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Walled towns, an ancient cathedral, pilgrimage chapels in the sea and days and days of summer sunshine are just some of the attractions of Kotor Bay.
Kotor Bay by night. | Photo by by Pavle Cikovac/Wikimedia
Boka Bay’s necklace of towns and cities, carved in the steep rocks that surround the 28-kilometre-long bay, tell the history of this bewitchingly beautiful part of the Mediterranean.
In the turquoise waters there still lie ancient shipwrecks, some of which have been constructed into artificial islands. The mysterious landscape makes it fertile soil for myths and legends.
Fine examples of church architecture, both Catholic and Orthodox, some dating back to the 12th century, make it a popular pilgrimage site.
The series of bays starts with the Bay of Herceg Novi. This narrows into the Kumborski Tesnac Gorge. From there it continues into Tivat Bay and then through Verige it ends up in Risan and Kotor Bay, on the opposite sides of the old town of Perast.
At the entrance to Boka from the sea, between Cape Prevlaka and Lestica, is a small circular islet, only 200 metres in diameter, named after Lazar Mamula, the Austro-Hungarian general from the mid-19th century who built a fort here. It was used as a prison in both world wars.
The 13-kilometre-long peninsula on the right, called Lustica, is rarely crowded and has only dozen villages because most the land was long under the ownership of the army.
Now it is discovering its true tourist potential, thanks to its untouched natural landscape, as well as archaeological remains and shipwrecks that attract divers and researchers.
The most famous village, Rose, is a typical Mediterranean settlement with stone houses tightly packed around the shoreline.
This small hamlet at the very entrance to Boka is home to a resident population of only 10 people outside the tourist season.
Further down are Topla Bay on the left and Herceg Novi Bay on the right.
Igalo, Herceg Novi and Tivat:
Herceg Novi landscape. | Photo by Milos Capin/Wikimedia
The town of Igalo in Topla Bay became a tourist spot in the former Yugoslavia largely thanks to the medicinal qualities of the local mud.
Since then it has continued to attract crowds each summer, which lasts for a long time here and normally counts some 260 sunny days a year.
Neighbouring Herceg Novi was founded in the 14th century by Tvrtko I Kotromanic, the ruler of Bosnia, as a harbour independent of Dubrovnik.
In the late 15th century it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, and then from the late 17th century onwards it was ruled by Venetians and then by the Austrians.
The town is known for its old churches and forts built in various styles and its charming centre.
Several religious sites lie here, among the oldest of which are the Savina monastery, dating from the 15th century, the Church of the Archangel Michael, dating from the late 19th century and the, Church of Saint Anthony, which dates from the 16th century.
The oldest fort in the centre is the Espanola, so called by the Spaniards who seized Herceg Novi from the Turks for a year in 1538, when the fort was built. The Kanli, Sahat, and Jeronima towers date from mid-17th century.
Risan, Perast and Kotor
Antient town of Perast. | Photo by Giorgo Roncolato/Wikimedia
The earliest mention of Risan dates back to the 4th Century BC. In 229 BC it was the main fortress in the Illyrian state, where Queen Teuta took refuge during the Illyrian Wars.
It submitted to Rome in 168 BC. The most prosperous time for Roman Rhizinium came during the 1st and 2nd centuries, when large villas were built in the area and the city housed some 10,000 inhabitants.
Five mosaics are the most valuable extant remains of that period. The best preserved of them depicts Hypnos, the Greek deity of dreams.
In Risan on February 25th 1851 the Gorski Venac play was performed for the first and only time during the lifetime of its author, Petar Petrovic Njegos, despite orders by the Austrian authorities forbidding the performance.
Perast is an ancient town that has had many rulers. Venice governed it between 1420 and 1797 as part of Venetian Albania. The town’s 16 Baroque palaces were mostly built in this period, as were its 17 Catholic churches and two Orthodox churches.
Near Perast are two small islands, St George’s island and “Gospa od Skrpjela”, or, “Our Lady of the Rock”, each of which has a picturesque chapel.
Gospa od Skrpjela was built on a rock after two Venetian sailors from Perast found an image of the Virgin Mary there in 1452 and decided to found a church in her honour.
Every year in a celebration called the Fasinada, locals take to their boats and throw rocks into the sea, widening the surface of the island.
St George’s Island is home to a Benedictine monastery from the 12th century and a graveyard for the old nobility from Perast and Kotor Bay.
Nearby Kotor, one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic, is a UNESCO world heritage site. It hosts several summer events, such as the Summer Carnival, or Bokeljska Noc.
It is home to numerous sights, such as the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, built in 1166, and the ancient walls that stretch for 4.5km directly above and around the city. The cathedral is one of two Catholic cathedrals in Montenegro and is the seat of a Bishopric.
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