During our time in Split, we were surrounded by advertisements for tons of different activities and day trips from the city. They included everything from visits to Plitvice and Krka National Parks to sailing excursions to whitewater rafting. We decided to try a new unique adventure and go canyoning in Croatia on the Cetina River. I’m so glad we did – it was the best adventure trip we’d taken together at that point and so much fun!
Essentially, canyoning is when you dress up in some fun and sexy outfits (read: wetsuits and life vests) and go hiking in and around a river canyon. The activity is a combination of hiking, scrambling over slippery rocks, jumping off boulders, and treating the whole place like it’s a Slip ‘N Slide! In my opinion, canyoning is one of the most unique outdoor activities you can do anywhere, not just in Croatia.
On this particular canyoning trip on the Cetina River, the adventure included a combination of walking, light hiking, swimming, jumping, and floating. There was also the option to repel down a waterfall. No rock climbing was involved on this trip, but I’m sure it is possible elsewhere.
Additionally, canyoning is a great way to explore corners of nature that are otherwise fairly inaccessible. The Cetina is a long river and even though we only saw a small part of it, using the river for water sports was a really special way to connect with nature.
To plan your day trip canyoning in Croatia, you must first choose a provider. There are countless options all over Split and they all have similar qualifications and prices. What really makes the difference are the staff members and tour guides. Take the time to read some reviews online and see what others have to say about the guides at each tour company, and make your decision based on those. We booked our canyoning tour with Go Adventure, and our two professional guides, Jerko and Mislav, were really awesome!
Once you book your tour, there’s not much else to do besides get a good night’s sleep the night before. Your tour leaders will provide transportation to and from Split and take you on the adventure of your life!
Most tour companies offer two different versions of the same tour. The extreme canyoning expedition adds the extra element of repelling off the side of a cliff with a rope. There are two different places where the cliff descents happen and one of them is right next to a huge waterfall.
Regardless of which version you choose, you will likely be in a mixed group. When you arrive at the locations for the extreme canyoning, the group will split in two. One guide will help the guests off the side of the cliff and the other will lead the rest in hiking down. The latter usually takes less time, so if you opt for the basic canyoning, you can watch the extremes do their thing from below.
Personally, we did the basic canyoning and were happy with our choice, but the rope descent definitely looked awesome! It’s up to you whether or not it’s worth it for the extra money.
The prices are very similar no matter which company you book with. Expect to pay around 400 kuna for regular canyoning and around 550 kuna for extreme canyoning.
The basic schedule for the day involves getting picked up at a meeting point in the morning and driving 45 minutes through the Dalmatian countryside to the field office of your tour company. There, you’ll be given your gear and protective equipment as well as a safety briefing. Next, you’ll get back in the van and drive to the trailhead. The actual adventure itself takes around 3 hours and is a little under 3 km of distance to cover. Once you’re done, you’ll have a short walk to meet the van again. You’ll drive back to the field office to drop off the gear, then back to Split.
You’ll start with a short hike down into the Cetina River Canyon. The hiking sections are quite steep and allow beautiful views of the river from quite high cliffs. Soon, you’ll hear the sound of the river below and when you reach it, you’ll jump in and float as it carries you downstream. When it gets to a section with more rocks, rapids, and natural pools, your guide will tell you where to crawl, jump, and slide. Just make sure to go feet first and keep your butt up when going waterslide style! The unique sections of the river make you quickly realize what a special place it is.
A little way down, you’ll leave the river and hike around through underground tunnels once used to divert water for hydroelectric power. You’ll pass the highest waterfall, the thundering Velika Gubavica, on your right as you emerge from the subterranean tunnels. You’ll also have the option to repel down the side of the cliffs if you’d like. Finish the adventure off with a few cliff jumps into crystal clear waters, and you’ll have had an epic adventure canyoning in Croatia!
I wouldn’t say there’s a minimum level of fitness required in order to participate in a canyoning adventure, but you will need a moderate level of endurance. No previous experience with canyoning is required. There are a lot of steep ascents and descents while hiking, and you’ll need some strength in your arms and legs to control your movements in tricky places. In the river, you’ll be crouching down and leaping over rocks quite often. These movements can put some strain on your body if you’re not used to them. You also need to be a decent swimmer because even though you have a lifejacket, there are some spots where you need to swim the distance to continue.
If you’re doing the extreme canyoning tour, some experience with rock climbing is helpful, but not necessary as you’ll only be repelling, not climbing.
I consider myself a relatively fit person and found the activity to be a great level of activity. I was having so much fun I hardly noticed the physical strain. (It was only the next day that I discovered a few bruises!)
By the end of the canyoning trip, I was pretty exhausted. The canyoning itself was definitely good exercise but even more than that, the cold water sucked the energy right out of me. No matter, I had a good nap on the way back to Split!
The most important thing to bring is your adventurous spirit! Beyond that, most of what you’ll need to wear is provided to you by the tour company. This includes a long neoprene suit, a helmet, a life jacket, and a very stylish plastic pad for your butt. You can wear any kind of sports shoes you have, but I’d recommend renting boots from your tour company so your feet have more support and your sneakers aren’t soggy the next day. In my opinion, the boots are the best shoes for the activity and are well worth a couple of extra dollars because of how sturdy they are. You’ll also get a pair of neoprene socks to wear with them which is essential because the river temperature is not warm. Your non-frozen toes will thank you later.
You’ll want to wear a swimsuit underneath your wetsuit. When the sun is shining, you’ll be sweating bullets on your initial hike down the canyon, but later in the icy river, you’ll be thankful for the insulation. If you’re especially prone to getting cold, I’d recommend wearing a swim shirt as well.
You’ll also want to pack a towel and dry clothes to change into afterward.
Lastly, I’d recommend eating a good breakfast and bringing some snacks to munch on the way home. There’s no place to get anything to eat near the canyon and by the time you get back to Split, it’s mid to late afternoon.
Going canyoning in Croatia was one of the best adventures I’ve been on in all my travels. It was so much fun and I can’t recommend it enough!
October 25, 2018