As we drove through the rocky hills of Dalmatia with the sea behind us and mountains ahead, I couldn’t actually tell where the fortress was. Apparently it was directly ahead of us- then kind of to the left- then kind of ahead again, and I was beginning to think that my eyes needed testing when I realised that whoever built this place was a strategic genius. The whole point of having a fortress camouflaged onto the top of a very high hill is that it’s sort of tricky to spot. Either that or there was an actual invisibility cloak covering the whole thing. After a while my eyes adjusted to see the square corners of stone which appeared to be almost carved out of the top of the rock that it was balanced on, like a crudely-carved statue on a pillar dotted with moss.
The history of Klis. Aka, Klis-Story
Soz pals, couldn’t help myself there. Klis Fortress has been around in some form or other for approximately the last 2000 years, with its history beginning when a tribe of ancient Illyrians started a stronghold on top of the hill. By the 9th century, (after a period of Roman rule), it had officially become the home of Croatian royalty, and for years to come the fortress continued to house Croatian kings. It was all very Medievally Royal, you know? A monastery and a church were built within the walls of the fort, and everyone was living a pretty much hunky dory lifestyle.
Next thing you know, the 16th Century had come around and the Ottomans decided it was about time they invaded. The fortress and surrounding area were taken over and stayed under their control for around 100 years, with their own adaptation of a mosque with a minaret being added to the Medieval structure. But. As is often the case in this strange old world of ours, everyone loves a good old power struggle, and eventually the Venetians attacked, won the fortress, and swiftly moved in. Classic. The mosque was converted back to a church, the fortifications were strengthened- clearly there was a bit of an issue with people seizing control whenever they felt like it- and the Venetians ruled the roost on the Dalmatian Coast until their empire fell and the fortress was taken over by…the Austrians. *faceplants*
The arrival of Game of Thrones
Don’t worry though guys, nowadays Klis Fortress really does belong exclusively to Croatia which I’m sure is a real relief on everyone’s part. Until recent years, it was more or less left to crumble, with not many people in the outside world really knowing anything about it. However, when the fort was used as a Game of Thrones filming location, things really changed. Now guys, I’m going to be honest with you; I’ve never actually watched a single episode of Game of Thrones. Soz. But I do know that Klis was transformed into the city of Meereen the fantasy series, (although they admittedly did use CGI for the gigantic pyramid), and that makes a visit to Klis all the more interesting for Game of Thrones Fans. Althojgh Dubrovnik is probably the most well-known of the GOT locations in Croatia, another closer-by filming site is Diocletian’s Palace in nearby Split.
Image from Game of Thrones. Check out that CGI pyramid, pals.
Related: What to do in Split
Present-day Klis and it’s beautiful views
Thanks to Game of Thrones, it became possible for a lot more money to be put into Klis Fortress to develop it as a tourist location. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of over-tourism- there needs to be a balance. But what this development means is that the upkeep of the Fortress is much better than it once was, plus nowadays there are a few exhibits open to do some learning in! Other than these exhibits, visitors are pretty much free to roam around as they please, and I really really appreciated how tranquil it was to look out from the walls across to the city of Split and the Adriatic Sea beyond it in the distance. All I could hear was a Croatian flag swinging in the breeze, and the occasional bird swooping overhead. So pals, aside from the historical significance of this stunning place- once known as ‘The Key to Dalmatia’- is worth visiting for the views alone. What an amazing location.
Despite Game of Thrones and the extra tourism it’s generated for Klis and Croatia as a whole, this landmark place still feels very much off-the-beaten path. There were only a handful of other people exploring the fortress walls with us, and most of those had arrived together on the same bus as us.
Tips for visiting Klis Fortress
- We visited as part of a tour from Split through the City Sightseeing Bus. A 24 hour ticket costs €20, with the red line focusing on Split, and the blue line taking you to Trogir, Salona, and Klis.
- In hindsight- we could have also easily reached Klis by local bus. A shuttle bus runs every hour for €3 each way, or local bus number 22 takes slightly longer but also runs between Split and Klis. (Click here for the timetable)
- By road the distance from Split is around 15 minutes.
- Entry to Klis costs 40 kuna, which is around €5. BARGAIN. Obv if you go with the sightseeing bus, entry is included.
- FYI- there are no toilets within the fortress! There is, however, a public loo at the bottom of the hill next to the car park. You’re welcome.