A Step Into the Past – Breathtaking Istrian Hilltop Towns

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An old Istrian legend says that once upon a time Istria was inhabited only by giants, who lived in the Mirna Valley. One of them, called Dragonja, had ploughed a furrow from the Ćićarija hill to the sea. A river started to flow there, and he named it Mirna. This prompted other giants to build towns throughout Istria. When they finished, there were a few stones left so they decided to build the smallest town in the world – Hum.
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When in Istria, make sure to spend at least a day exploring its unique small towns.

Let’s start with Momjan, widely known for its wine and castle. Momjan Muscat is a must-try sweet wine of protected origin. There are a few wineries around Momjan where you can taste it while enjoying the most spectacular view of the gentle hills and the Adriatic Sea. The largely dilapidated Momjan Castle is undergoing renovation, and often houses artistic events. As it was owned by the wealthy Italian family Rota for many years, it is also known as the Rota Castle. Once you get on top, make sure to take a lot of pictures, as its surroundings make a perfect photo frame!

TO DO LIST for Momjan:

  • Wine tasting
  • Taking a selfie at the Momjan Castle


Grožnjan is a picturesque medieval town that has to date remained almost unchanged. The site from the top is simply breath-taking: olive groves, vineyards, Mirna Valley, tiny houses, and beautiful greenery – a must-see panorama! Grožnjan is a true artistic haven; it boasts a jazz festival and school, music academies, and art, dance, and drama workshops. Its numerous art galleries are nested in the stone houses on cobbled streets or small alleys. The town became an artistic centre in 1965, after vacated houses were inhabited by artists from all over the world. Since 1969 it has been home to the Cultural Centre of the International Federation of Musical Youth, today’s International Cultural Centre of the Croatian Musical Youth. Their work has had a great influence on Grožnjan, making it a globally recognizable artistic and cultural destination.

TO DO LIST for Grožnjan:

  • Taking a walk through its tiny streets to take in all its charm
  • Having a glass of local wine while admiring the view
  • Visiting art galleries and local music festivals


Oprtalj is a tiny picturesque town marked by the Venetian architecture. It is noticeable at the town’s very gate, where there is a loggia with a lapidarium housing a Venetian lion, and a plateau from where you can see the entire surrounding area, blended with the stunning nature. Oprtalj also boasts picturesque façades and ruins overgrown by ivy. With all this in mind, picking a background for your picture will be not be an easy task. This part of Istria is best known for truffles, olive oil, and wine. Livade, a part of the Oprtalj Municipality, is called the World’s Truffle Centre and you can taste exquisite white and black truffles there. This Istrian hill town is also known for its Chestnut Festival, visited by thousands each year. It offers various chestnut products such as honey, brandy and cakes.

TO DO LIST for Oprtalj:

  • Taking a picture with colourful façades in the background
  • Truffle tasting
  • Visiting the Museum of Parenzana, a famous railway that connected Trieste, Poreč, and Kanfanar from 1902 to 1935


Motovun is probably the most famous among Istria’s tiny hilltop towns, known for its cultural heritage and the Motovun Film Festival that gathers visitors from all around the world. With three ley lines, known as the dragon furrows, intersecting in Motovun, alternative scientists see the town as the centre of positive energy in Istria. The furrows disperse the life energy released through the Earth’s airways and supply it to all beings, from plants to man. The marvellous town is surrounded by the walls offering a beautiful view of the surrounding area. Once you’re there, make sure to taste its authentic cuisine and wines!

TO DO LIST for Motovun:

  • Walking the town walls
  • Tasting delicious traditional meals with a modern twist
  • Truffle hunting
  • Visiting the Motovun Film Festival


Take a walk through the colourful past of Istrian hilltop towns and admire their beauty and charm.

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Bloggers, journalists, tourist guides, artists, entertainers and all kinds of hospitality experts and enthusiasts have gathered under the ValamArtists handle to lovingly bring you the best out of the Croatian holiday experience. Enjoy the ride!
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