At the end of April 2019, we used one prolonged weekend to circle the Parenzana trail with mountain bikes. Parenzana is today a bike trail that follows the old railway route that connected the villages of Istria and ran from Poreč all the way to Trieste. Back in the day, that railway was an important route for trade and migration between the beautiful villages of Istria and the cities on the top of the Istria, among which the biggest was Trieste. The story of the railway is well documented, and one interesting aspect we’ve heard was that the train was so slow that travelers sometimes jumped off it, picked something interesting by the railway, and then jumped back on to continue the journey.
The whole route is perfect for biking today, and many cyclists take the whole route from one of the towns on the coast of Slovenia all the way to Poreč in a day. Why is the route perfect for cycling? Because the ascents and descents are all perfectly mellow, as the whole railway was designed in that way. Moreover, it links really idyllic villages through scenic landscapes of Istria with views of the sea on several stretches and traverses through forests, tunnels, and bridges that were built for railway purposes initially.
We did a circle starting in Izola, Slovenia, cycled in the direction of Poreč, Croatia, and returned back to Slovenia through the network of cycling routes on the coast of Istria. The whole trip was around 200 km, and we did it in 3 days – bikepacking, of course!
Cycling and camping
We used two campsites on the route: one in Motovun, a beautiful village in the land of Istria, and another one on the coast side, near Novigrad. While the number of camping grounds on the interior of Istria is low and Motovun is a perfect spot for a stop and camp if you do a 3- or 4-day trip, the seaside is well served with camping grounds. The daily trip of 70 km on average, with all the bikepacking equipment, takes a certain amount of effort, so it’s good to be in a solid cycling condition, while the ride can also be done without any extra preparations if you are somewhat sporty – just keep in mind that the long cycling days under sunny weather on the seaside take some effort if you are not used to it.
We were a group of 4, and for biking Paranzana, 3 of us used the hardtails mountain bikes, which served perfectly well route. Most of the route in Croatia is unpaved, gravel, non-technical terrain, so hardtail MTB is a perfect ride for. If you have a full-suspension bike or a Trekking bike, it’s perfectly doable as well, and the same goes for the same sorts of e-bikes that we have met very often. There are also some powering stations where you can charge your e-bike along the route.
Food and drink along the way
For us, one of the main lectures was to take adequate food and water on the trip, as many of the villages don’t have restaurants, and the last thing you want on the route is starving. We stopped in Grožnjan, where we ate and drank some good stuff, as they have plenty of restaurants there, then camped and cooked our instant meals in Motovun, and the next proper food stop was on the seaside. The seaside of Istria is generally better served with restaurants from April to October, so there it’s easier to stop and get revitalize yourself.
For MTB trail lovers
As we passed through Grožnjan, we had to hit the trails there as well. Grožnjan has a nice trail park all around the city for those who prefer some more mountain bike action. Luckily one of us, Urska, had a full suspension trail bike that she kindly rented out to me to sample some of the Grožnjan’s trails. Trail riding in Grožnjan is a nice “cherry on the cake” of the Parenzana trail if you like mountain biking and have a chance to do it.
The best part of Bikepacking Parenzana trail is for sure the beautiful scenery, for which is definitely worth cycling. While Bikepacking was exhausting from time to time, all the little things from beautiful scenery, dark tunnels, MTB trails in Grožnjan, site seeing and attractions along the way cheered us up. In the gallery below, some moments of our Perenzana are captured.
Matic is tech startup guy who loves to spend time outside. In his free time he is an true outdoor freak – he tends to surf, run and ride a mountain bike, and in the winter time just loves powder skiing and snowboarding. Matic also loves to travel, often has to because of work, and even more often because he wants to 🙂