Hiking the Ladder of Kotor to the Fortress | Montenegro

hiking the Ladder of Kotor in Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen — and if you want the best views in town, hiking the Ladder of Kotor to the Kotor fortress is a must-do.

I can’t say enough good things about this hike!

  • The trail starts just outside the Old Town walls; you can walk there in 5 minutes
  • The views of the Bay of Kotor border on the obscene, they’re so beautiful
  • The rugged limestone and dolomite cliffs are spectacular
  • The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow

Another little perk that I didn’t expect? After I got off of the Ladder of Kotor, I took another trail that led to the fortress walls — and I climbed right through a window and into the fortress! I didn’t mean to shirk the 8 euro fee, but I didn’t mind, either. (If you hike the fortress from Old Town Kotor, you’ll be charged at the gate.)

Want to do the same hike? Look at the maps and photos below.

Is it Safe to Hike the Ladder of Kotor as a Solo Female?

In my experience, yes. I was there in early November, and the conditions were perfect. I passed some other hikers on the Ladder of Kotor, but not so many that I felt crowded. Plus, since the trail is pretty exposed, it would be difficult for a creep to do anything without being spotted by another hiker.

That being said, a little extra caution never hurts, especially when you’re hiking alone. Tell your Airbnb host where you’re going, hike within view of a large group, wear bright colors, etc.

As a solo female traveler, I felt perfectly safe in Kotor — but then, I also got a TON of really creepy Instagram messages while I was there. Since it’s such a small town, I Instagrammed my hikes well after I was done. No sense alerting the weirdos to where I was in real time!

Getting to the Ladder of Kotor Trailhead

Kotor city walls
The Ladder of Kotor hike starts near that red-roofed house at the left

Getting to the trailhead for the Ladder of Kotor hike is easy — just go out the northwest gate of Old Town, cross over two bridges, and turn right. If you’re using Google Maps, you can put in “Apartments Ana” as the destination. Keep walking as the buildings end, and you will see the trail start zig-zagging up to the fortress. There’s a delicious bakery just over the second bridge; stop in and get some snacks for the hike!

map to Ladder of Kotor trail

Once you start hiking, it’s one switchback after another. The incline isn’t terribly steep, so it’s a pretty easy hike. Leave plenty of time for the Ladder of Kotor — the views are so beautiful that you’ll want to stop and take pictures at every turn!

The Most Spectacular Views in Montenegro

starting the Ladder of Kotor hike
Looking up at the limestone and dolomite cliffs on the Ladder of Kotor

As you climb, the Kotor fortress looms above you on top of the cliffs. As you can see in the photo below, the trail is wide and flat. There are some loose rocks, so if you need extra stability, it’s a good idea to bring hiking poles.

Hiking up the Ladder of Kotor beneath the fortress
Hiking up the switchbacks of the Ladder of Kotor

After awhile, you’ll come to a little house that sells snacks and drinks. If you want, you can cut across from here to the backside of the fortress.

The views of the Bay of Kotor just keep getting better!

High up on the Ladder of Kotor hike
See the switchbacks at the bottom center?

Enchanted by the views, I just kept hiking and hiking the Ladder of Kotor. I didn’t have a specific goal — I thought maybe I’d go all the way to the top of the Ladder. But then, I ran into a couple who was hiking down from the top, and they advised against it. The sun was getting lower, and I needed time to explore the fortress.

Hiking to views of the Bay of Kotor
I hiked too high and had to go back down to get to the fortress

Hiking Across to the St. John’s Fortress

At this point, I had passed the two trails that cut across from the ladder to the old stone church that sits below the fortress. No big deal; I just backtracked a bit and hiked down to the church. On the map below, the two red stars show the trails you need to take to get across to the Kotor fortress.

Ladder of Kotor trail map

Here’s the view looking across to the fortress. If you see this view, you’ve gone too far! See the path cutting across the green hillside and over to the fortress wall? That’s the one you need to take.

hiking trail to the Kotor fortress
See the hiking trail under the fortress? That’s where you’re going

After I got on the right trail, I hiked right up behind this stone church. It sits abandoned in a rocky valley, surrounded by old stone ruins. I couldn’t believe I had it all to myself! Be sure to go inside; it’s abandoned, and the aging paint still has its color.

This little valley is so spectacular, it’s almost overwhelming. I hung out for a long time, wandering around and climbing in the stone foundations. The whole time, I could hear people talking faintly from high up on the fortress walls — they had no idea what they were missing!

I loved hiking the Ladder of Kotor to this valley so much that I speed-hiked back up on my last day just to take it all in again.

stone church on the Ladder of Kotor hike
This gorgeous church is 1,000+ years old!

Once you’ve explored the church, hike up the trail that leads to the fortress walls. See that window in the photo on the right below? You can climb right through it. There are stones leading like steps right to the base; it’s super easy to get into.

Return to Old Town on the Kotor Fortress Walls

Once I climbed through the window, this is the view that was waiting for me!

This is the view you get when you climb through the window!

You’ll emerge onto a wide platform area, and the famous St. John’s fortress stairs (all 1350 of them!) are close by. Go left up the hill to explore the fortress, or go right to hike back down into Kotor. Or, do what I did and hang out to drink in the view of the Bay of Kotor.

One note: if you have weak ankles, or if you’re unsteady on uneven ground, take your sweet time on this section. There are stairs and rough cobblestones, and it’s all a bit tricky. If you’re a mountain goat like I am, no problem — you can stroll right down the hill.

Once you’re in the fortress, you can expect to see plenty of other tourists. Cruise ships dock in Kotor, and many of the passengers head straight for this hike. Little do they know, the best views are on the Ladder of Kotor!

This entire hike took about 3-4 hours, but that was with a lot of stopping. If you’re spry, you can easily blow through it in less than two hours. But really, take your time! Montenegro is absolutely gorgeous, and this is the perfect way to experience it.

The Ladder of Kotor and the fortress are one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done — not quite to the Himalaya level, but downright spectacular. Highly recommended!

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