Visiting Omiš, Croatia: Where adventure meets pirate history
Nestled on the picturesque Adriatic Coast, the small town of Omiš in Croatia is attracting more and more visitors every year with its crystal-clear sea, breathtaking landscapes, rich history, unique traditions, and outdoor opportunities.
Once a pirate town, situated at the mouth of the Cetina River, Omiš offers an ideal blend of natural beauty and historical significance. With its stunning beaches and canyon, ancient fortresses, and vibrant local culture, the town has a lot to offer to every traveler seeking an authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience 12 months a year.
Explore this fascinating destination and its hidden treasures, which make it a must-visit stop for all generations – families, athletes, as well as adventurous tourists.
In this article, we cover:
- Where is Omiš
- Culture and tradition
- Hidden gems
- Sports and adventures
- Popular events
- Omiš Summer Frei
- Bridge over Cetina
The facts are these…
Unveiling Omiš: Croatian town of pirates
Situated in the very center of the Central Dalmatia region, along the mesmerizing southern coast of Croatia, Omiš is located just 25 kilometers away from the world-renowned city of Split. Reaching this destination is easy, regardless of whether you’re arriving by car, bus, ferry, or plane. The nearest airport is near Split.
Omiš is a small coastal gem immersed in scenic landscapes of the Cetina Canyon, Adriatic Sea, and Omiš Dinara. This makes it an ideal destination for visitors looking for sun-soaked and relaxing days at the beach, as well as those seeking exciting sports adventures. As the town’s slogan suggests: Try it all, or just relax!
Omiš boasts an incredibly rich cultural heritage that is deeply intertwined with its fascinating history.
Among the town’s most prominent historical landmarks are two remarkable fortresses and important lookouts: the 13th-century Mirabela Fortress, also called Peovica, at just 200 meters above the old town, and the Fortica Fortress. The latter can be reached by those ready for a nearly one-hour-long hike, which will be well worth it once you start enjoying the breathtaking views it offers.
In medieval times, the notorious and skilled seafarers used the strategic location of Omiš to launch raids on passing ships.
Gusarski dan (Pirates’ Days), several events organized during the summer, pays homage to the town’s intriguing pirate history. During the all-day events, the streets come alive with colorful period costumes, children’s workshops, sports activities, concerts, and a thrilling pirate parade. The festive atmosphere transports back to the days when Omiš pirates ruled the Adriatic.
History enthusiasts can find the archeological material of this area at the permanent exhibition of the Gradski Muzej Omiš (Omiš Town Museum). The well-preserved 10th-century Crkva Sv. Petra (Church of St. Peter) and the early 17th-century Parish Župa Sv. Mihovila Arkanđela (Church of St. Michael) are also worth exploring.
On a different note, one of the town’s most cherished traditions is the captivating klapa singing. It is a unique form of a cappella music that originated in the Dalmatia region and has been a part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list since 2012. The moving melodies of klapa singers and their harmonious voices can often be heard resonating through the streets of Omiš, enchanting locals and visitors.
For those looking for memorable culinary experiences, another treasure of this town’s culture is soparnik – a traditional dish of the Poljica region. It has been passed down through generations and recently included on the Croatian Intangible Cultural Heritage list. This savory pie, made from layers of thinly rolled dough and filled with a delicious blend of Swiss chard, garlic, and olive oil, is a must-try delicacy for anyone visiting Omiš, among the other numerous fish and meat specialties of Mediterranean cuisine.
Learn how to prepare a soparnik at your home here.
The Omiš Riviera is undoubtedly best known for its beautiful pebble beaches, crystal-clear Adriatic sea, and the nearby old fishermen’s villages and towns, now popular summer resorts. While the stunning beaches and historical landmarks of Omiš attract many visitors, there are also hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
One such place is the tranquil oasis of Radmanove Mlinice, situated on the banks of the Cetina River. Here, you can enjoy a peaceful picnic or a leisurely stroll through the lush greenery while taking in the beauty of the river and traditional watermills.
Among the many historical landmarks to visit, one can easily forget to take a relaxing stroll through the charming narrow alleys of Omiš. Walking around the old town will allow you to notice the quaint squares and houses, including Kuća sretnog čovjeka (The House of a Happy Man). Dating back to the 16th century, this well-preserved house showcases classic Dalmatian architecture from the Venetian period. The Latin inscription above the entrance stating GRACIAS AGO TIBI DOMINE QUIA FUI IN HOC MUNDO (I thank thee, Lord, for having lived in this world) can be seen as its owner’s gratitude for a cherished life in this Mediterranean paradise.
In addition to its attractive cultural offer, Omiš stands out as a top sports and adventure destination in Croatia and beyond its borders. Its unique location at the meeting point of the Cetina River and the Adriatic Sea offers an incredible variety of thrilling activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The striking beauty of the Cetina Canyon serves as the perfect backdrop for many adrenaline-pumping experiences.
Once you arrive there, you’ll realize why athletes and thrill-seekers keep coming back. One reason is the well-organized hiking and trekking trails, which take you up the nearby mountains, passing impressive forts, and villages with incredible panoramic views.
Besides the famous 2-kilometer zipline, the rugged cliffs of the Cetina Canyon are also famous for their various climbing routes. They reward free climbers with breathtaking views of the Croatian islands, the city of Omiš, and the stunning canyon where other adventure seekers enjoy rafting and kayaking for a rush of adrenaline.
Those who wish to explore the Cetina River can try canyoning, which involves walking, navigating rapids, and swimming beneath waterfalls. If you want to get to know the undersea of this area, diving along the Omiš Riviera is also strongly recommended.
Visitors will find that Omiš is home to diverse cultural, sporting, and entertainment events all year round.
In October, the Omiš polumaraton (Omiš Half Marathon) and Dalmacija Ultra Trail are highly anticipated sports events that attract participants from around the world. Both professional and recreational runners can challenge themselves amidst the picturesque landscapes, whether along the coast or through the canyon and mountain trails.
Another renowned manifestation with a long tradition is the Festival Dalmatinskih Klapa (Festival of Dalmatian Klapas) – not to be missed by lovers of traditional Dalmatian music and music lovers in general. This festival is held annually in July and has been gathering brilliant Croatian vocal groups since 1967. It is one of the most prestigious music events in the country due to the klapa singing. The event showcases the timeless charm of klapa music, which mesmerizes its audience year after year.
View more about events in Omiš here.
Omiš Summer Frei
Omiš Summer Frei is a series of (mostly free) summer events in Omiš almost every day from June 1 to October 1. The events were created by the Turistička zajednica grada Omiša (Omiš Tourist Board) as a gift for guests and residents, with the aim to present everything Omiš has to offer.
The manifestation first started and gained popularity in the summer of 2022. This summer, it consists of 10 different events offering a unique opportunity to explore the town. They include free guided tours and hiking trips, tales of the town’s pirate past, museum and fortress visits, open-air movie screenings on the beach, UNESCO-protected Dalmatian a cappella singing performances, traditional dance shows, seaside pilates, and aqua aerobic sessions. There are also fun performances, sports playgrounds, and creative and sports workshops for children, all aimed at creating an unforgettable vacation experience in Omiš.
The recently completed road bridge over the Cetina River in Omiš has been under construction for over three years and now stretches an impressive 224.45 meters, supported by a steel arch. It connects the Omiš and Komorjak tunnels as a crucial part of the bypass between Split and Omiš – a wider construction project. The aim is to relieve this area’s notorious traffic jams and congestion issues due to its popularity, especially during summer.
The bridge is called Most Cetina (Cetina Bridge), and it is due to open in the following months. It is considered an impressive engineering achievement and is bound to be integral to Dalmatia’s transport infrastructure, adding to the Pelješki most (Pelješac Bridge), opened in July 2022.
Omiš truly stands out as a remarkable destination due to its vibrant blend of attractions and possibilities. Travelers seeking unique experiences will be thrilled to engage in the many sports activities and events in the beautiful natural settings of this town.
Omiš also proudly cherishes its history and cultural heritage and offers its locals and visitors numerous opportunities throughout the year. From its captivating historical landmarks, such as the Mirabela and Fortica Fortresses, to the enchanting melodies of klapa singing, culinary delights, and stunning beaches, Omiš encapsulates the spirit of the Croatian Mediterranean. It’s up to you to enjoy it!
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Omiš Tourist Board
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.