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Wonderful Croatia - Istria Peninsula Bike Trails


Easy cycling - asphalt, dirt road, uphill and downhill
Istria - Pula track: 80 km +/- 550m
Istria - Porec track:  50  km +/-  400 m






As a Romanian, it is hardly unlikely for you not to have a small internal giggle when you hear about the city of Pula or about the national currency of Botswana, the Pula. If you don't understand the reference here then I warmly invite you to visit Romania and you should have a clear picture afterward, but in the meantime let's just say it involves some degree of cursing. We did not make it to Botswana this time, but we have focused on Istria, a cozy peninsula in Croatia.



Even though we really liked the I Love Pula t-shirts that were for sale as souvenirs, this is not the reason why we chose to visit Istria. All in all the peninsula is a great travel destination packed with lots of history and culture but the focus of our story is on two bicycle tracks we planned for the start of spring.




Long story short is that this year's Easter holiday came with a bonus day off so we planned to visit some more distant lands than usual.

We chose Croatia for a few different reasons: it is a Catholic country and this year's Easter was on different dates. Another was regarding the climate: our goal was to have the best chances of good weather as we possibly could and for it to be warm. The main reason was that Croatia during the off-season is simply great - the hills and the rugged coastline make for a great bicycle track!

Even if we had a long drive it was worth it even for only four days. Yeah, yeah, we know... out of the four days you lose two on the road but even so you still have two full days time for visiting, relaxing, cycling and anything else you want.

Istria per say is one of the best regions in Croatia. The seaside towns are really coquettish and interesting to visit even more during the off-season when they are not packed tight of tourists from all over the world.

Our initial plan was slightly different as we planned to have a two-day bike trip. This changed when we found a map with local bike tracks.

Our initial plan was to travel from Timisoara to Labin, where we booked a room for the first and last night, and from there we would head on to Pula, spend the night there and return to the car the next day. The itinerary for day one was: Labin - Sveta Marina - Valtura Medulin - Pula and then the next one was: Pula - Rovinj - Pazin - Labin. The plan wasn't bad but we found some local maps that made us change the plan slightly.

When we reached Labin we went to our accommodation, located in a small village close to town. I'll let you know more details about it in the section below and I'll continue with the story for now. Since we reached our destination in the evening we got our bikes our and wondered off to Labin.


After a few kilometers, we reached a challenging slope that goes to the heart of the city. For me personally, it was hard and I ended up all pumped at the top. I was really disappointed with my psychical condition at that point and I noticed for the first time the effect of my lack of sustained sports activities in the last few months.

After I came to my senses I started visiting the old and lovely medieval town. What we found was a pleasant surprise that helped me forget about the "hard" ascent. After this, we went back for some well deserved shut eye in preparation for the next two days of cycling.








Here is a short video about our trip.




Circuit number one: South side of Istria



We had an early morning start, had a quiet breakfast after which we packed everything and left for Pula. We left the car in the parking lot of the apartment we have booked for that night and started our bike circuit.

We did a small city tour but nothing too important as we had enough time in the evening for such things. We started anticlockwise on our tour. In theory, we had to go through Donji Kamenjak i Medulinski Arhipelag and through Premantura until the small peninsula's south limit after which to come back through Medulin - Vodnjan - Fazana - Pula. Let's just say we got somewhat lost and missed the road to Prematura so we decided to skip the small peninsula altogether.

We visited the oldest rock quarry in Istria, intensely used during the Roman Empire and stood amazed at all the stone walls precisely cut and carved. Besides the sea, rock is a resource Croatians have in great amounts.


From here our direction was Medulin and we had a small off-road section - it happens when you are off on an adventure :). In any case, nothing extreme, just a few bumps and rocks. We are sure you can avoid it and find a decent road as there is nothing special about it.



In Medulin, we fell in love with the clear blue color of the sea. Even from the shoreline your gaze can pierce all the way to the depths of the sea and combined with the clear blue sky made for a fantastic sight, one to be stored in our box of memories.




I was never a big fan of the seaside and I never really could understand the summer fever nor did I actually want to partake to it but I can see the beauty of a rocky landscape calmly sculpted by a still sea without the tourist rush. There is a lot of beauty behind this wast open mass of water.




From Medulin, we start going inland - through the peninsula's villages.



Obviously, the view is not that eye-catching since the seaside in no longer in sight but the light traffic and the clear and sunny day make for a great experience overall. It was a great idea to come here!

On our way, we encounter different sights and signs of art. We take a shoot, we laugh and we leave - just like tourist do :)



We reach Fazana by the time we start feeling tired. This is a small seaside town - really nice with beautiful narrow streets paved with rock and old, but colorful buildings. It is worth your time to walk its streets.



And finally - Pula! We visited the antique amphitheater and walked through the old city streets, after which we grabbed a beer and left for some well-deserved shut-eye. Our personal impression on Pula is that it is worth visiting for a few hours but there isn't a lot to do or see here. All in all, there isn't a lot of wow, but that is only our opinion.




Track technical details


Waypoints: Pula - Medulin - Liznjan - Sisan - Valtura - Marcana - Vodnjan - Fazana - Stinjan - Pula

Details: The road is 95% asphalt and 5% dirt. There are no dedicated bike lanes but you mostly follow secondary roads that have low traffic. Furthermore, the drivers are accustomed to cyclists and keep a decent distance when overtaking.

Description: The first part of the track is a continues up and down with small elevation differences, just perfect for a warm-up. The last two-thirds are almost a continues uphill climb and add up to the most majority of the vertical relief.
The last part is the cherry on top - a continues downhill in between hills for a heroic end.






Stats:


  • Distance: 77 km
  • Time: 8 h 10 min
  • Time on the move: 5 h 20 min
  • Vertical relief: +/- 550 m
  • Min - Max altitude: 5 - 214 m
  • Max speed: 50 km/h
  • Average speed: 14.5 km/h




Circuit number two: West side of Istria


For our second circuit, we started from the north side of Porec in order to also pass through the small town. We left the visiting part for the end of the day as we wanted to allocate a bit more time to it as Porec is really a beautiful town.




We parked the car in a public parking lot in the middle of a residential area. It wasn't the best options as later we saw the large parking lots destined for tourist right next to the seaside. As we didn't do enough research about the town we chose the first free parking area we saw :)



From Porec, we went south, anti-clockwise, in the direction of Vrsar. Another coastline gem that you shouldn't miss on your journey. It is a typical old town, with narrow streets and buildings all cramped together and colored in vivid hues. What a joy!




From Vrsar, we start moving inland going in a constant uphill - downhill variation. As we move closer and closer to rural settlements the touristic rush fades in, making way to large groups of cyclists. Even the smallest villages have a nice design and a good vibe.
We stop to rest in the old center of the small village of Sveti Lovrec. We have lunch under the branches of the old tree located in front of the church and then we stop for a coffee further down the road. We continue downhill back to Porec.



In Porec, we spend a few hours wandering its narrow streets after which we decide to pack our bikes and to go by car to Rovinj and visit this town as well. We didn't go by bike because it was starting to get late in the day and we didn't want to make it back during the night. Furthermore, in order to reach Rovinj from Porec, you need to descend through a deep valley and to climb it all over again and then to repeat this for the trip back (a vertical relief of a few hundred meters).




We heard a lot of good things about Rovinj so we were curious to see it for ourselves. Totally worth it! We wondered the streets for hours, managed to pick up our tourist's prize - the almighty fridge magnet; drank a coffee on the seaside and managed to fill up our camera's memory card.








Good weather, nice places... what a great holiday! Croatia + bike = best deal!


Track technical details


Waypoints: Porec - Funtana - Vrsar - Flengi - Gradina - Sveti Lovrec - Zbandaj - Kadumi - Porec.

Details: The track is 100% asphalt without any bike lanes, but on secondary roads with light traffic (maybe because it was during the extra season).

Description: The first third of the track is a steady up and down with slight differences in altitude. The second third is a constant uphill "battle" which ends in a great descent just before the finish.



Stats:


  • Distance: 48 km
  • Time: 5 h 27 min
  • Time on the move: 3 h 25 min
  • Vertical relief: +/- 370 m
  • Min - Max altitude: -3 - 203 m
  • Max speed: 50 km/h
  • Average speed: 13.9 km/h

GPS Track Wikiloc






Where do we sleep?



As mentioned earlier I've left the details about our accommodation for last. We chose to sleep at hotels for this trip and not in our tent because at the time we started planning we had no idea how the weather was going to look like or if camping grounds would be open so early in the year and we wanted a sure thing. Furthermore, since we were going off-season we found some great accommodation offers.

For the firsts and last night, we chose to sleep at Guesthouse Gabi in Vinez, a small village close to Labin. The place is great and the hosts top tier, a friendly - senior couple. We rented a small apartment in their house which came with a fully stocked kitchen, a washing machine, a small place to eat in the kitchen and a living room/bedroom combo. Everything was very clean and tidy. We warmly recommend the place, here are a few pictures of their establishment.





For the second night we chose to rent another apartment on the outskirts of Pula and yet again we had a pleasant surprise. Same deal, kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom - everything that you would need included and very clean. Apartment Ben is the place if you ever find yourself in the are.



The nice thing about both places is that you have a free parking place included and if you are traveling by bike you can bring them inside. As far as prices, they were a great deal for the off-season: 27 EUR per night for Gabi and 24 EUR per night for Ben. Here is my extra -10% off on Booking if you use the link.


Cost breakdown




Some estimated costs to get a rough idea about the budget.

     Transportation costs:

  • Hungarian Vignette - 10 days: 11 euro
  • Croatian highway taxes:  40 euro
  • Fuel: 180 euro

     Accommodation (3 nights): 75 euro

     Food: 65 euro


  • Note: we didn't really eat out much for the exception of a coffee, beer, ice-cream or such.


Total: 370 euro







Wonderful Croatia - Istria Peninsula Bike Trails Reviewed by Karina Isar on 22:27 Rating: 5

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