As an ancient Mediterranean country with rich history, Montenegro remained one of the most popular places to live in until this day, despite many turbulent historical events and even wars.
However, those rough historical moments implied creating most of Montenegro cities and fortified towns concentrated along the coastline, which are now attractive tourist destinations. Some of them, are lesser-known ancient Montenegro cities, and others are, unfortunately – abandoned.
They say that putting a finger in the sea is a connection with the whole world. And indeed, the sea was the primary connection of coastal ancient Montenegro cities which, thanks to maritime trade, grown into trading and cultural centers. Many battleships and trading vessels were anchored in our ports.
From the very beginning of tourism development, cruisers and yachts with tourists landed on our coast and offered unforgettable memories to its visitors.
Fast shifting of civilizations, turbulent history, cultural heritage, and the Mediterranean climate – all this in a small country that allows you to walk through centuries of history, but also to be an accomplice in creating its future.
In front of you is a short guide to the Ancient Montenegro cities and fortifications that will make your stay in Montenegro more interesting, exciting, and willing to come back.
Fortifications on the Montenegrin coast – the breadcrumbs of past
The territory of Montenegro has always been intersected by important trade routes and precisely because of its position it was often the target of the conquerors and attacks. The fortifications built in different periods have been partially preserved as well as the roads and paths leading to them.
These stone pieces of the past tell us the story and heritage of the Illyrians, Romans, Turks, Venetians, and Austro-Hungarians on the territory of today’s Montenegro.
Gorazda fortress – an isolated and well-hidden Montenegro city
The shielded Gorazda fortress is an integral part of the Boka Kotorska Fortress, which during the Austro-Hungarian government in 114, protected the territory of the Monarchy from attacks from the sea and the region of Montenegro.
Gorazda fortress, as part of the coastal fortress, was capable to offer independent livelihood and defense. It contained observatories, warehouses, elevators for ammunition delivery, mechanisms for starting cannons, wire fences, and protective trenches. It is built of finely carved stone and had access via a chain bridge.
On the entry, we can still recognize the rooms used by the soldier. Signature on the wall, engraved date, abandoned guard post – witness moments spent in this fort away from family in war conditions. This stone proof of the past is located on a hill above the Trojica path, near Kotor and Tivat.
Partially buried and covered with low vegetation, Gorazda fortress is a real revelation for history lovers – once a strategic point, and now a beautiful lookout point. From the direction of Porto Montenegro, you can reach it by following the old road that leads to Cetinje, and it is enough to follow the signpost to see this beautiful building, nature, and a view that enchants.
Mamula fortress – fortified island
Mamula fortress is located on the island of Rondine before the entrance to the Bay of Kotor. It is built in 1853. and was intended to prevent enemy ships from entering the bay. The island is named after General Lazar Mamula. Together with forts Arza and Punta Ostro, Mamula represented the first defensive line of the southern zone of the Boka Kotorska Fortress.
The multistorey tower contained casemates, kitchen, sanitation, sanitary blocks, warehouses, and training grounds that enabled long stays of soldiers on the island- Fort Mamula was attacked several times from the sea and it was partially damaged.
In the First World War, Mamula replaced its original purpose of defense with the function of prison. On this island in 1918. Austro-Hungarian sailors who revolted in the Bay of Kotor on the ship St. Georg were imprisoned. The prison could accommodate several hundred prisoners, and this purpose of Mamula maintained until the end of World War II.
For more than half a century, the island of Mamula has been a picnic area where you can enjoy the beauty of the sea with flocks of seagulls, but also admire the architecture of the 19th century.
No fortification on the territory of Montenegro has been so inspiring for making films as the natural scenography of Mamula. Scenes shot on this island are seen in the movies Campo Mamula, Papillon, and many others. Fortress Mamula can be reached by boat and crickets, seagulls, and waves break the silence of it.
Fortress Mogren – a.k.a Fort Jaz
Fortress Mogren is an Austro-Hungarian fortification. It is located on Cape Mogren on a vertical rock. Since 1860. it is part of the defense zone of Budva, once an important trading center and now one of the most visited cities on the eastern Adriatic coast.
Fort Jaz is better known by the name Mogren, is a famous picnic spot for natives but also for guests who want to enjoy the beautiful view of Budva, the island of St. Nicholas, Jaz beach, and the beautiful Adriatic Sea.
This place can be reached by a path that leads through the Mediterranean vegetation from the beach Mogren, but also the highway. The walls with loopholes, bunkers, towers, cannon platforms, and warehouses have been partly preserved but again enough to evoke a time of fighting, rebellion, and truce.
Haj – Nehaj fortress – Montenegro castle of a funny name
At 231 m elevation on the hill Haj Nehaj, there is an abandoned fortress, first mentioned in documents in 1542 under the name Fortezza de Spizi.
The original fortification that the Venetians built on the site in the 15th century became a strategically important position. The first garrison contained only two soldiers and one artilleryman, but in the most difficult moments, this fortification received up to 900 people.
The fortress was renovated several times and later adapted to the defense against firearms – round towers that also served as gunpowder warehouses. Later under the Ottoman government, and finally under the Montenegrin administration, this fort is a witness to life in this part of our coast, but also to the architecture that has changed over the centuries.
The remains of a water tank, residential buildings, and a watchtower for defense can still be seen, but only if you decide to take a slightly more demanding walk along the stone path to the entrance gate that takes you further through the streets between long-abandoned buildings.
Before the construction of the fortress on the top of the hill in the 13th century, the church of St. Demetrius was built, which, like many other churches on our coast had two altars – Orthodox and Catholic, which were used equally since there has always been harmony among the inhabitants of a different religion.
Fortified Ancient Montenegro cities
Cities on the Montenegrin coast played an important role in wars and trade, first in the Mediterranean and later all around the world. Located on capes, in bays, coves, and on hills, for centuries they represented jewels kept within the walls.
Tradition, culture, trade, and crafts made these cities the popular target for the conquerors, and now they are enchanting destinations that everyone should see.
Kotor – A city embraced by stone and sea
Of all the cities on the Montenegrin coast, the most prominent place, when it comes to architecture, belongs to Kotor – a city positioned on the coast and under the small hill of San Giovanni, where is protected by 4.5 km long ramparts.
An impressive mountain Lovcen is on one side, and Pestingrad on the other. Vrmac protects Kotor from view, attack but also storms and winds. The most valuable protection of the city, created for centuries, is the fortification of Kotor.
The walls that follow the configuration of the ground, climb up to 280 meters above sea level, where there is a separate fortress named after the hill San Giovanni. Here you can see clear water of Boka Bay, and an inner rampart that physically separates the city from the upper part of the fortification, which was reserved only for the army.
The fact that Kotor was never conquered during the battle shows how important the mighty walls were in the past. There have always been wars, so it is assumed that in Illyrian times, to preserve the population, there was an Illyrian hillfort at the very top of the hill.
Later, the alluvial plateau was settled and the walls around the city were gradually built, but also around the hill itself. During the administration of Venice, the walls of Kotor were strengthened, and in the medieval statute of the city, members determined how to preserve and maintain this masterpiece of architecture.
Kotor is only a ten-minute drive from Porto Montenegro. By boat, however, it is more beautiful to approach the city in the embrace of the sea and stone. Located on top of a hill, the abandoned fortress awaits rare visitors and lovers of beautiful sunsets.
Budva – the pearl of the Adriatic sea
Budva is the oldest city on our coast and its appearance is captivating.
Located on a peninsula, Budva is a true Mediterranean town shaped by the power of the sea and the unpredictability of history. The picturesque buildings were the homes of merchants, sailors, fishermen, but also rich, knowledgeable men who recorded their memoirs in written form.
All these lines of dried ink tell us the story of a small urban center.
To protect their city, the people of Budva built mighty walls. Fragments of a rampart with an entrance gate in the Cyclops style tell us that the original Greek emporium was partly a civilian settlement and an acropolis. The Acropolis was in a dominant position in the city, where the Castle of St. Mary is now better known as the Citadel.
On the ramparts, there are visible additional alterations, made over the centuries, which testifies to how important it was to preserve the city. In addition to the mighty walls, there are discovered foundations of the basilica from the 5th century.
Ulcinj – the pirates’ favorite place
The town of Ulcinj dominates upon a small bay with the sandy beach on one side, and on the other side of it, there are the coastal pines that rise above the sea. This part of the Montenegrin coast offers a unique experience of the Mediterranean.
The cove of Uljcinj is fragrant and romantic now, but once upon a time danger lurked right from that same place. The fact that it was a city of pirates in the past, attracts the attention of visitors from the very beginning of its tourist expansion.
If we go to a more distant past and the first mentions of the city in 168 BC, or even further – to the archaeological artifacts that testify to the settlement from the end of the 5th century BC, interest in Ulcinj will become equal to falling in love.
The architecture of residential buildings reveals the connection between east and west, and the walls and fortifications speak of turbulent days and give us a walk through the fortified city and life by the sea. There is a beautiful ancient Montenegro city on the very south of our bay – Ulcinj.
Herceg Novi – a festive city that never sleeps
Herceg Novi is located at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor and from the very beginning it faced dangers coming from the sea. To protect the city, the construction of walls and towers that dominate the city, started.
The Kanli Tower was built during the Ottoman administration of the city. It was built under a veil of secrecy because it served as a prison, hence the name itself, which in translation means – the Blood Tower.
Forte mare is a tower located on the coast, while Spanjola is on a hill above the urban core of Herceg Novi which was once called the Upper Town. Mezzaluna and Torra also played an important role in defending the city, which was targeted by those who wanted control over the entrance to the bay.
The city of fortresses, the city of stairs, the city of flowers, and the festival – all of this defines Herceg Novi.
Petrovac – Catello fortress
Petrovac once was a small coastal fishing village in a bay with two rows of houses made in a typical Mediterranean style. Two islets Katic and Sveta Nedelja on the west, and Pashtrovacka Gora on the east made Petrovac an unavoidable place, for good summer entertainment.
Roman mosaics, medieval architecture, and modern buildings are located in a small bay at the foot of Pastrovacka gora. Summers here are like a hive, with a festive atmosphere, while winter is calm and quiet – when only the waves and the locals are reminding of the importance of this small place.
Petrovac used to be called Kastel lastva because of the small fortification located on the cape, in front of the cliffs, thanks to which it resisted attacks from the sea for a long time. Now it is a small fortification and a tourist destination that attracts curious visitors but also filmmakers and artists.
Just thirty minutes drive from Porto Montenegro and you can enjoy Petrovac and the reflection of the sun as it crumbles over the islets.