HIKING ALONG THE VRMAC RIDGE

Boka Kotorska is a superb hiking area, in particular in spring and autumn. Although there are several trails and paths around Boka, hiking along the Vrmac ridge is getting more and more popular.

Why?

First of all, Vrmac has a very special position, as it is a long limestone ridge, separating the inner and outer parts of Boka. An old military road, built by the Austro-Hungarians, stretches all the way from the Vrmac Fortress to the 735 m high summit of Sveti Ilija (St. Eliah) – the total distance is 5.5 km (in one direction). I assure you that this is one of the most scenic hiking tours you can do on the Montenegrin Coast! It is not far from Kotor and Tivat, and it is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. No need to say that this walk is perfect for a family tour.

The tour includes ruins of Austro-Hungarian fortresses and military facilities, and it is particularly characterized by a series of stunning views of the different parts of Boka Kotorska, the summits of Mt. Lovćen and Orjen, Luštica peninsula and, far away, even the Adriatic Sea.

All this was a good reason for us to make the tour last weekend, on a bright and sunny day.

How to get there?

Although there are different access paths both from Kotor and Tivat, we used our car to get to the starting point – Fort Vrmac. From the Trojica pass on the old road Tivat-Kotor, near the junction where another road leads uphill to Njeguši, we passed the remains of the Trojica fortress with an old tower that is now being reconstructed. Turning left behind the fort (coming from Tivat), we took the narrow asphalt road uphill and after 3.5 km we reached the Vrmac fortress, where we could park our car.

Fort Vrmac

Fort Vrmac is one of the best preserved Austro-Hungarian fortresses in Boka Kotorska. It was established in 1860, but the present structure was built between 1894 and 1897. In those times, the fortress provided accommodation for the soldiers, but there were also ammunition magazines, cisterns, hospitals… The big grey buildings are in surprisingly good condition considering they have been left to the ravages of time. The windows are covered with rusty bars and the perimeter is riddled with large metal spikes, rising from the chaotic weedy ground. No wonder that we were not curious to explore the interior of the fort…

The hike

Our hike started above the fortress. Passing in between several abandoned farm buildings, we took the path through the shady forests. Unbelievable to find such dense pine forests in the middle of Boka Kotorska! We gradually ascended to a more exposed area with great vistas of the inner Bay of Kotor and got back to the old military road following the crest of the ridge, with stunning views to both sides of the peninsula. I could not help thinking of those poor people who had to build this stony road with edges of hand hewn stone…

After more than 4 km, we arrived at a junction. For the climb to the summit of Vrmac, Sveti Ilija, or “Hoher Vermac” as the Austrians called it, we had to turn right and continue uphill for another kilometer. We passed several ruins overgrown with ivy; obviously, they used to be lookout posts and store rooms. There was also a huge and well-preserved water catchment.

Sveti Ilija

On the summit of Sveti Ilija (St. Eliah) stands an abandoned building that once served for navigation purposes. What was more interesting were the remains of an observation bunker from 1910 – it once served as a permanent lookout. From the roof of the bunker we had incredible vistas of the surroundings. Kotor with its surrounding city walls looked like a maquette at the foot of Mount Lovćen and also the famous “Ladder of Kotor” – a footpath once used by Montenegrin women traveling to the market of Kotor – could clearly be differentiated on the rocky slopes.

The grassy plateau on the top of Sveti Ilija was a perfect place for a break and a picnic. We were happy to enjoy one of the most fantastic views of the Montenegrin Coast. Roaming around, we discovered the remains of two big embankments with cannon bunkers. We admired the deep blue water of the bay with Dobrota, Prčanj and Ljuta against a background of barren mountains, and on the other side we saw Tivat, Luštica peninsula and the shimmering Adriatic Sea. A huge cruiser that looked like a toy was quietly leaving the Bay. It was a perfect day!


Alternative routes

Although we decided to get back the same way, there are also other possibilities.

At the junction not far from the summit (follow the signposts), you can take the trail down to the Tivat side of the Bay and visit the traditional village of Gornja Lastva (300 m above sea level) with its interesting architecture. But in this case you should take into account that you are starting in one place and finishing in another, so you will need to get a taxi to pick you up in Gornja Lastva.

More useful information about hiking the Vrmac ridge can be found at www.montenegropulse.com (Hiking tours – Vrmac ridge).

I just wonder: how many Montenegrin families have made this fantastic trip with their children? And how many foreign tourists staying on the Montenegrin Coast have enjoyed these spectacular views? Be one of them: just wait for the first sunny day and make the tour!

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