Croatia: The jewel of the Adriatic

SAM | 16th July 2018


With more sunlight hours a year than Sydney, Australia, and closer to Britain than the Canary Islands, the Makarska Riviera in Croatia is the must-go-to holiday place that’s feels like a stone’s throw from Blighty of the moment.


The Makarska Riviera in the Dalmatian region of Croatia stretches along the country’s stunning Adriatic coastline. Croatia has over a thousand islands in total, and Zivogosce was the one on which we stayed.


Zivogosce sits equidistant from Split and Dubrovnik, the main domestic airports that service the country’s 18.5 million annual tourists that visit it is a number that is rapidly growing.


With only a two and half hour flight time to Split from Manchester, we were in Zivogosce  in no time.


The views out of the window during the transfer were simply breathtaking as we weaved in and out of small, tranquil bays, through hillside villages and past picture-perfect towns alongside the Makarska Riviera.


The name of the river comes from the towering Biokovo mountain range that surrounds it, which gives the region its own microclimate, as the landscape hugs the coastline all way to the small city of Makarska.


Accommodation: Tui Sensimar Adriatic Beach



Situated at the foot of the towering pine-covered mountain range behind, Tui Sensimar is a newly refurbished hotel and has a modern feel throughout.


The one drawback of a hotel positioned on a mountainside is that the resort has a lot of steps and stairs to climb. However, the hotel is immaculate and the grounds are pristinely manicured.


Walk into the lobby and you’re immediately greeted with box-fresh ‘IKEA-esque’ contemporary furniture and interior design.


The lobby has two bars across one relaxing space, piecing them together seamlessly.


There is a vast outside area where entertainment is held at night-time,  and you can sit and take in the jaw-droppingly colourful sunsets that can be experienced most evenings.   



The contemporary style continues to the pool area, which is lined with sun loungers that give guests fantastic sea views no matter which direction you look in. The pool bar is within easy reach – perfect for sun-downers! The restaurant is a level below and has an al fresco terrace with equally stunning views.


Our room was classed as having a ‘limited sea view’; it was nice, but a little on the small side and rather basic, but it was fine for a base to stay in.


The spa is also small, although it offers a wide variety of treatments for both men and women. The gym is compact and modern, but there is enough space for multiple people to workout at once.


The promenade in front of the hotel stretches to the next small village, which is pretty much unspoilt with only a few restaurants and bars, mainly used by the locals.


The beach being a ‘pebble’ beach, which we found disappointing. We did venture into the water, but our feet couldn’t take the pain caused by sharp seashells and the stones! On the plus side, the warm aquamarine water and clear blue sky helped to ease the pain, a little.


There are two restaurants in the hotel, one of which you have to book the day before you’d like to dne, and offers more of a fine dining experience. However, it unfortunately lacked the skill level to match the concept.


The other is the ‘Gran mar Grille’ on the promenade, with amazing sea views. The food here is better, but not cheap, and you only have the choice of sitting outside. Unfortunately for us, on the day we dined here, it was very windy and therefore quite chilly.  The buffet offering was standard but lacked variety.


Upstairs in the communal areas, there’s a room towards the left of the reception that is normally a quiet area to read and relax, however, as we stayed during the World Cup, all of the football games were shown. Snacks and more substantial food were provided, alongside pints of lager from kegs that you could help yourself to- a nice touch.





A visit to Dubrovnik is an absolute must for anyone travelling to Croatia. We knew nothing about this place other than it was a strongly contested city during the war in the Nineties. But it’s so much more than that, as we found out.  


Historically the gateway to the Adriatic, this fortification was an epicentre for trade and was renowned for its successful negotiations between countries, making it a very wealthy city, which eventually led to it gaining its own independence.


War has always shadowed this city, whether it has been the Ottoman Empire, the Venetians or more recently the conflict of 1991 against the Yugoslav People’s Army, in a siege that lasted seven months and damaged more than half of the buildings inside the city walls.


Today, however, repairs have been made and these are evident as you walk around this historic place.



The main streets of the old city have a very European feel. The architecture is in three or sometimes four different styles, but somehow it all blends together into an almost flawless living tapestry.


Dubrovnik is a thriving tourist attraction thanks to popular TV series ‘Game of Thrones’, where many iconic scenes inside the castle walls were filmed – he most famous being the ‘Walk of Shame’.



The latest Star Wars saga film ‘The Last Jedi’ also chose Dubrovnik as a location, as did the eagerly anticipated new ‘Robin Hood’ film starring the dreamy Jamie Dornan.


In the southern section of the city, there are two bars that look out over the walls and to the sea. People don their swimming costumes and throw themselves off the rocks after a tipple or two for an invigorating swim in the beautiful water below.  



If you’re looking for something a little different, you could try Revelin. Set in a five hundred-year-old part of the castle itself, only the top acts and DJ’s get to play here. The ancient setting mixed with modern music and heavy beats makes this area one of the world’s top nightclubs.  




Just twenty minutes from the hotel along the coastal road, you reach the town of Makarska. Traditionally a port town but now known more for its beaches, restaurants and nightlife, the town centres around the picturesque Kacic Square and its old Franciscan Monastery.


Stone-paved streets take you through to a palm tree-lined promenade, which looks and feels like the south of France or southern Spain.



Restaurants and bars line one side of the promenade, while the tranquil waters of the Adriatic fill the bay on the other side.  Food along the coast is mainly seafood-oriented and deservedly so. The fishing boats in the bay bring in fresh fish daily and it’s on most of the restaurants’ menus that night.


Prices are in Kuna, the currency of Croatia (8 Kuna to £1). We found it cheaper than the UK for food and drink, and the taxis cost next to nothing.


Our real reason for visiting Makarska was the Cave club, which, as you’d imagine, is set in a cave at the far left of the promenade.


The place is quite unique and very impressive. Many locals go here, as well as all the tourists, so it does get very busy and very hot. The music was okay, it wasn’tsn’t exactly the banging hard house standards of Ibiza, but there was a great atmosphere and all the locals were friendly.


It’s fast becoming the place to be seen, but Croatia remains a tranquil place to go to unwind and soak up some culture, both old and new.


From sleepy villages and bustling friendly fishing towns to fortified castles, it’s now the go-to Hollywood movie destination; Croatia has it all, if not more.


Getting there


We booked a Tui package holiday via the Tui website for this trip, which was £804 per person for one week (incl. transfers), with flights from Manchester.




Words & images by Michael Cheetham