Croatia’s most popular cycling peninsula, blue or green, absolutely challenging and exciting
The green, like the countryside, cultivated, rural, just like the blue of the coast, moderately urbanised, and yet also like the charm of romantic fortified towns and castles unique, in all its variations, Istria is very much attractive all year round as a cycling destination of challenging trails and the picturesque landscapes.
Northwest Istria is proud of its network of road and MTB routes, amongst which is the popular Parenzana. Recreational cyclists, lovers of nature, culture and cuisine can choose from a selection of six circular roads and 12 MTB routes. It is possible to visit the oldest lighthouse in the Adriatic from 1818 in Savudrija, which was also the first European lighthouse that used gas for lighting. They call it the “lighthouse of love”. Immediately after it follows “the town of tennis balls and tournaments” Umag, and after that the charming fortified Novigrad, then the mouth of the River Mirna into the sea and the many natural beauties. However, the greatest feature of Istria is the concentration of preserved mediaeval little towns located on the top of hills which provided them natural protection. Even today they are not easily conquered, however to modern tourists on bikes they are a new challenge. Some of these towns are: Buje, Momjan, Grožnjan – “the town of artists”, Završje, Oprtalj, Motovun and Vižinada, and adding to the authentic ambience are the very picturesque villages of the upper Buje area (Bujština).
Today the Parenzana is an extremely popular 78 km long MTB cycling route through Istria, as it brings together lovers of outdoor activities, with the emphasis on cyclists from around the world, and at the same time, it is the first greenway trail along an abandoned railway track in Croatia. It was renovated in 2002 via the Italy – Slovenia – Croatia cross-border project: Parenzana – the route of health and friendship. The length of the railway track from Trieste to Poreč is 123 km, and has nine tunnels, 11 bridges and six viaducts and today represents a pearl of the architectural heritage of the early 20th century. The lush vegetation and melange of flora and fauna along the track are simply captivating. The route also passes along many attractive bike-friendly places to stay and many good places to eat – authentic Istrian taverns, agritourism households, wine cellars and wine shops, as well as the centre of the world of truffles in Livade, near to which are the Istrian Toplice thermal spa and the famous truffle hunting woods of Motovun.
By descending southeast towards the region of Rovinj, Bale and Kanfanar, the network of routes passes villages above the mediaeval town of Dvigrad, through Rovinjsko Selo and the Basilica valley with its many churches and chapels, along the old track of the Rovinj – Kanfanar railway, and after Rovinj continues along the hotels and campsites of the very attractive parts of the seashore, with the Zlatni Rt forest park and the Palud protected ornithological reserve.
Via Vodnjan and Fažana the Brijuni National Park can be reached which pre- and post-season offers its visitors a programme called BicikliRAJ (Cycling heaven) which includes the three-hour bike rental and independent ride around the island of Veliki Brijun.
Also practical and pleasant is a sightseeing bike tour of the fortified rings of the city of Pula and its environs including Štinjan with the largest and most beautiful fort of Punta Christo from the mid-19th century and Pula itself with its system of city bikes, which neighbouring Medulin also has, and so it is possible to also visit the Medulin Riviera with its protected region of Kamenjak Rt and the Medulin archipelago.
The network of routes follows southern Istria along Labin and Rabac, and Raša, Kršan and Sveta Nedelja. In 2017 in conjunction with Valamar Hotels & Resorts the Rabac Bike Skills Park, the first of its kind was opened, where various types trails will be developed for devotees of MTB, freerider and endure trails with jumps, curves and downhills plus easy flow trail paths, and also on offer is the rental of various types of bikes (road, mountain, trekking and electric) as well as a shop.
And at the end the network of routes of central Istria along Pazin, Žminj, Gračišće, Pićan, Sveti Lovreč, Tinjan, Sveti Petar u Šumi, Cerovlje and Lupglav offers many interesting possibilities for riding, and particularly outstanding are the routes of Tinjan pond and springs and the route of waterfalls, the circuit from Pazin to Gologorički Dol and the Sopot waterfall in Florčići at Pićan, the largest waterfall of Istria, extremely attractive in spring and autumn.
After all of this it is not difficult to conclude why Istria is the most popular cycling peninsula in Croatia and full of challenges. For many years it has already carried the recognisable outdoor brand of Istra Bike with approximately 120 cycling routes over all types of terrain and for all kinds of bikes. The website www.istria-bike.com presents everything completely and informatively – here it is possible to find almost everything that a cyclotourist is looking for and expects.
Along with this, the region of Istria has standardised markings along the cycling routes according to which it is divided into seven cycling zones, and each cycling route has unique numerical markings from 1 to 699. Furthermore, each marking clearly shows the level of difficulty of the route; the first number, red, yellow or green, and then with lines – spiky, wavy or straight, and there is also a category for family and recreational routes, with the emphasis on safety and easy cycling routes adapted for families with children on holiday and simpler, leisurely bike riding.
Istria also has the separate standard of markings for bike-friendly accommodation - Istra Bike & Bed, and these markings relate to 112 accommodation sites divided into the categories of hotels, family hotels and apartments and holiday houses. To reserve a bike friendly place to stay and for any kind of extra information connected with the cyclotourism offer of the region you can contact the Istria Info & Booking Centre (Halo Istra), tel: + 385 52 88 00 88 or via e-mail email@example.com or the website www.istra.com.
The possibilities of cycling package deals are varied for different types of tourists and cyclists. Most of the deals include the possibility of guidance which is entrusted to specially trained cycling guides. For information about the service via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Istria also offers a network of terminals called Istria e-mobility for the charging of electric bikes and this is at the following locations:
Poreč – seven locations: Hotel Laguna Parentium; Villa, Village and Apartments Laguna Galijot; Kamp Bijela Uvala: the Ulika naturist campsite; Zelena Laguna Resort – Laguna Lounge; Pinia Residence – Beach Bar Luna; Valamar Diamant Hotel
Rovinj – three locations: Hotel Eden; Resort Amarin; Resort Villa Rubin
Tar – two locations: Lanterna Campsite - Trattoria La Pentola; Valamar Club Tamaris Hotel
Motovun: Kanal parking
Central Istria: Gračišće, Cerovlje and Tinjan
Barban: in the town centre
Rabac: Valamar Sanfior Hotel
Parenzana – the route of health and friendship
Istria Bike and cycling trails and Istra Bike & Bed
Northwest Istria - cycling
Istraturist Park & Ride Umag
Aminess Hotels & Campsites, Novigrad
Valamar cycling Croatia, Poreč
Maistra Bike Rovinj
Rovinj cycling and walking
Fažana, heaven for bikes and walking
Brijuni National Park, BicikliRAJ
Cycling routes of the public institution Kamenjak
Arenaturist Hotels & Resorts, Pula
Cycling routes of the Medulin Riviera
Bike Centar Rabac and Bike Skills Park