Hiking to Kotor’s Fortress (the Free Way)

by Gigi Griffis
Kotor Montenegro

It was our first weekend in Kotor, Montenegro, and we were at the farmers market.

“Are you going to hike to the fortress today?” Asked a vendor who already knew (as Chad had been out every day to buy more figs).

“Probably tomorrow,” I said, motioning vaguely to the enormous cruise ship in port. “I’m thinking it’ll be less crowded.”

He nodded vigorously. “And you know there’s a free way to get up?”

“No!” Chad and I exchanged a look. “We haven’t looked into it yet.”

The vendor grinned and leaned over as Chad pulled up a map on his phone, tracing a back way up into the mountains.

And so we found the free (and less crowded) way up to the famous, beloved, well-worth-hiking-to fortress above Kotor. 

The quiet route starts near an abandoned factory just outside the walls. To get there, navigate to Apartments Ana on the map and walk toward the white metal gate at the end of the road. Just to the right of that gate, a path curves around the building and stretches up toward the mountains. 

The path is well kept and easy to follow. The only tricky part is when you reach a small restaurant in a stone house. There’s a rusty sign that advertises cold drinks and relaxation (pictured above right) and there are two paths that stretch upward from the house. The first is a continuation of the switchbacks you’ve been following. The second, going straight up to the right of the switchbacks (and left of the house) is the way to the fortress.

As you pick your way up the straight path, you’ll notice more and more tumbledown stone structures to your left (and then opening up to your right). This is the ruins of an old village just outside the fortress walls. You’ll eventually come to a tiny church and a courtyard overlooking a natural bowl in the mountains. 

From here, follow the path up to the right until you come to a hole in the fortress wall. Climb through and you’ll find yourself on the more famous path (the one with all the staircases). If it’s a busy time of year, expect plenty of tourists battling their way up and down these last few hundred steps of the 1,500-step staircase.

Once you’re done exploring the fortress at the top, there are multiple routes down. You can follow the main staircases down to the right to get the full effect of the usual route (and, bonus, they don’t check anything at the bottom, so you won’t get charged the steep 8-euro fee). You can follow an alternate path down along the walls to the left. Or you can return the way you came along the switchbacks (which might be kinder to anyone with any knee issues, as the switchbacks are the tiniest bit less steep). 

Happy hiking!

All photos taken with my Sony a6000.

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Mike May 13, 2019 - 6:21 am


Nice pics and story. I’ve read some of your other stuff. The thing that would have helped me, and perhaps others, enjoy it more is to have had it situated better right off the bat. I don’t read your postings sequentially and sometimes I miss your stories. I didn’t automatically know you were in the Balkans. I had to skim your story and then go out to Google Maps to find out it happened in Montenegro. A bit frustrating, actually. Perhaps your intent is to keep readers on the page searching for missing information long enough to get a good dose of rotating ads. But it could make me, and perhaps others, lose interest in visiting your pages in the future.


gigigriffis May 13, 2019 - 6:28 am

Thanks for letting me know! I’ve added Montenegro to the first line to orient future readers. Let me know if you have other suggestions!

Lynne Nieman May 13, 2019 - 9:46 am

I think I read someone else’s post about this. I’ll definitely take this way up when I get to Kotor!

gigigriffis May 13, 2019 - 11:30 am

It’s worth the trek, for sure!

Valeria Vincent Sancisi May 13, 2019 - 10:20 am

Hi Gigi,
Perhaps I had the advantage of reading and looking at your photos after your edit.. my experience of reading this post is .. pure gold.. and filing this one away! Thanks for sharing this treasured local’s path … :)

gigigriffis May 13, 2019 - 11:31 am

Glad it was useful!


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