A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital. And why it’s my favorite small town in Croatia.

A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

Updated September 24, 2019

Sometimes reading a magazine on the toilet is a good thing. I would have never heard of Omiš otherwise.

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 magazine I had read featured a photo similar to the one at the top of this post. 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.

Starigrad Fortress, Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital
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

Below: Some of the views from the Starigrad

Views from Starigrad Fortress, Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

Starigrad Fortress views, Omis, Croatia

views on Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

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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.

Below: Mirabella as seen from the main town square

Mirabella as seen from the main town square, Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

Below: Views from Mirabella Fortress

Views from Mirabella Fortress, Omis, Croatia

views from Views from Mirabella Fortress, Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

A Visit to Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

Views of Omis, Croatia. A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital


The views from both fortresses are stupendous and are definitely worth a visit.
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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.

Below: images of Omis

A visit to Omiš, Croatia’s Adventure Capital

church in Omis, Croatia

boats on the Cetina river, Omis, Croatia

the town of Omis, Croatia

views in Omis, Croatia

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If you’re in Split I definitely recommend a visit to Omiš.
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hiking in Omis, Croatia

 

Practical information

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. No fee to enter the fortress.

– 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.

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.

Car Rental. There are some amazing drives in the area, including to the Mila Gojsalic statue, to Makarska, and up Mt. Biokovo. We use Rentalcars.com, they give you the best rates on car rentals.

Organized Adventure Activities in Split. The #1 Activity is Ziplining the longest zipline in Croatia (I did it. You can read about it here). You can also: do white water rafting in the Cetina River for either 3 hours or 5 hours.

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).

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Have you been to Omiš? Did you do any adventure activities? Appreciate any feedback
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A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital
A visit to Omiš: Croatia’s Adventure Capital

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28 Comments

  1. Omis looks like a great day trip from Split!
    The fortress hike looks similar to the hike up to St. John’s Fortress in Kotor, Montenegro. Have you done that? We did recently — splendid views up top :-).

    1. Hi Janice/George,
      Yes, did that one as well – we’ll actually be back in January.
      St. John’s fortress has stairs, Omis is a trail. But as far as difficulty and length it’s probably quite similar as I recall. Both great views.

  2. Hi Frank,
    not only have I(we) been to Omis, we live there.
    That is to say, we live behind Omis, just behind the coastal mountains, in what’s called Omiska Zagora.
    Five minutes down to the Cetina, another five to our swimming spot at the Adriatic.
    Ok, one “secret” I will share:
    leaving Omis direction Makarska, the very first road to the right leads to Brzet.
    Continue that road till you reach a restaurant/terrace/beach called Zvizdan.
    It’s food is above the average in town, but that doesn’t matter, it’s the location that’s fantastic.
    Already during the day, not as packed as Omis’ beach, later in the afternoon/early evening is thé time.
    Keep it a secret :-).
    Pozdrav iz Svinisce, Pim.

    1. Thanks Pim! I’ve had my wife’s hairdresser tell us exactly the same spot. We’ve never been but it sounds fantastic. Unfortunately we may never get to see it as we have to leave the country in a month and I’m not sure if we’ll ever be in the Split/Omis area again. But if we do find ourselves here, we’ll definitely go to Zvizdan.
      You live in a beautiful spot. I’m always amazed by the cliffs and mountains. Earlier last year I walked from Omis to the Mila Gojsalic statue. The scenery of the place blew me away.
      Thanks for the tip!

  3. Thanks to this post, we ventured from Split to Omis yesterday and made the hike to the fort. It was strenuous and we doubted that we would make it in 45 mintues, but we got to the top in exactly that time. Unfortunately, we endured gale force winds at the top, which made it a little difficult to enjoy the views, but an excellent hike all the same! Thanks for the tip!

    1. Great! Glad you saw it. We had gale force winds as well, must be coming down the gorge.
      Hope you also got to visit the Mirabella Fortress?

      1. We didn’t. We had a bit of a late start and were meeting friends for dinner back in Split. It was seriously so windy we had to yell to hear each other talk and duck, crawl and hang onto rocks to not get blown over. I felt like the idiot weatherman standing in the middle of a hurricane – haha.

        1. Scary huh? I was at the very top and had to hide behind the wall in the top tower, otherwise felt that I could be blown over the edge. Yes, like an idiot weatherman 🙂

  4. WOW!!! The photos are absolutely amazing! I love places with history, and the wall and fort ruins are stunning! You’re so funny and honest about reading on the toilet, probably most of the population does that but won’t talk about or admit it, lol. The history of this place is so interesting, Are the pirate bases are still intact up the river? They would also be great places to visit. If I ever get the chance to meet you guys traveling, I’d love to see this town and Split, I would totally try zip lining and I love to hike I love your FB page and blog, I feel like I know you guys even though we’ve never actually met. I hope one day we do!! Have a great day & be safe in your travels!!

    1. I’d go back anytime and we could totally go ziplining together! Spanky woudn’t come though 😉
      I don’t know about what’s further up riving except for a lot of adventure sports bases like the ziplining and canoeing.
      Thanks for all the nice words Dee 🙂

  5. The red roof tops, green tree’s and the blue water and sky – it’s breath-taking. With each place you feature I keep thinking – why haven’t I been to Croatia yet?

    1. Thanks Paula. Yes, we are not happy to be moving on right now 🙁 Pretty sure we will come back one day.

  6. Okay..that just looks so beautiful :-). I wouldn’t hike it mind you, the bus would do just fine. Once again, l sound like a broken record..parts of it remind me of Gozo and Malta. I would like this place for sure.. Great images!!!

    1. Whenever you say Gozo I think of Gonzo 😉
      Sorry Kemkem, no bus up to the top. No elevator either. You and Spanky would get along for sure.

  7. Beautiful photos. How high up did you have to climb? Have you had much of an opportunity to mix with the locals apart from your climbing companions?

    1. Thanks John. It was a steep 45 minute hike. I’m guessing about 600 – 700 meters up?
      Vedran quite the chatter and he spent a lot of time talking to the owner of a cafe we went to. Very friendly people and a laid-back lifestyle.

  8. Wow! What a beautiful place and amazing pictures! We will have to put this on our to do list next time we head that way. So I read your trip is coming to an end soon. Where are you headed next? Can’t wait to see more blog posts and beautiful pictures!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. We started our trip north yesterday and are now in Zadar. Over next 10 days we’ll be seeing the Plitvice lakes, Zagreb, Ljubljana (and hopefully squeeze in Lake Bled), Piran and Trieste…before flying out of Venice on the 13th. We have a month slated in Montreal to catch up on some administrative things.
      But we’ll be back to full time travel in July sometime. Just haven’t figured out the next leg yet 🙂

    1. Its one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been Tom. A little over 2 months here and we’re sad that it will be coming to an end soon…

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