While much of the Istrian coastline is built up and in thrall to the mass tourism industry, inland this section of Croatia could be an entirely different world. There are a wealth of unspoiled historic towns and villages and trails winding around and between them that will enthral even the most reluctant of walkers.
Starting in Brtonigla-Verteneglio one pleasant hiking trail is that of St. Zenon. This route will take you towards the Zmergo hill, from the summit of which the views of the surrounding vineyards and olive groves and all the way down to the sea are stunning. After seeing the water supply structure atop the hill, the trail will take you to the Škarline Nature Park – a scenic but little known area with charming small lakes, and a small canyon carved by a stream on its way to join up with the Mirna River. You can then return to your start point on a different route, completing this circular route. This trail is easy, relaxing and well sign-posted. The round trip will usually take around two hours.
Another lovely route for hiking or biking is the Parensana trail which follows the route of the old railway that ran between Porec and Trieste. This beautiful trail winds through serene and picturesque landscapes of vineyards, olive groves, verdant hills and valleys and historic, mediaeval towns. Signs will tell you about the former railway as you make your journey.
A short walk from the town of Visnjan will take you past many fascinating historic sites before passing out of town through the Venetian Lion Gate and traversing the local wine-growing region to the village of Barat before returning to town.
From Vizinada you can walk or ride the St. Tomo’s circular trail through lush, green woodland. This trail is around 4.7 kilometres long, after which you should climb the hill of St. Tomo itself. Ascending the 299 metres will give you astonishingly lovely 360 degree views out over hills, valleys, hamlets, churches, the Mirna river valley and to the west, the sea.
The area around Pazin has many scenic and relaxing walks. There is a pleasing walk that takes in the waterfall, Sopot and the highest hill in the region, Perunkovac. It follows a route called the St. Simeon Trail. Another hiking trail of 12 km links Beram and Pazin with a circular route. Perhaps best of the trails in the vicinity of Pazin is the hiking trail from Pazin to Grdoselo and Zelengrad. This breathtaking circular trail of 16 km has some sublime views of Pazin valley and mountains around and the ruined mediaeval town of Zelengrad is fascinating.
Those who seek sublime views would enjoy the mountain trail from the old town of Buzet to Raspadalica, at 556 m above sea level. Though perhaps the most amazing views of the region are to be found in and around the Ucka Nature Park. Take the trail along the edge of Vela Draga, a spectacular canyon, or hike to the freshwater spring of Korita from where you will have some astounding views of the Ucka Mountain Range. Finally, the short Plas Educational Trail which passes over the slopes of the peak ridge of the range should no be missed.
Of course there are many more tranquil trails to choose from in Istria. This may well be a good area to consider when you are planning your next hiking holiday.