In case you haven’t already read 10 Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Dubrovnik, let me be the first to tell you that Croatia is absolutely full to bursting with incredible Game of Thrones filming locations! And it’s not just Dubrovnik that sits on the Iron Throne. A little way outside of Split you’ll find the beautiful Klis Fortress, an ancient stronghold perhaps more recognisable to the younger generation as the City of Meereen.
Not a Game of Thrones fan?
That’s okay, Klis Fortress is an incredibly enjoyable day trip from Split for the whole family with or without an affiliation to one of the Great Houses.
I mean, who doesn’t love castles?!
While in hindsight it seems simple enough, the act of getting to Klis Fortress from Split without a car is an adventure in itself, especially as most of the information available online about the bus from Split to Klis Fortress is super confusing for those with zero Croatian language skills!
So if you’re looking for a DIY guide on how to get to Klis Fortress from Split, look no further! I’ve got you.
Psst…If you’re not interested in the history of the Fortress of Klis and want to jump straight on to instructions on how to get to Klis Fortress from Split, just click here)
But before we go into that, let me just tell you something:
Spending a beautiful sunny day visiting a medieval fortress that just so happens to feature on one of your favourite ever TV series is great.
But do you know what’s even better than that?
Visiting Klis Fortress and having the place all to yourself.
Discover more Game of Thrones in Croatia:
10 Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Dubrovnik
That’s what’s better.
Yup, despite its ever-increasing presence in popular culture as the City of Meereen filming location, Klis Fortress sees surprisingly few visitors.
So the chances are if you play your cards right you’ll have the entire place all to yourself!
The bloody history of Klis Fortress
Just a few miles northeast of Split, the ancient Fortress of Klis is perched neatly atop a hill overlooking the village of Klis, like a dragon keeping watch over its eggs.
Or, you know, an animal that actually exists keeping watch over its eggs.
It pains me to write that sentence – as a Welsh person I’m obviously a lifelong member of the Dragons Do Exist Party.
I mean, why would we have a dragon on our flag if they didn’t exist?!
The exact date of construction of Klis Fortress is actually unknown, although experts date it somewhere around 3 B.C., which would make it a youthful 2020 years of age at least. Holy moly that is old.
Over time its exact use and structure has changed somewhat, but can you really blame it?
Let’s be real:
If you ever manage to make it to your 2000th birthday without one or two facelifts along the way then, by all means, go ahead and judge.
But until then let’s just all admire the Fortress for the fact that it’s still there.
Much like its fictional sister city Meereen, Klis Fortress has seen its fair share of blood shed over the years.
Klis Fortress was originally intended as an Illyrian stronghold, which it was until the fall of the Roman Empire when it passed over to become a part of the Byzantine Empire.
During the 9th Century A.D., Duke Mislav, of the Duchy of Croatia, made the Fortress of Klis his throne. Like, he didn’t just sit on the wall the whole day pretending it was a fancy golden chair but made the Fortress his ‘seat’ in the ruling sense.
In the same way that the Queen has Buckingham Palace as her seat… I think.
After the death of Duke Mislav, the Fortress was ruled by royal members of the House of Trpimirović, who were first Dukes of the Duchy of Croatia and then kings of the Croatian Kingdom. They developed the stronghold into their capital, and Duke Trpimir I moved the dux’s main residence from Nin to Klis.
This bloke apparently did a lot to spread Christianity throughout medieval Croatia.
Good on him, I guess.
At some point, the Trprimirović family died out, and Klis Fortress was governed by a bunch of Croatian nobles. The King actually wanted to give the Fortress to the city of Split itself but they were all like “nah, I can’t be bothered with that” and so it fell into the hands of the Templars (for those unfamiliar with the term, the Knights Templar was a Christian military order).
A little later in time the Mongols came along and tried to attack Klis Fortress because they thought some guy called Béla IV of Hungary, who was apparently king of Hungary at some point, was hiding out there.
Spoiler: he wasn’t.
The Mongols had invaded Hungary a little bit earlier on, and somehow Belá IV managed to escape the battlefield of the Battle of Mohí and fled all the way to Croatia.
So along they came along on their horses, armed with spears and bow and arrows and whatever other weapons existed in the 1200s, and they started to unleash Hell on the Fortress.
Except it wasn’t exactly Hell because the Fortress is so well positioned and completely inaccessible on three sides that what they actually unleashed was…
A whole lot of nothing!
They got off their horses and tried to climb the sides of the Fortress for which, having been there myself, I can only applaud their courage.
Think sheer cliff drops, very pointy stones and a lot of weeds.
What they didn’t take into account was the fact that there were a bunch of people in the Fortress hiding behind walls, in the walls and on top of the walls, just waiting to throw rocks at them.
The Mongols climbed, the Croats chucked rocks at them, the Mongols fell and eventually they gave up.
They went off to other parts of Croatia to hunt out Béla IV but in one of history’s greatest games of Hide and Seek, they failed.
He survived to live almost 30 more years, dying from a terminal illness in 1270.
Nevertheless, Croatia had suffered quite a bit of damage from the extensive attacks the Mongols put them under.
A bit like the City of Meereen suffered some damage, right?
Between then and now, history dictates that the Fortress of Klis has exchanged hands a few more times, with the last military occupation being during World War II, by Axis powers.
Since 1990 and the independence of Croatia, the Fortress has been Croatian, as evidenced by the Croatian flag flying high above the structure.
What makes Klis Fortress so impressive?
Throughout my travels I’ve visited a fair few castles, fortresses, forts and other places of supposed military importance.
Growing up in Wales, which has been home to at least 600 castles over time, 100 of which are still standing in some form today, I’ve always had a basic understanding of what makes a good castle or fort.
In my opinion a fortress needs to be three things:
- It needs to be strong (obviously)
- It needs to have a good vantage point – there’s no point building it behind a wall!
- It needs to be impenetrable
Or as impenetrable as a man-made structure can be, at least.
Klis Fortress ticks all the boxes.
It’s built so high up that it gives you vertigo.
You have unobstructed 360° views of the surrounding areas.
There’s only one way in and one way out of the fortress (unless you count being hurled off the side of a wall).
And what’s more is that it’s built not on top of, but into the existing natural elements.
It’s not entirely 100% man-made, and so it can’t be knocked down and destroyed. It will always exist, at least in part.
Klis Fortress’s ideal location and natural defences have helped it secure its place in history as one of Croatia’s most important defensive structures… and now, one of Croatia’s most attractive Game of Thrones fliming locations.
So it’s totally and utterly bizarre that with all that history, all the background and the character of the place combined with its absolutely picturesque surroundings and serene settings, it doesn’t have absolute truck-loads of visitors on the daily.
Visiting Klis Fortress
Before it was featured in Game of Thrones as the City of Meereen, Klis Fortress was getting about 15,000 visitors a year.
That’s an average of 40 visitors a day, excluding holidays.
I’m not sure how many people visit a year these days, but judging by the fact that I spent almost 3 hours there and didn’t see one single other soul (aside from the grumpy ticket man at the entrance) I wouldn’t bet on it being much more.
As I already said, I’ve seen my fair share of castles and fortresses.
But do you know what Klis Fortress has that others don’t??
Very lax health and safety measures in place.
And when I say very lax, I mean they’re non-existent.
There aren’t any signs telling you to keep away from the edge unless you want a quick but very painful death. There isn’t any red tape or do-not-cross lines.
You can go anywhere.
You can climb the walls, you can go inside the walls, explore every nook and cranny, and really go to town on the place.
There is no off-limits.
Obviously, as is the case with every historical site, you should treat it with respect.
Having already survived more than 2000 years, do you really want to be the one known for breaking it down?
But it was nice to be able to have a completely unobstructed view of the surroundings, to be able to look over the edge without having a do-good member of the safety police blowing a whistle at you.
I visited Klis Fortress just because of the Game of Thrones connection, but what I found was so much more.
It’s an underappreciated, under-visited little gem of a place. For history buffs, nature enthusiasts, Game of Thrones fans or just people wanting a bit of an afternoon spent somewhere nice, visiting Klis Fortress from Split is the perfect day trip!
And if you’re interested in discovering more Game of Thrones filming locations in Split, check out this awesome tour that covers Klis Fortress, Diocletian’s Palace and beyond.
Klis Fortress Opening Hours
Officially Klis Fortress is open from 9am until 7pm every day.
However, like many places in Croatia this could see some seasonal changes. When I visited in March it closed at 5pm. As long as you arrive early enough, you should be fine.
Klis Fortress Price
As of 2018, the entry price for Klis Fortess is 60 Kuna (approx. £2.40) for adults and 30 Kuna (approx. £1.20) for children.
At those prices you can’t go wrong really, can you?
How to Get to Klis Fortress from Split
Visiting Klis Fortress from Split honestly could not be easier.
As long as you know what you’re doing.
Before heading off I did a lot of Googling on how to get to Klis Fortress from Split.
I spent more time trying to make sense of the Split to Klis bus timetable than I did watching all the Lord of the Rings films combined. There’s a lot of conflicting and, quite frankly, confusing information out there on various websites and blogs and what not about how to get the bus from Split to Klis Fortress and vice versa.
And guess what?!
I’m here to add to that!
Just kidding, I won’t do that. I’m just here to explain exactly how I got the bus from Split to Klis Fortress.
Your best bet for a quick and easy ride is to get the bus number 22 from the stop outside the National Theatre.
The upside of this bus is that it takes you straight to the fortress. The downside is that it only runs on weekdays (Monday to Friday).
This is the current Split-Klis bus 22 timetable:
Now this is where I provide a little piece of information that may just change your life.
See those times going down the first and second column? 05:00, 06:00, 07:00 and so on?
Well, they are the times that the bus leaves Klis Fortress, NOT the times it leaves Split.
Then it turns around at Split and heads back to Klis Fortress in time for the next bus. So, the 10:20 bus leaves Klis Fortress at 10:20, and has to be back at Klis Fortress for 11:45. Which means it’d reach the Croatian National Theatre at around 11:00.
I found this out the hard way by hanging around for almost an hour.
Bad job internet.
There are other buses (34, 35 and 36) that leave from Sukoisanska Bus Station too, most of which also run on weekends, but these don’t go to the Fortress.
They drop you at the bottom of the hill which means you’ve got a long climb ahead of you! Take my word on it, you’re better off just going for the bus 22 straight from Split to Klis Fortress!
The bus from Split to Klis Fortress costs 18 Kuna return and can be purchased on-board.
For up-to-date timetable information for the 22, 34, 35 and 36 Split buses, chec out this website right here.
If you’re planning on getting to Klis Fortress from Split by car, Google Maps work pretty well in Croatia and it’s marked on there, so just pop the name in and off you go! There is parking available at Klis Fortress.
Know Before You Go
- There is a small convenience store and two cafes in the village of Klis if you wanted to get refreshments before or after your visit to Klis Fortress, but I would highly recommend taking your own water with you! It can get VERY hot in Croatia.
- There are toilets at Klis Fortess. However, they’re rather crude (some would call them shacks) and the hygiene isn’t great. There also wasn’t any toilet paper when I visited, so you may be better off just holding it in?
And hey, if you are a Game of Thrones fan and heading to Croatia soon, don’t forget to check out these posts for more inspiration:
• 10 Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Dubrovnik
• Trsteno Arboretum: The Palace Gardens of the Red Keep
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