Montenegro Meanderings 2 - Conquering the Fortress of Sveti Ivan

After our first one and a half lazy days of exploring Kotor it was time to shift a gear and aim for some real little trekking. As this amazing Unesco World Heritage site is surrounded by mountains, finding a challenge isn't too difficult and there is one very popular and stunning adventure one cannot pass on - looking down on the town and bay from the top of St' John's Fortress.

We are not usually queuing up to do the 'top 5' recommendations but having seen pictures of the fortifications that protected the medieval town of Kotor with ramparts, towers, citadels, gates, bastions, forts, cisterns, a castle, and other buildings and structures - there was no way not to join in. As it can get quite busy with all the people going up and down the 1355 steps to the top the recommendation is to go early or late and to avoid the masses of cruise ship tourists that throw themselves on the path up the hill. So being early was our mission on that day although being side-tracked by pastries in a bakery and a coffee on the waterfront we didn't get to the start until way past 9am. Fortunately the ship that had come into the harbour in the middle of the night still looked fairly quiet with only a few people trickling out of it so we did speed up a bit as we got closer to the start and luckily were only joined by another few intrepid explorers. And a few even more intrepid trekkers already on their way down.

The steps - although there are many - were actually not too much hard work as perfectly spaced out and just the right height. I think I muttered something like 'oh it's like floating up' after step 120 but actually remember then being quiet from step 253 onwards. Never mind - of course there were LOTS of opportunities to stop and enjoy the views and nobody you would ever think you just needed a break! At some point we met a feral cat desperately meowing for her kittens which were soon spotted further up the hill. Watching them was fun and very moving when they were finally united.

There is one main path and you can't miss it with all the steps but every so often there were opportunities to poke your head around a corner or explore a bit off the path. Which we did with great gusto but many others showed no interest and that was just fine with us. We took tons of photos of walls and vegetation growing in and on walls and some real magic places. Soon looking up and into the fortress was even more amazing than looking back to see the stunning blue of the bay and the old town of Kotor getting smaller and smaller.

We made good time and soon reached the top - still not too crowded which was very nice. Not far from the top we had spotted a sign for 'village' and a hiking trail further up the mountain. After spending some time enjoying the views and trying to not accidentally photobomb too many selfies we decided to explore the village via the little path that started through a little gate about 50 steps down. It was amazing - nobody followed us. Nobody had gone there before that day it seemed. Just a few steps and we were all on our own!

The path leads down to the ruins of an entire 16th century village called Spiljari. Incredibly atmospheric even with a church where you could still see the vivid colours of the frescos. After the hustle and bustle of the old town and the path up to the fortress it was a peaceful and quiet spot - just what we needed and what we enjoy! Much to our delight we found a sign that pointed to a path back down to Kotor (and missed a sign for homemade goats cheese 80m further up the path as I later found out on the web) - it was a relief not having to go down against the flow of all those coming up as it had become quite a bit busier at that time. The path outside the fortress is where the locals go apparently, lined with pomegranate trees (first time ever Corwin saw one outside a supermarket) and goats and meandering down all the way to the city gates.

We made it back down to the town just in time for celebratory cake in a bakery I had spotted the previous day. Well deserved and a perfect finish to a lovely morning


Written by Monika Strell on Thursday, 19 October 2017.

Comments (1)

Jennie Abell 24 October 2017 at 08 31 | # Sounds like a great trip. I especially liked the bit about the cakes. Well done for escaping the West Coast rain we have only managed to get as far as Edinburgh for the sunshine and that was a bit hit or miss!

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