The Ladder of Kotor is a hiking trail that connects Kotor with Krstac Pass in Montenegro. The rocky path climbs up the mountainside in a series of switchbacks between the Scurda Canyon and the Fortress Walls of the Old Town of Kotor.
This is an absolute must-do activity, if you’re staying anywhere in Kotor Bay, or simply visiting Kotor for the day.
The Kotor Ladder hike starts on Tabačina road, just outside the UNESCO-protected Old Town of Kotor, near the River Gate (aka North Gate). It rises in 70 switchbacks up to Krstac Pass, located along the P1 road.
The Ladder of Kotor (aka the Ladder of Cattaro) is a historic mule track, which was built in the 19th century by the Austrians, in order to connect Kotor with Njeguši and Cetinje, Montenegro’s former royal capital.
We hiked the complete Ladder of Kotor trail to Krsac and the P1 Road. Most people do not hike the full trail, opting to turn-around at the “Top of the Kotor Ladder” viewpoint, which is a viable option.
In this Ladder of Kotor hiking guide, we’ll clarify the difference between the Kotor Ladder trail and the Kotor Fortress hike (aka Kotor City Walls hike). We’ll explain exactly how to find the trailhead, when to hike, and how to hike the complete trail to Krstac.
How to Hike the Ladder of Kotor in Montenegro
- Trailhead: Tabačina Road, near the Pekara AS Bakery, Kotor | Google Maps
- Distance: 14.1 km lollipop-circuit
- Time Needed: 6 hours (4 hour variation possible)
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 1009 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum Elevation: 7 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 950 meters
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Where to Stay in Kotor Old Town: Palazzo Sindik (apartment), Katareo Apartments (apartment), or Hotel Hippocampus (boutique luxury).
- Where to Stay in Kotor (Outside City Walls): Apartments Ana (budget), or Apartments Qualitas (budget)
- Where to Stay in Muo: Nikola Lux apartments (budget), House 44 SEAFRONT APARTMENTS (midrange), or Dekaderon Lux Apartments (midrange-luxury)
- Where to Stay in Dobrota: Apartman Castello (midrange), Solaris Lux Apartments (midrange), Corso Levante Luxury Suites (luxury), or Hotel Forza Terra.
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Ladder of Kotor Hiking Map
How to read this map | This guide describes the Ladder of Kotor Trail (marked in blue). We’ve embedded other trails, so that you can differentiate the Ladder of Kotor from other nearby trails.
- Ladder of Kotor trail: blue
- Kotor City Walls to the San Giovanni Fortress (St. John Fortress) hike (entrance fee: 8 EUR): green
- Špiljari and Catholic Chapel: yellow
- Kotor City Walls (entrance fee: free): dark gray
What’s the Difference Between the Ladder of Kotor and the Kotor City Walls – San Giovanni Fortress Trail?
It’s easy to confuse the Ladder of Kotor hike with the Kotor City Walls hike.
The Kotor City Walls – Kotor Fortress Trail starts in the Old Town of Kotor and ascends 1350 steps along Kotor’s fortifications to the hilltop Kotor Fortress (aka San Giovanni Fortress and St. John Fortress).
The St. John’s Fortress is a multi-level ruin, located at 260 meters above sea level.
The Ladder of Kotor trail is free, whereas the Kotor City Walls – Kotor Fortress hike costs 8 EUR per person.
Another key difference is that the Ladder of Kotor hiking trail is located entirely outside of the fortified city, whereas the City Walls hike is located within the fortifications.
The Kotor ladder trail is also significantly longer.
On the map above, we’ve embedded both hiking trails, so you can easily see the differences.
Can You Connect the Ladder of Kotor Trail to the Kotor City Walls – San Giovanni Fortress Trail?
In the past, it was always possible to connect the Ladder of Kotor trail to the Kotor Fortress trail.
Commonly, people would ascend the Kotor Ladder and then hike to the San Giovanni Fortress via the Sveti Đorđej (St. Ivan, Sveti Juraj) chapel and the abandoned village of Špiljari.
A ladder aided hikers through the fortress wall “window” to the steps of the Fortress trail.
In low- and shoulder-seasons, you can still do this. In fact, we did it in early May 2023. However, in high season, there’s a security guard, who thwarts people from entering the Kotor City Walls via the “window.”
They want to ensure that everyone pays the San Giovanni Fortress entrance fee. That’s absolutely fair, but they should just install a formal entry point at the window, so that people can enjoy this semi-circuit trail.
The main takeaway is that you can probably still connect the trails during the off-season. In the high season, it’s likely impossible.
When to Hike the Ladder of Kotor
It’s possible to hike the ladder of Kotor all-year-long.
During the warmer months (May – October), we recommend getting an early start to avoid the punishing midday sun.
In May, we started the hike at 7:30 am.
In the morning, the trail was completely in shadow, but Vrmac was illuminated.
Vrmac is the long limestone mountain that divides the Bay of Kotor into an “inner bay” and an “outer bay.”
The inner bay is the fjord-shaped body of water that is rimmed by the settlements of Kotor, Dobrota, Muo, Prčanj, Orahovac, Perast, and Risan.
The outer bay is the triangle-shaped body of water (sometimes called “Tivat Bay”), flanked by the Luštica Peninsula.
Ladder of Kotor Difficulty
The Ladder of Kotor trail is well-graded and easy-to-follow. The path is waymarked with Knafelc blazes.
The elevation gain is hefty, but the gradient is so mild that you don’t really notice it, especially if you’re hiking in the morning.
As you near the P1 road, the trail gets steeper, more rugged, and thus more difficult.
All in all, this is a moderate hike.
You can follow the Ladder of Kotor trail using the Maps.me app. Google Maps doesn’t show the complete trail. It leaves out the stretch between the trail 759/753 junction and Krstac Pass.
We recommend wearing hiking boots and packing 2 liters of water (per person).
Ladder of Kotor Hiking Trail Description
How to Find the Ladder of Kotor Trailhead
The Ladder of Kotor trailhead is located outside of the Old Town of Kotor on Tabačina Road. In Google, it’s correctly labeled: “Start of the Ladder of Kotor.”
Tabačina Road runs parallel to the Scurda River, just north of the Old Town.
If you’re coming from the Old Town, exit at the River Gate (North Gate). Cross the Scurda Bridge and then turn right on Tabačina Road, passing the Bastion restaurant and Pekara AS bakery.
When the road curves up to the left, leave the road and follow the footpath that continues straight along the Scurda stream.
If you’re coming from Dobrota, or somewhere else, head to Shopping Centre Kamelija.
Follow the road (Tabačina) between the shopping center and VOLI supermarket. Soon after passing the Pekara AS bakery, you’ll arrive at the trailhead.
Kotor to Top of the Kotor Ladder Viewpoint (2 hours)
Initially, the narrow, gravel footpath leads towards an old hydroelectric power plant, between a high fence and the Scurda river bed.
We passed a tied-up donkey near the start of the trail.
Soon, the trail crosses two bridges over the Skurda.
The serpentine trail (trail 759) commences immediately.
Throughout the ascent, you’ll see Dobrota as well as Muo and Prčanj, at the base of Vrmac. The sturdy fortifications of Kotor are always in sight as well. The Old Town isn’t visible initially.
The Lovćen mountains, an impressive wall of limestone, flank the opposite side of the Scurda Canyon. Try to spot the Montenegrin flag affixed to the rounded crest of Pestingrad (980 m).
After about 35-minutes of steadily hiking up the switchbacks, you’ll reach Kuca Milenko Franović. This stone building sells drinks and snacks.
Continue hiking up the trail. After another 10 minutes, you’ll reach another building, selling drinks and local cheese.
From here, it’s possible to detour to a Catholic stone chapel, which stands in the abandoned village of Špiljari, now in ruins.
This is the same path that links the Ladder of Kotor with the Kotor City Walls – San Giovanni Fortress trail. We recommend detouring to the chapel on the return journey.
For now, continue hiking up the Ladder of Kotor.
Shortly after passing the stone building, we came across a tied-up mule. The owner moves the mule to various spots throughout the day for grazing.
With more elevation gain, the views get better and better.
About 2 hours from the start, you’ll reach a natural viewpoint overlooking the Bay of Kotor, the hilltop San Giovanni Fortress, and the triangle-shaped Old Town of Kotor, tightly encased in fortifications.
We labeled this “Top of the Kotor Ladder” in our map. Exact Location: Google Maps.
This is where most people turn-around, because this is the best vantage point along the trail.
Top of the Kotor Ladder Viewpoint – Trail 759/753 Junction – Krstac Pass (40 minutes)
The extended hike to Krstac Pass isn’t very scenic. It’s mostly in the forest and the only great views are along the P1 road, which you can see when driving. So, there’s no great loss in not completing the hike.
Nonetheless, we’ll explain how to hike to Krstac Pass below.
A level path leads inland between pine trees to a signed trail junction (5 minutes).
Take the left trail (759) in the direction of Krstac, signed 1:15 hours.
The forest trail ascends Scurda Valley.
After crossing a stream, you’ll pass by a former Austro-Hungarian border building ruin.
The ascent steepens and gets increasingly rockier.
Make a sharp left, leaving the rocky slope, and follow the path to the stone bridge.
Cross the bridge and continue hiking up on the left bank of the dried up stream bed.
Views open up to the Bay of Kotor, as you tackle the final, sun-exposed stretch to Krstac Pass and the P1 road.
When you get to the road, you’ll see the Zip Line Njegushi landing area on your left.
Side Note: The Konoba Krstac tavern is located just beyond the Zip Line take-off point. And beyond the tavern is the Pestingrad Trailhead.
Krstac Pass to Žanjev Do (20 minutes)
When you crest the P1 road, turn right, unless you want to detour to Konoba Krstac.
The hiking trail follows the road, so please be cautious.
The road passes the Golubinja pećina cave, a popular nesting area for white-chested swift birds (I believe – please correct me if I’m wrong).
Soon after the cave, you’ll arrive at a tunnel. This is a very short tunnel. You’ll see the end of the tunnel at the start of the tunnel, so no need for a headlamp.
Again, please be cautious, since this is a road tunnel for cars more so than for pedestrians.
After the tunnel, you’ll soon see the roadside Restaurant Nevjesta Jadrana, which more or less also marks the beginning of the Žanjev Do hamlet.
Before reaching the restaurant, trail 753 dips down on the right side of the road.
Žanjev Do to Trail 759/753 Junction (30 minutes)
Follow the waymarked hiking trail in the direction of Kotor.
It’s an unremarkable 30-minute descent through forest to the familiar trail 759/753 junction.
Trail 759/753 Junction – Top of the Kotor Ladder Viewpoint – Špiljari (1:10 hours)
Follow the Ladder of Kotor Trail to the Top of the Kotor Ladder Viewpoint (where most people turn around) and down the switchbacks to the stone building, which sells cheese.
From here, you can turn left and detour to the abandoned village of Špiljari, now in ruins. Here, you’ll find the tiny intact stone chapel, which has many different names: St. Ivan, Sveti Juraj, Sveti Đorđe, St. George.
Špiljari – Ladder of Kotor Trail – Kotor (1 hour)
In high season, return to the Ladder of Kotor trail and hike all the way down to Kotor, following the familiar trail.
When you complete the hike, we recommend buying a mouthwatering bürek at the Pekara AS bakery (spinach and cheese, or meat).
If it’s low, or shoulder-season, you may be able to descend via the Fortress Walls trail.
From the chapel, continue following the path to the fortress walls. Climb up the ladder and squeeze through the “window” in the wall.
From here, you can hike up the steps to the hilltop San Giovanni Fortress (St. John Fortress), or descend right away to Church of Our Lady of Remedy and eventually to the city walls exit point. The hike ends in the Old Town of Kotor.
Reward yourself with a refreshing gelato at Moritz Eis. There are two locations, but the closest one is located near the exit/entrance of the Fortress Trail. Exact Location: Google Maps.
Ladder of Kotor Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Walk the Ladder of Kotor?
The complete Ladder of Kotor trail from Kotor to Krstac and back to Kotor takes 6 hours.
However, many people hike a shorter hike, turning around at the “Top of the Kotor Ladder” viewpoint. This shorter out-and-back hike takes 4 hours.
How Many Steps are There in the Ladder of Kotor?
There are no steps along the Ladder of Kotor. It’s a well-graded, mule track.
Where to Stay near the Ladder of Kotor Hike
Read our guide to Where to Stay in Kotor to find out the best places to stay in Kotor Bay: top areas and accommodations.
Old Town of Kotor (Inside City Walls)
There’s something so romantic about staying within the walled city of Kotor, a tangle of narrow streets lined with historic buildings, which house humming restaurants and bars.
The entire UNESCO-protected Old Town is a pedestrian zone, so naturally, accommodations do not offer on-site parking. If you’re traveling without a car, definitely consider staying in the Old Town.
If you’re traveling with a car, I wouldn’t write it off altogether. Just ask your accommodation for clear parking instructions in advance of your stay.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to carry your luggage to your accommodation, as accommodations rarely offer a bellhop service.
If you’re sensitive to noise and loud music, don’t stay in the Old Town on Friday, or Saturday nights. There’s a midnight curfew on music, but it’s not strictly enforced.
Budget | Old Town Youth Hostel is a social hostel for the young party types with raving reviews.
Apartment | Palazzo Sindik is a lovely one-bedroom apartment in the old town of Kotor.
Apartment | Katareo Apartments offers newly renovated and spotless apartments with kitchenettes. Try to book the apartment with the terrace, if it’s available.
Luxury | Hotel Hippocampus is a stylish boutique hotel set in a 17th century building with a roof terrace and restaurant. A slow, mouthwatering breakfast is served on the rooftop, featuring local cold cuts and cheeses, freshly baked Montenegrin pastries, eggs-to-order, coffee, and orange juice. All rooms are air-conditioned.
Luxury | Boutique Hotel Astoria is a luxury hotel, housed in the UNESCO-protected 13th-century Buca Palace. The hotel’s restaurant spills outside onto the square. Rooms are spacious and feature funky, love-it-or-hate-it decor.
Luxury | Hotel Vardar is a 4-star hotel with classic rooms situated on the main square in the Old Town of Kotor, a stone’s throw from the Sea Gate. Guests have access to a gym, sauna, and steam bath.
Kotor (Outside City Walls)
Budget | Apartments Ana is located just steps away from the River Gate (North Gate) of the Old Town at the Kotor Ladder trailhead. This is a great value apartment with private parking.
Budget | Apartments Qualitas offers snug apartments at the marina, very close to the South Gate.
Dobrota is the sprawling settlement to the north of Kotor, which stretches for several kilometers from the Old Town to Ljuta.
It’s hard to know where Kotor ends and Dobrota begins, as one bleeds into the other.
However, many others are 3-4 kms away (10 minute drive), including some of the finest seafront hotels in Kotor Bay.
Far from the bustling port and city, these accommodations provide private sea access, minimal traffic, and a more peaceful environment.
Stand-out seafront accommodations: Hotel Forza Terra (5-star boutique hotel) and Hotel Forza Mare (boutique hotel), Villa Maestral (apartments), Corso Levante Luxury Suites (luxury suites), and Three Dots (private villa).
Muo is the seaside settlement to the northwest of Kotor’s Old Town, along the base of Vrmac. From Muo, it’s about a 15-25 minute walk to the Old Town.
Budget | Nikola Lux apartments are two modern and clean apartments with sea-view balconies and private parking. The price is unbeatable. 2 nights minimum stay.
More accommodations in Muo: House 44 SEAFRONT APARTMENTS (midrange apartments), Residence Portofino (midrange apartment), or Dekaderon Lux Apartments (midrange-luxury apartments), and Villa Mima (4-bedroom villa)
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Montenegro Trip Planning Essentials
Use our Montenegro Travel Guide to plan an unforgettable trip.
When to Visit Montenegro
We recommend traveling to Montenegro during shoulder seasons: spring and early fall.
For coastal exploration, May, September and October are ideal months. For hiking in the mountains, it’s best to visit in summer, or early fall, when trails are mostly snow-free.
We always rent a car when visiting Montenegro, so that we can reach trailheads and visit destinations that are not accessible by transit.
Follow our 2 Week Montenegro Road Trip Itinerary for route planning.
Use the intuitive Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.
Places to Visit in Montenegro
Take a look at Top Places to Visit in Montenegro for a summary of the most beautiful coastal and mountainous destinations across this Balkan country, including Kotor, Lake Skadar, Durmitor National Park, and Ulcinj.
Hiking in Montenegro
Montenegro Packing List
- Day Pack: Osprey Tempest 30 Women’s Backpack / Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Backpack
- Grade B/C high-cut hiking boots: Meindl Schuhe Island Lady (Kati’s Boots), Women’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (Sabrina’s Boots), Men’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (men’s equivalent)
- Hiking Socks: Smartwool women’s Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew / Smartwool Men’s Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew
- CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
- Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- Reusable Water Bottle: Ion Leakproof 32 oz Water Bottle
Outdoor Photography Gear
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