At the very entrance to the Bay of Kotor lies a single, isolated island. The island (or rather an islet) is almost perfectly round. It is rather small, measuring only about 200 meters in diameter. Despite the small size, Mamula Island stands out in the crystal blue landscape, with the magnificent Bay of Kotor on one side, and the open sea on the other.
When you come close enough, you’ll notice that the island is home to a monumental fortress. Set in a beautiful location and surrounded by scenic views, the intriguing island is a spot you definitely shouldn’t skip if you set out to one of the Kotor boat tours.
The Eerie History of Mamula Island
The Mamula Fortress was built in 1853. At this time, Montenegro was under Austro-Hungarian rule. The fortress is named after the Austro-Hungarian general, Lazarus von Mamula, who commissioned the construction of the building. Mamula Island lays between two other fortifications from the same period – fort Arza on the edge of the Luštica Peninsula and another fortification on Cape Ostro on the opposite side.
The spot was chosen for its strategic position at the very entrance to the bay, but the story of Mamula Island didn’t end there. During both world wars, it was used as a prison due to its isolated position. The location gained a notorious reputation during World World 2, when the army of Benito Mussolini turned it into a concentration camp. Stories of unspeakable horrors can still be heard today.
After this chapter in its history, the island and the fortification remained deserted for many years. The island became a home to colorful vegetation and a refuge for birds, and not much more. Nowadays, Mamula is set to become a tourist resort; a project met with an ambiguous response from the locals due to the gloomy history of the place.
A Fascinating Piece of Architecture
The island where the Mamula Fortress lies is actually called Lastavica. The fact that it’s usually referred to as Mamula is not too strange if we consider that the fortress takes up 90% of the island’s surface.
The fortress is built in a circular shape and closely follows the contours of the island, fitting seamlessly into the landscape. With a tall tower on one side, the fortification is really an intricate network of gloomy rooms and stone walls. The walls of the fortress are built from large, equal-sized stone pieces, resulting in a picture that looks like a set for Game of Thrones.
Two movies were indeed shot on the location: Campo Mamula depicting historical events from WW2 and Killer Mermaid, an amusing horror film, perhaps fitting to the eerie spirit of the place. The deep sea, the unyielding rock, and the imposing structure standing there in solitude really make for a fascinating sight.
Is a Boat Trip to Mamula Island Worth the Effort?
You can’t really say you’ve seen the Bay of Kotor until you see the island of Lastavica and its surroundings. It is not just the peculiar charm of the island that makes it worth the visit, but also the beauty of its surroundings. The water is especially clear in this part of the bay and the views are just stunning.
The closest city to the island is Herceg Novi, approximately 6 km away, but the island is actually closer to the Luštica peninsula and the scenic beaches Miriste and Žanjic on the other side. There are also a couple of other interesting sights located in the area, such as the Blue Cave and the Submarine Tunnel. Hopping on a boat and exploring all of those would make for a perfect day-trip.
The Limitless Speed Boat Tours offer just such a trip. The Blue Cave Tour will let you see the Mamula fortress, swim in the Blue Cave, visit the submarine tunnels, and to top it all off see the charming Lady of the Rock – all in one day. It is one of the most popular speed boat tours in the area, and that alone says something about the quality of the experience.