Montenegro vs Mostar - which day trip to choose?
Updated: Mar 4
Montenegro (the Bay of Kotor) and Mostar (a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina) are popular day trips from Dubrovnik. Frequently people ask me which one is better. Ideally, it would be great to do both since they represent two different experiences. Still, sometimes only one can fit into your holiday plans, so I will try to be as objective as possible in explaining both tours from certain points of view that could be relevant to you. The Montenegro day trip, as analyzed below, includes Perast and Kotor, while the Mostar day trip includes Pocitelj and Mostar.
Both day trips without hesitation can be described as scenic, but if you are more into landscape features, I recommend a day trip to Montenegro. Impressive steep mounts surrounding the fjord - alike bay with small villages and a couple of islets, make the trip a truly fulfilling experience.
Let's be honest; unless you are a historian, the whole region's history will be challenging to understand (a reason why you need a good guide!!!).
But what might be important to you while deciding which day trip to do, is whether you want to hear more about recent history or are more intrigued by remote times. Ilyrians, ancient Romans, Byzantines, medieval local rulers, Venetians, Turks and Slavs are all important in creating today's picture of Montenegro, while in Mostar, the emphasis is on more recent events related to the fall of Yugoslavia (even though the area also has a long history).
Montenegro can praise for more sights, but the most known single landmark is in Mostar (the Old Bridge). UNESCO recognized both areas as valuable contributions to the world's patrimony. Mostar bridges, minarets, towers, mosques, bazaars, and other sights reflect Oriental character. In contrast, medieval walls, fortresses, residental palaces, churches and bell towers of the Bay of Kotor represent the typical Mediterranean atmosphere.
If food is essential for selecting your day trip, and if you are a big fan of grilled meat or trying local dishes, choose Mostar. People often, after a trip to Mostar, mention the food and how much they enjoyed it. Large portions - small prices. River fish is also considered very good there. Those adopting halal standards will appreciate knowing that in Mostar, many restaurants have halal certificates. In Montenegro, you will eat rather good food, but rarely is the trip's highlight. As a seaside area, it naturally offers a better seafood choice than Mostar. But if you insist on experiencing the best of the local food on a day trip to Montenegro, you will have to opt for some of several higher-standard restaurants in the area. Depending on the time of the year, checking availability and booking a table in advance might be necessary. Vegetarians and vegans may not be pleased that both places lack specialized restaurants, but almost every restaurant offers vegan or vegetarian dishes.
Both areas are equally safe. Tourists are welcome and very important to local economies. Pick-pocketing is possible in both places, even though it rarely happens. You will likely see some people begging who could become persistent if you give them attention.
Eight to nine hours is the average duration of both trips. It is always better to depart earlier in the morning. I recommend leaving at 8 am during the lower season and even earlier during the peak season. Both day trips include border crossings which could significantly impact the duration of the trip, especially during July and August.
The national currency of Montenegro is the euro (yes, even though Montenegro is not a member of the EU). In Mostar, the currency is the Bosnian Convertible Mark. However, most shops and restaurants accept euros. Cards are widely accepted in both countries, but I suggest you ask if they do before using their service (especially if you intend to pay with American Express).
Services in Mostar are offered at more competitive prices than in Kotor.
Kotor offers better shopping, at least in the historical center. The area of Mostar that tourists visit on a day trip is loaded with restaurants and souvenir shops. There is a big shopping mall within a short driving distance, but going there is rarely included in day trips. On the other hand, Kotor counts numerous boutiques inside the Old Town.
I believe hiring a local driver-guide to take you to Montenegro or Mostar is always better. In that way, you will be more relaxed to enjoy the trip, you will see and learn more. Also, you will not have to think about those stressful details that are an inevitable part of any trip to the unknown.
But if you insist, read carefully!
Concentrate on driving! The roads are windy and probably narrower than those you are used to driving on (sometimes there is just one lane for both ways). In many places, there are no adequate sidewalks, and people will not hesitate to walk on the road itself. Obviously, you should understand the traffic signs and rules. The locals tend to drive in an aggressive manner, and often, you will be surprised/scared because you will see them surpassing where it is dangerous and not allowed to do that. During drier months, road works are often done, so you may have to use alternative roads. Try to park at supervised parking. Do not leave your passports/wallets in the vehicle. Neither Montenegrin nor Bosnian police will tolerate it if they see you driving above speed limits, which is sometimes tricky because there are, at some points, really low-speed limits. If you rent a car, inform the rental agency about your intention to visit Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not all car rentals provide all-inclusive insurance, so you will likely have to pay an extra fee for driving there.
Montenegrins and Bosnians-Herzegovinians are generally friendly and welcoming people. Consider that you will primarily meet people who offer their services, so some of them could be a bit pushy (Mostar merchants a bit more). The staff that awaits on tables is usually friendly and helpful.
The majority of the Montenegrin population are Orthodox Christians. The coastal area of Montenegro is the area with the highest concentration of Roman Catholics and Catholic churches within Montenegro.
The prevalent religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Islam, but Orthodoxy and Catholicism also have a significant presence. (Medjugorje, a famous Catholic shrine, is on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Religions influence Bosnian-Herzegovinian inhabitants' politics and everyday life, but tourists will not be affected by that, nor will they notice it. Mostar is often called a place where the East meets the West. It's where the peaceful coexistence of different religions is often underlined.
CROWDS AND BORDERS
Mostar and Kotor are two popular destinations outside the Croatian national territory. Therefore, it is essential to consider these two factors to make your visit more enjoyable.
Crowds are expected in both places during the high season. Nevertheless, you can significantly avoid them by leaving Dubrovnik early (which is the advantage of private personalized tours). Moreover, by leaving early, the impact of the heat during the summer, which can be very unpleasant, especially in Mostar, is a little reduced. Crowds in the Bay of Kotor are also caused by cruise ships, so it is good to have insight into their arrivals when determining the date of your visit (check here).
As for border crossing, since the bridge that connects Croatia was opened, crossing the border on a day trip to Mostar has been simplified and is no longer a demotivating factor for visiting Mostar.
On the other hand, in the second half of July and the second half of August, there is a greater possibility of waiting at border crossings on a day trip to Montenegro.
The reason for this is that a significant number of Albanian emigrants to Western European countries drive to Albania / Kosovo (and back) for their summer vacation and pass through Croatia and Montenegro.
After all the items listed above, this factor will likely be a decisive one. Both Kotor and Mostar are outside the Croatian borders and show the characteristics of their countries and, as such, are worth visiting. However, Kotor, as a coastal town exposed to similar cultural and historical influences as Dubrovnik, differs less from Dubrovnik and the rest of the Croatian coast. On the other hand, Mostar witnesses the historical penetration of a different culture and religion into the region. Therefore, a visit to Mostar enriches you with a more diverse experience.
However, if you only have time for one excursion from Dubrovnik but are continuing your journey to Split (or vice-versa), consider visiting Mostar as a detour on your journey between Dubrovnik and Split. That way, you will maximize your time and be able to visit Montenegro and Mostar as well.