The simplest and best way to take in the entire Makarska riviera is from the west, from Dubci, a mountain pass overlooking the Vrulja Bay. You need only stop at the right widening of the so-called Adriatic Tourist Road (D8 state road), right before sunrise or sunset, when the sun floods the mountains and the sea with sunshine, revealing the pebble beaches in all their glory and cliffs gently caressed by the sea. Magical and unique, protected by a high mountain range in the north, enclosed by the blue sea and surrounded by islands in the south and in the west, the Makarska riviera is one of the best-known Croatian tourist destinations. Located between Vruja and Brela in the north-west and Gradac in the far south, the Makarska riviera is known for its long pebble beaches, beautiful scenery, cultural and historical heritage, numerous cultural monuments, comfortable hotels, a rich gastronomic offer in restaurants and taverns that includes traditional Dalmatian food and wine.
The Brela Municipality, with its two towns - Brela and Gornja Brela, contains both the mountains and the sea. The name Brela comes from the old Croatian world “brelo”, meaning a “well” or “spring”, and is shared among roughly twenty small villages along the coast and a few others in the Biokovo hinterland. The most important small villages in Brela include: Novaci, Donje Selo, Kričak, Ribičići, Medići, Soline and Jakiruša. Kričak is home to the municipal offices and the school, while Soline is a well-known nautical centre. Gornja Brela comprises the smaller villages of Škrabići, Subotište, Carevići, Tomaši, Zaveterje and Bartulovići. The town of Brela was first mentioned in AD 950 in Greek (as Beroylloa). Its Latin name, Brolanenses, was first recorded in 1315 in a charter issued by Juraj Šubić from the town of Klis, recognising the rights of the people of Brela as inhabitants of the Omiška krajina region. Its Croatian name, Brela, was first recorded in 1601 in a letter written by Dizdar Alaga from the village of Zadvarje to the Governor of Omiš.
Archaeology has traced signs of human activity in Brela from prehistory to modern times. The archaeological finds uncovered in recent years in the Jakiruša Bay are of particular interest. The old parish church of St. Nicholas (14th cent.) is located in Gornja Brela. Near the small village of Carevići, under Poletnica you can find the single-nave church of St. Elijah. The Church of Our Lady of Good Health in Gornja Brela was built at the beginning of the 18th century, and its namesake church was built in the village of Stubište in 1939. Brela is also the location of a mediaeval cemetery found under the Church of St. Stephen from the 14th century. The church itself was first mentioned in 1626, but it was destroyed at the beginning of the 18th century. In its place, a Baroque church was built, which was demolished when construction started on the present Church of St. Stephen in 1887. In Soline, there is the Church of Our Lady of Victory (1715). Brela is the site of the Church of St. George (20. cent.), the Chapel of St. Roch from 1858 and a number of other smaller chapels. Other monuments include the intriguing Duke’s Fort and the residential and commercial complexes in Soline and Kričak. The final touch in the natural and cultural heritage of the Brela area is the Biokovo Nature Park with plentiful belvederes and horticultural peculiarities, while Nevistina stina ("The Bride’s Cliff") and the old oak tree in Soline are most often featured in the photos of numerous tourists.
Protected by the Biokovo mountain in the north and the sea in the south, the Baška Voda Municipality is located between Brela and the town of Makarska. It comprises the coastal resort complexes Baško Polje and Dječje selo and the coastal villages of Promajna, Bratuš and Krvavica, as well as the villages of Topići and Bast found on the steep slopes of the Biokovo mountain at the very end of a spacious field interspersed with pine trees and olives. Baška Voda has been inhabited since antiquity, as attested by archaeological finds at Gradina hill and the wall remains of an ancient port recently uncovered under the sea. In recent history, the name Baška Voda, once a village of farmers, fishermen and sailors, was mentioned for the first time in 1724 at the very end of the Italian-Croatian list of inheritance of the Staničić brothers from Bast.
According to friar Karlo Jurišić, a historian, the people of Baška started settling this area probably after 1684, following the final expulsion of the Ottomans from the Makarska coast. The new coastal village of the people of Baška Voda (literally "the water of Baška" in Croatian) took its name from the spring found near the small town. The old residential and commercial complex dating back to that time has been preserved in the centre of the town. The small Baroque church of St. Lawrence was built in 1750 on the foundations of an ancient building. The end of the 19th century saw the construction of the Church of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. The finishing touch to Baška Voda was the construction of the pier and the marina suitable for docking boats and yachts. East of Baška Voda sits Promajna, once a small village of fishermen and farmers, today a tourist destination offering private boarding houses, villas and small hotels. Bratuš is a colourful small fishing village with preserved traditional architecture and a picturesque beach. A natural stone monument of extraordinary beauty is preserved above the old town of Krvavica. Bast, a small town on the steep slopes of Biokovo, boasts a well-preserved coastal architectural complex.
The Tučepi Municipality includes a town of the same name, situated between the eastern tip of the Osejava cape in the west and the eastern tip of the 4-kilometer long Dračević Bay, and a number of smaller villages on the slopes of Biokovo (Gornje Tučepi). Gornje Tučepi is a collection of the following small villages: Grubišići, Pašalići, Čovići, Podtup, Podpilište, Novaci and Šimići. The village of Tučepi is mentioned for the first time in 1434 in the well-known Charter of Kreševo issued by Juraj Vojsalić. It is presumed that its name derives from the Illyrian language and means “spring”, or the village near a spring. Numerous forts and ruins are scattered all over the area, from Staza (a pass connecting the coast to the Biokovo hinterland) to Srida sela and Podpeć. In his book “Travels into Dalmatia” (Venice, 1774), based on the various discovered walls, coins and graves, Alberto Fortis, a Venetian travel writer, claimed that the ancient city of Laurentum was situated in Gornje Tučepi between the villages of Čovići and Podpeć. Over the centuries, several sacral buildings were built in Tučepi, many of them demolished, but subsequent archaeological excavations uncovered that new churches were built on their foundations.
This is the case with the Church of the Birth of Our Lady that was built in 1703 and destroyed in 1962 by an earthquake, after which it was demolished and reconstructed in its original form. The reconstruction uncovered the fact that its foundations came from an Early Christian church. The Church of St. George was built at the end of the 12th century on the foundations of a 2nd-century Roman villa rustica. The Church of St. Catherine (1541) is situated above the house of Šarić, while the small church of St. Roch (1730) is situated above the old rectory. In 1891, the Church of St. Anthony of Padua was built in Srida sela. (The Day of the Tučepi Municipality is celebrated on the feast of St. Anthony.) The Church of Saint Nicholas Tavelić was built in 1989 immediately above the Adriatic Tourist Road. During medieval times Tučepi was ruled by Bosnian rulers, the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Republic. From the Ottoman period. Several towers (16th-18th cent.) from Ottoman period have been preserved, the best known being the Tower of Šarić, the Tower of Bušelić and the Tower of Lalić. The remains of an 18th century summer villa, built by the noble families of Grubišić, Ivanišević and Kačić, can be found closer to the coast.
The Podgora Municipality is the penultimate pearl of the Makarska riviera. The administrative territory of the municipality covers the smaller towns of Podgora, Drašnice, Gornje Igrane, Igrane and Živogošće. Its coastal region spreads from the Dračevac Bay at the end of Tučepi to the Vira Bay in the east. Its northern region encompasses a significant portion of Biokovo, from Staza and Donja Gora to the hilltops of Susvid. Available data suggests that Podgora was first mentioned in 1571 in a charter issued by the Venetian doge Alvizo Mocenigo. The village developed underneath the very cliffs of Biokovo, on a wide area under the Staza and Stupica passes. However, an archaeological find - a stele dating back to the 2nd century BC, of which only the description remains, suggests that there was some kind of settlement in the area during antiquity. The name has a Croatian origin and means “the village below the hills or the woods”. Up until the earthquakes of 1962, most of the people lived in Gornja Podgora, while a small portion lived in Porat on the coast. Historical records show that one of the sacral monuments built in the area was the Church of All Saints (1603), which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667 and in its stead the Church of St. Liborius was built.
Among the many small churches and chapels in Gornja Podgora, the best known are St. Roch in Marinovići, St. Cross in Križanići and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Vrulja-Miličići. The Church of St. Thecla (1720) was erected on the Sutikla hill overlooking the sea on the remains of a Baroque church of the same name that was mentioned in historical records in 1630. A memorial cemetery was built around the church, containing several tombstones with an incised image of a sword from the 14th and 15th century. After the 1962 earthquakes, a tent-like Church of the Assumption (author: A. Rožić) was built near the coast in Podgora. The ruins of two Ottoman towers have been preserved in Podgora, while the best-preserved monument in the wider municipal area is the Zalina Tower in Igrane (dating back to the 12th cent., recently restored). In the Kraj district of Podgora, we can find the summer villa of the noble Mrkušić family which houses a small chapel of the Sacred Heart, built in the style of Late Baroque architecture. Modern times have seen the construction of a monument to Reverend Mihovil Pavlinović, a leader of the people, one of the leading political figures during the Croatian National Revival, on the coast in Podgora. He was born in 1831 in Podgora, and after his death (1887) a tombstone made by I. Rendić was placed at the cemetery of St. Thecla in 1908. The stunning monument to the Partisan Navy, a work by R. Radović, overlooks Podgora. It was inaugurated in 1962 by Josip Broz Tito. The monument is the symbol of thousands of years of struggle for a free Croatian Adriatic.
Biokovo is closest to the sea in Drašnice, a village first mentioned in 1523 and completely relocated to the coast after the earthquakes of 1962. Overlooking the old village stands the small Church of St. Nicholas, east of the village is the Church of St. Catherine, and near the Izbitac spring the small Church of St. Roch can be found. Situated next to the cemetery under the highway, the Church of St. George was reconstructed from a previously built church that was destroyed by the aforementioned earthquakes. Two small churches sit between Drašnice and Igrane, right above the Adriatic Highway. The more famous of these is the Church of St. Michael, built at the turn of the 12th century. The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, built in 1752 and containing a bell tower, is located in the vicinity of the Zalina Tower in Igrane. A Baroque summer villa with a chapel, built by the Ivanišević-Šimić family, adorns the Igrane coast. A beautifully maintained walkway connecting Igrane to Gornje Igrane leads to the Chapel of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In World War II, Gornje Igrane was the site of a Partisan army factory. The town of Živogošće is a collection of the villages of Porat, Mala Duba and Blato. It is the site of a 17th century Franciscan monastery and one of the most beautiful Roman epigrams dedicated to the nymph protecting the source of water and located on the coast near the “Nimfa” Hotel.
In the Middle Ages, the old town of Lapčan (Labinac) existed in the Gradac area, which was also mentioned by the Byzantine emperor Constantin (Labineca). Gradac was mentioned under its current name for the first time in 1649. It was named after the fortress that was located on the hill above the Church of St. Michael, which was built during the Cretan War (1645 -1669). There is a preserved drawing that depicts naval and land battles between the Turks and the Venetians near Gradac in 1666, on which the church tower is in flames.Gradac is the tourist center of the Gradac Riviera. An old settlement has been here since prehistoric times, which can be recognized in stone slabs from the Bronze Age and the Later Iron Age. In the time of Antiquity, the Roman Civitas Biston was in the area of Gradac. The former coastal center of the Narona colony was an important Roman stronghold in this part of the Adriatic. Samples of Roman coins and a part of a cornice of a monumental building from the 2nd-3rd century were found at the Gradina site.