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Cetina River Spring (Izvor Cetine) Croatia

Croatia – a tiny country exploding with spectacular beaches, picture-perfect national parks, and one of the most unique hidden gems in Europe: The Cetina River Spring (Izvor Cetine).

The eye-catching blue and green hues from the water of this spring are said to resemble the eye of the earth and even a dragon’s eye, which is why it has been affectionately nicknamed “The Dragon’s Eye”. This naturally occurring freshwater spring reaches daunting depths of over 150m (over 500ft) and is the source of the River Cetina, the longest flowing river in Croatia. 

If you want to witness this incredible karst spring first-hand, this post will provide you with all of the information you need to plan your visit. Keep reading to learn more about Cetina River Spring, how to get there, what you can do at Izvor Cetine, and where to stay!

An aerial view of the Cetina River Spring featuring spectacular shades of blue and green.

About the Cetina River Spring (Izvor Cetine)

The Cetina River Spring (Izvor Cetine) is a karst spring, a unique hydrological system omitting groundwater drawn from underground drainage. It is 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.

Located at the foothills of the Dinara Mountain Range, the spring feeds into the Cetina River which supplies fresh and clean drinking water to Croatia‘s Dalmatia region.

Cetina River Croatia flows from the spring for 101 kilometers (63 miles) until it reaches the village of Omiš, which is well-known for Cetina River rafting and ziplining activities. During its journey, the river passes through deep canyons at the village of Zadvarje and forms some pretty epic waterfalls on its route.

Temperature of Cetina River Spring

The water here is icy cold! The temperature of the water that rises up from the depths of the spring can be as low as 4 to 8 degrees Celsius (39 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cetina River Spring Depth

When it comes to Izvor Cetine depth, divers have estimated that the spring is over 155 meters (377 feet) deep, though the exact depth of the karst spring is still unknown.

Where is the Cetina River Spring?

The spring is located 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.

View the Cetina River map below to get a better idea of the location of the spring and the Cetina River:

Best Time to Visit Cetina River Spring

This unique karst spring has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, which has led to an influx of tourists who wish to see the Eye of the Earth for themselves. The spring is busiest around midday, between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM and can become quite packed during high season.

For this reason, the best time to visit Cetina River Spring is during shoulder season, when there are fewer tourists in Croatia. If you do happen to be visiting during high season, I recommend going to the spring early in the morning around 8:00 AM (or earlier), when you can enjoy the stillness of the place before it becomes hectic.

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 and that you can only reach the spring by car.

I recommend hiring a car from Discover Cars, as they check both local and international providers to ensure you get the best rate. Generally speaking, renting a car is one of the best ways to see Croatia, and the Cetina River Spring is a great stop to add on any Croatia road trip.

Getting to Cetina River Spring from Zadar

The fastest way to get from Zadar to Izvor Cetine is to take the A1/E65/E71 south toward Sibenik and Split. The route is 141 kilometers long and should get you to the spring in just under 2 hours. This route does have tolls.

Getting to Cetina River Spring from Šibenik 

The drive from Sibenik is fairly easy, with a toll-free road leading to the Cetina River Spring. The fastest route is to take the D33 road to Vrlika, turn left, and follow the path until you reach the spring. This route is 66.8 kilometers and lasts just over 1 hour.

Getting to Cetina River Spring from Split

Getting from Split to Cetina River spring is easy! 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. If you are spending 3 days in Split (or more) the Cetina River Spring makes 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’ll get to cross the new Peljesac Bridge that recently connected the southern tip of Croatia with the rest of the country!

Panorama of the canyon of the river Cetina in Omis. Croatia, Europe

Parking at Cetina River Spring

Parking at the Cetina Spring is free of charge. When you arrive at the spring, there is a small parking area in front of the church that can accommodate around 3-4 cars. There are no specific regulations or limitations for parking, so if the lot is full, you can park anywhere else you can find a spot, as long as other cars can still pass through.

Guided Tour to Cetina River Spring

If you do not plan to rent a car while in Croatia but want to visit Izvor Cetine, your best bet is to join an organized tour. Not only will you be able to visit the impressive spring without having to worry about transportation, but you’ll also get to enjoy other experiences along the way like sampling Croatian wine and traditional food.

Here are my top three recommendations for tours to Cetina River Spring:

Small Group Tour with Traditional Food & Drinks

If you’re looking for an amazing day out in Croatia, this small group tour is the perfect way to explore the lush countryside. Not only will you get to see some beautiful sights and learn about local history, but you’ll also get a taste of traditional Croatian cuisine.

This tour starts at the source of Cetina, where you’ll have the opportunity to take plenty of photos and marvel at its natural beauty. You’ll then go on to explore some of Croatia’s most historic sites and villages before finishing off with a swim and picnic at Peruća Lake. With great company, fantastic food, and plenty of local knowledge, this tour is sure to be an unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.

“The Eye of the Earth Croatia” with Wine Tasting

The “Eye of The Earth” Wine Tasting Tour offers visitors a one-of-a-kind experience to discover the heritage of the Dalmatian hinterland and learn about traditional family life.

During this tour in Croatia, you will explore the source of the Cetina River, enjoy a picnic in nature, taste homemade dishes and brandy made by a local Croatian grandmother, and witness her traditional costume making skills. This experience is totally unique and worth including in your bucket list for Croatia!

Panoramic Flight Over Peruca Lake and Dinara Mountain

Yes, you read that right! Gaze into the “Dragon’s Eye” from the privacy of your own airplane as you glide over Izvor Cetine and the surrounding landscape.

This panoramic flight is a unique experience that offers breathtaking views of inland Croatia. From the comfort of your fixed-wing airplane, take in captivating aerial views of Sinj, Trilj and the Cetina River Spring as you soar high over Peruca Lake and the Cetina River.

Relax with provided bottled water and enjoy the serenity of being up in the sky, away from it all. For anyone looking for a way to appreciate Croatia’s beauty from a different perspective, this is the perfect tour!

Cetina River in Croatia flowing through gorgeous cliffs covered in lush greenery.

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. 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.

The blue hole of the river Cetina 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.

While you likely won’t see the Cetina River whale, here are a few fun 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°C on average in the warmer months of the year. So be ready for a shock similar to an ice bath if you’re brave enough to dip your toes into the cold water. However, it might be just what you need after spending a few hours sizzling in that Croatian summertime sun.

Most people, however, do not dare to swim and instead dip their toes into the water, or avoid it altogether and just enjoy the nature and views.

If you do choose to swim in the spring, make sure you have travel insurance! This is extremely important no matter where you travel to, or what kinds of activities you participate in. No matter how careful you are, it’s always a good idea to be prepared in case of an emergency. I always recommend (and personally use) SafetyWing. They have excellent coverage, customer service, and rates.

See how much travel insurance would cost you (commitment-free) on the SafetyWing website.

The blue and green Cetina river source (izvor cetine) surrounded by the Dalmatian Hinterland of Croatia

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 Serbian 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. The Mavic Mini Pro is a super tiny, pocket-sized drone and my favorite travel companion when exploring new destinations in Croatia!

Cetina Rafting & Canyoning

Cetina canyoning and rafting on the Cetina River are two of the most popular activities for visitors to this area of Croatia. It is important to note, though, that these activities are only available near the mouth of the River Cetina in the town of Omis (about 98 kilometers south of the spring).

If you are spending a few days in Split or even visiting Trogir, Cetina Rafting Tours are a fun and exciting day trip option!

Cetina river source water hole and Orthodox church aerial view in the Dalmatian Zagora region of Croatia

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.

Where to Stay Near Cetina River Spring Croatia

While there are no accommodation options at the Cetina River source itself, there are a number of places to stay near the spring. Here are some of the top places to spend a night or two if you want to extra time to explore the region:

  • Villa Cetina – with mountain vistas and a spacious terrace, this holiday home is a peaceful getaway nestled among the natural scenery that surrounds Izvor Cetine.
  • Villa Leko Dream House – a three-bedroom villa with an outdoor pool, free bikes, and everything else you can think of for a relaxing vacation in a truly special region.
  • Apartman Ana – a cozy apartment equipped with a kitchen, gorgeous balcony views, and options to enjoy hiking and fishing.
  • Countryside Apartment – a beautiful apartment located in the quaint village of Vrlika. The interior is bright and charming, featuring all of the amenities you need for a comfortable stay in nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you swim in the Cetina spring?

Yes, you can swim in the Cetina River Spring, but only if you are brave enough to withstand the icy cold temperature of the water!

How deep is the Cetina River Spring?

The exact depth of the Cetina River Spring is still unknown, although it is estimated to be deeper than 115 meters (377 feet).

Final Thoughts

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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Croatia Travel Planning Guide

💸 What is the currency in Croatia?
As of January 1st, 2023, the official currency of Croatia is the Euro and NOT the Kuna (which is also the name of the national animal of Croatia).

🇭🇷 What language do they speak in Croatia?
Croatian is the official language of Croatia. Learn some phrases in Croatian before your trip with the Ling app!

🚑 Should I buy Croatia travel insurance?
10000% YES – Seriously, don’t leave home without it. You never know what can happen on the road. I like SafetyWing because they provide excellent coverage for as little as $1.50 a day.

📱 Will my phone work in Croatia?
Maybe – check with your provider to see if you’ll have service while traveling Croatia. If you don’t have service (or it’s too expensive) I recommend getting an eSIM like Airalo. Airalo allows you to have data while traveling without the high costs of roaming. They have super affordable plans available for 190+ countries, including Croatia. Download the app and get your plan before you leave home so that you have data as soon as you touch down in Croatia!

🏨 What’s the best way to book my Croatia accommodations?
For Croatia hotels, Booking is by far the best site.

🛫 What’s the best site to buy Croatia flights?
I always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights.

🚗  Is it safe to rent a Car in Croatia?
Yes! – In fact, renting a car in Croatia is one of the best ways to see the country! I recommend Discover Cars because they check both local and international rental companies to ensure you get the best deal. (Get your Croatia road trip itinerary here)

💦 Is it safe to drink the water in Croatia?
Tap water in Croatia is completely safe to drink, so bring your reusable water bottle and fill up!

🪪 Do I need a visa for Croatia?
Depending on where you are coming from you may or may not need a visa to enter Croatia. Check the official Republic of Croatia Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more information on who should apply for a visa.

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