While the Istrian seaside is incredibly beautiful, some say its interior is where the true gems are, thinking about many stunning hilltop towns and villages. It is indeed one of the most impressive countryside you can see: fortified towns and villages rising above seemingly endless green forests and vineyards are a sight straight out of fairytales. The breathtaking view, rich cultural heritage and gastronomic specialties are just some of the reasons for visiting these Istrian jewels!
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The most famous Istrian hilltop town is certainly Motovun, whose walls are one of the best preserved Istrian mediaeval fortresses. The towns and the forest that surrounds it are a theme of many legends and stories. What is legendary but real about Motovun forest are truffles, one of the most expensive delicacies in the world. The black and white truffles are a part of many delicious dishes you can try in Motovun, along with some fine local wines. This charming town is especially lively in the summer, when the famous Motovun Film Festival takes place. There is no bad time for paying a visit, though, as you can always enjoy the splendid view from the mediaeval walls while tasting exquisite food and wine.
The gorgeous town of Grožnjan will make you feel like you have stepped into a movie scene! That is probably why so many artists come here seeking inspiration. Since the streets of this small town are filled with art galleries and live music, they got what they were looking for. Grožnjan’s history goes back to ancient times, although most of its landmarks are from the Mediaeval and Renaissance periods. Quality wines and olive oil are used in traditional Istrian dishes of the area so no need to worry about being hungry. Walk down the narrow stone streets and let the art and music guide you through this wonderful Town of the Artists!
Oprtalj is another charming little hilltop town, close to Grožnjan and it would be a shame not to visit them both when in the area. The picturesque colourful houses and the stunning Venetian loggia that offers a magnificent view of the area are just some of the things you will be impressed with.
Although the newer part of the town has developed in the lowlands, the old town of Buzet is situated on a hill. This lovely town is known for its distillery that produces tasty brandies made out of the local wild herbs and fruits, but also as one of the Croatian motor racing centres. The Large and Small Gates in the old town were built in the 16th century as a part of the fortification and today serve as stunning reminders of the past.
Not far away from Buzet lies the smallest town in the world - Hum. Even if it is not officially on the records list, it is hard to imagine that there is a smaller town, since it has way less than 100 inhabitants and spreads across the surface of around 3.5 square kilometres. Despite being so small, Hum really is a town, as it has its own administration. It is also known for a special type of brandy called biska, made out of a mixture of wild herbs following a hundreds of years old recipe!
Pazin, often called the Heart of Istria because of its geographical position, is probably the most unusual Istrian hilltop town. It will make your heart beat faster, not just because of its beautiful buildings, but also the impressive, over a hundred metres deep canyon and the Pazin Cave. These natural phenomena were formed by the subterranean river Pazinčica. The Pazin Castle is the best preserved mediaeval fortification in Istria. It was built around the 10th century, changed numerous owners over the decades and now hosts two museums, the Ethnographic Museum of Istria and Pazin Town Museum.
These beautiful and charming Istrian hilltop towns have some similarities as well as differences. Each one is special and worth visiting. Staying in one of the Aminess hotels by the sea in Novigrad and exploring the magnificent hilltop towns on a day trip would truly be getting the best out of coastal and continental Istria!
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