Road cycling trip in Istria, Croatia

Istria, Croatia is the one of the great places in Europe for road cycling holidays.

Stunning landscapes, good pavement quality, inland low car traffic, nice rolling terrain with hard climbing options available also.

This is a short video about the routes that we’ve cycled in a DIY triathlon training camp done in 2020. You will find also a more detailed description, with .gpx tracks and photos if you scroll down bellow.

The base point was in Porec but we’ve “visited”: Motovun, Livade, Rovinj, Opatija, Cape Savudrija, Ucka National Park and the famous Vojak climb. Here is a map with all the routes that we’ve done:

All of these routes are paved, perfect for road cycling. I found the local drivers being polite and cautious when passing by. We’ve done it in September 2020, during the COVID pandemic, so the car traffic was lower than usual. However, as locals told us, even during high tourist season it is quite low in the interior of the peninsula and out of the big seaside towns and resorts. And this is exactly what you want to do: ride the small roads, pass through little inland villages and climb the hills covered with vineyards.

The starting point for most of this routes is the place where we had our accommodation: Urban Premium Apartments Porec (here is my complete positive review)

Route no.1: Porec to Rovinj and back:

Map, altitude profile and .gpx track file download from here: https://www.strava.com/activities/4052828476 or from here: https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/7890737/

70km long with ~800 m climbing to be done in total.

We knew that Rovinj can’t be really visited while dragging our bikes around on the steep, cobbled, old town pedestrian streets. We’ve done it properly on another day, without the bikes, and I recommend you to do the same. This time, Rovinj was perfect just for a coffee stop at one of the many seaside terraces.

The route to get there, starting from Porec, is quite pleasant. You pass some small villages, like Rovinjsko Selo and Matohanci, and a lot of vineyards. There are some really nice lookout points once you reach the top of the hills above the Lim Channel (Lim Fyord as some call it).

Route no.2: 2x Hell in Croatia climb (Lake Butoniga):

Map, altitude profile and .gpx track file download from here: https://www.strava.com/activities/4057691407 or from here: https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/7890745/

46km long with ~1100 m climbing to be done in total.

That is only if you do that bloody climb 2 times like we did 😉 . If you are not that masochist than you will get ~8 km shorter ride and ~400m less to climb.

Why “Hell in Croatia” you ask ? I found out only after our ride, when I’ve seen the Strava segment and how is named. 3.75km with 9.8% incline…. that’s why 😉

We’ve took the car to the starting point of this route, but if you are looking for a longer day on the bike, you could ride directly from Porec (which is ~33 km away).

Nice views above Butoniga lake and when passing near Motovun village.

Route no.3: Motovun & Livade climb:

Map, altitude profile and .gpx track file download from here: https://www.strava.com/activities/4068177871  or from here: https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/7890751/

84 km long with ~1300m climbing to be done in total.

This has to be one of the classic, must be done, rides in Istria. A portion of this track is included in the annual Istria Gran Fondo road cycling race .

Motovun is probably the most interesting place inside the Istrian peninsula. It’s a medieval village, located high on top of a hill. Almost all of the streets are cobbled, so you will get a very “Tour of Flanders feel” if you manage to stay on your bike while climbing to the top main square. Great place for a coffee stop with magnificent views over the surroundings.

The other attraction of this day is the beautiful Livade climb. Shady, with a lot of hairpins all the way to the top where you will get rewarded with a passage through the nice Oprtalj village. On the way back to Porec you can make a stop by the seaside in Novigrad.

Route no.4: Porec to Cape Savudrija  and back:

Map, altitude profile and .gpx track file download from here: https://www.strava.com/activities/4072949692 or from here: https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/7890759/

76 km long with ~750m climbing to be done in total.

This route covers the north-west sea coast of the peninsula, reaching the oldest lighthouse in Croatia. It is generally a flat track, with small ups and downs and no difficult climbing to be done. It takes the main road so you can expect some car traffic today.

There are some interesting places along the way. Antenal, for example, just before the town of Novigrad, is a 1 km stretch of road where you have the see on one side and a lake formed by the river Mirna on the other. Quite impressing.

Cape Savudrija is a picturesque and relaxing place situated near the Slovenian border. Completed in 1818, it is said that it is the oldest operational light of the Adriatic.

Route no.5: Vojak climb in Ucka National Park:

Map, altitude profile and .gpx track file download from here: https://www.strava.com/activities/4086560424 or from here: https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/7890768/

46 km long with ~1400m climbing to be done in total.

It’s the climbers route. The one that you don’t want to miss if uphill is your thing. The annual race “King of Ucka” in held here, on this famous climb.

If you have the accommodation on the west coast than you will need a car to get to the starting point, Opatija (80km from Porec).

The route goes up from Icici, from sea level and, after 22km, you reach almost 1400m on top of Vojak. On the Strava segment, Primoz Roglic has done it in 58min12sec. I’ve done it in 1h34min16sec 😉 If you get the chance to ride it, send me a comment with your time and tell me your impressions about it. Some of the descending can be done on another route directly to Opatija.

Route no.5: Porec to Antenal and back: 

Map, altitude profile and .gpx track file download from here: https://www.strava.com/activities/4101643783  or from here: https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/7890773/

35 km long with ~400m climbing to be done in total.

Antenal is that 1km road, with the sea on one side and a lake on the other, that I’ve told you about on Route no.4. You will pass it also on Route no. 3.

You can use this short ride if you want a more relaxing day and have time for ….

Other things to do in Istria, besides cycling: 

Check out my other article with the activities we’ve done during our holidays in Istria: https://mystreet.website/2021/01/04/walk-cycle-and-kayak-in-istria-croatia/

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