Everywhere in the world has a claim to fame. However, only one town gets to call itself the smallest on the planet (at least in the eyes of the prestigious Guinness World Records) and we have to travel all the way to Istria in Croatia to find it.
Have you ever heard of a Croatian town called Hum? No? This truly is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of place, so that isn’t a huge surprise. The tiny town on top of a hill is thought to be the smallest town on the planet, and this is its story.
Located just one hour from Umag and 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Rijeka, Hum is thought to be the smallest town in the world. The population is either 17, 18, 21 or 23 (depending on whom you ask and what time of year it is) but the official number matters little. With its two streets and three walls of houses, this is a Croatian charmer that packs plenty into its tiny frame.
The town was first mentioned way back in 1102 as Cholm (from the Italian Colmo) and started off life as simply a watchtower, designed to ensure the region wasn’t taken by surprise by marauders and attackers. As was usually the case, a small town began to develop around the tower, primarily housing those who kept watch, as well as their families.
Fast forward to the present day and you have a small neighbourhood accentuated by a town parish and a bell tower. It paints a picture of a truly idyllic town, free of the chaos of modern life and the stresses that come with it.
If you are assuming that the smallest town in the world has little to offer the visitor, you might want to check those assumptions at the door. Hum might be smaller than literally everywhere else, but it packs quite the punch. The town hall and parish are remarkably well preserved, offering a glimpse into the very tangible history of this famous town.
While there may only be the one restaurant in town (which is still a surprisingly large number, all things considered) there is still unique gastronomy to be discovered. Hum is famous for humska biska, a form of rakija (flavoured brandy) that is mixed with white mistletoe, among other ingredients. It is thought to have medicinal qualities. Anyone who has spent any time in the Balkans will know that every type of rakija is believed to have medicinal qualities –depending on how much you drink.
Hum is also the final stop on the Glagolitic Avenue, an idyllic path that stretches all the way to nearby Roč (seven kilometres, or four miles, away) and pays homage to the Glagolitic alphabet – the very first Slavic alphabet.
There is the intangible tranquility of Hum itself, a town away from the world that offers incredible views and a sense of serenity that more popular spots on the seaside won’t be able to provide. The small streets can become quite busy during the high tourist season, but out of season, this might just be the most imperturbable place in all of Croatia.
So we know all about the small numbers and the gorgeous surroundings, but what makes a town a town, anyway? Vatican City is basically a church and a post office; surely that is smaller than a couple of streets? Well, Vatican City is classed as a sovereign state, for one. Different countries have different ways of defining their inhabitable spaces, and Hum is the smallest one that ticks the “town” box.
The cat is out of the bag. Croatia is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and with good reason. The old towns of Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Zagreb are chock-a-block with visitors throughout the summer, but that old Croatian relaxation can still be found in the hills, away from the madness and in the small towns that dot the countryside – among them, the smallest town in the world.