Klis fortress has become known the last few years as an obligatory ‘Game of Thrones Tour’ stop. But it is much more than that.
The first time we came to this part of Croatia (that’s a few years ago now), I remember having looked up at the huge impenetrable wall of mountains lining the coast. I had been amazed, I had never seen that kind of geography. The mountain range has always been a natural defense between the Mediterranean belt and, beyond those mountains, the rest of the Balkans. Approaching Split you see one gap in that wall of defense, a pass between the mountains into the interior. And right there, right in that gap, is a high mass of rock with a huge stone fortress sitting on top of it. That’s Klis fortress.
Below: Klis Fortress in the 16th century
Situated on that pass, Klis fortress has been a strategic point and has guarded ‘the frontier’ since Roman times (in real life – funny enough just as in the fictional Game of Thrones). It was Roman fortress until besieged by the Slavs in the 7th century, a castle for a number of Croatian kingdoms, then a last line of defense against the Mongols in the 1200′s and the Ottomans in the 1500′s. For 25 years it repelled the Turks before finally falling to them in 1537. For 111 years the Ottomans controlled Klis and battled the Venetians who controlled Split (just 14km away). In 1648 the Venetians, with the support of Croatian locals, liberated the fortress. Under Venetian rule, the fortress was restored and greatly expanded. The Austrians took over the fortress in 1797, the French from 1805 to 1813, then the Austrians again until the end of the Astro-Hungarian empire in 1918. The fortress saw its last military action during the Second World War when it was a stronghold for Italian and German occupation forces. In 1990 after the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Croatian flag was placed on the fortress.
Today people who do come to visit Klis do so because of the whole ‘Game of Thrones’ hype and for the great views. It’s a fun place to visit, you can easily spend a few hours walking around the fortifications. There’s also a small church, a museum, and a room dedicated to Game of Thrones memorabilia (a few old photos and a dragon that looks like it’s been sitting there for a while). We came in January and were the only people there. During the summer it is more popular. Surprisingly however, I’m told it is never crowded – it only gets about 15,000 visitors a year. I really don’t understand that. It is a very impression place with a spectacular location.
Below: Game of Thrones room
If you don’t want to sign up for a tour and you don’t have a car, you can still get there easily by bus (especially on weekdays). The bus to take is the 22, and you take it right in front of the shopping center across from Split’s National Theatre (right outside the wall of the old town). See the schedule here. Note: the times on the schedule are departing Klis, so if taking the bus from Split add about 30 minutes. For example, you’ll see 13:00 (1pm) on the schedule. The bus will be in Split around 1:30 to turn around for Klis again. You’ll arrive in Klis at about 14:00 (2pm). It’s the last stop for the bus and is located right outside the castle. From there a 5 minute walk uphill to the castle gates.
It’s the same schedule coming back. We took the bus at 15:50 (3:50 pm).
NOTE: Klis Fortress is closed on Mondays.
Below: view of the fortress from the bus stop
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