Kažuni – Croatia’s Igloo-Shaped Stone Houses

Hidden among pastures and vineyards, these igloo-like stone houses, forged through skill, determination, and great patience, are an inseparable part of the landscape of Istria and Dalmatia in Croatia.

Close up of the traditional istrian huts - Kazun. With blue sky in background.
Close up of the traditional istrian huts called Kazun. Photo: Alexander / stock.adobe.com

Imagine an igloo, but instead of being constructed from ice and snow, built from stones. This is exactly how the appearance of the kažuni can be described. These ancient, small farm buildings were once important elements of the landscape of Istria and the Dalmatian Islands. So what were they used for?

Well, the kažuni, which was the name for these igloo-like houses in Istria (*in the other parts of Croatia, particularly in Dalmatia and the islands, they are called bunje), whose small remnants you will be able to see, for example, on the island of Brač, were very helpful to the farmers of those days. They served as shelter from storms and rains while working in pastures, fields, olive groves, and vineyards. Stone houses were built primarily in places where farmers spent the most time and where they performed their daily farm work.

Every stone worth its weight in gold

Kažuni were built from stones collected from fields and pastures. It was hard and laborious work. Clearing very rocky terrain was needed to reach the land for further use. All the stones were collected in one place and then used to build shelters. What’s more interesting is that the stone houses were incredibly strong and sturdy, despite no binding material being used in their construction. Up to about 7 tons of stones were used for a single house. Impressive, right?

If you want to see these interesting and unique stone houses, go to the area around the village of Vodnjana in Istria. That’s where “Park Kažun” is located – a museum in an open space with stone houses, especially in spring and early autumn. In the park, you will be able to learn interesting things about the formation of these farm shelters and even try your hand at building part of a kažun. Even if you don’t succeed, you don’t have to worry. You can always take home a miniature version of such a house. Small kažuni of a few centimeters are the most popular souvenir from Istria. You can buy them at almost every turn.

In the past, there were about 20,000 kažuni in the park. To this day, about 3 thousand have survived, which is still a sizeable number. Unfortunately, the passage of time and changing times have significantly impacted their destruction and disappearance. In 2018, the kažuni were included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage and became part of the regional people’s history, traditions, and identity.

Inspiration drawn from the past

Today – on the model of the old kažuni – you can find modern holiday homes in Croatia. Such vacation homes are most often located in olive groves, away from the cities and the hustle and bustle. They are hidden among unspoiled nature and are the perfect place for a peaceful rest.

If you want to catch the air at full blast for at least a moment and calm down during your vacation, then such accommodations will be the best choice for you. In addition to spending your vacation in a soothing natural environment, you will also get a feel for the old lifestyle of the locals.

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