Looking for the best viewpoint hike in Kotor? I’ve got you covered in this quick guide to hiking the Ladder of Kotor, also known as the Ladder of Cattaro above the medieval walls of Kotor Old Town.
Nestled at the end of Europe’s southernmost fjord and encapsulated by stunning mountain ranges, Kotor is undeniably one of the most scenic villages in the Balkans.
Adventure travelers looking for the best possible views of this stunning landscape have to check out the ever-snaking switchback trail known as the Ladder of Kotor. This is my favorite hiking trail in Kotor, and offers incredible views of Boka (Bay of Kotor), the Old City, the opposing Vrmac mountain range, and even glimpses of the Adriatic Sea beyond.
However, what you might not know is that there are two primary ways to hike this switchback trail. In this updated hiking guide, I’ll detail both options, give you a quick rundown of my experience, and include some inspiring photos from my hike up the Ladder of Kotor.
About the Ladder of Kotor
The Ladder of Kotor is a rocky path made up of at least 65 switchbacks snaking its way up the mountain range to the east of Kotor Old Town. The trail wraps its way behind the small crest that the Kotor Fortress City Walls are built on and leads all the way up to the Krstac Pass to an altitude of 940 meters above mean sea level.
This trail is both significant and historic, and for centuries served as the only route connecting Kotor to Njegusi village and the region of Cetinje. The constant switchbacks allow for a less steep ascent, enabling travelers to navigate over this mountain range with livestock and goods.
Best Kotor Outdoor Experiences
- Kotor Blue Cave Tour – Visit the one and only Blue Cave, as well as the other famous Boka Kotorska highlights including Our Lady of the Rocks, Mamula, and the WWII submarine tunnels.
- Lovcen National Park Day Trip – a 12 hour tour featuring spectacular viewpoints and iconic Montenegrin vistas including Lovcen National Park, Cetinje, the Crnojevic River, and Sveti Stefan.
- Durmitor, Tara & Ostrog Day Trip – an epic day trip to Durmitor Mountain. Visit the deepest canyon in Ruope and hike around the iconic black lake.
The Ladder of Kotor Hike
Those hiking the entire Ladder of Kotor trail to the top of the pass will finish their hike at the P1 road, just after the Kotor Serpentine leading to Lovćen National Park. The trail ends nearby the Restaurant Nevjesta Jadrana. Since this is just a primary motorway, there isn’t really an option for public transport, unless you leave your car by the restaurant or arrange a taxi in advance.
Furthermore, the views are just as good once you hit an elevation of around 600 meters, marking the end of the switchback ladder, and marked as “Top of the Old Kotor Fort Trail” on Google Maps.
As a result, the majority of hikers beginning the walk in Kotor will finish at this viewpoint.
There are also two main options for hiking up to this viewpoint via the Kotor ladder. The first begins beside the old hydroelectric power plant and follows the entire rocky path to the top.
The second option, and the one I took and would recommend to most, is to instead form a loop by walking up the Kotor Fortress, and then taking the small shortcut through the wall, and descending back down the Ladder of Kotor.
Below is a small illustration marking the two routes. However, I’ll go into more detail below as well.
Hiking tip: The path is easy to follow and you’ll find small red and white markers along the trail indicating the route.
Option 1: Up and Down the Ladder of Kotor
The first and most straightforward way to tackle this hike is to begin near the Old Hydroelectric Power Plant. The trailhead is easy to find, and you can simply plug in “Start of the Ladder of Kotor” in Google Maps.
The benefit of taking this out-and-back trail is that you will not need to pay the entrance fee for the city walls. Furthermore, the trail is easy to find and follow, with a clear rocky path leading all the way to the top of the mountain at Krstac Pass.
Option 2: Shortcut Via Kotor Fortress City Walls
The second option is to begin your hike at the entrance to the Kotor Fortress.
There is an entrance fee payable to pass this access point costing €8 between 8am and 8pm from May to September. However, if you visit earlier than this, there won’t be a guide and you can technically walk up for free.
Following the city walls, you’ll be able to walk all the way up to the Castle of San Giovanni, a famous hilltop castle with panoramic views over the Bay of Kotor. Then, from just below the San Giovanni Fortress, you’ll find a small shortcut with a wooden ladder leading to a trail that quickly merges with the Ladder of Kotor Trail. Keep reading for the exact location of this shortcut.
The benefit of this option is that you will be able to tick off the Kotor Fortress walls and the Ladder of Kotor on the same day. Furthermore, the hike turns into a semi-loop by taking the Ladder of Kotor path back down to the North Gate, meaning you won’t have to follow back on the same trail.
How to Get Around in Montenegro
Rent a car! Montenegro is very safe for motorists, and you can drive across the entire country in less than 3 hours! Best of all, rental cars are very cheap (start at 30 euros) and easy to book. Make sure to compare rates across dealerships in Kotor and Budva using DiscoverCars.
My Experience Hiking the Ladder of Kotor
To help you better understand what to expect on the trail, I’ve given a quick recap of my hike, along with some photos that I took on the way up during the early afternoon, and photos from the Kotor Viewpoint at the top during sunset.
Climbing the Old City Fortress Walls
Since we were beginning the trail at around 4:30 pm the security guard at the city walls gate asked us for the entrance fee.
So, we paid, walked through the turnstyle gates, and began climbing the stone steps up the 14th-century stone fortifications. Along the way, there were plenty of places to stop and enjoy breathtaking views over the Old City.
Shortcut to the Cattaro Ladder
While it wasn’t necessary to walk all the way up to the Castle of San Giovanni, we decided to anyway as this was the first time we had walked the walls. Then we descended back towards the city walls shortcut.
At first, this is slightly difficult to find. But, what you want to look for is the large opening in the stone wall in the area just below San Giovanni castle.
The exact coordinates are 42°25’24.0″N 18°46’29.8″E.
I’ve been told that sometimes there is a security guard patrolling this shortcut. I believe that they are usually more concerned with people trying to access the city walls for free by first walking up the Ladder of Kotor– rather than the other way. However, when we went up there were no security guards.
So, we continued down the wooden fixed ladder and followed the beautiful hiking trail passing the small catholic church named Chapel of St Ivan to our right (marked as Sveti Juraj on Google Maps).
Next, the trail veers around, passing a local house and merging back onto the Ladder of Kotor hiking trail. This is roughly the halfway point of the many switchbacks and you’ll now have the option of returning back down the ladder, or continuing to the top viewpoint.
Hiking Up Endless Switchbacks
From the fork, the endless switchbacks continue for roughly 3.3 kilometres until you reach the Kotor viewpoint, climbing an additional 350 meters of elevation gain.
While it might seem tempting to turn around at this point, I highly recommend continuing up as the views improve the higher you get.
It took us roughly 45 minutes or so to get to the top from the fork at a decent pace and carrying heavy camera gear. The path is rocky and seems to become more so as you make your way up. However, overall it is well-graded and you can reach the top without any scrambling.
Bay of Kotor VIewpoint
If you’re not interested in walking all the way up to the P1 highway like we weren’t, then a good turnaround point is the Bay of Kotor Viewpoint, marked as “Top of the Old Kotor Fort Trail“. We went a bit off the trail here and found a large rocky outcrop where we sat and admired the phenomenal views of the Bay of Kotor as the sun set behind the Vrmac Ridge and the Adriatic Sea beyond.
Below us were the small houses and tiny old buildings which form one of Montenegro’s most beautiful medieval towns. And, of course, the iconic anchored cruise ships which now resembled miniature model boats from our high perch!
Descending to Kotor Old Town
When it was time to descend back to Kotor Old Town, the sun had well and truly set. So, we donned our headlamps and began the long, winding descent down the Ladder of Kotor. Of course, there are no street lights here, so a reliable light source is required if descending in the dark.
Full route: My Strava
Where to Stay in Kotor
The best places to stay in Kotor are the Old Town, Muo (west side of the bay), or Dobrota (east side of the bay). Below is a quick roundup of the top-rated picks and recommendations for every budget.
- Blue Premium Spa Resort -An Amazing adults-only luxury spa resort overlooking Boca Kotorska.
- Apartmani Art Karampana – A beautiful apartment in the Old Town district. Rated 9.7 out of 10 with hundreds of reviews.
- Centrum Hostel – With hundreds of reviews, this is still the best-rated hostel for its location and vibe in Kotor Old Town.
When is the Best Time to Hike The Ladder of Kotor?
It is possible to hike the Ladder of Kotor all year round. The best time for hiking in the coastal regions of Montenegro are Spring and Summer, from March to September. However, during peak season summer months, expect hot and sunny hiking conditions. During winter, the trail can be cold and icy.
While this isn’t an arduous hike by any means, it can be challenging, especially if you do not have a decent level of fitness. As a result, you’ll definitely want to prepare by bringing plenty of water.
Photography tip: for the best lighting conditions, hiking up the Ladder of Kotor is a better option in the early morning, as the sun will illuminate the bay. In the afternoon, the majority of the bay is darkened by the opposing range.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this hiking guide to the Ladder of Kotor trail in Kotor, Montenegro.
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