Omis is a little town only 25km South of Split. Our blogger friend highly recommended it for its spectacular landscape and myriad of outdoor activity opportunities such as canyoning, rafting, ziplining and climbing.
It is also famed for its pirate history. Throughout the entire 12th and 13th centuries the pirates of Omis ruled the Adriatic sea from Omis to Dubrovnik, and all ship sailing by this small town at the Cetina mouth were forced to pay tribute for free passage or risked engaging in a battle against the ruthless pirates. As time went by, the pirates of Omis grew so powerful that in 1221 Pope Honorius III organised a crusade against them, in which his army was defeated.
We had planned a day trip down there on Ying’s birthday, but a few days out that was showing up as the hottest day so far with 36 degrees being forecast. Considering one of the highlights of the trip was to be a hike up to the Starigrad Fortress, combined with the fact it was also a weekend day (we have heard traffic can be a bit crazy on summer weekends there), we decided to postpone.
We looked ahead and found the only day with a temperature lower than 30 degrees. The trade off - a storm was forecasted. Ironically, it turned out to be a public holiday - Victory Day. So we didn’t quite succeed in avoiding the traffic!
It was an early start (6am bus) so we could get down and do the hike up and down the fortress before the heat kicked in. We decided against renting a car and driving down to Omis from Split since it was really just going to sit in a parking lot for the day. Instead we hopped on the local No. 60 Promet bus. The bus stops all along the coast, so you can get off at any of the many beaches between Split and Omis. The price was 21 kuna (August 2020).
The bus left the central station right on time with only a few passengers. We were expecting to do some sightseeing along the coast, but were disappointed in the fact that the bus was fully wrapped in advertising which made it virtually impossible to enjoy the scenery.
After 45 minutes bus ride, we hopped off the bus at the Omis port and headed straight to the pedestrian zone of the old town and found the sign to Starigrad Fortica.
It’s only about 2km up, but that 2km has 260m vertical climb with a lot of it over very loose rocky trails. The trail is not really technical, but requires good concentration - and a good pair of shoes!
The route has plenty of places to stop to take a breather and admire the expansive views over Omis, the rugged mountains and over to the island of Brac. It was from here that we really appreciated the dynamics at play that make Omis such a physically striking place. It’s a place where harsh jagged mountains of rock are divided by and then plunge almost vertically down into a beautiful green river, and where the Adriatic sea laps ever so gently against some lovely coves and beaches.
It took us about 35 minutes to get up to the fortress where we enjoyed the views but were disappointed that it was way too windy to be able to get the drone up in the air for some videos.
Built around14/15th century, Fortress Starigrad worked as an important protection from the Turks (Ottomans empire) who at the time occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina, threatening to conquer parts of the Croatian coast. In addition to being a great lookout post, the fortress was also the place for the citizens of Omis to retreat in case the attackers came too close.
The price to enter the fortress is 20 kuna per person. We stuck our heads in but decided that we didn’t really need to see the ruin and would rather find a good spot to fly the drone instead. On the way down, we found a place that provided some protection from the wind and were able to get the drone up and over the town for a quick fly. The little Mavic Mini kept getting buffeted by wind unfortunately and couldn't venture too far out.
Following the water front back to town we ended up on the sandy city beach. Surprisingly it is a sandy surface at the water’s edge, so that makes it really different to most of the Croatian beaches we have experienced. Following the beach to the end we went out to the point on the breakwall that marks the end of the river and enjoyed the views back over the town and the mountains that tower over it.
From there it’s a nice walk back into the old town along the river, boats off to your side and a wall of impressive vaulting mountains ahead.
The old town itself is really cute and extremely compact, at about 350m long and 50m wide it consists of essentially one long pedestrian only street fed by multiple laneways. When I say pedestrian only, that is not just by choice but by practicality as some parts of the main “street” are less than two meters wide.
This main street is jam packed with tourist shops, local wines and craft stores, and of course restaurants. The fact that it was a busy public holiday in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic made us feel pretty uneasy being in those busy tightly packed streets, and the thought of sitting there eating where people were literally scraping past you was very unappealing.
After having quickly explored the town and spotted landmarks such as The House of Happy Man and St. Michael’s church, we stumbled upon an old trail behind the Arsana Tasting House which gave us some great views over the old town, down the river and the best view of the 13th century Fortress Mirabela. Mesmerising to look at from different angles and heights, Fortress Mirabela was a reliable protection against the Omiš pirates when they were hiding in the secure Cetina Canyon in case of great danger. During the Ottoman attacks in 1537, the defenders of Omiš confused the invaders so much by yelling and firing and with help of the canyon echo that they thought that Omiš was protected by a much larger group of defenders.
Grumbling stomaches told us it was time for some lunch, not excited by the prospect of sitting in the tight lanes of town, we grabbed a Burek each at the local bakery and went to the Big Beach and watched some youngsters playing water polo which was quite entertaining. Water polo courts are quite a common scene, sitting off the coast including places in Hvar and Split. It must be a popular sport for Croatians.
After the little lunch break, we headed to Brzet Beach with pebbles and stunning incredibly calm turquoise water. The water temperature was surprisingly warm as we had heard that it is cooler around there than in Split. It was really interesting to note how quickly the water depth changes off the shore - Brad was diving down about five to seven meters within ten meters from shore and still not being able to see the bottom!
The calm waters, the view across to Brac and the steep soaring mountains around made it an incredibly picturesque place to swim. So we have promised ourselves that we will be coming back for another visit on a sunny day to really make the most of this lovely spot.
As some rain showers came and went, we took the cue and headed back to the bus stop, exhausted from a long and hectic day. Although a lot busier, the bus wasn’t wrapped in advertising so we enjoyed the views this time around! It was a much longer journey back with lots of traffic and a lot more stops for people jumping on and off at virtually every bus stop.
Despite being a stormy and busy day, we thoroughly enjoyed the day trip. Omis is incredibly photogenic and relaxing. Here you could go crazy with ziplining, canyoning, rafting, or just chill on one of the many cute pebbly beaches daydreaming. We regretted that we didn't book a few days stay here, but made a solemn promise to visit again soon.