Friday, 10 July 2015

Pula Kamenjak Running/Biking Route

Click here for route map
Length 11 km (6.8 miles), terrain: lots of ups and downs, gain 103 meters

If you are visiting the Pula area at the southern end of Croatia's Istrian peninsula, you definitely have to plan some time to head down to Cape Kamenjak, the southernmost point in Istria. Kamenjak is a nature park, a little peninsula of its own, with rocky little coves lining each side, offering inspiring vistas and crystal-clear water.
Plovanija cove on the west side of the cape
Kamenjak (called Capo Promontore in Italian: the Istrian coastline has had an Italian-speaking population for many centuries) has a hiking/mountain-biking trail that follows the shoreline, past each little cove and cliff. The trail is meant to be traveled in one direction only, clockwise, beginning at the main entrance to the nature park.
The trail
The trail is full of stones, so you have to pay close attention to where you are running. I would recommend riding a mountain bike (which is really fun on this trail), that's what I did for this one (twice). A mountain bike fits the trail conditions better than running shoes. And here's another tip: bring a snorkel and mask, and make sure you stop at a few coves to snorkel in the beautiful azure Adriatic water.
Snorkelers along the coast
The trail begins at the village of Premantura. There, you can rent mountain bikes cheaply, for between 7- and 10 Euros per day.

Now, follow the signs towards "Residence Kamenjak" and then "Rt Kamenjak" towards the south end of town. You'll come to the park entrance, with a gate that looks like the electric gates in parking garages. Cars have to pay in advance to go into the nature park, but pedestrians and bicyclists can just go through for free.

Now you are on the main, dusty dirt road in the park. Unfortunately, these dirt roads carry cars to all the main coves, so you'll never find one completely for yourself. About every second cove has a little beach-bar with cold drinks and often food (Hey, welcome to paradise! Life is good in Kamenjak!).
Cliffs along the western shore
Follow the signs for Polje, towards the right. In a few minutes, you'll find yourself at the water's edge on the west shore of the peninsula. This shore is the most rugged, with cliffs lining the whole coast, and it's protected from the easterly "Bora" winds that make life windier on the other side. This side definitely has the best snorkeling and secluded spots for hanging out.

NOTE: Just north of this cove, at Pinižule, there are dinosaur exhibits for kids based on bones found there. Dinosaur fans can take a few minutes' detour northwards to check them out.
Kamenjak trail way-marker
When you get to the water, you'll see the first of the way-markers: brown signs with symbols of a walker and a bike, pointing you in the right direction. If you keep your eyes open, you shouldn't need any other help finding your way.

You could already stop at Polje for a first swim, but there are spots all along the water further ahead where you can get away from the heat, and jump in with your mask and snorkel (cross-training has never felt so good).
The clear water is full of fish and other creatures: bring your snorkel!
The path goes up and down around the coves and cliffs, and often you get great views over the water to islands, ships and the island lighthouse located off the south tip of Kamenjak. The next coves along the western shore are Plovanija, Njive, Toreta and Radovica. Make sure you test the waters!

At the 4.5-km mark, the trail turns inland, heading east, and you'll find yourself at a dirt road. The trail marker says to go straight, up over a slight hill with an old military bunker on top. But I'd turn right here and follow the signs to the Safari Bar. This is a place you have to see, or -- even better -- stop and enjoy. This beach bar is embedded in a little bamboo jungle, and its creators put in a lot of creative energy setting up playground activities for kids. I stopped and had a Sangria, I have to admit. I was too weak-willed to pass up the upbeat atmosphere.
At the Safari Bar
This area is one of the most visited on the peninsula, with a long section of rock beaches facing the south and some cliff-jumping and caves to explore.

Now, head straight north through the parking lot and you'll find yourself at that hilltop bunker again. You'll see a trail way-marker pointing to the right (to the east) taking you to the very tip of Cape Kamenjak, at about the 6.5-km mark.
Approaching the cape, with mountains of Cres Island on horizon
The trail doesn't quite go out to the very tip, but you can take one of the little side-trails that do, and get a great view towards the mountainous islands (like Cres) to the east.

Now continue through the macchia -- the scrubby Mediterranean bushlands -- of the interior for a while, until you come back to the main dirt road again. But you'll immediately leave it, following the way-marker to the right towards Portić Bay.
Muddy trail through the macchia
Now you are starting to head north along the eastern shore. There are various coves here, too, but they tend to be bigger, lower and more wind-swept. The rocky beaches are longer, and you'll find some wind-surfers underway, and more views to the mountains to the east.

Now, just keep going from one bay to another: Golica, Dražice, Podlovka, with their swimmers and beach bars.

Just past Podlovka, at the 10-km mark, you'll see a campground along the water and you'll see the village of Premantura and its white bell-tower on the hill above it. The trail connects back to the dirt road at this spot, and turn right to run/bike the last few hundred meters northwards along the road to the national park gates again.

Now that was one great place for a workout!

2 comments:

  1. Where did you heard its' a national Park? It's a nature reserve.

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  2. Hi GamingCouple, I just checked again and it looks like you're right. I had found the "National Park" title in a few tourist guides, like at TripAdvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1077169-d2269575-Reviews-Kamenjak_National_Park-Premantura_Istria.html. I'll remove the reference -- thanks for pointing this out! -Keith

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