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Croatian Truffles: Spend the Day Hunting for White Truffles in Istria!

If you like truffles (truthfully, who doesn’t?), then going truffle hunting may be on your bucket list. It has been on ours for many years now so when we found ourselves in Croatia during the height of white truffle season, joining a truffle hunting tour was something we needed to do, especially after learning that the Istrian peninsula is home to some of the finest white truffles in the world!

I contacted a few providers of truffle hunting experiences in Istria to canvas prices. In the end, we wound up going with Karlić Tartufi in Paladini, one of the most well-known and respected truffle hunting families in the region.

If you’re planning a trip to Istria and have a taste (or should I say nose) for these precious tubers, then going on a truffle hunting tour is a must. Here’s what you can expect.


If you’re visiting Istria and want to learn more about truffles and Croatian cuisine, then you may be interested in going on a truffle or food tour.


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Truffle hunting in Croatia

If you’re looking to go on a truffle hunt, then these precious little tubers need little introduction.

Truffles are the fruiting bodies of ectomycorrhizal fungi, a type of fungus that lives in symbiosis with trees. Nestled against their roots, they rely on animals like pigs and dogs to dig and eat them up and disperse their spores.

When ready to be found, truffles release a complex odor that’s hard to describe. Oaky, musky, nutty, and reminiscent of chocolate mixed with soil, it’s an extraordinary scent that makes them highly prized as food.

You can jump to the FAQs section of this article for more information on truffles in Croatia.


A quick note, we booked our truffle hunting experience with Istriana Travel because we were staying in Pula and needed roundtrip transportation to Karlic Tartufi in Paladini. We also wanted to make a stop at the town of Motovun so we wound up paying EUR 400 (November 2023) for two people for the custom tour with transfers.

If you have a rental car or can arrange for your own transportation, then the tour will be much cheaper. You can book the truffle hunting experience with a 3-course tasting menu at Karlic Tartufi with Get Your Guide.

Please note that this is not a private tour. We lucked out and were the only people at Karlic Tartufi that day, but other tour-goers may join your truffle hunt. Each group will be seated at their own table during the truffle tasting portion of the experience.

Welcome Drinks and a Quick Tour at Karlić Tartufi

Karlic Tartufi is a small family-run operation that’s been in the truffle-hunting business for over fifty years. It’s located in Paladini, a tiny village of around 47 people and 99 truffle dogs in the town of Buzet in Istria County. With over two dogs to every human, this neck of the Croatian woods is clearly all about truffles!

Shortly after arriving, we were given a quick tour of the facilities before setting off on our truffle hunt.

Karlic Tartufi

Meet the Trufflemobil, Karlic Tartufi’s official truffle hunting car. It may have seen its fair share of truffling adventures but today, it serves as a symbol of the family business (not to mention a colorful Instragram prop).

Truffle hunting car

The staff at Karlic Tartufi welcomed us with truffle-infused terranino. Terranino is a unique liqueur made from Teran, a type of red wine produced in Istria.

We enjoyed this aromatic liqueur so much that we wound up bringing a few bottles home, both to consume ourselves and to give as gifts.

Teranino and other truffle products

Can you imagine the smells emanating from this room? It was filled with basket after basket of Istrian truffles waiting to be brushed, cleaned, and prepped for sale to restaurants.

Unlike black truffles, white truffles are delicate so they need to be handled very carefully. They break easily which can cut their value in half!

Basket of truffles

And to the heart of this operation – the truffle-hunting dogs. Karlic Tartufi has around twelve specially-trained dogs of different breeds that they use on their hunts. Truffles grow underground so they need pigs or dogs to find and dig them up.

Dogs used for work can sometimes be a controversial topic. We’re not experts on the subject but it seemed to us that these animals are loved and well cared for.

When our truffle hunter Armin walked up to the kennel, all twelve dogs crowded the gate and started barking excitedly while wagging their tails, as if to say “Pick me! Pick me!” Clearly, these dogs love going into the forest.

Truffle hunting dogs

Into the Forest with a Truffle Hunter and His Dogs

Joining us on today’s hunt were four Lagotto Romagnolo dogs. An Italian breed, they’re often referred to as “truffle hunting dogs”. According to Armin, any breed of dog can be trained to sniff out truffles but Lagotto Romagnolo dogs are widely considered to be the best.

After releasing them from the kennel, they quickly hopped up into the back of the van so we could make the short trip to the mouth of the famous Motovun forest.

Truffle hunting dogs

Armed with a small shovel, Armin and his quartet of trained dogs lead this pair of novice truffle hunters into the forest. What treasures will we uncover? So exciting!

These truffle hunts are rain or shine events so you’ll be asked to change into rubber boots before entering the forest. Luckily for us, it didn’t rain that morning but the grounds were very wet. Truffles thrive in moist environments so this moisture is part of the reason why central Istria is home to some of the best truffling grounds on the planet.

Truffle hunting in the Motovun forest

More traditionally, pigs are used to sniff out truffles but in Istria, only dogs go on these hunts. According to Armin, dogs proved to be much easier to handle. They aren’t as big or strong as pigs so it’s easier to keep them from eating the profits.

Digging for truffles

Much of the morning was spent like this. The dogs would find a scent and start digging. Armin would quickly take over but not every lead led to a pot of gold. These dogs enjoy being in the forest so truffle or not, they’d eagerly dig up any scent they found.

Most leads actually led to dead ends and gaping holes in the earth which Armin would quickly patch up.

Digging for truffles

This one, however, was promising.

Sniffing for truffles

After a few minutes of digging and voila! Our very first white truffle!

This would be the smallest of the three truffles we found today. Finding truffles is never guaranteed so it’s safe to say this was a supremely successful hunt.

White truffle

This was where we’d spend most of our morning, watching Armin dig up a big but stubborn truffle while we kept his dogs entertained.

Sniffing for truffles

Armin told us that he walked by this very spot earlier that morning but the dogs didn’t detect anything. He explained that truffles release a scent only when they’re ready to be found. When they aren’t, then they’re undetectable, even to dogs or pigs.

This is what makes truffle hunting difficult but alluring. Like fishing, much of it is due to luck. You need to be at the right place at the right time.

Sniffing for truffles

At the end of the red arrow is the truffle. Half of it was underneath the root so Armin had to work very carefully to extract it. As previously mentioned, white truffles are delicate. If they break, then their value can be cut by as much as half.

Digging out a big truffle

After about thirty minutes of struggling with that root, out comes this beautiful specimen that was just shy of 100 grams. A white truffle that weighs in at over 100 grams is called a “joker”.

A big white truffle

Here we are showing off the two bigger truffles we found today. A successful hunt indeed!

The forest was generous to us today but apparently, the best truffling grounds in Istria are now at the bottom of a lake.

In the middle of the famous Motovun forest is a manmade reservoir that was built in the 1970s to provide fresh water to the residents of central Istria. The fresh water made everyone’s lives easier but sadly, it covered what many called the most fertile truffle-hunting grounds on the peninsula.

Still, three white truffles in a little over an hour isn’t a bad haul, especially on our first hunt!

Two big white truffles

The Truffle Hunters Enjoy a Feast at Karlic Tartufi

After a successful truffle hunt, we were driven back to Karlic Tartufi to enjoy a 3-course tasting menu featuring black and white truffles. Here we go!

Dining room at Karlic Tartufi

For our first course, we were served canapes topped with shaved truffles, along with different types of cheese and sausages, all infused with the goodness of truffles. We washed them all down with carafes of red and white wine.

Cheese and canapes with shaved truffles

These canapes were amazing. They were plenty delicious on their own but you could enjoy them with different condiments made with truffles as well. If I remember correctly, we tried truffle honey, truffled olive oil, and balsamic vinegar with truffles.

Canapes with shaved truffles

For the main course, we were called to the front to watch them prepare creamy scrambled eggs topped with the most generous amount of shaved black and white truffles. Do you think they shaved enough truffles onto this plate??

Compared to white truffles, black truffles taste disappointingly mild in comparison.

Scrambled eggs with black truffles

For dessert, we were served fritule, a popular Croatian dessert. They’re basically small Croatian drop doughnuts.

We were given a bowl served the traditional way – dusted with powdered sugar – but a few were stuffed with Trufella, a Nutella-like spread made with truffles. These were delicious and perhaps my favorite course from today’s meal.

Fritule with trufella

Here we are toasting to a successful hunt and a meal made with the most delicious truffles.

Sometimes, bucket list experiences don’t measure up but that wasn’t the case today. This experience was everything we expected and more. Hvala!

Toasting to a successful truffle hunt

Learn All About Truffles at the Truffle Museum

If you have the time, then we recommend checking out the Karlic family’s newly opened truffle museum. It’s located just a short walk from the main building and features a few exhibits dedicated to truffles and the truffle-hunting business.

It was funny to learn that before the Istrian locals knew what truffles were, they called them “stinky potatoes” and would throw them away!

Truffle scent jars

These glass cloche domes were the most interesting part of the museum. Containing six of the most common truffles found in Istria, they allow visitors to breathe in their intense aromas.

Sniffing truffles

This was pretty cool to see as well. What you’re looking at here is a replica of a giant white truffle that was found in 1999 by a truffle hunter from Istria named Giancarlo Ziagante and his dog Diana. At the time, it was the biggest white truffle ever found, weighing in at a whopping 1,310 grams.

Replica of a huge truffle

A Last Stop at the Truffle Shop

We couldn’t possibly leave without making a stop at Karlic Tartufi’s truffle shop. Here you’ll find all kinds of products infused with truffles like truffle oil, truffle honey, truffle hot sauce, and truffle liqueur.

Truffle products

We brought home a few bottles of truffle oil, truffle powder, truffle balsamic glaze, and truffle terranino.

Truffle oil

I never thought I’d be saying “truffle” and “hot sauce” in the same sentence but here we are.

Truffle hot sauce

These flasks would make a great Christmas present for your boozy foodie friend. They contain mistletoe brandy infused with the intoxicating scent of white truffles. Cheers!

Truffle mistletoe brandy


In parting, here are a few interesting facts about truffles that we learned from today’s experience.

Is Croatia famous for truffles?

Yes, the Istrian peninsula is said to be home to some of the best white truffles in the world (not to mention some of the finest olive oil).

Which country has the best truffles?

According to our tour guide, Piedmont in Italy and Istria in Croatia produce the world’s best truffles. She may be biased but according to the Truff website, other top truffle destinations include Perigord in France, Wiltshire in England, and Oregon in the USA.

Where can you go truffle hunting in Croatia?

You can partake in truffle-hunting activities in Istria, the largest peninsula within the Adriatic Sea. It’s shared by three countries – Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy – though 90% of this heart-shaped peninsula belongs to Croatia.

What time of year is best for truffle hunting in Istria?

Karlic Tartufi offers truffle hunting tours throughout the year but if you’re interested in white truffles, then September till January is typically the best time to go. Not only are white truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico) in season, but so are black winter truffles (Tuber brumale).

According to this website, black summer truffles (Tuber aestivum) are available throughout the summer into late autumn while Perigord black truffles (Tuber melanosporum) can be found from January through spring.

How much are white truffles in Croatia?

Truffles thrive in moist environments so their development is highly dependent on the weather. In a bountiful season, white truffles fetch around EUR 1,300 a kilo. When there’s a drought, prices can soar to as high as EUR 12,000 per kilo!


If you’re wondering whether a truffle hunting experience in Croatia is worth it, then the answer, in my opinion, is a resounding yes. It’s been one of the best food-related activities we’ve done on a trip thus far and I’m so happy we finally got to scratch it off our bucket list.

As described, the truffle hunting experience at Karlic Tartufi doesn’t include transfers so you’ll need to arrange for your own transportation. We used Istriana Travel for that but if you have your own rental car, then even better. Just be careful driving along the mountain roads because some of them can be quite narrow.

Central Istria is hilly and home to many medieval hilltop towns, one of the most beautiful being Motovun. We highly recommend visiting and doing its castle walk after your truffle experience at Karlic Tartufi. It’s a gorgeous little town and the birthplace of one of the most famous race car drivers in history – Mario Andretti.

Anyway, thanks for reading and we hope your truffle hunting experience lives up to your expectations. May the truffle gods be with you!


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