Discovering Istria’s inland gems

Draguc in Autumn - just one of Istria's inland gemsTop of my list of things to do in Istria is explore its beautiful inland villages, with their old stone houses. Most are still unspoilt by tourism: you’ll often have them almost to yourselves, and visiting is like stepping back in time to a sleepier world and a slower pace of life.

There are plenty to choose from and getting to them is usually relatively easy. Istria is small (about 100 km long and 60 km wide), with mainly good quality roads, limited traffic and some magnificent scenery – so driving here is not simply a means of getting from A to B, but part of the holiday fun!

To give you a taste of some possibilities, here are five of my favourite drives:

  • Centre: Tinjan – Beram – Pazin – Lindar – Gracišce – Pican
  • East coast: Plomin – Brsec – Mošcenice – Lovran – Opatija (plus Ucka if time)
  • North-East: Draguc – Krušvari – Buzet – Roc – Hum
  • North-West: Motovun – Oprtalj – Zrenj – Momjan – Grožnjan
  • Lim Fjord: Svetvincenat – Kanfanar – Dvigrad – Mrgani – Sveti Lovrec – Limski DragaFront cover of Travel Guide to Istria drive book

For a wider choice, with more detailed information, I highly recommend ‘A Travel Guide to Istria’ which is published by the Istrian Tourist Association in various languages. Unfortunately it’s not available on-line (I’ve just looked), so you’ll need to buy it when you get here. It’s on sale in most bookshops, stationers and wherever they sell guidebooks, etc.; it has twenty drives and also some walks round inland Istria. Each drive takes around four hours. I’ve done most of them and it’s proved an informative and (mostly) accurate guide. Most of my drives are based on routes in this book, with my own added twists.

The other ‘must have’ is a map. I’m old-fashioned, so for me that means paper, not software! As well as the large-scale Croatia map (which also covers Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina), you can buy a map of Istria (scale 1:110.000), covering bits of Slovenia and Italy as well. Both these maps are available almost everywhere – petrol stations, supermarkets and anywhere selling guidebooks. Also available, but a little harder to find, are a set of seven smaller scale maps (1:30.000). These are great for cycling, but aren’t really detailed enough for walking: for that you’ll need an Ordnance Survey map – which I’m afraid doesn’t exist.

Three Istrian mapsA warning note on maps – don’t expect great accuracy. While most of the roads marked will exist (in some form), it’s not unusual for gravel tracks to be marked as main roads and vice-versa; you’ll also find a few roads not marked at all and some that are which just don’t exist. My advice is use your common sense and don’t always believe what’s drawn on the map!

If you’re the techie type, satnav maps are available for Istria and seem to be reasonably accurate (we’ve just got one and are experimenting … we’ll let you know).

First posted Jan 2013


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