This gem in the Adriatic is completely underrated (Picture: Getty Images)

Looking for a last-minute deal on your summer holiday but don’t want to head somewhere uber touristy?

If you’re looking to channel the likes of Italy and Croatia but without the crowds, why not try your hand at the little-known Kotor in Montenegro?

In analysing city safety scores, the number of landmarks and things to do, new research has labelled Kotor one of Europe’s top hidden gems for summer travel in 2024.

A fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, Kotor is renowned for its winding streets and romantic squares. Perfect for history fans, it has several Romanesque churches (including the Kotor Cathedral), as well as St Tryphon Cathedral.

Meanwhile, Valetta in Malta, which similarly gives off Italian vibes but without the price tag, was ranked number one hidden gem in Europe.

The research, compiled by the experts at italki, similarly named the likes of Matera in Italy, Sintra in Portugal, and Valencia in Spain.

According to one Reddit thread, Montenegro is blessed with ‘breath-taking beaches’ that are perfect for ‘slower travel’ (AKA, when you don’t want to rush around and squeeze too much in on your holiday).

Look at that sparkling blue sea (Picture: Getty Images)

‘The Montenegrin coast is indisputably beautiful. Tall breathtaking mountains on a peaceful bay of water flowing in from the Adriatic Sea,’ wrote Reddit user @isabroad in the r/travel thread.

‘You can go on stunning taxi boat rides between towns and islands. There are breath-taking beaches even along the main highway road. As a fan of slower travel, we decided to stop there for 5 days.’

‘If you go inland, it is quite a spectacular country. I spent 3 weeks near Kolasin a few years back. Fantastic hiking. Stunning natural vistas,’ added FlyDeeMouse in the comments, similarly professing their love for the underrated destination.

Things to do in Kotor

Looking to learn about the local history? There’s plenty to see in Kotor’s architecture, most notable in the Old City. The City Walls are an impressive feat, and the climb is tackled by tourists day in, day out.

Admission costs €8 between May and September, and technically, the walls are open 24 hours a day, perfect for night owls.

There’s also the beautiful Bay of Kotor, a winding bay that faces the Adriatic Sea that’s also the home of the southernmost part of the historical region of Dalmatia. The bay has been lived in for thousands of years, and the well-preserved medieval towns of Risan, Tivat and Perast are similarly worth a visit.

The Old Town is particularly worth a visit (Picture: Getty Images)

In fact, the area is so breathtaking that in 1979, the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For a classic Instagram picture, make your way up to the viewing point at the Road Kotor-Lovcen, where there’s plenty of room to park up and take a snap.

Elsewhere, with numerous Orthodox and Catholic churches and monasteries, Kotor attracts various religious pilgrims – as well as those interested in architecture and history.

St Tryphon Cathedral honours the patron saint of Kotor, and is a classic example of Romanesque architecture complete with pillars of pink stone, vaulted roofs and Byzantine-style frescoes (a style of water-based painting applied on fresh plaster, typically on wall surfaces).

When to go to Kotor

Naturally, if it’s sun you’re after, the best time of year to visit Kotor is the summer.

In June (AKA, just next month, if you’re after a last-minute deal), temperatures can dip up to 28C. In July and August it reaches a whopping 31C, and in September, it cools down a little at 26C.

Our Lady of the Rocks is off the coast of Perast (Picture: Getty Images)

However, if you’re in search of an off-peak getaway, it’s still relatively balmy in the spring and autumn. In October, temperatures remain at a respectable 22C, whilst in April and May it can reach 19C and 24C. Just remember to pack a sun hat!

How to get to Kotor

The cheapest route to Kotor from London is to fly to Dubrovnik in Croatia. The flight takes approximately 2 hours 50 minutes from Stansted Airport, and return flights are available via Ryanair for as little as £56 return.

From Dubrovnik, Kotor is just under 2 hours by car. But if you don’t fancy hiring or paying for a taxi, there are buses available which take around 2 and a half hours and cost around €24.00.

From Manchester, there are flights to Dubrovnik available, also on Ryanair, which take 3 hours 5 minutes on average. Return options are available for around £81 in total.

The top 10 best hidden gems in Europe for travel this summer, according to the experts at italki

  1. Valletta, Malta
  2. Kotor, Montenegro
  3. Matera, Italy
  4. Sintra, Portugal
  5. Valencia, Spain
  6. Lausanne, Switzerland
  7. Coimbra, Portugal
  8. Salzburg, Austria
  9. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
  10. Heidelberg, Germany.

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