Alps above the sea! Maybe that is the most common association that comes to someone’s mind when spectacular Biokovo mountain gets into the sight. Am I referring to French Alpes Maritimes? No way, they don't come even close. It is like placing Slovenian Julian Alps straight above the sea! Biokovo is unique mountain. There aren’t many mountains in the world that are so impressively close to the sea as Biokovo is and which offer such beautiful views from their peaks. Biokovo is a part of Dinaric Alps system, which stretches from Slovenia, through Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania, and this, together with Velebit mountain, is closest the chain gets to the sea. View from the sea on monumental rocky face of Biokovo, with cliffs, scree slopes, towers, and gully's impresses anyone. At the same time in sight is crystal clear sea, beautiful sand beaches, evergreen pine forests, over a thousand meters high rocky face, high above in the blue sky. In the evening sun paints it in orange, while through the night it is huge dark mass between the thousands sparkling lights on the coast and stars in the sky. Every visit to this giant offers unique experience; there is so much beauty on quite a small area with unforgettable views on the sea & islands while on clear days even Italy is visible (Monte Gargano 252km away).
Note: Sv.Jure is short of Sveti Jure as is Sv.Ilija of Sveti Ilija. Sveti means saint so Sv. equals St. in English. On some spots I’ll write Sv. while on some others Sveti. Sorry for the inconsistency.
Biokovo is around 25km long. It stretches from Dubci pass (288m) to the Makarska – Vrgorac road pass. Mountain is very narrow, only around 7-10km. It rises steeply above the sea and above the continental side. Ridge above the sea is from 1300–1600m high, but straight distance from the sea is only 3km on some places!
Biokovo is karst mountain made of limestone. Its profile is very characteristic. Seaside foothills are evergreen terraces of pine, vineyards, olive trees and other Mediterranean vegetation cultures. This area is rising gradually to the height of around 300m. Above it is impressive, more than 1000m high, rocky face. There is some vegetation in these cliffs, especially black pine, oak and hornbeam. Behind the edge of cliffs is high lying, gradually rising, 3-4km wide karst plateau, which is strewn with funnel shaped holes, 60-80m deep and few hundred meters in diameter, mostly overgrown with beech trees. This area ends with line of peaks above the continental side, which again descends steeply towards continent and is 1000-1300m high. The exception is Scirovac-Sv.Ilija group, which is a simple ridge that is falling uninterrupted all the way to the foothills on both sides.
In 1981 Biokovo was declared a Nature Park because of its extraordinary value, flora, fauna and beauty, on the area of around 195 square kilometers.
The only minus to Biokovo is that its highest peak Sv.Jure is polluted with tall TV tower and building below it (highest in Croatia) and is also accessible by car. That is great for people who don’t like to stretch their legs to reach the top. Anyway the road itself is very panoramic and on some places spectacular, also highest in Croatia. Around the compound is wire so the very top is inaccessible. Since the top is large it is not totally occupied by structure, so you can reach 1761m (1762m is very top). View is not disrupted by it but you have to make a walk around the compound to see all 360°. Before the tower has been built on the top was Sv.Jure chapel. It was moved little bit lower to the eastern side of the peak before the construction work begun. But this is not reason to avoid Sv.Jure routes, which are spectacular and so is the view from the top.
Biokovo is not crowded mountain. When you move away from the road and Sv.Jure it is not likely that you will meet many people. This especially goes for Sv.Ilija peak, which is so hard to reach and is reserved for experienced mountaineers. All the trails described here are tough, long and steep, sometimes technical, vertical distances are huge. None of the trails is shorter than 5 hours, so all of them are reserved for true mountaineers in good shape.
Highest peaks of Biokovo are:
Scirovac or Miletnjak (1619m)
Of other peaks, most important are those above the sea, which have amazing views on the coast:
Currently described on the page are ascents on Sv.Jure and Sv.Ilija, two most important and most beautiful peaks. Also by the routes towards Sv.Jure are Stropac and Vosac peaks which should not be missed because of amazing airplane panoramas towards coast, sea & islands.
Many possibilities are possible. Have in mind that it is very tough to climb either Sv.Jure or Sv.Ilija in a day and descent back to coast. Shortest ascent lasts 5h while on descent you could spare up to 1h. So count on at least 9h of walking. It is possible to do it during long days and only by those in very good shape because altitude difference is huge, around 3.5km. Most simple are daily combinations when you return the same way but those are least attractive so I won’t mention them.
1a) Back to same trailhead in 1 day – Sv.Ilija: climb Motika pass from Bast (Sv.Jure from Bast route). Here you go left towards Sv.Ilija and in 1h you join last section of Sv.Ilija from Bast route. From this point is is another hour till summit. Return via Sv.Ilija from Bast route. This combination is possible the other way but it is better for knees to climb Motika pass than to descend from it.
1b) Back to same trailhead in 1 day – Sv.Jure: Ascent to Lokva hut from Veliko Brdo via Stropac route (3h). Continue to summit via Babina Vrkla (2h) and return to Lokva hut via 2nd option or partially marked panoramic ridge (2h). Descent to Veliko Brdo via Baskovici route. You can split this variation in two days by sleeping over at Sv.Jure refuge.
2a) Sv.Jure 2 day combination with descent to different trailhead: leave your car in Makarska. Climb Sv.Jure via Makarska route and sleep over at Sv.Jure refuge. On the 2nd day descent to Veliko Brdo via either Baskovici or Stropac trail. From Veliko Brdo descent further to Makarska which is less then hour. In this combination you don’t have to use public transport to get back to car.
2b) Sv.Jure 2 day combination with descent to different trailhead: leave car in Makarska. Go to Bast by bus and climb Sv.Jure via Bast route. Sleep over at Sv.Jure refuge. On the 2nd day descent to Makarska via Makarska or Veliko Brdo routes.
3) Sv.Jure & Sv.Ilija in 2 days: leave car in Makarska. Climb Sv.Jure via Makarska (6h) or Veliko Brdo (5-6h) routes. If you are going via Veliko Brdo from Lokva hut towards Sv.Jure use Babina Vrkla variation to avoid repeating same section tomorrow. Sleep over in Sv.Jure refuge. You can climb summit in the afternoon or next morning. On the 2nd day descent to Lokva hut via 2nd option in Veliko brdo route which follows panoramic ridge between Sv.Jure and Lokva hut (1.30h from Sv.Jure refuge, 2h from summit). From Lokva hut follow Sv.Ilija direction which will take you to by Motika pass (1.15h). Our path doesn’t reach the very edge of Motika pass but it is worthy few minutes long detour (towards left). View from pass is amazing. From pass is 2h to Sv.Ilija. Descent via Sv.Ilija from Bast route (4h). Once down in Bast continue down to Adriatic road (40mins). Wait a bus from Split direction which will take you back to Makarska (10km) or hitch-hike. Buses are quite frequent so don’t worry. This is most beautiful combination possible!
Biokovo road was built in 1965 from the Staza (879m) pass to the summit of Sv.Jure (1762m), highest peak of the mountain with purpose to access TV building and tower. Road is highest in Croatia and takes you from Makarska (0m) to summit (1762m) in 31km. Entrance is around 4€ during the day while during night is free. It is very attractive with fantastic views on Biokovo karst and sea & islands below, highly recommended trip. Anyway climbing Biokovo on foot is far greater experience so I would recommend this only to those in bad shape which can’t surmount tough ascents.
From gas station near the NW entrance to Makarska it is 3km to crossing where signs will point left towards Vrgorac. Road gradually ascends cutting along green terraces below Biokovo wall, passing through Gornji Tucepi and Srida Sela villages. After 7km is the junction where is left towards Sv.Jure, here is the entrance of Biokovo road and toll house with souvenirs and maps. Road now ascends more steeply, first through nice pine forest, than it narrows after reaching very steep slopes below Staza pass. Here road is quite dizzy with cliffs above and green pine carpet and blue sea below. 5km from the junction it reaches Staza pass where is a restaurant and nice view point. Beyond the pass macadam road continues over inner Biokovo towards continental part behind mountain while Biokovo road turns left and continues to ascend steeply. After around 3-4km is very exciting section with amazing view where road is cut into the seaboard side of the mountain which falls some 1200m towards the sea, almost perpendicularly with scree and cliffs! Just beyond this section road enters inner Biokovo which it won’t leave in next 10km. It is a depression between seaboard and continental chains of peaks and road gradually ascends. Terrain is mostly rocky and looks like rocky desert with very little greenery coming from some grass and rare trees. But on some spots road passes through nice basins with green meadows on their bottoms. 10km from Staza pass is a junction towards Vosac hut (500m). From the hut it is only 15mins to Vosac (1422m) peak. Don’t miss to climb this stunning viewpoint from which is unbelievable view from bird’s perspective down on Makarska town and further on sea and islands of Brac & Hvar and cliffs of Biokovo. Behind the junction road ascends more steeply occasionally going through beech groves. After 3km it cuts steep slopes of Troglav (1659m), second highest peak of Biokovo with views towards east and continent. In front is huge Sv.Jure with tall TV tower on the summit. Road passes just by Sv.Jure refuge and in 5 sharp 180° bends ascends till the summit, 6km from Vosac junction. This last section is very exciting because road is cut into the steep slopes with fantastic views. In front of the entrance to TV compound is small parking where quite a jam I probable in summer. It is better to leave a car by the road near the refuge and walk to the summit via road or mountain path (30mins). This way you can enjoy panoramas longer and better.
Biokovo is inseparable from its coast and beautiful towns, led by Makarska, which lie bellow it. Long sandy beaches, crystal clear blue sea, evergreen pine forests, mountain above, Mediterranean architecture, it is truly a paradise.
MAKARSKA – (population 15000) is the resort town, center of Riviera in every aspect, cultural, economic and tourist. It is one of the most beautiful cities on Mediterranean sea and wider. Just above it is Vosac peak (1422m). At the foothill of Biokovo, as protectors of Makarska, the villages Veliko Brdo, Puharici, Makar and Kotišina (Biokovo botanical garden) are situated. Those places have kept the beauty of original popular architecture.
Some other larger beautiful places along the coast are Brela, Baska Voda, Tucepi and Podgora. In any of them you will find numerous hotels, apartments and camps.
Here are some excerpts from the Makarska official site guest book:
Jorge from California, USA:
I recently visited Makarska and I fell in love with the place, I've never seen nothing like it in my life! I'm definitely going back!
Lady from Germany:
Dalmatia is the best place in the whole wide world!!! Trust me I’ve been everywhere :-)
Mark from USA:
I was in Makarska again this past summer and loved it again. I hope to be there again this summer for the 7th time. I just love it there. The country and people are great. Maybe when I retire I will come live there.
Kate from Australia:
This place is truly amazing. The nightlife, disco's, cafes, beauty, and beaches. A vacation here feels like a dream. Every night is crazy. To all the tourists that hit this place "You are the best". Everyone is beautiful and the atmosphere is magic. I WOULDN'T MISS A SUMMER HERE FOR ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD ****MAKARSKA FOREVER****
Angel from Poland:
I was looking very long the place for holidays and when I saw photos I finally decided. And you know what: it was the best choice! When I came back home I missed Makarska and I had to come back again. I left my heart there. If you want to spend a great time, it's the right place - you will not forget Makarska...
Ashley from USA :
I visited Makarska for the first time this summer and I plan to return often! I've never had such an amazing vacation. I met the most wonderful people, and had a great time relaxing on the beach and enjoying the nightlife. It was the ideal vacation!
Do you need better invitation to visit Biokovo mountain and Makarska Riviera than these thoughts of people that have been here. Makarska is ideal place for holiday. One day you can swim and enjoy the sea fun, the other day you can hike, climb or paraglide on Biokovo mountain.
Just 20km behind Biokovo mountain (66km from Makarska by car) you can find two wonders of nature: Crveno (red) and Modro (blue) Jezero (lakes). If you ever come to visit Biokovo or this area you shouldn’t miss to visit them. From Makarska head towards Split. After 19km turn right towards Imotski.
Why are lakes worth visiting? They fill two huge and deep basins at the edge of Imotski town, on the slopes above Imotsko polje field and are really monuments of Karst. Lakes are so magnificent, especially Crveno Jezero, that it is hard to put it into words. How were they created? Eroding power of water made roofs of huge underground rooms thin. Earthquake(s) did the rest of the job, roofs collapsed.
Crveno Jezero (Red lake)
Crveno Jezero is true miracle of karst that leaves breathless anyone that sees it. Lies inside 400 meters wide and more than 500 meters deep 'well', if it can be described that way. It got its name after reddish cliffs around it and is placed about a kilometer NW of Imotski town. Sides above the lake are more than 200m high and almost perpendicular. Lake is almost perfectly round and has depth of over 300 meters! Infact it could be even more than that because exact depth is still a mystery. It was explored by various domestic and foreign teams but none was able to find out the exact depth. It seams now that near the bottom lake widens into huge channels, which are part of huge underground water systems. 'Bottom' of the lake lower than sea surface. Divers dived over 100 meters deep but that is their max. Problem with exploring Crveno Jezero is that its surface is so inaccessible and that makes so difficult to bring down larger equipment. Water level varies up to 30 meters. Road from the center of Imotski takes you at the edge of the lake. It is great to make a round circle around the basin that offers breathtaking views into it. At the point where road touches the edge of the basin it is some 150m to the surface of the lake while at the opposite side is almost hundred meters higher. From this point rock falls to the surface of the lake for almost 10 seconds! It is habit of visitors to throw rocks into the lake from the road. This task might seem easy but when you throw it you are going to be amazed and realize true size of what you are looking at. It is said in Imotski that the one who manages to hit the surface can get married.
Modro Jezero (Blue lake)
Modro Jezero is situated at the NW edge of Imotski. Its basin is larger than of Crveno Jezero but not as deep. It is almost a kilometer long and up to 400 meters wide. Highest point of the basin is almost 300 meters above its bottom while the lowest is almost 200 meters. Sides are mixture of cliffs, particularly on the SE side, and scree slopes. The depth of the lake varies very much, from 100 to 0 meters. It very rarely dries up (maybe once in 5 years). If it happens it is usually at the end of summer following very dry year. Flat bottom becomes temporary football field. Average depth is around 40-50 meters. Why this happens? Bottom of the basin contains invisible holes which either bring or take water away. After heavy rains, filling ratio of the lake reaches amazing half a meter in hour. Modro Jezero is blue only when in shade while when illuminated by sunshine it is green. In summer it has pleasant temperature and if fantastic place to swim. Built path descents into the basin in many bends. Depending of water level it usually takes around 30 minutes to get down. Along the part of SE edge of basin panoramic path was built with few beautiful viewpoints.
Closest airport is in Split, 62 km away or in Dubrovnik, 163km away. There are around 3 flights every day from Zagreb to Split or Dubrovnik. Look for timetable on official site of Croatia Airlines
There are numerous bus lines from Zagreb to Split and further to Makarska each day, almost every half hour. There are around 20 bus lines from Split to Makarska daily. Detailed bus timetables from Zagreb to Split you can find at Zagreb bus station site
You can get to Split by train from Zagreb, which is accesible by many trains from central Europe. For timetable check Croatian railways site
From Rijeka, along the coast via Zadar, Sibenik and Split.
This route is suitable if you are coming from western Europe, via Trieste (Italy).
Trieste - Rijeka 70 km
Rijeka – Makarska 437km
From Zagreb, via Plitvice, Gracac, Knin and Sinj.
This road is suitable if you are coming from eastern or central Europe via Ljubljana (Slovenia), Maribor (Slovenia) or Budapest (Hungary).
Ljubljana - Zagreb 138 km, Maribor - Zagreb 113 km, Budapest - Zagreb 347 km
Zagreb – Sinj 347km
Sinj – Makarska via Split 92km
Sinj – Makarska via Cista Provo 75km
Look for current road conditions in Croatia on the page of Croatian Automobile Club
Any time of the year is fine if forecast is good.
Biokovo is border between continental and Mediterranean climate. Their collision can often be wild. The result of this is large annual of precipitation (1845mm on Vosac peak). Main ridge of the mountain is exposed to unbelievable winds, especially in winter. Down the Biokovo blows very well known BURA wind, one of the strongest winds on planet! Bellow Velebit and Biokovo mountains Bura is strongest on Adriatic. It blows from continent towards the sea, after cold front passes, accelerates over the mountain and can reach hurricane force in winter. Gusts up to 234 km/h have been measured in Makarska! Temperature on the mountain can drop to –25°C. In the winter there is quite lot of snow on the ridge so crampons and ice axe are necessary.
Because Biokovo is straight above the sea there are lot of days in the clouds. Warm and moist air climbs up the mountain, cools down considerably and condensates. If the weather conditions are not stable daily cloud development is heavy and can result with local storm in the afternoon.
In summer it is hot. It is advisable to start ascent from the sea at dawn. Good thing is that this side of the mountain is quite long in the shade during the summer. Biokovo is lacking water as any karst mountain, so put in your backpack as much as you need.
Best times to visit Biokovo, if you don't like snow, are spring and autumn. Temperatures are cool, pleasant and views are the best.
On Sv.Jure, highest peak of Biokovo, there are meteorological instruments as a part of TV tower installation. Unfortunately they don’t give the information to the public. Only sometimes when weather is bad or is really cold it is news. I noticed that at those times temperatures are similar to those on Zavizan (1594m), Velebit station, no matter they are so far apart.
On the official pages of Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological association you can find 2-7 days weather forecasts for Croatia in English. Also on current weather pages there is data for Makarska, which is bellow the mountain.
On the international weather pages like Weatheronline or Wunderground closest forecast and current data city is Split.
WeatherOnline home page
Croatia at WeatherOnline,
Zavizan, Velebit at WeatherOnline
Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Association (DHMZ):
DHMZ home page
DHMZ Forecast page
DHMZ 7 Day Forecast for Croatian and World wide cities and places, including Split
Zavizan, Velebit page on DHMZ site
Current Weather Conditions in Croatia, including Makarska and Zavizan
Snow Depth's in Croatia
Camping inside the nature park Biokovo is forbidden.
On the mountain there is one mountain hut and two refuges. “Vosac (1370m)” mountain hut is currently closed because of ownership rights dispute between “Biokovo” mountaineering club and Makarska County.
Refuges “Slobodan Ravlic” on Lokva (1467m) and refuge “Sv.Jure” (1594m), bellow the highest peak, are both closed. They are opened on request. You have to contact Drago Erceg from “Biokovo” mountaineering club in Makarska (phone: +385 21 616142, mobile: +385 98 225852) and ask for the key and return it back to him upon the descent from the mountain.
Slobodan Ravlic (1467m) hut or Hut on Lokva has been built in 1902 as forester’s cottage. It got its nickname Cottage on Lokva after a puddle, which is in front of it (Lokva=Puddle). It is more of a wide well that was used to collect water for cattle. Today there are no more cattle on these heights so the water is used for our purposes. In 1981 the cottage was handed to Biokovo mountaineering club from Makarska and renovated. It was named Slobodan Ravlic after a member, which died that year on Biokovo. It has 12 beds and is open in summer. 15 minutes from the hut, in Zagvozd direction, there is a Dusa hole, with eternal ice and snow, natural fridge. People used descent into it, using primitive leaders, to pick up snow. On the bottom hole widens into huge underground chamber with lot of snow and ice. Only those that descent into it can appreciate all the grandeur of karst underworld.
Kuca pod Svetim Jurom (1594m) (hut bellow Sveti Jure) has two separate rooms, one with 22 sleeping places and the other with equipped kitchen. It also has electricity and water (well requires the key which is in the house). It is placed by the Biokovo road.
On the Makarska Riviera coast you will find numerous hotels, private apartments and camps.
More info on accommodations you will find on these sites:
Makarska town site
Makarska Riviera site
Tucepi town site
Dalmatia Vacation site
No limits. Only Biokovo road, which ascends to the highest peak Sveti Jure, is toll road. Entrance is around 15 croatian kuna (2€). Parking is free in any of the villages where are trailheads of the routes.