Saturday, June 8, 2024
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Croatia: from Zagreb to the Istrian peninsula

The northern route on a BMW F800 GT.

As amazing as the southern route was (read my previous article Croatia: Around Spit & Highway 8 to Dubrovnik), I was told that some of the most beautiful roads were actually in the Istrian Peninsula. And I agree!

In the capital town of Zagreb, we rented a BMW F800 GT for a few days. When we asked which way to go, they told us: West!

So off we went towards Rijeka.

The route from Zagreb to Pula in the Istrian peninsula.

There is a time and place for scooters, and there is a better place for larger bikes, and our F800 proved optimal.

The most direct way to the coast was E65, nothing more than a conventional freeway, but Highway 3 was a collection of twisties and viewpoints that made that extra time worthwhile.

Weather is always a factor on two wheels, and as much as we pray for sunshine, sometimes the storms surprise us.

Even though Mr. Weatherman said, “clear skies,” it was fine for the first hour or so before we grabbed a pizza and a beer for lunch, but then the clouds rolled in with a vengeance!

The road sign welcomed us to “Nadvucnik”, but we saw no city and few houses, but lucked out when the rain pelted us and we had to take refuge under a farmer’s garage covering.

Part of the allure of travel is meeting locals and trying new things, but this was a first as we cowered under a too-small covering while the lightning flashed and thunder roared just yards above our heads!

When we think of being in the “thick of things,” we certainly were. Not scary, not fun, but surprisingly cold even though it was August, at several thousand feet elevation.

We tried to be unobtrusive, but the farmer and his wife were working inside one of their sheds, and eventually, the gentleman, Josef, came out and we tried to communicate our appreciation for taking pity on our drenched souls.

He spoke Croatian and a few words of German, which I also had some understanding, and as the rain let up his wife came out and invited us inside for some of the strongest coffee we’ve ever had!

Regardless, the kindness of strangers is universal and we all try to give as well as receive in appreciation.

Rijeka, Croatia
Rijeka, Croatia

The rain finally let up and since daylight was waning we quickly got on our way to Rijeka just as the sun was dropping. The last hours were beautiful, with hills, mountains, and ocean views, but much colder than we expected.

The city of Pula was our next morning’s destination, and we headed out early on Highway 66, hugging the northern Istrian Peninsula coastline most of the way.

Between the twisties and stopping at viewpoints the day passed, and we made it to Pula about lunchtime.

As we looked for a restaurant we were shocked to see a scaled-down version of the Roman Coliseum, the Pula Arena, which is the only standing amphitheater with the original four walls intact, and one of only six left on the planet.

The Roman Amphitheater of Pula – Photo from – Author: kasto

Since we spent more time on the road and in Pula, we had to skip our intended destination of Rovinj, and instead headed back to Rijeka for night number two.

We knew the road better the second time back and stopped at the majestic Hotel Flanona viewpoint, which gives a full on view of the Croatian island of Cres.

Can you appreciate these roads in a car?

Yes, of course, but there is nothing like riding Croatian roads and smelling the fresh air while watching the clouds forming below you.

The coastline compares to Italy or Greece, and access to bikes of all sizes is accessible. If you do head into the hills be prepared for some possibly chilly temps, but I am convinced that the beauty around us is greatly enhanced on two wheels.

Norm Bour
Norm Bour
Norm Bour left the USA permanently in February 2019 at the age of 64. His goal was to travel the world six weeks at a time, which he did, and wrote two books about his experiences. He visited 25 countries along with taking countless plane trips and many motorcycle trips, and is getting a BMW bike so will have wheels for the first time in years while he explores the country of Turkey. You can follow his journey at along with his Facebook blog by the same name.

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