- 25 Sep 2023

Boka Bay: 6 Must-See Attractions

Mamula Island Boka Bay Cover

Nestled at the heart of the Bay of Kotor, often referred to as Boka Bay, the town of Kotor is a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders. This picturesque coastal town offers visitors a unique blend of history, architecture, and stunning landscapes. Here are four must-see attractions that not only define the beauty and history of Kotor but also offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of the entire Boka Bay region.

1. St. Tryphon’s Cathedral

St. Tryphons Cathedral Old Town Kotor Must See

Standing as an iconic symbol of Kotor, St. Tryphon’s Cathedral (Katedrala Svetog Tripuna) is a testament to the town’s rich history and religious significance. Its distinctive twin bell towers dominate the skyline and provide a backdrop to the imposing San Giovanni Fortress that winds its way up the mountainside behind.

What makes this cathedral particularly special is its origins. Built on the site consecrated on 13th January 809, it was intended to house the relics of Saint Tryphon, transported from Constantinople. Saint Tryphon is a revered figure for both Catholic and Orthodox faiths and is celebrated as the patron saint of Kotor.

Visiting St. Tryphon’s Cathedral is not just an architectural exploration but also an opportunity to delve into the town’s rich history. Connected to the cathedral is a treasury that houses a diverse collection of local and foreign artworks, traditional clothing, jewelry, and historic artifacts, offering visitors a window into Kotor’s past.

2. San Giovanni Fortress

The fortifications of Kotor are nothing short of remarkable. Encircling the entirety of the old town and even extending onto the mountainside, these fortifications are among the few in the Mediterranean that have been so meticulously preserved. They bear witness to the town’s rich history, which stretches back to the Illyrian period in the 3rd century B.C.

The crown jewel of these fortifications is the San Giovanni Fortress, perched 280 meters above sea level. Its history dates back to the Illyrians, but it saw significant expansion and development during the 13th and 14th centuries. By the end of the 14th century, these walls enveloped the entire town and fortress.

With looming threats of Turkish invasions and advancements in firearms, these fortifications underwent substantial reinforcement in the 15th century. They now stretch an impressive 4.5 kilometers in length, reaching heights of up to 20 meters and widths of 16 meters.

The Kotor Fortress Walk is a top attraction in Kotor, offering unparalleled views of the town and the Bay of Kotor. However, it’s no easy feat, particularly in the summer heat. The trail consists of 1355 steps, at times crumbling and narrow.

Those who embark on this journey are rewarded not only with panoramic views but also with the opportunity to explore the ruins of Špiljari Village, the birthplace of Kotor over 2,000 years ago. Here, visitors can explore the ruins and the thousand-year-old Church of St. John. To make the experience even more authentic, take a break at the makeshift café for some rakija (brandy), juice, and cheese.

3. Perast: A Charming Coastal Village

Bay of Kotor Perast Must See Attraction

Perast, a picturesque coastal village just 15 minutes from Kotor, offers a delightful escape. Admire its rich history, well-preserved architecture, and charming cobblestone streets. Explore the town’s museum in a former palace, savor traditional seafood at a seaside restaurant, and take boat tours that reveal stunning views of the Bay of Kotor, including Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks.

4. Risan Mosaics: Hidden Archaeological Gems

Risan Roman Mosaics Hypnos

Discover Risan’s ancient history by visiting the Roman mosaics at Villa Urbana, a noble family’s house dating back to the 2nd century A.D. The well-preserved mosaics offer insights into the life of the Romans in the Bay of Kotor. Explore the villa’s restored mosaics and learn about the Illyrians and Romans’ historical significance in the region.

Make your 2023 visit to Kotor unforgettable with these unique experiences that will allow you to immerse yourself in the rich culture, history, and natural beauty of this remarkable destination. Whether you’re exploring the ancient churches, embarking on thrilling hikes, or savoring local cuisine, Kotor promises to leave a lasting impression on your travel memories.

5. Our Lady of the Rocks

Our Lady Of The Rocks

Visiting Our Lady of the Rocks is one of the most popular and culturally significant experiences in Kotor Bay. This unique site, situated just off the coast of Perast, is a man-made island housing a beautiful church bearing the same name, along with a small museum.

The legend of Our Lady of the Rocks traces its origins back to the 15th century when local fishermen found an icon of the Virgin Mary on a rock in the bay. Over several decades, the local community tirelessly built a church on an island using stones and sunken ships as foundations.

The church itself is a stunning example of regional architecture, adorned with intricate frescoes, paintings, and a captivating altar. These artistic elements provide a window into the cultural and artistic heritage of the area. Additionally, the small museum on the island exhibits items from the Bay of Kotor, some dating as far back as prehistoric times.

Accessing Our Lady of the Rocks is best done by boat from Perast, and there are many half-day boat tours that offer the chance to explore this unique site. These tours often include another must-see attraction in the Bay of Kotor, the Blue Cave, and provide ample time for relaxation on the nearby beach.

6. Mamula Island – Boka Bay Attraction

Mamula Island Boka Bay

Situated at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor, Mamula Island is a solitary islet that draws attention with its near-perfect circular shape. Although relatively small, measuring around 200 meters in diameter, Mamula Island stands out as a prominent feature against the backdrop of the crystal blue bay waters, flanked by the grandeur of the Bay of Kotor on one side and the vast expanse of the open sea on the other.

As one approaches Mamula Island, a striking sight comes into view: a monumental fortress perched atop the island. The construction of this fortress, known as the Mamula Fortress, dates back to 1853, during Montenegro’s Austro-Hungarian rule. Named after the Austro-Hungarian general Lazarus von Mamula, who oversaw its construction, the fortress was strategically positioned at the bay’s entrance. It forms a trio of fortifications, with Fort Arza on the Luštica Peninsula and another fort on Cape Ostro on the opposite side.

In 2016, a controversial plan to turn the island into an exclusive resort was approved, sparking mixed reactions from locals due to the island’s haunting past. Despite these plans, Mamula Island continues to attract visitors, with its lush vegetation, fascinating architecture, and intriguing history. It remains a stop on various kayaking and boat tours of the bay and is accessible by taxi boat or kayak.

The area also boasts other interesting sights, including the Blue Cave and the Submarine Tunnel. Exploring all of these attractions is an ideal day trip, and many boat tours offer comprehensive experiences. For example, the Limitless Speed Boat Tours provide a day trip that includes the Blue Cave, Mamula Fortress, swimming opportunities in the cave, a visit to the submarine tunnels, and a stop at the charming Our Lady of the Rock – all in one day. This tour is among the most popular speed boat tours in the area, a testament to the remarkable experiences it offers.

In conclusion, these must-see attractions,  showcase the rich history, cultural heritage, and breathtaking natural beauty of Kotor and the surrounding Boka Bay. Each of these destinations provides a unique glimpse into the region’s past and present, making them must-visit sites for travelers seeking an unforgettable experience in this enchanting part of Montenegro.

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