This stunning view of Kotor Bay from an abandoned village in the hills was only just the beginning of one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever done. I went on a 10km guided hike through the country’s wild beauty. Hiking Kotor Bay was the ideal way to spend my last day in Montenegro.
The Story Of The Chestnut Trees
The abandoned village of Upper Stoliv can be reached via a 30 – 45 minutes hike through a beautiful chestnut forest. Like so often in the Bay of Kotor there is a legend waiting to be told. Every time a man wants to propose to his girlfriend, he first has to plant a chestnut tree around the village Stoliv. The sheer number of trees now tell a story of many proposals over the years, a story that virtually comes to life as you make your way through the lush green forest that somewhat looks like a fairy tale setting.
The Abandoned Village
This abandoned village (Upper Stoliv) was the first stop on my 10km hike in the mountains surrounding the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. The village has around 50 houses and all but one are no longer lived in. The only people remaining are an old farmers couple and their livestock. With views of the bay and enchanting fairy-tale like forests around I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone left their houses behind. Perhaps it’s the lack of roads up there (you can only get to it on foot).
Now this isn’t your typical colourful Mediterranean door shot. Yet I was completely captivated by its charm. The majority of the houses up there still have a lot of the original furniture inside, giving passers by a glimpse of what life in the village was like. My guide, Goran suggested we have a sneak peak to give me an idea of what the houses look like inside, but as we stepped into the entrance of the house something came flying straight at us. I jumped in shock. What was that? My heart beat went back to normal when I realised it was only a bat.
There was something to be discovered in every corner of this village. I even found an old vinyl from a Yugoslavian band outside the house and found myself wondering what the music may sound like.
As we continued our tour to the old church I noticed a wild pomegranate tree. My guide told me that fruit trees like pomegranate and lemons were common in the hills of the bay and handed me a fruit to try. This was the first time I got to taste a wild growing pomegranate from a tree, something that the locals use to make a healthy and delicious juice.
We continued our journey uphill through trees, bushes and the rocky terrain. The path isn’t used much by hikers, but it didn’t take long to find evidence of others using the trail. The sound of a bell. Wait, we’re in the middle of nowhere, where is this coming from? Suddenly it all made sense, I saw a big old cow behind the bushes enjoying the unspoiled green grass. Thankfully it didn’t seem too bothered by our presence and continued to mind its own business.
My guide told me that if a cow came charging at me, the best thing to do to escape is a run downhill. Haha, good one I thought. He looked at me confused. Oh my god, he was serious! He told me that there are some semi-wild cows in some parts of the country that can sometimes be a little startled by humans and show aggressive behaviour. He insisted that this wasn’t the case around Kotor Bay. I must admit that I was a little nervous after that every time I heard the sound of a bell, but I kept telling myself: honestly how wild can a cow be if it’s wearing a bell?
As we got closer to the top, there was less shade and I could feel the sun burning down on us. It was late September but the temperature was close to 30C degrees. Just before we got to the top we picked a cool little spot to have a quick snack. Goran had thought ahead and brought some delicious savoury pasties that are typical in the area. While I sat there enjoying the local delicacy, I was glad the uphill part of the hike was over. Little did I know that I still had 7 hours of walking ahead of me.
The Ever-Changing Landscape
The next three hours we barely said a word to each other. I was silently admiring the ever-changing landscape around me. The trail led us from rocky terrain through lush greenery with a steep cliff on one side and trees on the other. Every now and then the view would open up and give us a glimpse of where this hike was taking us.
By midday we had reached another wide open space with an enchanting view of the outer bays. Boka Bay is made up of four bays: two inner bays and two outer bays connected by narrow pass. Up until then I had only seen the inner bays. I took in the stunning natural beauty in front of me and studied the bay when I noticed a handful of smaller islands. My guide pointed out that one of the them used to be a nudist resort and island. Having grown up in Germany I am familiar with nudist culture (it’s a big hit around here), but I still can’t identify myself with it one bit.
Just after 1 pm we finally reached what Goran had chosen as a lunch spot. The place was surreal. It was the highest point on this side of Kotor Bay and offered some magnificent views of Kotor. Even the enormous cruise ships looked tiny from up there. The peak also used to be the location of a Soviet base and we had our lunch on an old bunker. Certainly one of the more unusual places I’ve ever eaten lunch at. The natural scenery and historic structures were in stark contrast to one another, yet it was that combination that made this place so fascinating.
The Gravel Road
By the time we left the peak, the sun was so strong that I had to put on a hat to avoid a nasty heat stroke. It was around about then that I deeply regretted wearing jeans. I had really underestimated the sun and realised that hiking shorts would have been a far better option.
Every now and then something would zoom off the path in front of us. Wondering what animal it could be, I realised that I hadn’t really researched the local wildlife before setting off. Could it be snakes? When I managed to get closer, I saw that it was little geckos that were startled by the vibrations of our footsteps. The hills are also home to countless different species of colourful butterflies and dragonflies.
The trail that we followed is an old gravel road that was built decades ago, but is barely used nowadays. At times it felt so isolated, that it was hard to imagine that just hours before I had set off from the hustle and bustle of Kotor.
Towards the end of the hike we came across more abandoned buildings. The first was of impressive built and structure. Goran told me that it hasn’t been in use for decades. As we circled the building Goran was daydreaming about his teenage days when he used to spent hours inside with friends trying to get to the roof. Nowadays every entrance is cordoned off and there is no way to get inside.
Just minutes from there is an old Soviet base where the locals used to hold their May Day celebrations. It all reminded me a lot of the old Soviet bases in Eastern Germany that were so familiar to me when I was growing up.
The descent took a lot longer than either of us had anticipated. By that time we had been hiking for 7 hours and my knees started to really hurt. The trail was narrow and tricky in some parts, but luckily the trees where providing some much needed shade. Apparently it is this part of the hike that you’re likely to run into some cheeky goats that belong to a local farmer. Unfortunately all I got to see was their
After a total of 9 hours we had made it back to town. Filled with a mixture of accomplishment and tiredness after hiking Kotor Bay, Goran treated me to a beer to celebrate.
Thanks to TO Kotor and Goran Kocka, my guide for hosting me on this hike. This tour was complimentary, but as always all opinions are my own.
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