A Guide to the Medieval Hilltop Towns of Istria

Whilst the Istrian cities of Pula and Rovinj are well known amongst travellers, few venture inland to the region's beautiful landscape of rolling hills. Often compared with Tuscany, the Istrian countryside is characterised by its scenic hilltop villages, Italian in style, with sweeping vineyards and forests that are perfect for truffle hunting. One of the best places to go in Croatia for food, whilst here visitors can dine in family-run rural establishments and try locally produced wine. Read on for our favourite Istrian hilltop towns and villages to visit.
Motovun village Istria

Motovun

Nestled atop a hill in the heart of Istria, Croatia, Motovun is a picturesque medieval town steeped in history and charm, and is one of the most famous in the region. Its ancient cobblestone streets wind their way through well-preserved stone buildings adorned with rustic shutters and terracotta rooftops. The town’s iconic bell tower punctuates the skyline, offering panoramic views of the surrounding lush countryside and vineyards. Motovun’s rich cultural heritage is evident in its bustling town square, where locals gather amidst quaint cafes and artisan shops. The surrounding countryside is famous for the black and white truffles that you can hunt in the local forests, with many truffle dishes featured in restaurants in the town. In the summer it hosts the popular annual film festival.

 

Beram village

Beram

Nestled in the heart of Istria, Croatia, Beram is a quaint village with a rich historical legacy and stunning natural surroundings. Its narrow cobblestone streets wind through ancient stone houses adorned with colorful facades, creating a charming ambiance that harkens back to a simpler time. Beram is perhaps most famous for the Church of St. Mary of the Rocks, a medieval gem adorned with magnificent frescoes painted by the renowned Istrian artist Vincent of Kastav. These intricate frescoes, dating back to the 15th century, depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and are considered among the finest examples of Istrian medieval art. Beyond its cultural treasures, Beram is surrounded by rolling hills, lush forests, and vineyards, offering ample opportunities for outdoor exploration and scenic walks.

Boljun village

Boljun

The quaint fortified town of Boljun is located in Central Istria, in the valley below Mount Ucka. The town has a well-preserved historic medieval castle that offers fabulous views over the Boljuncica valley and of Ucka Mountain, serving as a reminder of Boljun’s strategic importance throughout the centuries. As visitors wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, they encounter charming stone houses adorned with vibrant flowers, reflecting the warmth of the local community. Boljun’s tranquil ambience is complemented by its natural beauty, with nearby forests and rolling hills inviting exploration and outdoor adventures.

Gracise

Gracisce

Nestled amidst the rolling hills of Istria, Croatia, Gracisce is a picturesque hilltop town that captivates visitors with its timeless beauty and rich cultural heritage. Its charming cobblestone streets wind through the heart of the village, flanked by ancient stone houses adorned with colourful shutters and blooming flowers. At the town’s centre stands the Church of St. Vitus, a stunning example of Istrian Gothic architecture, boasting intricate details and a serene atmosphere. Gracisce is also renowned for its annual cultural events, including the popular Gracisce Cultural Summer, where locals and visitors alike come together to celebrate music, art, and traditional cuisine. Surrounded by lush vineyards and olive groves, Gracisce offers breathtaking views of the Istrian countryside, inviting travellers to explore its scenic trails and immerse themselves in the region’s natural beauty.

Oprtalj

Oprtalj

Located high above Mirna Valley is the charming town of Oprtalj. At the town’s centre stands the majestic Church of St. George, a striking example of Istrian Gothic architecture, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from its lofty vantage point. Oprtalj’s rich cultural heritage is celebrated through its vibrant local festivals, where traditional music, dance, and cuisine bring the streets to life. Situated outside of the town walls, there is a Venetian loggia that offers stunning views of the neighbouring hills and olive groves. For an authentic flavour of Oprtalj, visit the famous local olive oil producers in the region.

Groznjan

Groznjan

The enchanting medieval town of Groznjan sits on the hilltop, 228m above sea level. From this vantage point you can feast your eyes on the Mirna Valley, and the surrounding olive groves and vineyards. You can also enjoy spectacular vistas of the sea and the coastline, from Novigrad to Umag. The houses and buildings in Groznjan are built from stone that is different in shape and colour to the stone that is used in other regions of Istria. The town has a typical medieval layout, with houses that are built very close together for protection. The streets are cobbled and winding, with little alleys that lead you to interesting discoveries. There are also plenty of art galleries to visit in this art town. In the summer, Groznjan hosts the popular jazz festival.

Zavrsje

Zavrsje

Zavrsje is the most interesting and picturesque hilltop town of Istria. Its cobbled streets wind through a maze of stone houses adorned with vibrant flowers, evoking a sense of timeless tranquillity. Although the town is quite big in comparison to other towns, it’s mostly abandoned. The majority of the houses are covered in wall climbing ivy. There is also a leaning bell tower, and a local inn where you can enjoy tasty homemade Croatian delicacies.

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