Although crucial to Split's history, the fortress of Klis was little more than a crumbling outpost until Game of Thrones happened. In season four, released in 2014, Klis fortress was transformed into Meereen, the largest of the three great Slaver Cities. It was the best thing to happen to Klis since the Croatian duke Mislav made it the seat of his duchy in the middle of the 9th century.
Suddenly funds were found to rehabilitate the ancient fortress and turn it into a tourist attraction. The project has succeeded marvellously. In 2018 the fortress attracted a record 70,000 tourists and 2020 should break that record.
Not only is the restored fortress evocative of days gone by, but a new museum at the foot of the fortress uses 3D holograms to tell the story of the fortress and its place in Split's history. And the fortress is now dramatically illuminated at night.
Klis is an easy day trip from Split and large enough to accommodate the visitor numbers comfortably. Wander the stone paths, marvel at the sweeping views that extend to the Adriatic and allow yourself to be swept back to the time when Klis was at the crosscurrents of history.
To visit Klis is to understand its historical importance. The fortress is perched on an unscaleable cliff that looms over a gorge between the Mosor and Kosjak mountains. It was the best route from Bosnia and the Croatian hinterlands to the Dalmatian coast. Control the fortress and you control a huge hunk of Croatia.
First inhabited by the Illyrians, its strategic importance prompted the Romans to expend considerable effort to conquering the territory which they finally did in 9AD. Inhabitants of the Roman city of Salona built villa rusticae in the area around the gorge and built a road from Klis to Salona.
The Visigoths tore through with the collapse of the Roman empire and were followed by the Byzantines. Upon the arrival of the Croats in the 7th century, Klis became the parish seat and in the 9th and 10th centuries it was a royal court. A succession of Croatian dukes and kings made Klis their royal seat and held on to it in the face of periodic and furious assaults until finally the Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1537.
As the seat of the sanjak, the Turks added to the fortifications and built a mosque with a minaret. In 1648, Venice seized the fortress from the Turks, converted the mosque into a church and strengthened the defenses. Much of what you see today in Klis dates from the Venetians.
When Venice fell, Klis was occupied by the Austrians. Much later, it was occupied by Axis powers during WWII. Now all is peaceful until the last weekend in July when a re-enactment of Klis's fall to the Turks takes place.
Admission is 60/30Kn adults/children and includes entrance to the museum. Opening hours are 9am-7pm daily.
Klis is only 15km north of Split and is accessible by car or public bus transport. The simplest approach by bus is to take bus 22. It runs frequently and leaves from outside the Croatian National Theatre but it runs on weekdays only. Bus 34, 35 and 36 leave from the central bus station at Sukoišanska street and stop at Caffe Bar Oprah where you can walk to the fortress.
Or, book a tour!
Half-day tour of Klis from $63.45
Game of Thrones tour from $77.04
Contact the Klis tourist board at 021-240 578.
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