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I’m embarrassed that it took me five summers in the country to make it to Motovun Croatia. This little Medieval town is truly like that of a fairytale. It has a walled fort, perched in an almost spiral-like formation around the top of a hill, smack-dab in the middle of the Istrian countryside in Croatia’s Northwest. If you haven’t visited Istria, you are truly missing out on part of the heart of Croatia and a truly different personality of the country, which is ordinarily known for its warm, clear water and island-dotted coast.
But, Istria presents a totally different side to Croatia (apart from the Zagreb area, which is a third side to the country – read my Zagreb post for more). Istria is often compared to Tuscany, and with great reason. The luscious green hills seem to endlessly roll into the distance, with small colorful settlements perched on forested hills here and there, getting smaller and smaller up to the horizon.
Motovun Croatia is truly the best expression of Istria – with the most scenic little town overlooking the beautiful countryside, and a food and wine culture to truly rival its Italian counterpart. There are lots of things to do in Motovun – and most of them do involve food and wine, but who’s complaining?!
But first – PIN THIS massive guide to Motovun!
Motovun Croatia – Getting There
Motovun By Air
As I said, Motovun is right in the middle of the rectangular Istrian peninsula. It’s about an hour north of Pula, a much larger coastal town on the southern tip of the peninsula. Pula is the nearest large airport that is internationally and easily accessible. Check flights to Pula here!
Rijeka is about an hour east of Motovun, and also has an airport you can fly into.
Motovun By Car
This is the preferred option and the way that I got to Motovun on my Balkans road trip this year. You can rent cars the most cheaply at Sixt Croatia (which allows you to cross borders), or you can compare rates of all companies on rentalcars.com if you are staying only in Croatia. I think Sixt still had the best deals though, and they have offices in all main cities – Split, Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, etc.
Motovun By Bus
Pula and Rijeka are accessible by bus from pretty much all of Croatia. Motovun however is a bit more difficult. You can get a bus connection Pazin from either city, and Motovun is another 20km away by taxi. This is why a rental car is preferable!
Motovun Day Tours
Your final option getting to Motovun Croatia would be to take a day tour. There are lots of bus tours through Istria from Pula, Rovinj, and other places in Istria that will visit Motovun, Grožnjan, the coastal town of Poreč, and more. I recommend this tour here.
Motovun Croatia from afar
Currency in Motovun Croatia
In Croatia, the currency is the kuna. It does vary, but you’re looking at about 6-7 kuna to the USD, 5 to the AUD, and about 8 to the GBP. Some places accept euros, but most don’t. It would be wise to withdraw/exchange some kuna if you can.
How Long to Spend in Motovun
It’s really tiny, so 1-2 nights would be totally fine here to do all the things I have mentioned below! A day tour would also be plenty if you’re short on time.
Things to do in Motovun Croatia
Truffle Hunting Tour
Perhaps the most popular/famous/well-known things to do in Motovun involve truffles, and more specifically, hunting them. What is a truffle, you may ask? Well, they’re pretty much the most expensive fungus ever to grow underground. Truffles are a delicious delicacy, and are found all over the place here and taste amazing on basically anything.
An important Motovun fact is that the LARGEST TRUFFLE EVER FOUND was found here – well, in the Motovun forest at the base of the main hill. That has brought the region even more fame, and it’s best known for the truffles found in the extremely prolific forest outside the town.
So, what does truffle hunting entail? Sadly, humans can’t really find truffles themselves. Our sense of smell isn’t strong enough. You need specially trained dogs to run through the extremely dense forest, following their noses toward one of the most expensive things that grows underground – truffles!
How does one find a dog to go truffle hunting with? Well, you sign up for a tour of course! There are a few main truffle brands in town, and some of them run their own truffle hunting and tasting tours. This is the most cultural and immersive thing to do in the area, and what I most highly recommend to do in Motovun.
The thing is, most of the companies who run these tours require booking in advance. Tourism has not quite reached Motovun as much as the rest of Croatia yet, and the business is not so booming that you can rock up and get on a tour just like that. Try checking out Truffle Hunting Croatia for local tours, and Karlic Tartufi / Miro Tartufi for family-led tours. Send them an email ahead of time, and you should have no problem getting on a tour. This tour also includes truffle hunting and runs from Rijeka.
Explore Old Town + Sample Oil, Wine, Truffle, and More
To get to the hilltop town, you must drive or take a bus from the bottom. Public busses regularly run up and down from the base of the Motovun hill, which has a large parking lot as the hill can’t accommodate too many cars or any tour busses. Tickets for this bus are about 20kn, and they run all day.
Once you get to the top of the hill, you’ll have arrived at the main street of the tiny walled town. There’s basically only one street, so it’ll be hard to get lost! As you walk upwards towards the top, you’ll begin to pass loads of small tasting rooms and stands (among other tiny souvenir shops), which will be selling the main products of Motovun – wine, rakija (a Croatian spirit), different kinds of olive oil, and different kinds of truffle paste and truffle-flavored things.
Pop into as many of these shops as you like – you might even (read: probably will) find something you’d like to take back to your accommodation or back home as a gift for friends and family. We found some wine to bring back for dinner, and I brought a variety pack of truffle paste for my family!
Oh, and did I mention the views?! The views from the old town are unbelievable and very photo-worthy. With the medieval buildings in the foreground and rolling hills in the back, you can’t go wrong.
Cuisine/Wine to Look Out For:
- Karlic and Zigante are two of the main truffle brands that are widely known and loved, so you can’t go wrong sampling/buying these.
- Malvazija and Teran are two types of grape/wine that are local to this area. Make sure to try some!
- Fakin is a winery close to town where you can try wine, and also has a sampling shop and restaurant in town.
Walk the Old Town Walls
Like many old Croatian (and European in general) towns, Motovun has a set of main city walls, and you can walk on top of them. Just past the main square of town, you’ll come to a gate which leads to the walls. If you go inside and pay a small fee of 25kn, you’ll receive a ticket to walk around the top of the walls.
Unfortunately it’s no Dubrovnik, but the Motovun walls are beautiful and full of character just the same. You’ll get the best views in town and get to look back out over the small town you just explored on the way up. You’ll see all the forests where the truffle hunting takes place, and even more colorful towns in the distance.
Motovun Cultural Education Center (Small Museum)
At the base of the hill, you’ll find a small museum within a courtyard of a hotel. Here, you can learn a little bit more about how the old town walls of Motovun were built many centuries ago. You’ll learn more about the fact that it as part of the Venetian empire for centuries (hence who you’ll hear some Italian even in Motovun Croaita!) and how they also discovered more ancient Roman (read: VERY old) ruins here. Some ruins are on display in the museum, and some are in one of the main archways of the town. You can’t miss it!
Motovun Film Festival
Motovun is also famous for its annual film festival which shows independent and small films from across Europe. It’s extremely popular, and draws travelers from near and far. Make sure to be aware of this as you travel to Motovun Croatia. If you plan your travel dates to visit the film festival (which is usually late July/early August), you should book far in advance because it will be crowded. Or, plan to avoid the crowds and choose different dates. They even put up a campground at the base of the hill for the festival!
Where to Eat in Motovun
One of the main and most important things to do in the truffle capital is to EAT, of course – and eat well. There are a few top-rated restaurants in Motovun, all of which will meet all of your truffle-rich desires. Here are my faves:
Fakin Winery/Fakin Restaurant – Fakin winery is located just about a 5 minute drive from the base of Motovun Hill, right next to a lovely airbnb I stayed in once. You can visit the winery at any time for a tasting if you are so inclined in trying some Istrian Wine.
However, once in town, you’ll notice the Fakin restaurant along the main cobblestone road with a perfect view out over the Valley. This is where Fakin wine and Motovun food come together! I recommend sharing a few white and black truffle-inspired dishes at sunset, and watching the sun disappear over the hills in the distance.
Zigante Restaurant – This is another top-rated restaurant just outside of Motovun. If you don’t mind a short drive/adventure to another small town, you won’t be disappointed.
Pod Voltom – Situated within the old town walls, Pod Voltom will present you with an incredible view and even more incredible food. Make sure, again, to try plenty of truffle. The meat is to-die-for also.
Where to Stay in Motovun Croatia
We stayed a bit out of the city in Motovun, in an airbnb right next to the Fakin winery tasting rooms (which seemed too big of a coincidence to pass up!) If you have a car, Motovun could be a great place to stay a bit farther outside the city in an apartment with a view, to have a bit more of a getaway and look out over hills or vineyards. However, if not, there are plenty of options right amongst it all in the city. Here are some options:
Airbnb: Galerija Motovun for cheaper + smaller + central, House Valentino for a remote entire house (where I stayed) and Casa Adora if it’s available for central + authentic (with a view)
Hotel: Hotel Kastel (central)
Best Photo Spots in Motovun
Although photos are great from the top of the hill itself, some of the best photos that capture the essence of Motovun are actually from a bit farther away. There are lots of vineyards near the main road heading south from Motovun. Pull over behind one to get a glimpse of the colorful hilltop fortress behind grape vines. There’s a wonderful viewpoint of Motovun from the town of Vižinada (pictured in vertical pin image below) if you are driving out towards Slovenia.
Where to Travel from Motovun
There are lots of other places to see in Istria! Here are a few places you could take a bus or road trip from Motovun.
You can also visit Grožnjan, which is known as a sort of mini-Motovun as Korcula is known as a Mini-Dubrovnik. Grožnjan is a similar hilltop fortressed medieval town, yet, you guessed it, smaller!
Poreč is a gorgeous Istrian walled town on the water. It’s not extremely close to Motovun but would be worth checking out if you’ve got spare time and a car. If you don’t, this tour visits Poreč, Grožnjan, and Motovun all in one day.
As I mentioned above, Pula is one of the larger Istrian cities along the southern coast. It’s known for having an extremely well-preserved ancient Roman coliseum and very lively streets on a summer night.
If you’re heading south, Rijeka could also be a great stopover city. It’s quite a large and hilly coastal city with a lovely old town and accommodations.
We went straight into Slovenia from Motovun on our Balkans Road Trip. You can drive or bus straight to the capital, Ljubljana, or you can stop off at Predjama castle and/or the Postojna caves along the way for some extra iconic Slovenian points of interest. If you aren’t quite done with the coast but want to head north, Piran is a beach town on the only tiny snippet of Slovenia that reaches the coast.
Well, I can’t possibly think of more to say about Motovun Croatia. Do you have any questions?! Drop them below, and don’t forget to Pin!