Makarska Riviera

Twenty-two kilometers beyond Omis, on the coastal road that runs along the steep flanks of the Biokovo Massif, is one of the most beautiful stretches of beach on the entire Adriatic. A side road through the fragrant pine woods leads to the white pebble beaches (very crowded in summer) of Brela. Around the town’s idyllic center, quiet hotels, restaurants, and modern villas which rent out rooms and apartments are to be found.

The next seaside resort, popular for its long beach, turquiose-blue waters and large hotels, is Baska Voda, four kilometers to the south. The best view of this former fishing and seafarers’ village resting on a large bay is from the coastal road. A drink can be enjoyed in the shade of the trees at one of the cafes along the harbor promenade. Passing through vineyards and olive groves, the mountain villages of Bast and Topic, long ago constructed high on the slopes for protection, can be reached on foot from Baska Voda.

The touristic middle point of the 60kilometer-long Riviera is the harbor town of Makarska, located at the base of the highest peak of the Biokovo Mountains, Sveti Jure. The lively old town (with ferry ports for trips to Brac Island) stretches along the palm-lined harbor promenade, set between the peninsulas of Osejeva and Sveti Petar. Northwest of Sveti Petar (with its lighthouse), lies the nearly two-kilometer-long main beach of Makarska, Donja Luka, which made this place and the “Riviera” famous in the 1960s, and is where most of the hotels are located. Until it was aquired by Venice in 1699, Makarska was an important local strategic point. From here, the muchfeared “pirates” of Neretva made life along the middle Dalmatian coast unpleasant for the Venetians. Later it was the Turks who made use of this location.

These days, an illustrious international crowd fills the chic cafe-bars, music bars, ice cream parlours and restaurants along the promenade and tucked away in the lanes of the old town, as well as those on the central square, Kacicev trg.

From above the monument to the most famous local citizen, poet Andrija KacicMiosic (1704-69), created by the most important Dalmatian sculptor, Ivan Rendic, there is a good view of the l8thcentury Sveti Marko Parish Church. At the market, everything from succulent Dalmatian figs to sweet Prosek dessert wine is on offer.

Those who have had enough of sand and sun might want to have a look at the Franjevacki samostan (Franciscan monastery) on the east side of Makarska’s harbor. The Malacology Museum housed here has one of the finest sea and snail shell collections in the world. Everything regarding the topic of shells is on display here; shells as money, as a source of color, as jewelry, etc.

There is a marked hiking trail leading from Makar, a village 233 meters above Makarska, to Sveti Jure: at 1,762 meters this is the highest peak in the 36-kilometer-long and seven-kilometer-wide Biokovos. The climb takes about five hours. You don’t have to hike to the top for the view, however, as the highest road in Croatia is located here on Croatia’s “Holy Mountain.” A side road leads to Makar’s neighboring village of Kotisina, in which a botanical garden, featuring indigenous plants, herbs and medicinal plants, can be visited.

Above the village of Gornji Tucepi, beyond the Staza Pass, where, on the steep rocky slopes the Biokovo Nature Preserve begins (signposted, with parking area), an 18-kilometer-long paved toll road starts, which leads through the nature preserve to Sveti Jute. This is the highest road in Croatia, which, because of its many narrow, exposed curves, should only be attempted by very experienced drivers. From the Konoba Biokovo there is a wonderful view of the entire mid-Dalmation island and coastal world. Further in the distance stretch the karstic heights, perforated by many sinkholes. Chamois, mouflon and sheep are at home in this beautiful nature park.

From Makarska, traveling southwards, you encounter the small but lively seaside town of Tucepi, with its broad pebble beach and yacht harbor. From here it is just a half-hour hike to the old mountain village of Gornji Tucepi.

The fishing and resort village of Podgora offers vacationers a bay lined with a pebble beach, with hotels and pensions on the sea. The shore promenade is closed to traffic on summer evenings and becomes a popular pedestrian area.

The island of Hvar seems so close to Igrane that you can almost reach out and touch it. The Old-Croatian St. Michael’s Church, with its elegant bell tower, helps give Igrane its typical Dalmatian character. Ruins of the town walls and the “Turkish Tower” have been preserved. A broad pebble beach stretches south from here.

In Zivogosce, which boasts a 17-century Franciscan monastery and a camping site in lush green Mediterranean surroundings, the most attractive section of the Riviera begins, with its many isolated bays and inlets. From little Drvenik a ferry takes you to the island of Hvar. Zaostrog is an especially popular destinatin for Croatian tourists.

The former fishing village of Gradac has an enticing three-kilometer-long beach of fine pebbles, the longest on the Makarska Riviera. International tourism has long since returned to the hotel complex here.

Beyond Gradac the coastal road leaves the sea and runs right through the green hills to the Neretva Delta, passing by Lake Bacinska.

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