin bends made me feel sick just looking at the pic. Well done! M xx

  2. You should be me a travel writer - making everywhere you go sound wonderful and a must to visit. Particularly liked the views back to the bay - spectacular!! Dad xx