A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital
Omiš is a tiny town about 30 minutes south of Split situated where the Cetina river flows into the Adriatic. Protected by huge cliffs, the town’s prosperity in the 15th century came from a surprising industry – piracy. Omiš’ corsairs (pirates) would troll the coast, plundering vessels from Venice, Naples and Dubrovnik. They even attacked ships coming back from the Crusades. They would then retreat to their bases up the river, protected by the fortresses they built at the mouth of the river and by the alliances made with their highland neighbors.
Today the town is a center for adventure travel. You can do canyoning along the rugged gorges and waterfalls of the river, raft through rapids, free climb up the huge limestone cliffs, or do kayaking along the coast. Omiš also has the longest zip lines in Croatia (which we did). But my goal on this day was none of the above. It was a hike to a couple of fortresses overlooking the town.
The Starigrad Fortress (also known as Fortica) is located on a mountain with sheer views on 3 sides. First built in 1423 and later expanded upon because of the growing Ottoman threat, it has commanding views over the Adriatic.
I came up here with my hiking buddy Vedran. After the previous week’s 6 hour hike we figured that this 45 minute hike (one way) would be a piece of cake. It was actually quite challenging, more so because we went up the more difficult (ie. wrong) route. I’ll explain at the bottom of the post the better way to get up there. At the top the views are fabulous and vertigo-inducing: the fort is built right at the top of the mountain and you can look over the edge straight down on the town of Omiš. Impressive but scary at the same time. Makes you think of the poor guys who had to come up here to built this fortress.
A very short video
The other fortress worth seeing in Omiš is the Mirabella Fortress. Unlike Starigrad, it is an easy (and busy) 5 minute walk from the main town square. Mirabella was built in the 12th century and was used by the pirates as a shelter against reprisals from the powers in the area. Although not that high, it has great views of the gorge that follows the river into the interior.
The views from both fortresses are stupendous and are definitely worth a visit.
Omiš itself is tiny and can easily be explored in an hour. It has pretty streets and old buildings as well as a few churches (I read there are 9, which is a lot for such a small town). But the awe-factor in Omiš is the geography. There’s a long stretch of beach which is popular in the summer. Add to that the azure waters of the Cetina river and top it off with the immense cliffs which loom over the town. In many ways Omiš is a mini version of Kotor, another place that really impressed me because of its geography.
If you’re in Split I definitely recommend a visit to Omiš.
– Accommodation. Omis is also a good place for a relaxed vacation. In addition to the adventure activities, it’s a pretty town with nice beaches in a gorgeous setting. A few recommendations: Hotel Plaža (right in the center of town, steps from beach), Apartments Zdenko (right in the center, view over the river and gorge), Lighthouse Luxury Apartments (friendly, modern apartments, sea views and good prices).
– There are two ways up to the Starigrad. 1) Walk to the road besides the river, going through the 1st tunnel. You’ll see a parking lot on the other side. On the far side of the parking lot you’ll see the sign ‘Starigrad (Fortica)’. This path climbs up at an almost 40 degree angle through the forest. Strenuous and the views aren’t great. Don’t go this way, instead take way 2) In town, coming from the harbor, you’ll get to the beginning of the pedestrian street that runs down the center of the old town. Right at the beginning you’ll see a small sign indicating the Strarigrad, an arrow pointing up a side street. Follow the steps, it will lead you to a road which will bring you further uphill. There you’ll see other ‘Starigrad’ indicators. Just follow that; it will lead you along a nice path overlooking gardens that will zig-zag up the hill giving you great views over the sea. It will take you about 45 minutes to reach the top.
– There are signs all over town to get to Mirabella. The main path starts right next to St. Michael’s church on the main town square. You’ll be at the fortress gate within 5 minutes and will have to pay 15 Kuna to enter.
– Another great spot with views very close to Omis: A hike to the Mila Gojsalić statue, Omiš
– Bus from Split. You can take city bus 60 from the large intersection behind the green market. 21 Kuna. Or go to the bus station and take a bus from there. There are many buses doing the route between Omiš and Split and it’s easy getting a bus.
– Organized Adventure Activities in Split.
Have you been to Omiš? Did you do any adventure activities?
Related: Ziplining in Omis
Related: A Guide to Split (with day trips)
Related: Our 11 Favorite Places in Croatia
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