Your Everything-To-Know Guide To Omiš, Croatia
Last year we had the chance to spend an entire month in Croatia, from which we spent a week in Omiš. Actually, we stayed in the small holiday village of Duće right next to Omiš, and we spent that week exploring the beaches and other exciting activities of the Omiš Riviera. Other exciting activities became our preference as the weather got too cold for swimming in the sea for the second part of the week (it was the end of September). Luckily, there’s no shortage of those other kinds of activities, and they will make any adventure and outdoor lover fall for Omiš.
So let us show you all that’s worth seeing and doing in Omiš – that we dare to call the adventure capital of Croatia.
A bit of history: the home of pirates
First of all, I’d like to tell you about history. You can feel history while walking on the cobbled streets of the old town in Omiš (yes, it has an old town with those adorable alleyways), but do you know that this place was the home of pirates in the 13th and 14th centuries?
The mouth of the Cetina River was a great place for pirates to attack trade ships, and then retrieve back up the river so they couldn’t be followed by those large ships. You can imagine, Venice and Dubrovnik, the wealthy trade republics of that age, were not at all impressed by them. They tried to put an end to these pirate attacks, but it was not until 1444 that Venice managed to capture the old pirate town.
Today, the main income source for Omiš is tourism – and stories about the pirates of the old times, among others.
So why should you visit Omiš?
This small port is at the mouth of Cetina River, and an impressive canyon meets the Adriatic Sea there. Cetina River Canyon is the place for adventures, while long, sandy beaches (which are quite rare in Croatia) tempt you for lazy days – or beach volleyball (well, there are people who just can’t stand a lazy day, even on the beach… uhm, like us?).
15 kilometres long Omiška Dinara Mountains tower above the riviera, but it’s not only a beautiful backdrop that they offer while you enjoy the beaches, you can go hiking and climbing there, and enjoy magnificent panoramic views.
Walk in the old town
Let’s start with a walk in the old town. Located on the southern side of the Cetina River, it’s small, but lovely. It includes the picturesque alleyways around St. Michael’s Square, the old town gate and the Romanesque Mirabella Fortress settled above Omiš.
Mirabella is the fortress of pirates! It looks quite dramatic, being built on a cliff – and it offers fantastic views of Omiš thanks to this fact. You can reach it on foot, by following the stairs next to St. Michael Church, and there’s an entrance fee to access the higher grounds of the fortress.
Omiš is home to quite a number of churches, actually. St. Michael Church is in the heart of the old town, pre-Romanesque St. Peter’s Church is from the 10th century, and there’s also an old Franciscan Monastery.
Walk up to the Starigrad Fortress
But for us the highlight of Omiš, the coolest ruin with the best views was Starigrad Fortress, also called Fortica. We had to hike about an hour to reach this 15th century fortress, and we did it happily, even though the path is steep. But we were imagining all the wonderful views that await at the top – and rightly so.
We paid the entrance fee, and then walked around in the old ruin that offered views in every direction: views of Omiš and the Cetina River, views of Omiška Dinara Mountains, and views of the coastline. We watched the sunset there, and then hurried back on the steep trail so that we didn’t need to hike it in pitch darkness.
Omiš, the adventure capital of Croatia
A confession first: we’re not adrenaline junkies. I’d have still tried several of those things that Omiš offers in this regard, hadn’t I had a baby attached to my back or holding my hand. But since we had our 1 year old baby boy with us, we wanted to find programs that we can enjoy together as a family.
We’ll be back to Omiš some years later though to try those awesome activities it got famous for in the past couple of years. Like rafting, canoeing or canyoning on the Cetina River, or try the 2 kilometres long zip line above Cetina Canyon. Are you getting excited? You can easily notice where you can sign up for them if you walk on the shore of the Cetina River in Omiš. These activities are not just exciting, but they give you views of the Cetina Canyon that you can’t enjoy from anywhere else. That’s the main reason we’d like to try rafting there once.
Hiking above the Cetina Canyon? Yes, you can!
Rafting or canyoning are undoubtedly the best ways to see the most impressive sections of the Cetina Canyon. This canyon is so hard to access otherwise that no hiking trail takes you there, your only way is to get there on water. Well, wait. There is a hiking trail.
While we’re completely aware that the views can’t be compared to those that you get when on the water, we found it a nice and easy hike – and a perfect family-friendly activity with small kids to still catch a glimpse of the Cetina Canyon.
The trail that’s called “St. Leopold Mandić Educational Track” starts from the village of Zakučac. The trailhead is near the hydroelectric power plant, and it’s not a particularly pretty sight. But to our relief the path got nicer as we reached the forest and started our ascent. Here’s a trail map of this 3.4 kilometres scenic loop that offers some views of the Cetina River from above.
You can continue towards 376 metres high Biloševo peak for even more Cetina views.
Hike in the Omiška Dinara Mountains
Our favorite trail in the area is the one to Kula peak though. 863 meters high Kula is the highest peak of the Omiška Dinara, and I know what you think… 863 metres is not that high. Is this trail impressive enough? Believe me, it is!
We parked our car past the village of Borak, and the views were quite nice already: views of Omiš and the coastline, and giant white cliffs towering above us. The trail was scenic all the way, and a breathtaking 360 degrees panorama waited for us at the end. We could see all the nearby Adriatic islands below us, and even Biokovo Mountains in the distance. The last ascent to the summit was strenuous though, we had to carefully watch our steps on the rocks.
We timed this hike to the afternoon, and we got back to our car just after sunset which meant we enjoyed fabulous coastal sunset views on the last section of the trail!
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Sandy beaches of the Omiš Riviera
Croatia is not famous for sandy beaches, most of its beaches are pebbly or rocky (and we actually prefer those, I tell you why in this post). Omiš and the Omiš Riviera is one of those few places that offer plenty of sandy beaches though.
Velika Plaža is the main beach of Omiš, 700 meters long, perfectly sandy, walking distance from the old town. It’s also close to the mouth of the Cetina River which means a bit colder water temperatures. Sea temperature at Omiš is usually 2-3 degrees lower than at nearby Split, because Cetina is a cold mountain river.
However, our favorites were Duće, Galeb and Brzet Beaches. Honestly, they’re so similar to each other that it’s not worth writing about them separately: sandy, with relatively shallow water, a small bar and trees planted on the beaches to give shade. They offer a nice view of the Omiška Dinara in the background.
30 kilometres long Omiš Riviera has lots of more beaches, we’d especially like visiting hidden, spectacular-looking Vruja Beach next time (it requires some hiking to get there).
Duće, the lovely holiday village near Omiš
If it isn’t for the sign that indicates the end of Omiš and the beginning of Duće, you wouldn’t notice. They’re like one settlement, and Duće is like a holiday district with a series of sandy bays following one another. The streets behind them are narrow and steep, mountains are close to the shore. Actually, I liked stepping out of our apartment and heading to the nearest trail that takes me up to the first viewpoints in those mountains in about half an hour.
The only thing we missed in Duće is a nice seaside promenade. You can walk on the beaches, that’s true, but walking in the sand is not always comfortable. If you’d like to get anywhere on foot in Duće, the fastest way is right by the main road which is relatively busy, and cars often don’t slow down as much as they should. With that said, you can go by car, and plenty of free parking spaces are available by the road.
Parking in Omiš
Of course, parking in Omiš is different. The big parking area that’s about 400 meters from the old town (on the opposite side of the bridge) charges hourly parking fees. However, if you turn left after crossing the bridge towards the old town, and start driving along the Cetina River, you can find free parking spots after a tunnel. They don’t look official, rather just patches of dirt by the road, but no sign forbids parking there. If you’re lucky and don’t mind walking a bit to the old town, you can leave your car there for free. Your last option is, as always, booking a place in Omiš that offers free private parking.
Overall: Omiš is worth more days!
With a lovely old town, two fortresses, countless hiking trails in the Omiška Dinara, and several beaches and adventure activities, Omiš easily deserves to be on any Dalmatian itinerary – and it’s a must-stop for adrenaline junkies! We spent a relaxed week there, and we didn’t even have time to wander too far from Omiš and see other small towns (and hidden beaches) of the riviera. We didn’t explore enough hiking trails either. But how can we see the whole world if we go back to the same places again and again? Nevertheless, we’d happily do that – and the whole world. 😛
Bea is the co-founder of Our Wanders. She’s the writer and the trip organizer, and she’d love to help you plan your own amazing trips! She likes hiking, good novels and chocolate, as well. Her motto is: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)