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Many visitors to Croatia head straight to the well-known resorts on the gorgeous Dalmatian coastline, but there is a relatively unexplored region, which is equally as stunning. This is the Makarska Riviera. It runs for 38 miles along the mainland from Brela to Gradac. The beaches are pebbly, but the Adriatic Sea is turquoise and warm and the background is untouched pine-forest, blowing its lovely scent over the rugged scenery. Hikers and mountain bikers will adore this area, for its diverse and challenging mountain tracks. White water rafting in the river Cetina is another option for adrenaline junkies. Mount Biokovo rises to 5,770 feet and towers over the region. The wildness of the towering hills gave rise to a people that were famed for their rebellious spirits and independence. Nowadays, they support a thriving tourist industry; for over a century Croatians themselves have flocked here to enjoy this unspoilt corner of the Mediterranean.

Makarska Town

Sited on a lovely horseshoe-shaped bay, Makarska is a postcard-pretty destination with a long, palm-fringed promenade. Many hotels here boast their own private beaches. In the centre are cool, narrow, cobbled streets and plenty of bustling cafes, bars and shops. There is also a flower and fruit market in the main square and an ancient monastery, worth a visit for its quaint seashell collection.

Day Trips and Nights Out

It is easy to hire a small boat to sail out to the off-shore islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula and Vis. Organised excursions will often include a fish barbecue on the beach. Makarska has a famous nightclub called Deep which is based in a cave above the sea, a spectacular setting for sunset drinks. Boat parties are also very popular up and down the coast.

The Red and Blue Lakes

A phenomenal feature of the mountain range is the Imotski lakes, one of the natural wonders of Southern Croatia. Created by the collapse of underground caverns, the two deep chasms are only about a kilometre apart yet one is stained red with iron oxide and the other is a translucent deep blue karst sinkhole. The locals do swim in it, but it is a long way down, not for the fainthearted.

To get there, you can fly to Split or Dubrovnik and hire a car. Makarska is 60 km from Split but the roads are twisty so factor in a 90-minute drive time.

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