A route of health and friendship

Croatia’s rich cultural and historical heritage are evident in many historic railway routes that cross the country. One significant route is the Parenzana, a narrow-gauge railway line that once linked towns and villages along the western coast of Istria. No longer an operational rail line, segments of it have been repurposed as scenic trails, offering pedestrians and cyclists a unique opportunity to be engulfed in Istria’s stunning countryside and charmed by its traditional villages. 

The Parenzana ran from 1902 to 1935, playing a vital role in the economic development of Istria. It transported passengers as well as wine, olive oil, stone, coal, and wood, contributing significantly to the region’s prosperity. Stretching over 123km and across parts of Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia, the Parenzana connected 33 Istrian towns from Trieste to Poreč.  

Today, the Croatian part of the Parenzana trail offers fabulous views of lush valleys, vineyards, olive groves, and medieval towns. Trail renovations have made some Istrian gems more accessible, such as tunnels, viaducts, and railway stations that showcase the architectural marvels of the time. 

The trail passes through charming towns: Grožnjan, Motovun, Vižinada, Buje, and Oprtalj, each offering unique appeal and cultural heritage. Once busy hubs on the Parenzana line, these towns still exhibit their railway heritage. From Motovun’s limestone architecture to Vižinada’s astronomical observatory and Buje’s bustling railway operations, the stations offer glimpses into Istria’s past and the railway’s integral role in shaping its landscape and communities. 

The Parenzana is the most popular cycling and hiking trail in Istria today. Along the route are 20 Bike&Bed facilities, seven bicycle repair shops and about 15 bike rental agencies. Poreč, a town on the route, is home to the Euphrasian Basilica, the best-preserved and most beautiful example of Early Byzantine art in the Mediterranean, is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Enroute to Poreč, Parenzana passes the village of Nova Vas, home of a natural monument: the Baredine Cave. It has five chambers richly adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, “hanging curtains”, and small underground lakes.  

The Višnjan Railway Station, nestled under the modern motorway called the Istrian Y, has been preserved almost in its original form. Today, Višnjan is best known for its unique observatory, among the twelve most productive in the world for the number of asteroids discovered by astronomers there. 

Croatia embraces eco-friendly travel options, and the Parenzana stands out as a prime example of a sustainable tourism offer. By preserving heritage and natural beauty, Croatia attracts visitors eager to explore its historic railway routes and rich cultural tapestry. Whether on foot or by bike, the Parenzana offers a journey through time, inviting travelers to discover the land and the stories that have shaped Istria’s identity. 

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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