Gaze into the “eye of the world” first-hand at Izvor Cetine (also known as the Cetina River Spring). This naturally occurring freshwater spring reaches daunting depths of over 150 meters (500 feet +) and is the source of the Cetina River, the longest flowing river in Croatia.
But the depth and the geographic science behind this spring are not usually the reasons why domestic and international visitors pay a special trip to see this site. The incredible blue-green hues of the spring are a wonder to feast your eyes on and remarkably resemble a dragon’s eye when viewing the spring from a birds-eye perspective.
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Izvor Cetine is a karst spring, a unique hydrological system omitting groundwater drawn from underground drainage. Similar in theory to Cenotes in North and Central America. These unique karst springs can be found in Europe around the Balkan and Mediterranean area, but this specific spring in Croatia is undoubtedly the most visually impressive in the region.
Where is the Cetina River Spring?
101 Kilometers upstream from its mouth at the Adriatic Sea near the town of Omiš, you will find this famous Cetina River source. The spring is just outside of the town of Cetina (where the river gets its name from) in southern Croatia along the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. Cetina is not a big town but a relatively small village of fewer than 200 inhabitants. There are minimal options for accommodation around Cetina, making the Cetina River Spring the perfect day trip destination from Split or Dubrovnik.
How to get to Cetina River Spring
The village of Cetina is located just off of one of the major highways, Highway 1, and is easy to find. You should know there is no public transportation to this area. You can only reach the spring by car. However, rental cars are decently affordable and are easy to come by in most major cities in Croatia. You can learn more about renting a car and road tripping in Croatia here.
Getting to Cetina River Spring from Split
The Eye of the Earth is located just 45 minutes from Split. Highway 1 begins in Split, so it is an effortless, straight shot up this main motorway to Cetina. You will not need to cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina when traveling directly from Split, making for a seamless regional day trip.
Getting to Cetina River Spring from Dubrovnik
From Dubrovnik, it takes between 3 and 4 hours to reach the spring. Driving time fluctuates depending on the season (busier roads in the summer) and the time of day you are traveling. When driving to Cetina from Dubrovnik, you will have to cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina, which may add on additional travel time due to traffic. But, the cool thing about traveling to Izvor Cetine from Dubrovnik is the fact that you can cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina. This route does have tolls, so be prepared to pay a small fee when traveling from Dubrovnik.
Things to Do at Cetina River Spring
Cetina River Spring is a bit off the beaten path for many tourists that come to Croatia, making it a perfect place to escape the crowds and get in touch with the Croatian countryside.
The blue hole of the Cetina river is a protected national monument of Croatia and is free of charge to visit. Although this is a protected national site, you will not find any big tourist centers, restaurants, or metropolitan attractions here. The spring and the area around the spring is a rural site nestled amongst the foothills of Dinara Mountain, the tallest peak in Croatia.
Here are a few things you can do when you visit this famous eye of Earth.
Pack a picnic and swim in the spring
Pack a picnic lunch, a few towels, some sunblock, your camera, and spend the day relaxing by the Spring. Be aware this is not a hot spring! This spring water coming from the depths of the earth’s crust is a chilly 7 degrees Celsius on average in the warmer months of the year. So be ready for a shock similar to an ice bath when you jump in here. However, it might be just what you need after spending a few hours sizzling in that Croatian summertime sun.
Book a bike tour
A bike tour is an excellent option if you feel up for a slightly more physically challenging outing and want to hit the trail! Several different companies host bike trips to the Cetina Spring. On these bike tours, you will have the possibility to experience several other sites beyond the Cetina River blue hole, such as viewpoints of the Dinara Peak, nearby villages, and larger regional lakes.
Explore the surrounding area by car and foot
If biking is not your forte, you can still spend the afternoon exploring the area around the Cetina River Spring by car and foot.
Perched on a small hill above the blue hole itself, you will spot the 20th-century Orthodox church, which was constructed in 1939. There is a small path leading up to this quaint hilltop church. From here you will be able to catch a better view over the top of the Spring. However, you will probably need a drone if you want a proper birds-eye perspective of the dragon eye.
Further down the road from the Cetina River Spring, you will find the 9th-century, war torn church of Sv Spas. This looming ruin hosts an ancient graveyard where incredible 10th-15th century artifacts have been found. You can only imagine the tales that must have been told about the eye of the earth or the dragon’s eye who watched over the Sv Spas Church.
The Cetina River Spring is an extraordinary natural phenomenon that can only add to the list of reasons why Croatia is such a magical country. The mystical blue and green hues of this chilling watery abyss are otherworldly and are certainly not to be missed when traveling through southern Croatia!
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