Are you looking for that unique travel experience and thinking of travelling to Croatia? Croatia has become one of the most popular destination spots in the Mediterranean with the majority of vacationers spending their time along the coastline. How about trying something a little different, quieter, and steeped in history and wonders of nature? If you said yes then Knin is the place for you.
When people hear the name Knin, visions of rebellion and flying bullets come to mind.
We remember the final battle for Croatian independence that took place here after the break up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. In fact, if you had visited Knin just ten years ago you would have still been able to see bullet holes in the walls of homes.
But that has all changed! Peace has reigned since and life has slowly returned to normal. After being admitted into the European Union, Knin received financial resources for infrastructure projects. The Knin government has put that money has been put to good use in a variety of projects from painting city buildings to creating new parks and trails.
It is better known for its historical importance than tourism but that is changing. The residents are eager for Knin to become a tourist destination and are dedicated to doing whatever they can to make that dream a reality.
History of Knin
The area where Knin is situated has been inhabited since the Stone Age. A settlement grew and became the castle of Knin. A monastery dedicated to Saint Bartholomew was built in the 9th century. In the 10th century, Knin was a populated town.
In the second half of the 11th century King, which is how, Kiln became known as “The City of Kings.”
During the later part of the 11 century, King Dmitar Zvonimir took up permanent residence in Kiln. Knin became the capital city and the seat of the Croatian kings, which is how it became known as “The City of Kings.” When you enter the town today, you will see a sign that states “Welcome to Knin, town of King Dmitar Zvonimir.” Between the 10th and 13th century Knin was a mighty military fort due to its strategic location and played a vital role in many wars and power changes over the years.
Knin is located in the Dalmatian mainland of Croatia along the road D1 between Zagreb and Split. It is 56 kilometres east of the town of Sibenik, just over an hour drive when traffic is light.
Knin is a small city with a population of approximately 11,000. You will find the locals are friendly and eager to interact with visitors. Take advantage of that local knowledge. It is the best way to make sure you do not miss anything in the area. You can look online for locals who are willing to share their knowledge and lead groups of tourists around the various sights. Talking with them before travelling will help you plan out your stay, making sure that you have ample time to see everything you want without being rushed.
How to get to Knin
Knin is accessible either by road or by train. Passenger trains from Zadar, Split and Sibenik all pass through Knin.
Knin experiences a modified Mediterranean climate. While Knin is only 50 kilometres away from the Adriatic Sea, its climate is strongly affected by the nearby Adriatic Alps. Summers tend to be dry and hot with temperatures reaching as high as 40⁰C in July and August. If you are adverse to extreme high temperatures, avoid the area in the summer months. Average temperature in August is around 24⁰C. Winters are cool with an average temperature of 4⁰C in January. The best time to visit would be the early autumn months.
Knin houses a wide variety of hotels that cater to every budget. Two hostels are being added in the Old Town area as you enter Knin from the west. They are within a short walking distance to all the new features being built along the Krka River.
Historical Sights of Knin
Knin Fortress: The Knin Fortress is a large 10th century medieval bastion that dominates the centre of town. Located approximately 100 metres above the town, it is 470 metres long and 110 metres wide at its highest part. The defensive walls are approximately 2 kilometers long. It is one of the largest Croatian fortification monuments and the second largest military fortification in all of Europe. It was also home to Croatia’s first kings and witnessed multiple wars over the years.
While parts of the fortress lie in ruins, other areas have been completely restored in recent years. Renovations include a museum, exhibition galleries, and a restaurant.
The fortress is family friendly, with activities to keep all ages happy and occupied. Wear comfortable walking shoes as the fortress covers 30 acres and is divided into the upper, middle, and lower town, connected by drawbridges.
Be sure to take along your camera! The fortress was built in this spot for an excellent reason – its inhabitants had a panoramic view that allowed them to see any approaching enemy. You will not be looking for any enemies but the view of the town and the surrounding mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina are spectacular. The perfect spot for panoramic photos!
Future renovations are in the plans for the Knin Fortress including an outdoor stage for summer events and educational signage is being added for additional explanations of the various features of the fortress. Of special note is the planned improvement to the parking lot, which is currently located up a narrow one-lane road with space for a limited number of vehicles. The new parking lot will be larger with terraced parking lots complete with exits and entrances.
Roman Settlement of Burnum: The Roman settlement of Burnum, an ancient Roman military camp, is located in the settlement of Ivosevci. Getting to Ivosevci is an easy drive of only 18 kilometres from Knin. Built by the Romans in 77 AD, this area is currently under excavation. It also contains the largest amphitheater in Dalmatia. Driving along the road from Knin to Zadar there are two arches on the left hand side of the road. These arches are thought to be parts of the main entrance into the camp.
Krcic Waterfall: Also known the Topoljski slap, the Krcic waterfall is located 4 kilometres east of Knin. It stands 22 metres tall and presents a perfect opportunity for pictures. The colour of the water is vivid and is a good place for a swim when the waterfall is not too powerful. But be aware – the Krcic waterfall dries out in the summertime! The best time to visit is during the rainy season in fall or early winter when the waterfall is at its spectacular best.
Krcic River: The Krcic River has been protected since 1964. It travels a length of 10 kilometres from a spring to the Topoljski slap waterfall where it drains into the Krka River. It flows through a deep, picturesque canyon where geological layers from the Triassic and Jurassic eras can be seen. A treat for the geologists!
Krka River: Krka River flows out of a cave near the base of the falls where it joins the Krcic River and travels for another 45 miles through scenic canyons complete with many other spectacular waterfalls before emptying into the Adriatic Sea. A new park has been built near the Krka River Bridge, which includes playground equipment for children and adults as well as a climbing wall. The trails have also seen improvement with bike paths and benches along the way. Future plans include the development of camping and tourist facilities.
Parks and Trails: Knin is investing more money into new parks and trails throughout the city.
Days of Zvonimir: Days of Zvonimir is a medieval re-enactment that takes place at the Knin Fortress. Can there be any better location to go back to the medieval ages? Visitors are immersed in a truly unique 11th century experience. Archery, sword fighting and other forgotten crafts are demonstrated, or you can try your hand at them yourself. The event includes several live performances, including the arrival of King Zvonimir and Queen Jelena, the Knight’s Tournament and a catapult attack and fire show (based on the Night’s Siege). Other activities include art shows, workshops, and shopping for local and regional handicrafts.
Visitors to Knin notice just how safe it feels there. A true difference from many other areas of the world. It is a place to relax, surrounded by history and picturesque mountains and rivers. Take the time to listen to the flowing water, feel the breeze, and let your tensions float away.
Not your typical tourist destination, but one well worth looking into. A destination to satisfy the historian in the family, the naturalist in the family, with lots of room for children to run, play, and enjoy the great outdoors. What more could you ask for? Make sure your trip to Croatia includes a stop in Knin.