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With its ninth-century Old Town edging a fjord-like body of water backed by deep-green mountains, UNESCO-listed Kotor is one of Montenegro's prettiest destinations. Visit this cobblestoned town to go from basking by one of the Adriatic Sea's deepest bays in the morning to admiring opulent St Tryphon Cathedral and Gurdic Gate by afternoon. This is a city where historic churches and architectural marvels contrast with laid-back beach vibes – a culture clash that'll leave you fascinated.
Some hostels in Kotor are set in the Old Town's rustic stone buildings – including a thousand-year-old space renovated to resemble a 17th-century ship. Keep an eye out for dorms that are metres from the sparkling sea or those with outdoor pools and daily sunset barbecues. To get to know the area, you can opt to stay at a hostel offering organised trips, such as rafting on the Tara river or cruising around Kotor Bay. If you prefer your own space, there are apartment-style Kotor hostels with private rooms featuring kitchenettes.
Kotor's Old Town is the most popular spot in the region owing to its atmospheric architecture, ancient charm and cute coffee shops. But there are many other towns worth checking out along this glittering coast. Just across and up the bay is Prčanj (a 10-minute drive from Kotor), a quieter spot with the biggest church in the area. Pretty Perast is like an even tinier Kotor and is a jumping-off point for visiting the two islets off the coast, St George and Our Lady of the Rocks.
The main must-do activity in Kotor is climbing the steps cut into the mountainside towards St John's Fort, 280 metres above sea level. Views from the top take in shimmering blue-green water flanked by tree-covered mountains in the distance. You can also go beach hopping to the shingle shorelines of Orahovac, Bajova Kula (15 minutes' drive) and Plavi Horizonti (20 minutes) or hike in the peaceful mountains of Lovcen National Park an hour's drive away.
Flying to Tivat Airport puts you in the Old Town within 15 minutes of leaving the terminal – just be sure to haggle over the taxi fare before setting off. Kotor's main sights are accessible via tours (which can be arranged online or at your hostel) or by rental car and bus. Buses from the main station, around 10 minutes' walk south of the Old Town, go towards other notable spots including Perast. Or you can head to Dubrovnik, arriving in about 3-4 hours.