Dubrovnik vs Kotor: A Tale of 2 Dalmatian Cities
Written by Jaillan Yehia
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As you leave the altitude and cloud cover behind and descend into Dubrovnik, you’ll see stunning scenery below that’s reminiscent of a mountainous Tuscany or a balmy Balkan answer to the Norwegian Fjords.
This section of Adriatic coast is defined by dramatic cliffs and slices of blue sea glistening in the sun, punctuated by the occasional trailing line of speed boat spray; it is perfect vacation territory.
You could well be on your way to Croatia when flying into Dubrovnik airport – easily accessible from the UK at under 3 hours flight time – but you could equally be headed for a holiday in the neighbouring nation of Montenegro, with its lesser-known walled cities, including the fortified old town of Kotor.
So, while you might be lucky enough to have time to explore both destinations, you might be trying to choose just one, so let’s look at just how similar the walled Dalmatian cities of Dubrovnik and Kotor really are.
Getting to Dubrovnik vs Kotor
Usually a travel blog post would end with the practical details about getting to the destinations covered, not start with them. Surely compared to the sights, the scenery, and the food, getting there is the boring stuff?
Well, the Balkan nations have a complex geography and history, and one of the elements which can prevent tourists from discovering this truly spectacular part of the world is logistics, so let’s cover those right off the bat.
There are actually 3 airports within a 2-hour drive of Dubrovnik, but 2 of them aren’t in Croatia at all, they’re in neighbouring Montenegro.
As well as the main Croatian hub at Dubrovnik, Montenegro’s airports at Tivat and in the capital, Podgorica, are both actually closer to Dubrovnik than Croatia’s own northern airports, due to the intertwined layout of the countries and Croatia’s long, thin shape.
Conversely, travellers headed to Montenegro, especially the western tourist towns, such as the stunning Herzeg Novi, will find the transfer time shorter when flying into Dubrovnik and flights can be more plentiful – though beware of border waits and always leave enough time for customs when you have a flight to catch in another country.
Dubrovnik vs Kotor: Which is in the Euro Zone?
Another common query about holidays to Croatia and Montenegro is which currency you need to take with you.
Unlike Croatia, Montenegro isn’t a member of the European Union just yet, though it has joined NATO – so note that your European roaming plan sadly won’t stretch past the Croatian border.
Croatia uses its own currency, the Croatian Kuna, which has been in circulation since 1994, making it 12 years older than the nation of Montenegro itself.
But Montenegro uses the Euro – and is generally focused on the modernising and collaborative influence that European membership will bring, so it feels very European.
So, to sum it up: you’ll be in Europe, politically speaking, while in Dubrovnik, but you’ll be spending Croatian Kuna. You will be outside the EU while in Kotor, but will pay for everything in Euros. I bet you’re glad you asked.
What To Do In Dubrovnik vs Kotor
This entire chunk of land has changed hands a lot over the centuries, with the Ottomans and Venetians, Austro-Hungarians and Romans all making their mark, along with the neighbouring Slavic States.
Given the head-spinning history it isn’t surprising that there is plenty of amazing architecture and culture, from mosaics and monasteries to fountains and fortresses, left behind and ready to be discovered by today’s travellers.
The best way to explore both Dubrovnik and Kotor is on foot or by boat. While there are plenty of things to do in Dubrovnik and Kotor has some gems that you simply must see, it is unlikely that you’ll need to be burdened by a car to experience any of them.
The main draw in both medieval towns of Kotor and Dubrovnik is of course the simple pleasure of meandering aimlessly through atmospheric streets, taking in the sights of ancient fortress walls, seeing spectacular views over orange-tiled roofs and out to the azure Adriatic, then stopping for a leisurely coffee, snack or local tipple.
Dubrovnik Beer vs Kotor Beer
When you’re on holiday it usually doesn’t take long to develop a taste for the native beer; and whether you’re pounding the cobbled streets of Dubrovnik or those of Kotor, chances are that stopping for a refreshing cold beer will be high on your to do list, maybe even multiple times a day.
Croatia and Montenegro each only have one brewery – both now owned by Molsen Coors. Croatia’s national beer, Ožujsko, has been brewed uninterrupted since 1892 and is plentiful supply in Dubrovnik.
Over in Kotor Nikšićko beers are widely favoured – they’re named after Montenegro’s second-largest city, Nikšić, the site of beer brewing since 1896. So both nation’s beers are equally historic.
As for the arduous task of drinking Croatian and Montenegrin beer to decide which you like best? Thankfully that job will never get old.
Dubrovnik vs Kotor on Screen
One of the things which unites Dubrovnik and the Bay of Kotor is the extent to which their stunning unspoiled settings and fantasy-style architecture have made them stars of the big and small screen.
Game of Thrones’ is famously shot in Dubrovnik, causing it to close to tourists or erect screens for secrecy when filming – but new travellers are perpetually being lured to the city by the unparalleled beauty of the landscapes they see depicted at King’s Landing.
By contrast the former Yugoslavian Republic’s most well-know celluloid appearance, in Casino Royale, is a total red herring. The world’s most famous spy gallivants high and low through ‘Montenegro’s’ stunning south-eastern European landscapes from glitzy casinos to lush Mediterranean viewpoints yet not one scene was ever filmed in Montenegro; the Czech Republic was substituted.
But since the nation state’s infrastructure and ability to host film crews has grown, there have been more films made in Montenegro in recent years including the remake of Papillon, and a Bond film, of sorts: The November Man starred former Bond Pierce Brosnan.
Dubrovnik vs Kotor For Wine
The dramatic mountainous Montenegrin landscape, as well as the sunny climate, causes vineyards to thrive in this region.
Native grapes produce plenty of local speciality wines – like Montenegrin Vranac – a red wine so deep in colour it’s known as ‘black stallion’.
Overlooking the Bay of Kotor, try a trip to the Savina Winery which serves up those fjord-like views along with fabulous flavours including the best white wine in Montenegro in 2016.
Croatian wine rarely makes it out of the country, so you may not be familiar with its 300 grape varieties, 50 of which are indigenous. Wines to look out for include Dingač, red wine which is traditionally served in Dalmatia with fish.
In either destination you can find very good bottles of wine for well under £5 in local supermarkets, and it’s worth bringing the rarer wines home in your suitcase.
Dubrovnik vs Kotor Cuisine
Both Dubrovnik and Kotor are celebrated amongst travel circles for their plentiful Adriatic Sea views and delightful dining options, and it’s unsurprising that seafood is the highlight of the menu in both destinations.
And while neither Croatia or Montenegro have made much of an impact on the international food scene, the fruits of the surrounding sea and in Montenegro’s case the produce of those namesake mountains, will make a decent impact on your taste buds.
In fact everything you might expect from a holiday to Italy can be found in Dubrovnik and Kotor – superior seafood, prosciutto, olives, cheeses and of course wine, often at a fraction of the cost and all with a unique national identity.
Dubrovnik vs Kotor as UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Both walled cities of Kotor and Dubrovnik were listed by UNESCO in 1979, and both deserve the status for their natural charm, but even though Dubrovnik is considered to be far more popular with tourists (CNN even put it on a list of travel hotspots to avoid in high season) it is Kotor that’s said to be in danger of losing its Heritage Status.
Dubrovnik vs Kotor In Quotes
With their romantic scenery and picturesque streets, it’s no surprise that both Dubrovnik and the Bay of Kotor have inspired the great and the good of art and literature, from Byron to Shaw. Said Lord Byron about Montenegro:
At the birth of our planet the most beautiful encounter between land and sea must have been on the Montenegrin coast
While George Bernard Shaw had some high praise for Dubrovnik, writing:
Those who seek paradise on earth, should come to Dubrovnik
Both destinations have also been referred to widely in literature as Pearls of the Adriatic, and pearls are perfect when they come in pairs, so perhaps a trip to both Dubrovnik and Kotor should be on your holiday wishlist?
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