“This magic bay, in which the rugged and almost inaccessible hills of south Herzegovina and Montenegro descend and sink, is called Boka Kotorska. People who have travelled the world describe the Bay as one of the most beautiful areas in the world; and truly, it looks as if nature was playing while creating its marvellous works.” (S. M. Ljubiša)
Boka Kotorska is a unique bay in the Mediterranean. It is an exceptional cultural landscape created through the harmonious symbiosis of natural phenomena and man-made heritage. The exceptionally favourable and specific natural and climatic conditions of the Bay were decisive factors for the early settling of the area. This led to the formation of towns and settlements in a distinctive way, creating a unique harmony of the works of nature and human spirit.
(Sources: Nomination documentation for the inscription of Cultural-Historical and Natural region of Kotor on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and Miloš Milošević, “Istorijski tokovi na području Zaliva” - History of the Bay of Boka Kotorska)
Various morphological, geological and hydrological phenomena contributed to turning this area into an exceptional creation of nature, unique not only in the Mediterranean but also, when adding an anthropogenic component, in the world. The Bay is surrounded by steep limestone mountains of the Dinaric Alps, reaching a highest elevation of 1895 m (Mt Orjen) and a greatest depth in the Bay of 52 m, which makes this area one of the rare holokarst areas in the world, with particularly evident karst morphology and hydrology.
These exceptional natural conditions, coupled with geographic location and historical circumstances, have created distinctive cultural properties whilst also under the influence of other cultures of the Mediterranean, West and partly East. However, these influences have been adapted to the local lifestyles and ways of life, and further disseminated to broader areas of the former Yugoslavia, Balkans and even Eastern Europe. This diversity and balance has blended with the natural environment of the Bay, creating thus, in the most humane way, a unique natural and cultural environment for human life.
The towns and larger and smaller settlements lining the coast of the Bay represent diverse and distinctive ensembles. Although each settlement has its own urban and cultural characteristics, they maintain the unity and continuity of cultural heritage of the whole area. The ecclesiastical architecture of the settlements has developed through the blending of different styles, especially Romanesque and Baroque; while secular architecture has created different forms of houses, through a mixture of vernacular architecture and influences of the Mediterranean, the West and the East. Elite secular architecture of the palaces takes an important place. Furthermore, in Boka Kotorska, there are rich collections and treasuries of our cultural heritage to be found.
The Bay of Boka Kotorska is part of the Club of the most beautiful bays in the world. Due to its exceptional cultural and natural features, a part of the Bay, the area of Kotor - consisting of the two smaller bays of Kotor and Risan - has been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979.
Well before and after the arrival of Slavic people, numerous states, sovereigns and rulers aspired to hold the Bay of Boka Kotorska in their possession. Its important strategic position on the south-eastern Adriatic, with its calm coves, could offer shelter to ships from the raging sea and pirates. It was adorned with numerous ancient towns, seafaring settlements and pleasant villages. No less than 15 times, various domestic and foreign rules succeeded each other for shorter or longer periods, shifting the boundaries of the Bay. However, only several longer-lasting rules created deeper changes, leaving an indelible mark on the history of the whole area.
The town of Kotor has not always been the centre of the Bay. The town acquired this prominent position as a political, economic and cultural centre, giving the name to the whole Bay, in the period of its full development in the Middle Ages. During the Illyrian and Roman period, the main town in the Bay was Risan, after which the whole Bay had been named the Bay of Risan (Sinus Rhisonicus). The town of Herceg Novi was established in the 14th century, while the settlements along its Riviera saw rapid development after the liberation of this part of the Bay from Turkish rule in 1687. Between the 16th and 18th century, during the Venetian rule, the settlements of Perast, Dobrota, Prčanj and Stoliv developed and gained power, acquiring the status of seafaring communities. During Austrian rule, the town of Tivat became the main naval base in the Bay.