From Dalmatae to Daenerys, Klis is Dalmatia’s Medieval Hotspot

Daniela Rogulj

April 10, 2019 – Unless you belong to the 1% of people who have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones (enter meme here), we’re pretty sure you’re aware that the final 8th season of the wildly popular TV series begins on April 14th. While you’re busy recapping the last seven seasons and brushing on the characters and powerful families in the medieval fantasy epic, we thought we’d offer you help by looking at one of the many Game of Thrones filming locations in Croatia – Klis fortress.

Long before it was known as the city of Meereen in the popular HBO series, the 2,000-year-old medieval Klis fortress was one of Croatia’s historic symbols, with a stellar view overlooking Split to boot.

Located less than 30-minutes away from the Dalmatian capital in the town of the same name, Klis fortress is essential to the history of Split and boasts a world of history itself. A strategically important structure thanks to its location between the Kozjak and Mosor mountains, the fortress controlled access to and from Bosnia, Dalmatia, and Inland Croatia. 

The fortress was first inhabited by the ancient Illyrian tribe of Dalmatae, followed by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Croats and the Ottoman Turks who famously conquered it in 1537. Onto the Venetians, the Austrians, and the Axis powers during WWII, the Klis fortress has seen it all – and you could see it all too. 

The popular attraction is not much further than the town of Solin and the archaeological site of Salona and is also easily reachable by bus lines 22, 34, 35, and 36 from Split.

And thanks to its accessibility, the Klis fortress registers an increase in domestic and foreign visitors from year to year. Namely, last year, more than 70,000 people visited the famous fort, which is 40% more than in 2017. A positive growth trend continues in 2019, and during the first three months of this year, the number of visitors increased by 46%, and revenues by 66% over the same period last year. Consequently, the revenues of Klis fortress increased by over 3 million kuna, which is an unprecedented amount so far.

But that’s not all for the favorite fortress. Thanks to EU funds, Klis fortress will be illuminated at night this tourist season. Croatia’s first capital is part of the project financed by the European Union – the IPA Interreg ‘Fortress ReInvented’ project submitted by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The project focuses on the reconstruction of the historical fortresses in the area and the Klis fortress portion of the project is worth 2.4 million kuna (350,000 euro). Most of all those funds will go towards illuminating the fortress at night. 

The mayor of Klis, Jakov Vetma, explained that illuminating the fortress at night is no new idea. In fact, all the documentation for the project was done several years ago. Vetma is confident that the fortress will attract even more visitors once it’s illuminated. The deadline for the works to be completed is 90 days, meaning it should be finished right in time for the high tourist season.

TCN wrote back in February that Klis fortress is also considered an archaeological paradise, with renewed interest by experts since a new, yet unknown site was found near the St. Vid Church. The wealth of the archaeological findings in the area is the only real danger to setting up the new lights at the fortress, as the process itself might be slowed down if something yet unknown is discovered while construction is underway. Also in the plans for this famous fortress is a summer stage. Specifically, the Klis municipality plans to reconstruct the artillery barracks and acquire a mobile stage with 3D mapping, which should be ready for next year. 

While the fortress is Klis’ main attraction, the municipality is on its way up, too. Not only is Klis is part of Inland Dalmatia, which was declared the best destination of rural tourism last year, but mayor Jakov Vetma believes that few places in Croatia have such a rich history like Klis, and even claimed that it shouldn’t be named a municipality, but a town. The Municipal Council and the Council of Split-Dalmatia County agree, and have even supported that petition. Although the current number of inhabitants wouldn’t support the decision, Vetma believes that it’s the people in the past and the present that make a town, not buildings. 

“The city is made up of people, not buildings. And the important people throughout the history of our people who ruled, lived, and battled in Klis give us that right,” said Vetma.

It would also be easier to get European funding for future projects if Klis was considered a town, which would improve visibility, development and a better standard for the inhabitants. 

Nonetheless, Klis is continuously raising the standard of living of its local community, arranging kindergartens and schools, sports facilities, transport, and tourism infrastructure, purchasing textbooks, increasing the number of newborns and encouraging and developing new economic and entrepreneurial initiatives. And in the development of cultural tourism, Klis will continue being branded as a historical town with a series of sites around the Klis fortress.

Apart from its spotlight in Game of Thrones, Klis is a Dalmatian destination you shouldn’t pass up on your next trip to the region, and its future is only getting brighter.

While you’re already visiting Klis, make sure to check out some of Dalmatia’s other Game of Thrones filming locations, which you can find listed below: 

Ulica Sv. Dominika in Dubrovnik: Inside the untouched walls of the Old Town, this winding alley in Dubrovnik was ideal for the murder of King Robert’s illegitimate sons and the ‘walk of shame’ by Cersei Lannister.

Ethnographic Museum: The impressive Dubrovnik building from the 16th century acts as a brothel where Tyrion Lannister meets Oberyn Martell in the fourth season. 

Pile: The western entrance to Dubrovnik and one of the most beautiful locations overlooking the fortresses of Bokar and Lovrijenac is Blackwater Bay in the GoT series. In the third season, Shae and Sansa Stark watched ships sail here before Littlefinger made plans to escape with Sansa.

Bokar Fortress: This Dubrovnik fortress appears in the second and third season of the series, and is particularly apparent when Varys and Tyrion talk about their battle strategy for defeating Stannis Baratheon’s army as they look to the sea. In reality, the medieval fortress on the city walls of Dubrovnik is open to the public all year long.

Lokrum island: Six hundred meters from the mainland, GoT fans will find the city of Qarth. It is, in fact, the island of Lokrum, where Daenerys Targaryen awaits the Spice King, knowing that he is in danger. In reality, Lokrum is no less mysterious and fascinating. Legend states that King Richard the Lionheart sought shelter here in 1192 after returning from the Crusades.

Arboretum Trsteno: The oldest arboretum in this part of Europe was built in the 15th century, has a spectacular view of the Adriatic and is only 20 minutes away from Dubrovnik. You might recall scenes from the gardens of King’s Landing, and memorable scenes with Lady Olenna. 

Diocletian’s Palace: Many scenes with Daenerys were filmed in Split, inside Diocletian’s Palace. It is where she sits on her throne, trains her dragons, and where her slaves contemplated whether they should fight for the ‘Queen of Dragons’. 

Trogir: The best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic city of Central Europe with an impressive cathedral and Kamerlengo fortress was conceived as the trade port of Qarth. There, the rulers of Qarth captured Daenerys’ dragons.

Kaštel Gomilica: The medieval castle and its surroundings were transformed into Braavos, a town on the sea that Arya Stark was sent to at the end of the fourth season. You might recall Arya taking the name ‘Cat’ and living with Brusco and his daughters. 

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page


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