There are many lovely locations to visit, as day trips, from Split. We made four such day trips, although there are many other locations.
Fortress Klis was our first trip. Now this, to me, being a Game of Thrones fan, was delightfully exciting. You see Fortress Klis was the slave city of Meereen in GoT and I was just like a little boy heading to the lolly shop as we caught the local bus out there.
We caught bus number 22 from the bus stop on the road next to the local bus station. The intercity bus station is in the port, whilst the local bus station is outside Old Town near the Joker Mall. There are other buses you can catch but number 22 terminates at Klis. The cost for a one way trip was 20 Kunas each or AUD$4. The trip takes 40 minutes.
The fortress is perched on a small mountain and protected the entrance to Split through a mountain pass between the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, and is the same colour as the mountains around it and certainly blends in.
The Fortress was built way back in 3rd century BC. The Romans used it for about 400 years and then it became the home of the Croatian Kings. Throughout its history the fortress changed hands on many occasions with the Ottoman Empire, and even the Knights Templar having control at various times. It was abandoned as a military post at the end of the 19th century. It is now a small museum and a tourist attraction with the most amazing views.
The bus journey is a unique little adventure in itself. The bus winds up the side of the narrow mountain road and offers those, on the right side of the bus, gorgeous views back to Split and the surrounding islands. As the bus creeps up the mountain you are teased by glimpses of Fortress Klis up above you.
It cost 40 Kunas each for entry. We arrived early, just after 9am and the place was pretty much empty of tourists.
The Fortress has 360 degree views where you see the city of Split, the ocean, mountains, mountain passes, islands, it is in the perfect military position to see everything – not to mention a tourists’ delight!
I did some research on the TV show GoT filming locations in Croatia, and I had a collection of stills from the show, that were from Fortress Klis – so I was off at a gallop to find these spots and let me tell you, it was fun!
There are many nooks and crannies where you have to crouch down and wander along – you have the run of the place and no one in authority seems to be watching you getting ready to pounce if you climb on something or go where you should not – it is all very relaxed.
There are no fences preventing you climbing on the fortress walls – which often have a drop over the edge. This is a pleasant change from the over-protected world we can often find ourselves in – yes, I understand duty of care, but individuals need to take personal responsibility.
I found some GoT settings from the TV show and I did my best to replicate the moment in the show. Please bear in mind that Hollywood has the benefit of CGI to create an illusion from what is there.
After about 10am, the tour buses started to arrive. Even a GoT tour arrived and the guide led them around explaining key scenes from the show – I tagged along like a ‘little bird from spymaster Lord Varys collection’ and gathered little scraps of information.
We were there about two hours and then caught bus number 22 back to Split. It is worth the trip for the views alone. Then there is the history, the fortress mountain setting, GoT allure and the bus trip up and down the mountain. You can do all this in a morning and pay just 80 Kunas (AUD$16) for return bus and entry fee, a bargain. I would imagine, in high season, the Fortress would be very crowded, so either arrive early or perhaps later in the day to avoid the peak crowds. This is a must do in Split.
Our second day trip was a little more complicated doing it by ourselves due to bus issues. We caught the 8am bus from the intercity bus terminal, at the port, to the town of Skradin. The cost was 28 kunas each for the 65 minute journey. Skradin is one of the entry points to the Krka National Park.
The Krka National Park is huge and has many attractions. The most common is Skradinski Buk and this is where most day tourists head to. Skradin is a quaint lovely little town on the river. You buy a national park entry ticket here and that price includes a 20 minute boat trip to Skradinski Buk. The entry price was 110 Kunas (AUD$22) each but that was the off-season price, it is more expensive in the summer season.
The boat left at 9.30am and it was a nice enough trip into the park. The highlight though is when you near Skradinski Buk and you can see the waterfalls and its spray rising up.
Skradinski Buk is a series of waterfalls, 17 waterfalls in total. Some of these waterfalls fall from heights, whilst others are more a cascade. In summer the area of the river below the last fall is a swimming area but this area does close down for swimming from October onwards.
Mixed in among these falls are large pools filled with crystal clear water – it is surprising just how clear and blue the water is.
There is a wooden walkway that loops around the falls and goes for about 3 kilometres.
The walkway starts where the boat drops you off, there is a bridge over the Krka River and then the walkways climbs up the side of the waterfalls and pools. On this walkway you are very close to the waterfalls and can clearly experience each layer of the waterfall.
The waterfall was home to a watermill in the ‘olden’ days. The watermill village has now been restored and you wander through the many little buildings watching the water cascade through the buildings – this is all included in the entry ticket. There are several shops, cafes, bars and restaurants mixed in with the buildings. However, these bars etc, are all tastefully incorporated into the lovely setting of the village. It is a pleasure to wander around.
There is an entry to the park at the top of the waterfall area from the town of Sibenik. The tour buses started to arrive whilst we were there and our pace quickened a little as we ventured down the other side of the falls along the walkway. It is on this side that you get the best views of the falls and the watermill village mingled throughout the falls. The viewing area though is only small and it is all about timing to get a decent spot to view the falls – but the view is magnificent.
It took us about 90 minutes to wander around the falls at a reasonably leisurely pace. Once back at the bridge I knew the way to Diane’s heart is through an ice cream, so we sat for a short time and just viewed the last fall and she indulged in an ice cream treat.
The next boat back to Skradin was 12 midday and we wandered back to the jetty. The boat we caught at 9.30am was about three-quarters full and everyone was seated – the 11.30am boat from Skradin arrived at 11.50am and it was jam-packed, with many people standing – be early my friends.
This is where it gets tricky, catching the bus. We arrived back at 12.30pm and knew the next bus to Split was at 2pm. We tried to buy bus tickets but the ‘ticket office’ said it was ‘first on and pay the driver’. The next bus after the 2pm bus was not until 5pm so it was essential we got on the 2pm bus.
Whilst we waited we wandered the lovely town of Skradin. Skradin is small but it is on the river and it does have an Old Town area with several churches. We stopped at a great little cafe in Old Town and had a beer.
We were at the bus stop waiting for the bus and two Finnish girls arrived to catch the bus. We had heard that if the bus is full and no one is getting off at Skradin then it will just drive on by – fortunately it arrived and stopped at 2pm. Two people got off and when the four of us got on there were only two vacant seats on the bus left. I am not sure what happens if there are only four seats on the bus available and six people want to get on – that is the risk you take with do-it-yourself travel.
I loved the experience again of catching the bus and then the boat out to the waterfalls. I like getting there early and having more freedom without the jostle of loads of other people – as I said the risk is whether you can get on a bus or not. I would recommend Skradinski Buk as an absolute must do from Split as it is a gorgeous location. The cost for the bus each way and entry fee was just under AUD$30 each.
For our third trip we were tossing up between Sibenik and Trogir and in hindsight should have done both. We went to Trogir and caught the intercity bus, that takes 30 minutes, and left from the port bus station. The cost was 22 Kunas (AUD$4.50) each.
Trogir is an island located between the mainland and the small island of Ciovo. Trogir is connected to the mainland by a small bridge and to Ciovo by a slightly larger bridge, and is one of the many towns in Croatia included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Trogir was established as a port city back in the 3rd century BC.
The bus stop is right next to the bridge from the mainland – yet the bridge is so small you will hardly realise you are crossing onto an island. We went across the bridge and the walled city is in front of you.
Then right in the middle of the wall is the North Gate and there you will see St. Ivan Trogirski the protector of the town.
Once through the gate you are confronted with the usual Old Town maze of narrow streets leading to churches and squares. However, the architecture in Trogir is said to be ‘the best-preserved Romanesque-gothic complex, not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe’ – you cannot argue with that, not that I know a thing about art! The buildings, to me, are impressive though.
In the main square there are loads of cafes and it has the marvellous St. Lawrence Cathedral as its centre piece. St. Lawrence is a 13th century church with amazing sculptures and a great bell tower. Opposite the church is Duke’s Palace with its large clock tower. The square is the place to have a coffee and view the history around you.
There are many other small churches and monasteries within the walled city but it was the promenade on the other side of the island that caused the wow factor with me.
The bridge from Trogir to Ciovo is where the promenade starts and it runs down to Fortress Kamerlengo.
The promenade is wide and one side of the promenade is café after bar after restaurant after café… it is just goes on.
Right in the middle of all these cafes is the South gate and a school, to our amazement the ‘playground’ for the school is the promenade!!!
On the other side of the promenade is the ocean, which is a beautiful blue colour, the island of Ciovo is a few hundred metres away and the channel has many luxurious boats moored in it. Thus when the school kids came hurtling out of the school and began madly running around the promenade it was like ‘What the’!!!! One minute the promenade was serene and postcard perfect – the next it was middle school mayhem – twenty minutes later the screaming kids all disappeared again and the tranquillity resumed.
I can just imagine children being allowed to run freely during school recess and lunch next to the unfenced ocean in Australia, never happen – but here no one blinked an eye lid!
At the end of the Promenade is Fortress Kamerlengo which is a large fort but is only a shell of a fort – all that is left are the walls and a large watch tower.
It cost 25 Kunas to enter and this is worth it as you can climb up on top of the watchtower and there you have the best views of Trogir – the views are outstanding!!!
The path from Fortress Kamerlengo then comes back the other side of the island along the narrow channel with the mainland and you are back at the North Gate – along the way you pass a footbridge off the island.
If you were to walk at a steady pace it would take you no more than 15 minutes to walk around the circumference of the island – yep, it is that small!
Thus after about 90 minutes of weaving through the multitude of narrow streets in Old Town you have pretty much seen it all and have two options, eat or move on. It was only 11.20am and we thought about an early lunch but the cool breeze popped up and we decided to return to Split. In hindsight we should have gone to Sibenik.
We went to the bus station and were confronted with the same issue we had at Skradin, the bus was coming from Sibenik and there may, or may not, be a seat for us; we would only know once the bus arrived at 12.45pm. We then saw a local bus, number 37, bound for Split and thought, ‘what the hell’ and we caught it. We had heard the local bus number 37 can take between 50 minutes and 90 minutes to get from Trogir to Split – depending on the number of stops it makes. The distance back to Split is 27 kilometres, so this could take a while, and the bus driver seemed to have forgotten to install the bus suspension when he set off that morning, as it was a bumpy, uncomfortable journey. We got back to Split and it took exactly 56 minutes, once we straightened our backs out and put our spine back into place, we had the rest of the afternoon in Split.
Trogir is a beautiful place, it is small though. Thus either have a long lunch there or include Sibenik to make it an all-day experience.
Our last day trip was to Omis. Previously I have discussed how problematic a public holiday can be for travellers. We went to Omis by intercity bus on a Wednesday. It takes 50 minutes from Split and costs 28 kunas. What we discovered though when we arrived was that everything was closed – it was a public holiday in Croatia, the 1st of November is ‘All Saints Day’.
All Saints Day is also known as ‘All Hallows Day’ and is a day to honour all the saints and the martyrs. It was said that the night before All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, was when evil spirits roamed the land looking for human victims – do you see where I am going with this – All Hallows Day, the night before evil spirits – Halloween!!!! Anywho! Roman Catholics are supposed to go to church on All Saints Day and they are to commemorate those who died, in the previous year, by laying flowers at their grave. For us though we were all dressed up for adventure with no place to be adventurous.
Omis, has mountains, mountains very close to the town, in fact the mountains swamp the town.
Omis also has a beautiful river disappearing into the mountains.
These mountains and this river got our photography juices absolutely gushing and Di and I clicked away mercilessly!
Omis has two magnificent forts. One fort is called Fortress Mirabella and is built into the side of the mountain overlooking Omis – we walked up to it and it was closed for All Saints Day.
At this point we had no idea what All Saints Day was so we asked a young lady who, in very broken English, gave us a rough idea and that the whole town, except for the cafes, would be closed for the day – she then tried to sell us a boat trip up the river – not sure what was going on there, but we declined.
The second Fort is Fortress Starigrad and it is placed on the very top of the mountain. Apparently Fortress Starigrad has original dungeons that are worth seeing and it has outstanding views – but alas it was closed. Fortress Starigrad is a bit of a hike from Omis or you can get a taxi – but it was closed so we didn’t bother.
The Old Town in Omis is nice but small …. and empty – cannot win; either too many tourists or not enough. Di and I made our way to the Tourist Information Office – closed!
It seemed the only sensible thing to do was head to the beach cafes and drink coffee with the rest of the town inhabitants. The cafes on the beach were packed.
The beach, of course, was not really a beach but a collection of pebbles for people to lay on. We did though enjoy walking along the beach and taking more photos of the gorgeous mountains in the background.
In the end we went to a café and thought we would have an early lunch – but because it was All Saints Day food was not served until after 3pm – we could have coffee or beer – love it that we can get pissed, or hyperactive on addictive coffee – or both – but we cannot eat because it’s All Saints Day – oh well we had a beer to celebrate All Saints Day.
We then went to catch a bus back to Split. The bus terminal office was closed – All Saints Day – so we stood on the side of the road at the bus stop and decided to try to get on the first bus, local or intercity that came along – the All Saints were watching out for us because we, literally, waited five minutes and a local bus came, bus number 60 and we were off back to Split.
What we saw of Omis we liked. The reviews of the two forts are very positive and I would have enjoyed, not only seeing them, but the hike up to them. Omis though is the one of the most picture perfect places we encountered on the Dalmatia Coast – so if you have time it may well be worth a visit.
That, my friends, was the end of our fourteen day stay in Split. All I can say is, we loved Split and I highly recommend it if you ever come to this part of Croatia. We were now headed off to Makarska on the Dalmatia Riviera.
The adventure continues ………………………………………with All Saints Blessing!!!!!