The Boka: A Fjord in the Mediterranean That Will Blow Your Mind

Bay of Kotor
(Photo: katatonia82/Shutterstock)

In the tiny country of Montenegro along the Adriatic Sea lies a small but gorgeous bay that's rich with culture, history and epic views.

Also known as Boka Kotorska or Boka for short, the bay and its settlements are preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. As travel expert Rick Steves puts it, "today's Kotor is a time-capsule retreat for travelers seeking a truly unspoiled Adriatic town."

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Aerial view of the Bay of Kotor area
(Photo: Alexander Matyukhin/Shutterstock)

The Bay of Kotor is the closest thing to a fjord the Mediterranean has – but it's really the remnants of the vast Bokelj River that once flowed down through the nearby Orjen mountain range. Transformed by tectonic forces over time, the bay's waters now reach through the Dinaric Alps between two breathtaking mountains, Mount Orjen to the west and Mount Lovcen to the east. It is a system of smaller bays connected by channels, dotted with small towns filled with impressive feats of architecture.

Four smaller gulfs are represented by these cities along the bay: Herceg Novi at the main entrance, Risan to the northwest, Kotor to the southeast, and the outermost city of Tivat. * * *

A ship sailing in the Bay of Kotor
(Photo: Eugene Sergeev/Shutterstock)

The bay's naval history goes back to the Middle Ages and the passion for sailing continues today, as Tivat now a super yacht marina, Porto Montenegro. Visitors can hop on luxury tourist boats for an unforgettable experience or take ferries across the straits.

Equally as enticing is the prospect of exploring the nearby Medieval towns.

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(Photo: Vlada Z/Shutterstock)

The oldest settlement in the bay is Risan, dating back to the Illyrian kingdom, which preceded the Roman empire. In Kotor, remains of ancient fortifications still stand and harken back to empires long passed. The Baroque palaces, churches and towers of the city of Perast make it one of the most photogenic spots in the bay.

Off the coast of Perast, two fascinating islets garner just as much attention – one real, and one made of stones.

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Isle of St. George
(Photo: sharps/Shutterstock)

The Islet of St. George stretches into the bay and houses the Saint George Benedictine monastery, which has been around since the 12th century.

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View of Our Lady of the Rocks from St. George
(Photo: eFesenko/Shutterstock)

The church was built in the early 17th century, but religious history runs deep in the area, which has hundreds of Catholic and Orthodox churches.

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Our Lady of the Rocks islet in the Bay of Kotor
(Photo: Kiev.Victor/Shutterstock)

Accompanying the Islet of St. George on the water is Our Lady of the Rocks, which is not a natural island. Local legend says that in the 15th century, fishermen saw visions of Mary and vowed to drop rocks every time they passed the location. In 1632, the Roman Catholic church Our Lady of the Rocks was built atop the makeshift island. Hundreds of years later, the island grows larger every year — every July 22nd at sunset, locals sail out and throw rocks to mark the anniversary.

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Stari Grad Church
(Photo: saiko3p/Shutterstock)

The oldest church is the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, a beacon of Romanesque architecture built in 1166. Over the centuries, Kotor has been ruled by the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Bosnia, the French Empire and even the Austrian Empire. It officially became part of the Republic of Montenegro in 1945.

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Wide view of the Bay of Kotor
(Photo: Planner/Shutterstock)

The bay has a sunny Mediterranean climate, perfect for outdoor restaurants and quaint hotels.

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Aerial view of Kotor Bay at night
(Photo: Jovan Nikolic/Shutterstock)

Kotor Bay at night looks decidedly more modern, especially in Tivat, which is the youngest city in more than one way. Visitors can enjoy outdoor bars, small cafes and even night clubs well into the evening.

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