On the Makarska riviera, between the Adriatic sea and Biokovo mountain range, sits the small town of Podgora. The former fishermen’s village has transformed into a modern tourist destination brimming with history, culture and outdoor activities – cycling, scuba diving and everything in between. Read on for our expert selection of the top 10 things to do and see in Podgora.
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Podgora has over 5.5km of crystal-clear coastline and there’s a spot to suit every beach lover. Beaches line the town’s seafront centre, flanked by buzzy bars and restaurants. North of the centre find the less-crowded Plišivac beach, surrounded by pine forests and showcasing some of the clearest waters in the Adriatic. If you spot urchins, that’s a sign the water is clear (and that you should don some sea-friendly footwear). Further north (still only a 25-minute walk from the centre), the peaceful Garma beach doubles as a hidden cove. Lay your towel on its pebbles and take in the soothing sounds of the waves.
Podgora and its surrounding towns and cities are among the brightest in the Mediterranean, shining with more than 2750 hours of sun per year. This not only makes for sunbathing aplenty, but also savouring galore: it’s the warm climate that helps local delicacies like olives, rosemary, lavender and grapes thrive. Get a feel for traditional fare at two restaurants within the central Medora Hotel complex. At Riva restaurant, sample Pošip and Plavac wine, which are indigenous to the region. At Tavern Nota Bene, don’t miss Dalmatian favourites like spit-roasted lamb, lamb pod pekom (baked under a bell) and pašticada (hearty beef stew).
Podgora has around 20 churches, each with its own fascinating story. Ijak Chapel, in the town centre, was once a lighthouse – rumoured to be among the Mediterranean’s oldest. It’s devoted to the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas, patron of sailors. Among Podgora’s oldest churches is the central Church of Saint Thecla (locally Tekla), which dates back to 1626. There’s also a cemetery on its grounds, 100 years older than the Baroque-style church itself. Worth the 45-minute hilly trek inland from the centre is the Church of All Saints, which houses relics of Podgorica’s patron saint, Vincent. If you’re in town during August, expect a fun fair honouring Saint Vincent.
Two of Croatia’s spectacular islands, Hvar and Brač, are just 15 and 16 km away from Podgora, respectively. Take advantage of their proximity with a planned excursion. Alternatively, get away for the day by taking the wheel yourself and renting your own speedboat. You can also keep your trip inland, where hiking trails and cycling paths are abundant. Another small Makarska riviera town, Tučepi, is just 4.2 km north of Podgora, along a stunning seaside path. Or, get closer to the enticing Biokovo mountain range with a trek to Baška Voda, a village sitting at the massif’s foothills.
Podgora, like many European towns and cities, is divided into a lower town and upper town. Podgora’s upper town was first mentioned in 1571 following invasions from the Ottoman Empire. It was originally built by locals seeking shelter under the slopes of Biokovo, though rumour has it the area was inhabited since prehistoric times. Further south, the lower town of Podgora encompasses the current town centre, built after a devastating earthquake in 1962. The old town has since been reinhabited, and still contains ruins including the Roščić Tower, part of a tower defense system built in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Get to know the delightful Pošip and Plavac varieties, and other local wines, at Podgora’s Wine Bar Kuka, located in the town’s centre. Kuka offers wines from all across Croatia, including a pinot noir from Zagorje and a cabernet sauvignon from Zadar. Along with wine, Kuka offers 10 types of local cheeses, some seasoned with aromatic herbs, homemade smoked ham and salted anchovies. Olive oil producer Acinger also offers tastings that feature delicious oils made from fruits ripened under the plentiful Podgora sun, paired finely with local cheese and bread.
The earthquake of 1962 destroyed old town Podgora’s residential and manmade buildings and natural phenomena alike. One of the marvels the town lost was the so-called Passage of Happiness, which sits just above the city centre near Šutikla beach. It was once a natural arch made of rock that jutted from a stretch of coastal land and delighted locals with its appearance for ages. The original structure is gone now, but is still fondly remembered by its new nickname, the Road of Happiness.
Embark on one of the world’s most beautiful – and maybe tiniest – bar crawls. Podgora is built-to-size; keep in mind that the town’s population numbers 1500. Nevertheless, a number of bars dot the town’s waterfront centre. Watch the town transform there: during the day, sip coffee slowly in tune with the town’s peaceful lifestyle. As the sun goes down, swap your beverage to something stronger, and see the town itself change. Music starts playing, laughter fills the air and jugs of wine are poured. Don’t miss cold beer with unblemished views of the Adriatic at 2 Monkeys and Banana Bar’s selection of over 75 craft cocktails.
Aside from swimming and sunbathing, Podgora offers a wide variety of water-centric activities. Try your hand at scuba diving while discovering an amazing underwater Mediterranean world at Birgmaier Sub Podgora. It offers trainings for beginners, diving trips and, for the experts, equipment rentals. The extra-adventurous can try parasailing for surreal views of the town, Biokovo mountain range and the sea. Podgora means ‘under mountain’ in Croatian, but you’ll definitely feel ‘above (or at least equal to) mountain’ once you’re soaring the skies. No matter the water sport, you won’t go wrong: sea temperatures stay between 22 and 27 degrees during summertime.
One of Podgora’s most famous local legends features a girl named Tekla who was sailing with her father. The girl tragically passed away while on the boat, but her father refused to follow tradition and throw her in the sea. Their boat was passing Podgora’s shores when a formation resembling a ship caught his eye. It was a grove of cypresses shaped like a mast and he decided to bury his daughter under it. This was, according to lore, the first grave in town, and is known today as Punta of St. Tekla. Ask a local to show you the way there.