altMAKARSKA, 10km south of Baška Voda, is a lively seaside town ranged round a broad bay, framed by the Biokovo massif behind and two stumpy pine-covered peninsulas on either side. A leading package holiday centre since the Sixties, Makarska offers some of the liveliest nightlife on the coast, and is exceedingly popular with the youth of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina as a result. Makarska's seafront can be frenetic with activity in July and August, but the place can be soothingly quiet in May, june and September, when it makes the perfect base for exploring the arid, rocky landscapes of Mount Biokovo.
Despite being the home town of Hajduk, Lazio and Middlesbrough footballer Alen Bokšić, Makarska is more famous for its rugby than its soccer. The popularity of the oval ball here is largely due to the efforts of New Zealanders and Australians of Croatian stock, who came home in search of their roots and decided to form a team. Makarska consistently finish the season as Croatian rugby champions - although, to be honest, they've only got about six other teams in the country to play against.

The Town and the beaches
Despite two hundred years of Turkish occupation, little of Ottoman vintage survives, and the Venetian and Habsburg-era buildings on the seafront Riva coexist with modern apartment blocks thrown up after the tourism boom. All that survives of the old town is one central square, Kačićev trg, which slants up just behind the waterfront to the Baroque St Mark's Church (Crkva sveti Marko). Outside is Ivan Rendić's statue of Andrija Kačić-Miošić (1704-60), the Franciscan friar whose Razgovor ugodni naroda slovinskoga ("A Pleasant Conversation of the Slav People") was the most widely read book in the Croatian language until the twentieth century, after which its archaic style fell out of fashion. Kačićs work, a history of the Croats written in verse, and containing material taken from folk poems recounting Slav heroism in the face of the Ottoman Turks, was a landmark in the creation of a modern Croatian consciousness.
There's a rather pedestrian Town Museum (Gradski muzej) on the Riva, featuring old nautical relics and photographs. The Franciscan monastery (Franjevački samostan), just east of the centre, is worth visiting for the enormous contemporary mosaic in the apse of its church. Completed by Josip Biffel in 1999, it's rich in greens and turquoises, with Christ the Pantokrator presiding over an array of colourful sea-creatures. The Seashell Museum (Malakološki muzej) in the monastery courtyard is more engrossing than you might expect, its colourful exhibits shown to maximum advantage in a stylish and well-planned display.
The main beach is west of town, where a seafront path backed by the main package hotels stretches for some 2km. Far more attractive is Nugal, an enticing stretch of pebble squeezed between red-streaked cliffs 3km southeast of town – to get there, head to the eastern end of Makarska's Riva and pick up the marked trails leading up into the woods.

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