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Ride the heart-shaped Istrian Peninsula, just across the water from Venice, Italy. Bicycle hills and valleys wrapped in vineyards and olive groves. Ride through the City of Artists, where music floats from doorways and echoes through narrow streets. Marvel at Roman ruins. Explore Venetian palaces and fishing villages. Kayak the Lim estuary. Feast on the region's famous truffles, local cheeses and oh-so-fresh fish. Sample its regional wines. Eight days of riding this stunningly beautiful region will steal your heart and leave you longing to return.
Note: E-bikes are available on Croatia tours.
Meet in Brtonigla, Istria. Vineyards, olive groves and medieval architecture make for a warm welcome.
Just across the Gulf of Trieste from Italy lies Istria, a Croatian peninsula where 30% of the locals identify as ethnic Italian. Olive groves, vineyards and architecture dating from the 15th century highlight the inland region; sparkling white sand beaches and rocky outcrops ring the rim. Choose to fly into any of 4 airports - Trieste, in northern Italy, Venice's Marco Polo Airport, Pula Airport at the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula, or Ljubljana Airport in next-door Slovenia - then transfer to meet in Brtonigla. Meet your guides and fellow guests this afternoon for a bike fitting and test ride. At the award-winning Restaurant San Rocco this evening, enjoy local specialties like fresh-caught fish and truffles. Stay here at the heritage Hotel San Rocco for the next 3 nights.
Coast ride: bike to the oldest lighthouse in the Adriatic. Tour medieval Momjan. Finish off the day with a wine tasting and tour of one of the best cellars in Istria.
Bike a gentle downhill to the coast this morning, to the town of Novigrad. Ride along the coastline to Umag and Savudrija. Explore the oldest lighthouse in the Adriatic, built in 1818. Still in operation today, this northernmost Croatian lighthouse has a keeper living inside. Bike from here to the medieval villages of Momjan and Buje. Finish back home in Brtonigla. This afternoon, get acquainted with Istrian wine production and tradition with a visit and tour of one of its finest wine cellars. Sample the wines the region is famous for: Muscat, Malvasia and Teran, then it's back to the Hotel San Rocco.
Biking route: 67 km / 42 miles, elevation gain +755 m – option for an additional 20 km / 13 miles
Ride a loop that begins and ends in Brtonigla, cruising beside the Mirna River through medieval villages and the region's truffle-growing center.
Today, ride from the hotel along the river Mirna to the village of Livade, the truffle center of the Istrian Peninsula. If you don't get to spend enough time here today, don't worry - you'll be back for a tasting tomorrow!
Continue riding to Oprtalj, a medieval town whose architecture remains unchanged. Narrow streets, shops, Venetian palaces, portals and covered passages - especially the view to the Istrian peninsula from the town loggia - make this one of the most beautiful spots in Istria. Time to pull out the camera! Back on the bike, ride through the viiage of Šterna, then to Momjan with its 13th-century clifftop castle ruins. Snap another photo or a dozen, then it's back to Brtonigla for a last night at Hotel San Rocco.
Biking: 74 km / 46 miles, elevation gain +897 m
Today is a feast for all the senses. Ride one of the most famous wine roads in Croatia. Explore ancient basilicas in the City of Artists, with music floating through windows alleyways. Sample the truffles the region is famous for. Finish in the seaside town of Porec.
Ride from the hotel up and out through Buje - the hilltop 'Sentinel of Istria' - to Grožnjan, Croatia's City of Artists. Pedaling the streets of this medieval hilltop village is an artistic experience: nearly every door leads to an art studio or gallery, and from windows and doorways floats music ranging from classical to jazz. Grožnjan's baroque church features a gorgeous Renaissance loggia dating from 1585. Then it's back to Livade, the Istria's truffle capital. Visit a local truffle shop to sample this most famous delicacy in various forms. Yum!
Continue onward this afternoon through Motovun. Once part of Italy, Motovun boasts ruins dating from Roman, Gothic and Renaissance days. The tiny 4-square-mile Motovun Forest is renowned for its rich soil, which produces rare black-and-white truffles. Continue riding to the hilltop village of Višnjan, with its Celtic ruins and astronomical observatory, then it's down to the coastal town of Porec. Spend the afternoon exploring the popular 6th-century seaside town and the Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Depending on your departure date, spend tonight at either the Hotel Palazzo or Hotel Mauro.
Biking: 66 km / 41 miles, elevation gain +985 m – additional options for another 20 km / 13 miles
Kayak the Lim Fjord to Rovinj, with a midday break for snorkeling and a dip in the Adriatic.
Shuttle to the Lim Fjord this morning. The Lim is not a true fjord, but rather an estuary that once divided the Roman provinces of Dalmatia and Italia. Tall limestone cliffs and slow-moving tides make perfect nurseries for the oysters, mussels and fish cultivated here. Meet your instructors for a sea kayak lesson, then paddle from the estuary out to the coastline and along the shores of the Adriatic. Midway, take a break on a protected beach for swimming and snorkeling. Climb back into the 'yaks to paddle onward to the Mediterranean port town of Rovinj, which Lonely Planet calls 'Coastal Istria's star attraction.' Explore the town this afternoon, then it's back to Poreč for a second night at either the Hotel Palazzo or Hotel Mauro.
Loop ride today: from the coast, head inland to explore olive groves and vineyards. Explore a medieval seaside fortress-town that Casanova visited twice.
Bike a loop from Porec today. Head inland and uphill through the olive groves of Tar, to the village of Bačva (meaning 'barrel' because of the wines produced here.) Do a little tasting, then continue riding inland through vineyards and hilltop villages. Head southwest to the ancient seaside town of Vrsar with its commanding view of the coastline and archipelagos. (Casanova found this fishing village so romantic that he visited twice!) Parts of its 12th-century fortification system have been preserved and the fortress-castle is well worth a look. Explore a bit, then hop back on the bikes and ride along the coast road back to Porec.
Biking: 58 km / 36 miles, elevation gain +698 m. Options for another 20 km / 13 miles
Ride through foodie heaven today: prosciutto, olive oil, wine and cheese. Finish at a 5-star hotel in coastal Rovinj, the 'Pearl of the Adriatic.'
Head back to gorgeous Rovinj today, this time by bike. Ride from Porec inland through the medieval towns of St. Lovreč and Tinjan to Zminj, a town known for its agritourism: minestra; sausage and cabbage; venison with bowtie pasta; prosciutto and olive oil and wines made from Terrano and Malvasia grapes. Visit a cheese factory to learn the local processes. Sample a few Croatian cheeses and yoghurts.
Continue riding through Kanfanar and Rovinjsko Selo to Rovinj, the 'Pearl of the Adriatic.' Originally built on an island, Rovinj was held first by Viennese and Illyrian tribes before being taken over by the Romans, then the Franks, Austria, Italy and finally Yugoslavia. The canal was filled in 1763, connecting what is now the Venetian Old Town to the mainland. Watch for the flat-bottomed fishing boats called 'batana' plying the local shallows for the fresh fish you'll enjoy tonight along with local Malvasia wines. Tonight: stay at gorgeous, modern Hotel Lone.
Biking: 73 km / 45 miles / elevation gain +946 m. Options for an additional 20 km / 13 miles
Castles, witchcraft trials and Roman architecture finish off the week.
After breakfast we ride inland to Bale region, known for the Soardo-Bembo Castle of the Gothic and Renaissance period and the parish church of St. Julian. Bale rose from the ruins of an old Roman fortification along the Via Flava, the ancient Roman road between Trieste and Pula. Narrow cobblestone streets and a Gothic castle are highlights. Stop off in Svetvinčenat, a medieval village whose grandiose Morosini-Grimani citadel is one of the best-preserved examples of Venetian architecture in Istria. It hosted one of the rare witchcraft trials in 17th century, where a local herbalist was accused and sentenced.
Finish the day in the lively Roman outpost of Pula, largest city in Istria. Pula is an enchantress held by the Romans, Ostrogoths and Venetians, as well as the Allied Forces in World War II. Gaze in awe at Sergius' Triumphal Arch and its Roman amphitheatre, both dating from the 1st century B.C. Enjoy a final celebration feast here. This afternoon, shuttle to the departure airport of your choice: Pula (30 minutes); Trieste (2 hours); Ljubljana (2.5 hours) or Venice (3 hours.) Safe travels!
Biking: 97 km / 61 miles / elevation gain +853 m. Options for an additional 20 km / 13 miles
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As an optional extra, a person traveling solo on any inn-to-inn trip may reserve a room for his or her exclusive use. This will guarantee you a private room and private bath every night. Unlike other tour companies, if you're willing to share a room, there is no extra charge for coming solo, no matter when you sign up for the tour - even if you wind up with a private room by default.