When night falls over the rugged mountains cradling Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor, it becomes very clear why the country’s native name, Crna Gora, means ‘black mountain’.
As the sun is snuffed out each night, the mountains make like a chameleon, going from steel grey to a black silhouette. Eventually, the water of the mighty bay transforms into a shiny onyx. In the historic city of Kotor, the buttery-yellow lights of the buildings in the town’s center are enhanced by the city’s centuries-old, illuminated ramparts, which encircle the city like a ring of fire. Seeing this nocturnal spectacle for the first time, I thought that the UNESCO World Heritage-listed area must be most striking by night, but after hiking to Kotor’s fortress by day, I concluded that both were incredible times to observe this historical site.
Kotor’s fortifications are situated on steep slopes, but when viewed from below, they almost look more delicate than formidable – like a 4.5 km (3 mile) ribbon woven through the mountainside. Their crowning element is the Fortress of St. John (also known as the Castle of San Giovanni / St. Ivan), which sits roughly 250 meters (820 feet) above sea level. To get to the top, you must conquer about 1,350 stairs.
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