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Istria Itinerary – Most Beautiful Places to Visit on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula

A village on a hill surrounded by vineyards

Top Places to Visit in Istria - Itinerary and Travel Guide to Discover the Charms of the Istrian Peninsula

Are you ready to fall in love with the Istrian Peninsula, Croatia? Our Istria itinerary highlights the most charming places to visit in Istria, from medieval towns and breath-taking scenery to ancient ruins and the beautiful coast of the Adriatic Sea. If you are wondering what to see and which places to visit on the Istrian Peninsula, continue reading and start planning your ultimate Istrian Peninsula road trip.

The heart-shaped Istrian peninsula is one of the most charming places in Croatia, and the fact it has successfully stayed under the radar of mass tourism for such a long time is an added bonus. However, things are changing quickly and in recent years, more and more tourists have been visiting Istria, Croatia. So our advice is to start planning your Istria itinerary ASAP if you want a chance to explore the highlights of the Istrian peninsula before it loses its charm.

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Table of Contents

Where is the istrian peninsula located.

The Istrian peninsula is the largest peninsula in Croatia. It is located in the westernmost part of Croatia at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and Kvarner Bay. The peninsula is shared by Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, though the most substantial part belongs to Croatia. When talking about the Istrian peninsula we can talk about blue Istria (along the coast) and green Istria (inland).

Green and Blue Istria Highlights

So why should you visit the Istrian peninsula when there are so many other charming places all over Croatia? The answer is simple enough; the Istrian peninsula is different from any other county in Croatia. We fell in love with the beautiful scenery, stunning medieval towns and fishing villages, food scene and the unique atmosphere. When talking about Istria, imagine there are actually two different parts you can explore. Along the coast, you’ll find blue Istria with its charming coastal towns and marinas, colorful Venetian houses, seafood restaurants, stunning beaches and luxurious hotels. The inner areas of the Istrian peninsula are referred to as Green Istria. When traveling around these parts of the peninsula, you’ll see vineyards and olive groves, photogenic medieval towns perched on cliffs, agricultural landscape and a general rustic and homey vibe which means less posh accommodation choices.

There are a couple of cities in Istria and a few small towns, but you’ll mostly find villages in Istria, the majority of which are located in Green Istria. According to the Croatian census, there are over 500 villages in Istria. An average Istrian village has a community of about 100 people. Some might have over 300 inhabitants, but there are also villages which are populated by only a dozen of people and some are completely deserted. So what are some the highlights of the Istrian peninsula in our opinion?

  • Some of the most stunning towns in Croatia are located on the Istrian peninsula: Rovinj , Poreč and Motovun, to name a few.
  • Breathtaking scenery of rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards and the hues of blue, green and turquoise of the Adriatic Sea.
  • A foodie scene with an emphasis on truffles, wine, olive oil and seafood.
  • Old traditional charm combined with a unique mixture of Italian-Croatian atmosphere.
  • Beautiful rocky and pebble beaches where you can enjoy the Adriatic Sea without the crowds
  • A unique focus on hiking and cycling trails so you can plan an active vacation combined with wine tasting.

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Top Places to Visit on the Istrian Peninsula for Your Istria Itinerary

Colorful Rovinj in Istrian Peninsula

Days 1-3 Blue Istria Road Trip

Day 1 – rovinj - the most charming town on the istrian peninsula.

Rovinj is our favorite town in Istria. Once you visit it, you’ll understand why we recommend staying here for your first few nights. From the moment we started exploring Rovinj’s old town, we couldn’t have enough of the colorful houses and Mediterranean atmosphere. Rovinj’s old town used to be an island so while you are strolling through the narrow cobbled streets, try and find these bottom porches that will reward you with beautiful views of the Adriatic Sea. There are hidden gems behind every corner, cool cafes, unique boutiques, colorful houses with photogenic laundry lines and many more such treasures are waiting to be found.

Things to See in Rovinj

  • Getting lost in Rovinj’s old town (if you want to learn more about the history of Rovinj, check out this walking guided tour .
  • Visiting St. Euphemia Church and its Bell Tower
  • Looking for Balbi’s Arch and Rovinj Town Clock
  • Wandering around Rovinj Harbor
  • Looking for the famous Rovinj viewpoints
  • Watching the sunset from one of the sea-front coffee shops and bars
  • Exploring Rovinj Archipelago

Where to Stay in Rovinj

We stayed at Residence Rovinj , a cute hotel with its own parking lot that was within walking distance to the old town. If you have a car, make sure your hotel has a parking lot. We loved the intimate and friendly atmosphere, the large rooms and good breakfast. It’s a good choice for mid-range accommodation. 

If you’d like to stay at the heart of the old town, Hotel Adriatic is an excellent choice. This luxurious boutique hotel provides beautiful views and is situated at the heart of Rovinj’s old town. You’ll also find one of the best restaurants in town inside the hotel. 

For a more budget-friendly choice, try the cozy but stylish The Melegran that also has a very central location and excellent reviews. 

For all hotels and apartments in Rovinj, check prices here

Check out our Rovinj Guide for more attractions, helpful tips and places to stay in Rovinj

pula arch

Day 2 – Pula and Cape Kamenjak

Pula – best place to see ancient roman ruins in istria.

On day 2 of your itinerary, it’s time to discover the southern part of the Istrian peninsula. Within a relatively short car ride from Rovinj, you’ll find Pula, the largest city on the Istrian peninsula where you’ll also find an international airport. Pula has some of the best ancient Roman ruins in the area and some charming alleys of its own.

What to See in Pula

  • Visit Pula Arena – one of the most well-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world
  • Check out the Roman Forum
  • Walk under the Arch of Sergii
  • Enjoy the View from Fort Kaštel
  • Stop by the House of Istrian Olive Oil
  • Take a paddle-board tour or go kayaking and snorkeling around the sea caves along Pula coast with any of these recommended tours .

Where to Stay in Pula

Cape kamenjak – for rugged beaches and seascapes photography, things to do on cape kamenjak.

The Kamenjak Peninsula or Peninsula of Premantura is located at the southernmost point of Istria. It’s a protected reserve with a beautiful rugged coastline, stunning beaches and coves, and hiking and cycling trails . Other than gorgeous beaches, the Premantura Peninsula is home to more than 500 plant species, including 20 orchid species. It is located only a short drive away from Pula. You can also go cliff jumping or kayaking in the area.  

Day 3 – A Road Trip along the Coast of the Istrian Peninsula to Lim Fjord, Poreč and Novigrad

The third day on your itinerary is dedicated to a road trip along the northern part of the Adriatic coast along the Istrian peninsula. This area of Istria is dotted with beautiful fishing towns, stunning beaches and some breathtaking views, such as the stunning Lim Bay.

Lim Fjord – Best Place to Visit in Istria for Fresh Oysters and Stunning Views

Things to do in lim fjord.

  • Take a boat ride to explore the bay
  • Eat fresh oysters and mussels
  • Rest at the tiny beach
  • Admire the views and beautiful scenery

Poreč – Beautiful Historic Center and the Euphrasian Basilica

If for some reason, you’d rather stay at a different town than Rovinj, Poreč is probably one of the best places to stay along the coast of the Istrian Peninsula. It offers just the right mixture of historical monuments, charming cobbled streets, lovely beaches and foodie and night scenes.

Things to See and Do in Poreč

  • Visit the Euphrasian Basilica – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Wander around the Historic Center of Poreč
  • Walk along the two main streets, Decumanus and Cardo Maximus
  • Stop by the main square – Marafor
  • Check out the Round Tower where you’ll find Torre Rotonda Caffé Bar
  • Visit Poreč Heritage Museum

Where to Stay in Poreč

If you’re looking for a central location, Valamar Riviera Hotel & Residence is a great choice. With its modern design, rich breakfast and private beach on the nearby Sveti Nikola island (free shuttle boat), it offers some great deals on rooms throughout the year. You can check other accommodation choices here .

A girl drawing on a staircase with flowers around her

Novigrad – For a Mixture of Excellent Food, Beaches and History

Novigrad is located just north of Poreč, and it has been gaining a name for itself as a foodie town. Other than excellent restaurants, you’ll find here lovely beaches and a charming historic center.

Things to See and Do in Novigrad

  • Visit the charming old town
  • Look for the local churches and bell towers
  • Visit the Maritime Museum
  • Explore the beaches and visit the water sports center
  • Visit some of the best restaurants on the Istrian peninsula

Where to Stay in Novigrad

Check out the smart Boutique Hotel Rivalmare which is beautifully designed and is situated just near the old town and the beach. You can check other options for hotels and apartments in Novigrad here .

For detailed guides for some of the top places to visit in Istria, check out our Rovinj Day Trips Guide

Days 4-6 Green Istria Road Trip

After spending a couple of nights in Rovinj, it was time for us to start our journey to discover the charms of the inner parts of the Istrian peninsula. We spent the next couple of nights in Oprtalj, a small town with breathtaking views that is located very close to Motovun.

Day 4-5 - Oprtalj, Motovun, Grožnjan and Buje

Oprtalj – for stunning views and medieval charm.

Oprtalj (or Portole in Italian) is one of the most picturesque towns in Green Istria. To be honest, there is not too much to do in this tiny town, but we chose it as our place of accommodation thanks to its stunning views of the Mirna Valley and proximity to Motovun. We didn’t know what to expect, but strolling along the tiny old town of Opetalj, we felt we’d discovered a hidden gem. It’s a place where time stood still. Photogenic crumbling walls decorating narrow cobbled alleys that lead to ancient houses and beautiful archways, an old bell tower, and the occasional flowers and  green vines dotting this historic town.

Things to See in Oprtalj

  • Admire the unbelievable view from Venetian Loggia
  • Check out the old main gates of the old town
  • Wander along the cobbled alleys of the old town
  • Have a snack or a glass of wine with the most amazing view

Where to Stay in Oprtalj

We stayed at the charming B&B Palazzo Angelica (for adults only). We didn’t stay at the main house, but we had a lovely apartment inside the old town. The only downfall was we had to carry our suitcases on the uneven cobbled alley (uphill) and then climb a few flights of stairs. However, the friendly staff will gladly help you. We loved our stay here but be warned, Oprtalj is very low key and you only have two restaurants to choose from. If you are looking for a bit of a more lively atmosphere, Motovun or Grožnjan are going to suit you more.

Yellow colored wall, cobbled street and green glass bottles

Motovun – One of the Most Famous Towns on the Istrian Peninsula

You can’t visit green Istria without stopping at Motovun. Motovun is perched on a 270-meter hill and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The sight of Motovun and the surrounding area in the early hours of the morning covered gently in a veil of fog, is magical. If you stay in the area (and you should), try and catch a glimpse of it with your camera. Nevertheless, if you can’t bother to catch the sunrise or you choose to visit Motovun on a day trip from the coast, don’t worry, it’s stunning every hour of the day.

Things to See in Motovun

  • Take a picture from the road of the landscape with the beautiful Motovun perched on the hill
  • Wander around Motovun’s cobbled alleys
  • See the historical monuments of the ancient city of Kastelijer with its defensive walls, fortifications and gates
  • Admire the mixture of Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture
  • Visit the Parish Church of St. Stephen with its bell tower
  • Buy some local souvenirs
  • Admire the view with a glass of wine

Where to Stay in Motovun

If you want to stay in a hotel at the heart of Motovun, check out Hotel Kastel (will be reopened in March/April 2020). Other than that there are several apartments and B&B you can check here .  If it’s luxury you are looking for, then Wine & Heritage hotel ROXANICH is a boutique hotel located very close to Motovun which also has its own gourmet restaurant and a wellness center. 

Yellow church and bell tower

Grožnjan – Village of Artists

Grožnjan is located very close to Motovun and Oprtalj. It is another beautiful Istrian village which is known as the village of artists. One of the highlights of strolling around this charming village was to see all of these unique and beautiful medieval houses adorned by artistic displays.

What to See in Grožnjan

  • Stroll around the picturesque streets
  • Look for unique souvenirs
  • Visit the Fonticus Gallery
  • Look for the Church of St Vitus, Modest, & Crescentiu
  • Have the best cappuccino with a platter of cheese accompanied by a stunning view

Where to Stay in Grožnjan

In Grožnjan you’ll find only small apartments. You can check the prices here .

An art gallery

Buje - History, Views and Local Delecacies

We only had one day to explore the central and northern part of the Istrian Peninsula, which means we didn’t get to see everything we wanted (and we stopped for some wine tasting as well). Buje was on our list for several reasons and we were sorry we’d missed it. Initially, we thought about spending a couple of nights here but decided to spend our nights in green Istria at Oprtalj. Buje has plenty to offer so if you do have the time, try and include it in your Istria itinerary.

What to See in Buje

  • Visit St. Servulus church and its bell tower for some magnificent view of the area
  • See the Tower of St Martin which was part of the Venetian walls that surrounded Buje
  • See the collections at the Ethnographic museum, which showcases local handicrafts and highlights the culture of the area
  • Roam the alleys of the historic center and look for local delicacies
  • If you’re looking for an extraordinary experience, visit the beer spa at San Servolo Resort & Beer Spa

Where to Stay in Buje

We were planning on staying at San Servolo Resort & Beer Spa , which has beautiful views, modern and funky design and a beer spa. Check the prices for other accommodation choices in Buje here

A rocky beach in Istria Croatia

Day 6 – Duga Uvula, Rabac and Labin

Duga uvula or rabac – for beaches and seascape photography.

There are plenty of beaches all around Istria and even from the center of Istria it should take no more than 45 minutes to get to one of the beaches. We wanted to have a relaxed day and mainly do some photography, and we’ve heard Duga Uvula is a beautiful place. Duga Uvula is a beautiful cove with stunning crystal-clear water and a friendly vibe. When you follow the path, there are many options to take one of the stairs that lead straight to the sea. The beach is not very kid-friendly, at least the parts we visited. There was a very simple bar with some drinks and snacks ( Punta Beach Bar ) where we visited. For us, it was the perfect spot because we were looking for a private location.

However, if you are looking for a lively atmosphere and more options in terms of attractions and restaurants, check out the small resort town of Rabac. It is much more touristy and suited for families, there are more restaurants and a few beaches to choose from. There is also a lovely promenade. Note that it is a trendy place to visit in the summer so it can get crowded.

Labin – History, Views and Art

We’ve heard about Labin only on our last day in Istria and so it was too late to visit it. Since it is located very close to Duga Uvula and Rabac, you should stop there if you have a chance. Labin is another medieval hilltop town which used to be the largest mining center in Croatia. Nowadays, you can find here a few galleries, charming alleys, historical sites and gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea.

What to See in Labin

  • See the Little Theatre or Il Teatrino at Labin old town
  • Check out Porta Sanfior, the old town gate
  • Visit the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Birth
  • Admire some of the Baroque palaces and buildings such as the Battiala-Lazzarini Palace
  • Stop by the art galleries or Labin’s city museum
  • Admire the view from Fortica Viewpoint

Where to Stay in Labin and Rabac

You’ll find many resorts and apartments around Rabac for different budgets. Check their prices here . In Labin, you’ll find only two hotels. Hotel Peteani offers stylish rooms, great breakfast and free bikes and has great prices for solo travelers. The second hotel, La Loggia Diffused Hotel , is another great choices for visitors who are looking for modern and stylish design and a budget friendly price tag. For more accommodation choices in Labin, check your options  here .

Plan the Perfect Itinerary for your Istrian Peninsula Road Trip

Our best advice is to do your research on the various attractions of the Istrian peninsula, and then calculate how many days you would need (or have) to explore the peninsula, choose two or three places of accommodation in Blue and Green Istria, and you’re good to go.

Where to Stay on the Istrian Peninsula

We only had four nights in Istria, and it wasn’t enough to see everything we wanted to see. Therefore, in our opinion, you should plan your Istria itinerary to include at least 4-5 nights. Our preferred town on the Western Coast is Rovinj (we’ve discussed accommodation options under our Rovinj section). In the center of the Istrian peninsula, we chose to stay at Oprtalj, but Motovun might be better if you are looking for a livelier atmosphere. Finally, if you are a beach person, we suggest staying another night along the coast, which means another day in Rovinj or somewhere near Labin.

Truffle pasta

Our Ultimate Itinerary to Explore the Best Places to Visit on the Istrian Peninsula

So if you’ve followed our Istria road trip, you might have noticed that we’ve recommended some places we haven’t visited ourselves due to a lack of time or knowledge. So the following itinerary is the one we would have followed if we’d had enough time.

Day 1: Arriving in Rovinj and exploring the old town and nearby parks Day 2: A day trip to Pula and Cape Kamenjak Day 3: A day trip to Lim Fjord, Poreč and Novigrad Day 4: Oprtalj, Motovun and Grožnjan Day 5: Buje and experiencing wine tasting, olive oil tasting or truffle hunting Day 6: Labin and Rabac or Duga Uvula

Things to See on the Istrian Peninsula If You Have More Time

  • Visit some of the local Istrian towns we’ve missed such as Buzet, Bale, Hum or Pazin.
  • Follow the wine roads of Red Istria and Grey Istria (these names are based on the color of the soil)
  • Follow the olive oil trails of the Istrian Peninsula
  • Go truffle hunting around Mirna Valley. To learn more about such foodie experiences in Istria, check out our Istria Gourmet Foodie Guide
  • Explore the islands along the West coast (Rovinj Archipelago, Vrsar Archipelago or Sv. Nikola island)
  • Visit the famous Birjuni Islands National park
  • Go on a cycling tour or hike along the old Parenzana railway. The old Parenzana train connected the ports of Poreč and Trieste with villages and towns of the Istrian peninsula. It operated between 1902 and 1935. Nowadays, after a restoration process, there are cycling tours and hiking tours along the old route. Other than that, there are many more cycling routes all over the Istrian Peninsula. 
  • Go on a day trip to Piran on the Slovenian part of the Istrian Peninsula. Another picturesque town with beautiful architecture and historic sites.

How to Get to the Istrian Peninsula, Croatia

By Plane – There is one international airport in Istria, Pula Airport . It’s a small airport, but during the season, there are flights from several European destinations such as London, Berlin, Amsterdam and other locations. Thanks to the increasing popularity of Istria, more and more flights are added every month. Otherwise, you can fly to one of the nearby international airports in Croatia, such as Rijeka or Zagreb, Trieste in Italy or Ljubljana in Slovenia and drive/arrange for transportation from there.

By Bus – There are buses from many cities in Croatia and nearby European destinations to the main towns along the coast of Istria such as Pula and Rovinj. You can catch a bus from Trieste, Ljubljana, Munich, Sarajevo, Zurich and many more cities. Check some of the options here .

By Boat – During the season, you can reach Rovinj by ferry. There are four companies operating ferries to and from Rovinj . In the high season, there are 1-5 journeys per day, but in the low season, there are no ferries at all. There is also a ferry from Zadar to Pula .

By Car – If you are planning on exploring the Istrian Peninsula, we suggest renting a car. You can either rent a car after landing in Pula Airport or from Zagreb or the Dalmatian Coast.

A bottle of red wine in a winery

Getting Around the Istrian Peninsula

Your best choice is to rent a car. If you only plan to visit the towns along the western coast of the Istria Peninsula, you will find some public transportation from the main towns (Pula, Rovinj or Poreč), but if you want to explore Green Istria, it might be hard if not almost impossible by public transit. You can check some of the bus routes in Istria here .

If you don’t want to rent a car, you can hire a private driver or a taxi to show you some of the highlights of the Istrian Peninsula. Another more budget-friendly way is to go on an organized tour to see the best places to visit in Istria. 

Distances between Our Recommended Places to Visit on the Istrian Peninsula

To give you a clue regarding your day trips, we wrote down for you the distances between our recommended destinations along the coast and inside the Istrian peninsula.

From Rovinj: To Pula: 40 km. (about 45 minutes) To Cape Kamenjak: 55 km. (about 55 minutes) To Lim Bay: 16 km (about 20 minutes) To Poreč: 40 km. (about 45 minutes) To Novigrad: 55 km. (about 55 minutes) To Motovun: 50 km. (about 55 minutes)

From Motovun: To Oprtalj: 11 km. (about 20 minutes, it’s not a mistake, the road is very curvy) To Grožnjan: 18 km. (about 23 minutes) To Buje: 22 km. (about 25 minutes) To Labin/Rabac/ Duga Uvula: 50-70 km. (about 70 minutes)

When to Visit the Istrian Peninsula, Croatia

You can visit the Istrian Peninsula all year long. Nevertheless, the best time of the year is usually June – September. In July and August, the temperatures can reach 30°C, and there are more tourists in the area, but it’s not too bad compared to other regions of Croatia and it’s the best time to enjoy the beaches. April and May are also great if you don’t mind the cooler temperatures (just be aware that some of the restaurants and smaller hotels might be closed, especially during April). Fall is the best time to visit Istria if you want to watch the harvest of olives and grapes and go truffle hunting. Have a look at the average temperature and rainfall in Istria by month .

Final Tips to Help you Plan the perfect Istria Road Trip Itinerary

  • Try to arrive early to the main tourist attractions since you can’t get into the old city with your car, and you’ll have to find a parking lot (some of which can get crowded later in the day).
  • Don’t forget to ask for a GPS in your car or use a GPS app on your phone. We recommend downloading an Istria Map from Google Maps before your trip since at some places, you will have a bad signal. At least you’ll have a map of the area on your mobile.
  • You can use the Croatian Automobile Club’s app, Hak Traffic , to check for any traffic, closed roads, etc.
  • The roads in Istria are pretty narrow, can be curvy, and some of them are basically dirt roads. Therefore, check the ETA on your app and consider your gasoline consumption. Many times we arrived at our destination later than anticipated.
  • Relax and enjoy your time – part of the reason we didn’t get to check off all the attractions on our bucket list was simply since we wanted to enjoy the moment. So instead of rushing from place to place, choose the top sites you’d like to visit in advance and leave room for improvisation.

Where to Go Next

We continued our Istrian road trip and followed the scenic road to Plitvice Lakes till we arrived to  Zagreb , our final destination on our Croatian road trip. If you started your journey in Istria, we also recommend continuing your road trip to the Dalmatian Coast.

Helpful Information and Travel Tips for your Croatia Itinerary

  • Best 2 Days Itinerary to Discover Dubrovnik
  • How to Plan the Perfect Split Itinerary and Why It Should Be on Your Croatia Bucket List
  • Zagreb’s Self Guided Walking Tour
  • Things to Do in Rovinj, Istria
  • Best Day Trips from Rovinj to the South, East and North of Istria
  • Olive Oil Tasting in Istria

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16 thoughts on “Istria Itinerary – Most Beautiful Places to Visit on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula”

I’d not heard of the Istrian peninsula prior to reading your post, it sounds absolutely dreamy 🙂

Istria is a dreamy place! unbelievable views, great food and the people are so welcoming!

This sounds like an absolutely dream trip! I love how charming Rovinj is, the perfect place to explore. I’m now going to have to add this to my list of places I want to visit this year – thanks for sharing 🙂

Thanks Gemma! you’d love Istria! As you said Rovinj is absolutely stunning and the whole area is a true hidden gem!

Perfect timing, I am currently planning a trip there and just mapping out my itinerary and definitely some of these places are on my list. I have pinned for my future reference. Wonderful post!

Thanks so much! So glad we could have helped. You’ll love the Istrian peninsula and make sure to eat some truffles and drink some wine for us too 😉

We LOVED Istria and hope to go back. We only had three days so a longer trip sounds so lovely. Saving this for future reference. Love you itinerary and suggestions.

We know what you mean Laureen, we had 4 nights and it wasn’t enough to see everything. The best would be to stay for a week and then you could really slow down and enjoy the scenery.

Ahhh Istria is on my bucket list! Hoping to visit this year and I’ll definitely be referencing this post!

Hope you make it to the Istrian peninsula in 2020, you’d love it!

Wow I didn’t even know Istria existed but you make me want to visit this place so badly now!

Yes, we’ve only heard about and we were looking for hidden gems in Croatia and the Istrian peninsula tick all the boxes! It’s truly a magical place!

What a lovely post! We will make it to Croatia someday, and this post will be an excellent guide for us. Thank you for all the useful information.

Thanks so much, Susan. Croatia is wonderful, we’re sure you’d love it!

I’m so happy I found your website! This is exactly what I need for my upcoming trip!

Great! We really try to provide a lot of helpful information mixed with some inspiration, of course 🙂 have fun in Istria!

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15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia

Adventurous Kate contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

The first time I traveled to Istria, Croatia, it was on a bit of a whim. I was desperate to finally visit the Balkans in general and Croatia in particular; when researching, I found out it was cheapest to fly into Pula. Well. If it was that much cheaper, why not?

I did book that flight to Pula, deciding to spend a few days exploring the surroundings. And I fell for Istria — hard. The Italian flavor, the hill towns that rose out of the green landscape, the way that roses seemed to burst out of the pavement. This place was so special. I can’t believe I almost didn’t visit it!

Istria hadn’t been in my original Croatia plan — but it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. So much that I returned to see more. I’ve been recommending it nonstop to my friends for years. On my last trip to Istria, I even met up with a reader!

The Dalmatian Coast may get most of the attention in Croatia — but you might be even more enchanted by the northwest heart-shaped peninsula.

Here’s why you should travel to Istria.

Table of Contents

Here is a map of Istria, with the most popular destinations highlighted. As you can see, it’s well-connected within Croatia, and right on the border of Slovenia, and with easy access via ferry or driving to Italy.

The nice thing about Istria is that pretty much any two points are within a two-hour drive of each other. And most journeys are shorter than that. If you rent a car in Istria (and you should), literally everywhere is day-trippable!

A narrow cobblestoned street in Rovinj. The buildings have green and red shutters and laundry hangs out of some buildings. It looks a lot like Italy.

Italian Flavor in Croatia

As soon as you arrive in Istria, you’ll be struck by how much Istria feels like Italy. The vineyards, the olive groves, seaside villages painted the colors of Liguria, hill towns that look straight out of Tuscany. And you’ll notice that places here have Italian names as well as Croatian names — Rovinj is Rovigno, Bale is Valle, Grožnjan is Grisignana.

Look at that picture above. If someone asked you what country that was, you’d say Italy, wouldn’t you? It’s actually Rovinj!

Istria has a long history of being conquered and reconquered by different cultures: the Franks in 788, the Venetians in 1145, the Hapsburg Empire in 1348, Napoleon in 1797. Between World War I and World War II, Istria was part of Italy; following the war, it became part of Yugoslavia, before Croatia became independent in 1991.

As a result, Istria is a mélange of different cultures and has a very different feel from the Dalmatian Coast. Food is the center of life; locals paint their homes bright colors. And the Italian influence remains steady — from the many kinds of olive oil to the wild, animated conversations of locals.

A stone staircase leading up into the pastel colored buildings of the town of Labin, Croatia.

Picture-Perfect Small Towns

If you love charming small towns, Istria is the best place in Italy to explore them! Each town has its own character, and each town’s residents will claim it’s the best town in Istria!

A perfect day in Istria would be setting out early and visiting four or five towns over the course of a day, stopping in one for a leisurely lunch.

So which small towns are best to explore? I recommend you explore Motovun and Grožnjan at the absolute minimum. (They’re also a 20-minute drive apart, so you can visit both in a single day.)

But there are plenty of other good ones: Vodnjan and Bale pair well together. Labin makes a nice getaway from Pula. Umag and Novigrad are beautiful coastal small towns. Plus, there’s Hum — which claims to be the smallest town in the world.

istria croatia tourism

Ah, truffles. One of the most expensive and luxurious foods on the planet. One of the most enchantingly recognizable tastes in the world.

Did I mention that Istria is rich in truffles? Truffle dishes are so common here that it’s almost an embarrassment of riches.

One of my favorite Istria experiences is ordering traditional fuži pasta with truffles and a glass of white Malvasia wine at one of the restaurants on the edge of the hilltop of Motovun, overlooking the landscape. These truffles are shaved thin enough to be translucent but thick enough to make a satisfying chew.

In New York, a plate of pasta with that many shaved truffles could run you around $50. Here in Istria? Maybe $11 or so.

With prices like those, why not get them for every meal?

The ancient stone arena in Pula, Croatia, close to the sea. The photo is an aerial one and you see lots of terra cotta roofs and church steeples surrounding the arena.

Pula’s Arena

Pula is the largest city in Istria, home to the peninsula’s airport. If you’re a fan of ruins in the least, you’ll need to stop in Pula to see its enormous Roman Arena!

Constructed between 27 BC and 67 AD, Pula’s arena is one of the six largest Roman amphitheaters in the world. It’s the only amphitheater to have all four side towers intact. It’s well worth exploring as an ancient monument — but if you play your timing right, you might even get to see a concert here!

Pula isn’t my first choice of where to stay in Istria — it’s a decent city, but I think other towns have more to offer. But Pula is a nice place to spend an afternoon or evening. Check out the Arena; stroll through the old town; get some pizza at Jupiter Pizzeria .

The mountaintop town of Motovun, perched on top of a hill, underneath a blue and white sky.

Motovun will take your breath away the first time you see it. You turn a corner and there it is, bursting out of the earth, a city improbably built on top of a hill. How can a place like this exist today? How do people actually live here?!

It’s a long, steep walk uphill to get to the top of Motovun. (If you have mobility difficulties, you may want to skip Motovun — there’s no way around the steep, slippery cobblestones.) Once you get to the top, you’re rewarded with views all over the countryside.

Definitely stop here for lunch overlooking the surrounding hills. Take a walk around the city walls, peering into corners. And if you’re here in late July or early August, you might get to experience the Motovun Film Festival!

(Tip: this photo was taken at a fast food restaurant called Fast Food Vidik. Stop there for photos! It’s the best view of the city.)

Jagged cliffs jutting into the bright teal ocean in Kamenjak, Croatia

Istria Beaches

You don’t come to Croatia for sandy beaches — and that’s true for Istria as well. (Yes, there are some sandy beaches here and there, but the vast majority of Croatia’s beaches are slabs of rock or pebble beaches.) But you end up with absolutely beautiful beaches and clear turquoise Adriatic water.

One of my favorite places to enjoy the beach in Istria is Cape Kamenjak, just south of the town of Premantura. This protected area, at the bottom tip of Istria’s heart-shaped peninsula, is home to more than 30 km of beaches. You can swim, cliff dive, rent boats, or just drive around until you find your own perfect beach.

There are some nice beaches on the edges of Rovinj, Rabac, and Umag as well if you want easier access to town.

Keep in mind that Istria’s summer isn’t as long as Dalmatia’s — if you’re looking for hot days and swimming, I’d recommend visiting Istria from mid-June to mid-September, with the warmest water in September. More on that below.

The brightly colored town of Vodnjan: yellow, peach, and blood-red buildings on an open square, underneath a bright blue sky.

Vodnjan and its Mummies

Vodnjan is one of the coolest small towns in Istria, easily situated between Rovinj and Pula. Vodnjan is a pretty cool place to hang out, with dramatic colors and tons of street art. That bright red building is one of the symbols of the town.

But what puts Vodnjan over the edge? Mummies. Actual mummies.

The Church of St. Blaise is home to the mummified remains of six saints: St. Leon Bembo, St. John Olini, and St. Nicolosa Bursa, as well as parts of St. Sebastian, St. Mary of Egypt, and St. Barbara. You go into the back of the church and they light up, one by one, telling you their stories.

Photography is absolutely not allowed, but just standing there, experiencing them on your own, is a creepy experience. The church is also home to a collection of sacral art.

The town of Rovinj, lit up in pink just before sunset. You see the peninsula of the Old Town jutting into the sea, where a church tower pokes straight up from the center. Boats circle the water around the old town.

Rovinj is the showstopper of Istria, and one of the most popular spots in the country. Dubrovnik may be more famous overall, but I think Rovinj is the most beautiful city in Croatia!

Rovinj is a photographer’s dream. It’s worth exploring Rovinj’s old city at different times of day, from different angles, and catching the sunset as well. One of the loveliest things to do in Rovinj is simply sit on the edge of the water with a drink, enjoying the scenery around you!

Rovinj also has some nice beaches, fun boat trips, and an interesting selection of shops. Honestly, I wouldn’t plan a trip to Istria without spending at least one day in Rovinj!

More on Rovinj:

Visiting Rovinj, Croatia: A Travel Guide

The stone city of Grožnjan, Croatia, with a courtyard, some buildings with pillars, one building with bright blue shutters.

Grožnjan and its Art and Music

Grožnjan isn’t just one of my favorite small towns in Istria — it’s one of my favorite small towns in the WORLD! This city, perched on a hill in the middle of the countryside, feels like a fairy tale. From the moment you’ve arrived, it feels like you’ve stepped into a new world.

Grožnjan is filled with interesting shops and galleries, making it a nice place to pick up a piece of artwork. (I myself picked up some vintage-style Croatia postcards.)

But best of all, Grožnjan is home to a music school. When you’re walking through the streets, you’ll hear a pianist and a singer practicing together, then in the next place you’ll hear a violinist tuning up, then you’ll hear an oboist practicing a solo.

Is Grožnjan touristy? Indeed it is. But trust me, it’s worth visiting.

This tiny town will always put me into a better mood.

istria croatia tourism

Istrian Wine

Yes indeed, Istria is a major wine region! Croatia is a very underrated wine country, in part because most of Croatia’s wineries are small operations and don’t do much international exportation.

Malvazija Istarska , or Malvasia, is Istria’s signature varietal. A light white wine with citrusy notes, it pairs well with oysters and shellfish — though I personally think there’s no better accompaniment than a plate of truffle pasta!

Teran is a full-bodied red varietal with berry notes that’s starting to earn international recognition.

Driving around the countryside and stopping at wineries is a wonderful way to spend a day in Istria — though keep in mind that you need a designated driver!

The Rovinj Wine Festival takes place in September, with opportunities to sample lots of Istrian wines. And don’t forget to say cheers in Croatian — Živjeli!

A courtyard cafe. You see wooden tables with different unmatched chairs, a wooden painted sign that reads "Throne Theater", shelves with small flowerpots on them, and a painting of a chair with flowers on the background.

A Child-Free Jazz Cafe in Bale

Yeah, this might be a bit unusual to put on a list, but I think it’s worth it! Back when I first visited Istria in 2012, Bale was the town on everyone’s lips. Some big publications like Lonely Planet were rhapsodic about Bale. (Personally, I think Bale is nice, but Grožnjan, Vodnjan, and Motovun are nicer.)

Bale’s coolest landmark is Kamene Price — an artsy cafe, performance space, and guesthouse. And when we stopped in for a coffee, we noticed a sign saying that they were a child-free establishment.

Don’t get me wrong, Croatia is massively child-friendly. Which is great.

But sometimes it’s nice to have places where you can sit and know that you can enjoy a coffee in peace without kids turning it into a war zone.

The Euphrasian Basilica of Porec, flanked with columns on each side and a gold Byzantine mosaic above the altar.

Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč

Istria is home to exactly one UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč. This religious complex is renowned for its classical and Byzantine elements, both of which you can see in the photo above.

While it’s a nice place to visit for the historic value, seeing the chapel at the end is spell-binding. The incredible gold-painted Byzantine monuments; all the different patterns carved into the stone. It’s one of the most marvelous places to see in Istria.

Poreč is just north of Rovinj on the coast — though you have to drive around the Lim Channel, so the drive takes 40 minutes. The town to me felt like a baby Rovinj. I hear it’s one of the bigger party spots in Istria.

Poreč is definitely worth a quick visit, no matter where you’re staying on your Istria vacation.

istria croatia tourism

The Smallest Town in the World

The Istrian hamlet of Hum claims to be the smallest town in the world. Is it really? Probably not. But that’s what they call themselves, and it’s a delightful stop in the heart of Istria.

Hum is worth a wander when you’re driving around and looking at hill towns in the greenest parts of Istria.

A red decorative bicycle with red geraniums in its basket in Grožnjan, Croatia.

Affordable Prices

I always warn people that Croatia is more expensive than people think it is — mainly because people erroneously believe Croatia to be Eastern Europe. ( Don’t ever call Croatia Eastern Europe, by the way. ) You won’t pay Scandinavia prices — but prices in Croatia tend to be closer to Italy, Spain, or Greece.

That being said, Istria tends to be cheaper than many places on the Dalmatian Coast, especially popular spots like Dubrovnik and Hvar .

It’s a good idea to compare similar types of destinations with each other: Rovinj is cheaper than Dubrovnik; Pula is cheaper than Split; Umag and Novigrad are cheaper than, say, Trogir. Getting an apartment near Premantura will be cheaper than near Makarska.

Istria isn’t cheaper than everywhere in Italy, but it’s definitely cheaper than Tuscany.

Food and wine in Istria tends to be cheaper than Dalmatia, too, especially when it comes to the famous truffles.

No matter which country you’re visiting, small towns, inland destinations, and rural areas will run you less than cities, coastal areas, and popular tourist spots.

Finally, if you’re looking to have a cheap trip to Istria, consider camping! Istria is a very popular destination for camping in Europe, and there are many excellent campgrounds.

Beachgoers sitting on a concrete slab on the edge of a bright blue ocean in Opatija, Croatia, with Hapsburg-style ornate pink and orange buildings in the background.

Easy Access to the Rest of Croatia

If you’re looking to make Istria a portion of a longer Croatia trip, that’s a great idea. In fact, that’s what I’ve always done.

From Motovun, it’s a three-hour drive to Zagreb , a 3.5-hour drive to the Plitvice Lakes, a four-hour drive to Zadar ( one of my favorites! ) and a five-hour drive to Split, from where you can get ferries to islands.

Whatever you do, I recommend stopping for a coffee in Opatija on the way out. Opatija is at the entrance to the Istrian peninsula but technically not part of Istria county. It is VERY popular with Austrian travelers, so much that it’s called the “Austrian Riviera.”

It’s a peculiar place. There are large Hapsburg-style buildings, crenellated in pink and orange and yellow, almost like wedding cakes. Oh, and speaking of cakes, there are lots of them — because the Austrians know their way around coffee and cake. As for the beach, here there’s just a slab of concrete pushed up against the bright blue water, topped with hundreds of beach chairs and umbrellas.

I would never choose to spend extended time in Opatija, but it’s worth a coffee, a cake, and a stroll along the water.

A stunning orange-yellow-pink sunset with the tower of Rovinj in the background; in the foreground are small white boats.

Best Places to Visit in Istria

There are so many wonderful places to visit in Istria — but unless you have a few weeks to spend here, you’ll need to pare down the list. I think there are a few places that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Spend one day in Motovun and Grožnjan. These are the two quintessential hill towns of Istria — two marvelous small towns in which you’ll want to linger. If you’ve got more time, add in a visit to Buje, too.

Spend one day in Rovinj. I think Rovinj is the prettiest city in Croatia — yes, even more so than Dubrovnik — and you really need a full day to explore all that makes Rovinj magical.

Spend half a day or a full day beach-hopping in Kamenjak, followed by an evening in Pula. On the way back, stop in Pula to check out the Arena, stroll the old town and grab some dinner. If you’re only spending a few hours in Kamenjak, add in quick visits to Bale and Vodnjan, next door to each other.

Those are the top destinations I’d prioritize. But if you have more time:

If you like seaside villages like Rovinj, check out Umag, Novigrad, Poreč, and Rabac.

If you like small towns like Grožnjan, Bale, and Vodnjan, check out Labin, Buje, Buzet, and Pazin.

If you like nature destinations like Kamenjak, be sure to check out the Brijuni Islands, visit the Lim Channel, and go exploring, looking for lesser-known beaches!

ROXANICH Wine Hotel, a modern pale red building with the Mountain View of Motovun in the background. In the foreground is a roof covered with green vegetation.

Where to Stay in Istria

ROXANICH , a family owned boutique wine hotel in Motovun, is my top recommendation for where to stay in Istria. This is the hotel that I love to enjoy on my travels — it’s family-owned and very local; it’s quirky, modern and daring; and it’s small enough for you to feel special. (ROXANICH hosted me for three nights; all opinions are my own).

ROXANICH is located in Motovun, which gives you easy access all over Istria, but it’s also located at the bottom of Motovun, not on the hill, so you don’t need to spend 20 minutes climbing the hill to get there every day. There’s ample space and plenty of parking, too.

Just take a look at this place!

istria croatia tourism

ROXANICH is a small property that feels like a resort — and there’s plenty of space. The food is excellent, too, and you could easily spend a few days without going far from the property.

But what’s interesting is what they do with wine.

Owner Mladen Rožanić is constantly trying out new innovations with his wine. Like most Istrian wineries, they have their own Malvasia, along with plenty of whites, reds, and rosés.

But they also blend their local grapes with grapes from different regions — like Dingač, my beloved red wine from Pelješac.

Combining your own grapes with grapes grown in another region? Many winemakers would consider that sacrilege. Not Mladen. It’s all a wonderful experiment to him.

And it goes well beyond Istria. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw their Georgian qvevri — underground wine containers made of clay that I never dreamed I’d see outside Georgia! There’s niche, and then there’s qvevri wine made in Istria.

Can you wine taste? Can you wine taste!! Oh yes. We did quite a bit of tasting of wine. Endlessly interesting.

istria croatia tourism

I really enjoyed staying at ROXANICH. After a long day of road-tripping around Istria, I loved coming back to have a dip in the pool and a cocktail, and at night, it was pleasant sitting under the stars and enjoying the latest wine recommended by the sommelier.

Rates at ROXANICH start at 77 Euros per night ($90 USD). I recommend staying three nights to get the most out of the hotel and its idyllic surroundings.

Beyond Motovun, if you have more than four days to spend in Istria, I suggest basing in two different places — perhaps pair somewhere inland with somewhere along the seaside.

Additionally, make sure you don’t base somewhere too small. As much as I adore Grožnjan, it’s tiny and it gets pretty dead at night. Plus I wouldn’t be a fan of driving that narrow hilltop road in darkness!

istria croatia tourism

Best Time to Visit Istria

Most travelers to Croatia come during the summer months — and that goes for Istria as well. This is when Istria gets the most visitors and prices are at their highest.

Summer is lovely, though it can get very hot in July and August. But you should keep in mind that while Istria has a Mediterranean climate and is perched on the Adriatic, it doesn’t get as hot as Dalmatia in the south of Croatia. When your friends are sunning themselves in Hvar in May, you may be going around in a jacket or cardigan in Pula.

In Dubrovnik, you can go swimming in October; I doubt you’d want to do that in Istria.

For that reason, I recommend visiting Istria in the shoulder season: September would be my top recommended month. By this point it’s still warm and lovely, but kids are back in school, which cuts down on the crowds. And if you stay into the fall, you’ll get to enjoy the best of the harvest. Including plenty of new wines!

  • Best Time to Visit Croatia

istria croatia tourism

How to Get Around Istria

The best way to get around Istria is to drive — plain and simple. Like I said, I wouldn’t get around Istria any other way!

Croatia is one of my favorite countries in Europe to explore by car. The roads are in excellent condition. The signage is clear and easy to navigate for English speakers. The drivers aren’t nearly as aggressive as their neighbors (yep, I’m talking about you, Slovenia and Montenegro).

The only catch is that the tolls on the major highways can be quite pricey. For example, Zagreb to Pula, just over a three-hour drive, costs 139 kuna, or $12.68.

But if you’re staying within Istria, those highways can easily be avoided, and it doesn’t make a huge difference in driving time. Plus, those curvy smaller roads are way more fun to drive!

Remember that automatic cars are more expensive than manual cars (driving stick) in Croatia, and if you’re driving into Slovenia or Italy, as many Istria visitors do, be sure to let the company know, as this could change your pricing and insurance coverage.

If you don’t drive, there are ways to get around Istria by public transportation, primarily by bus, but this limits your ability to visit smaller, less-connected towns. If I were exploring Istria without a car, I would base myself in the largest, best-connected towns and use a combination of buses and taxis to get from place to place. Uber is not available in Istria.

istria croatia tourism

Istria is Waiting for You!

Istria is one of the best places in Croatia — and it feels like such a surprise. Istria has meant a lot to me over the years, and I know it will mean a lot to you, too.

Go enjoy your time in Istria — then come back and tell me about it!

Planning a Trip to Croatia:

  • Two Weeks in Croatia Itinerary
  • What NOT to Do in Croatia
  • Solo Female Travel in Croatia: Is it Safe?
  • 30 Stunning Mediterranean Islands To Visit In Your Lifetime

Croatian Islands and the Dalmatian Coast:

  • How to Spend Three Days in Dubrovnik
  • Why Korčula, Croatia, is the Coolest Island of All
  • Vis, Croatia, is a Quietly Stunning Island
  • Dubrovnik Survival Guide
  • The Waterfalls of Krka National Park
  • A Place Like Zadar
  • 30 Fabulous Things To Do in Split, Croatia
  • 29 Sunny Things To Do In Hvar, Croatia

Istria and the North:

  • Guide to Rovinj, Croatia’s Prettiest City
  • 21 Unforgettable Things To Do In Zagreb, Croatia

istria croatia tourism

Have you been to Istria? Have any recommendations? Share away!

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Home > Istria In Croatia: 23 Off The Beaten Path Places To Visit In Istria

Istria In Croatia: 23 Off The Beaten Path Places To Visit In Istria

Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

If you’re considering visiting Istria, chances are you’ve heard of its heavy hitters in the main towns of Pula, Rovinj, and Motovun. But as someone who’s called Croatia home and spent weeks exploring Istria over the last decade, I’m here to guide you down the Istrian road less traveled.

In my Istria travel guide, we’ll explore my favorite part of Croatia, where crowds thin out. Still, the cultural tapestry remains vivid, woven with the rich threads of Italian and Croatian heritage.

Chasing the Donkey team photo - SJ, Mate, Vladimir, Roko. Istria 2023

Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!

Best Things To Do In Istria

In this post, I’ll share with you Istria’s lesser-known side, the one I’ve come to cherish through years of discovery. You’ll be privy to the authentic spots that have captured my heart – beautiful places devoid of fanfare but brimming with charm.

I’ll reveal where to dig into the most robust Istrian meals and indulge in genuine truffle experiences that I’ve come to anticipate each year. Plus, we’ll visit local haunts where tradition isn’t just preserved; it’s a way of life. 

Istria’s landscapes, a stunning canvas of rolling hills and sparkling seas, have been the backdrop to my wanderings. They’re waiting to color your experiences, too, from the vineyards that stretch like green seas to the towns where every stone tells a story.

The best part? If you’re coming from Zagreb, the journey to Istria is an easy transition from urban rush to pastoral calm. You’re never far from the tranquility of Istria’s hills and the warmth of its people.

Let’s step off the beaten path and into the heart of Istria – the places that don’t always make the postcards but are always highlighted in my every return.

Best Places To Visit In Istria Croatia

1. brijuni islands.

Aerial view of Brijuni Islands

Just a short boat ride from Fažana, the Brijuni Islands await a tranquil retreat. Once the summer residence of President Tito, this cluster of 14 islands is now a National Park celebrated for its unspoiled nature and historical sites.

Here, you can hop on a tour to explore ancient Roman villas and a safari park with exotic animals. The main island, Veli Brijun, is the most accessible and offers a little bit of everything, from historical tours to simply basking in the serene beauty of untouched Mediterranean landscapes. 

For the kids, look out for the dinosaur footprints!

2. Lim Fjord

Istrian Food Oysters Croatia Travel Blog - Lim Fjord

If you find yourself in Istria and have a hankering for some of the freshest oysters you’ll ever taste, Lim Fjord is your go-to spot.

Officially known as Lim Bay or Lim Channel, this stretch of the Adriatic Sea cuts into the Istrian coast like a Norse fjord, offering a briny bounty that’s as delicious as it is renowned.

The fjord’s unique mixture of fresh and saltwater creates an ideal environment for shellfish — and the oysters here? They’re a local favorite for a reason. Pull up a chair at one of the fjord’s waterside eateries, and you’ll be served oysters that were likely plucked from the sea that very day.

Paired with a crisp glass of Malvasia, a local white wine, you’ll quickly understand why this is more than a meal; it’s an experience. Beyond the shellfish, the fjord itself is a sight to behold, with steep, green-lined cliffs that provide a dramatic backdrop to your culinary adventure.

Unique Things To See Along The Istrian Coast

3. novigrad – between umag & poreč..

Visit Istria - Idyllic colorful mediterranean street of Novigrad Istria

One of three towns in Croatia with the same name, Istria’s Novigrad , is sometimes called Novigrad Istarski to avoid confusion. This beautiful town lies on a small peninsula on the northern coast of Istria, roughly in the middle between Umag and Poreč.

Its origins go back to the 5th and 6th centuries, and during the Middle Ages, it was the seat of the Diocese of Novigrad. The town’s layout and general structure have retained much of that medieval history. There are still numerous narrow, winding streets in its old town center. Lots of small atmospheric shops still occupy the old buildings.

Umag town in Croatia, main square with church and tower (campanile) at dusk

Dive into the charm of Umag, a quaint coastal town in Istria that offers more than just stunning beaches and clear blue waters. Renowned for its thriving nightlife and top-notch tennis facilities – having played host to the ATP Croatia Open for many years – Umag simultaneously provides a peaceful escape and active vacation.

While exploring the old town, you’ll be greeted by ancient walls and stunning architecture, providing the kind of beauty that calls for leisurely strolls and al fresco dining. Getting to Umag is a breeze, with its proximity to Italy and Slovenia making it accessible by car. At the same time, Pula Airport, approximately 83 km away, is the nearest airport for those arriving by plane.

Beautiful View Of Vrsar Port And Vrsar Village With Landmark Of Church Tower After Sunset-Istria,Croatia,Europe

Another great small town in Istria is Vrsar. This small fishing town lies about 10 kilometers south of Poreč, about halfway down the west coast of Istria.

It occupies a small coastal hill, while several small islets lie just off its scenic waterfront. Like many other seaside towns in Istria, Vrsar also has a lovely marina and a vibrant old town.

Its old town consists of winding streets, alleys, and charming stone buildings. There’s a beautiful waterfront promenade, too, while various viewpoints offer fine views of the surrounding landscape and are excellent sunset-viewing locations. It is a fun destination to stretch your legs for an hour or two while road-tripping  around Istria.

Places to visit in Istria - Fazana

Fažana is a charming little coastal town in Istria, often seen as the gateway to the enchanting Brijuni Islands. It’s a lovely place where the local fishing trade still bustles, giving visitors a taste of authentic coastal life. The town’s waterfront is lined with colorful buildings and has a promenade ideal for leisurely walks, with views stretching out to the northern Adriatic Sea and the archipelago beyond.

You can spend your time here exploring the local markets, where fresh catch and regional olive oil tastings are up for grabs, or perhaps eat your way through the fish restaurants.

Fazana isn’t just a feast for the palate; its beaches are a treat for the senses, too. Wandering through the main town, you’ll find a charming blend of old-world allure and vibrant life. It’s the kind of place that’s tranquil enough to unwind yet lively enough to keep the holiday spirits high.

Pastel-hued buildings and soaring church spires sketch a postcard-perfect skyline, while a diverse array of accommodations ensures there’s a cozy spot for every traveler and every budget. Whether you’re here for a weekend or a week, Fazana’s charm is sure to make a lasting impression.

7.  Premantura

Visit Istria - Beautiful costline near premantura natural reserve angle shot

Premantura is your laid-back escape from the everyday rush. Just a quick jaunt from the energetic pulse of Pula, this small town is your launchpad to the wild beauty of Cape Kamenjak, where rugged landscapes meet tranquil seas.

In Premantura, life slows down to a comfortable, easy-going rhythm. Here, you’re not just another face in the crowd but part of a community where local cafes, quaint accommodations, and neighborhood shops make you feel right at home.

Outdoor enthusiasts, get ready. Premantura is all about embracing the call of the wild. Hit the trails on a bike or on foot to snag some Instagram-worthy clifftop views, or chill out in hidden coves with water so clear you’d think it’s glass. And if you’re into windsurfing or kayaking, the breezes here are as inviting as the myriad of islets just a paddle away. As evening falls, kick back and watch the sunset perform its daily spectacle, turning the sky into a live canvas.

Whether you’re rolling solo, bringing the family for some quality beach time, or looking for a low-key romantic getaway, Premantura is about as authentic as it gets.

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Charming towns in istria for your itinerary, 8. završje, close to motovun.

Zavrsje Istria Travel Blog

Završje lies in northwestern Istria, not too far from Motovun . Also perched scenically atop a hill, this is a real architectural gem . Built with wood and stone, Završje is one of the most off-the-beaten-path places in Istria. Few tourists ever go there—those who do love the experience.

This is not a big town by any means. If anything, it’s a village. Built atop a prehistoric fort and strategically important to the Romans, its roots go back thousands of years. Medieval and Venetian noblemen later recognized the town’s beauty and significance, adding more fortifications.

Therefore, even though it’s less visited, Završje has lots to check out. From its palace and castle to the Church of St. Mary and the Church of St. Rocco, there are plenty of architectural highlights, especially considering its size. Another notable feature is the Three Istrian Musketeers cycling route .

Oprtalj Istria

In the same area as Završje, also near Motovun, Oprtalj is another of the Istrian hilltop towns worth visiting . This small town also features fortified town walls, a bell tower, and winding alleyways. It’s a fantastic place to immerse yourself in Istria’s rich history and fascinating folklore.

Things To Do In Oprtalj Istria 6

Oprtalj’s churches are adorned with works of art. Simultaneously, the restaurant that overlooks the valley below serves traditional dishes—don’t forget to try the local white and black truffles if you have not already!

Gastronomy plays a significant role in the story of tourism in Oprtalj. It has  many farms, and agricultural taverns are places you should check out when visiting Istria.

Oprtalj Chestnut Fair Kestenijada - Chestnuts

Try to plan your visit to Oprtalj around the town’s famous chestnut fair – known as a kestenijada! We spent a glorious day at the fair with the two kids. It is even the place where my youngest learned to walk and took his first jittery steps. 

Between the huge kid’s park, music, beer, wine, food, and chestnuts, there is plenty to keep you (and the kids) happy for many hours. The entrance is free, and the prices of food and drinks are very reasonable.

10. Vodnjan

Vodnjan, Vladimir eting pljukanci pasta

Located about 10 kilometers north of Pula, Vodnjan is another often-overlooked town in Istria that is well worth visiting. It’s a typical Istrian town packed with olive groves. Its historical town center is filled with beautiful old buildings, numerous churches, cobbled streets, and authentic shops .

In terms of tourist attractions, Vodnjan has a lot going for it, including some possible surprises. This historic city dates back over half a millennium and was the first of all Istria towns to get electric city lighting. You can still see that very first electric lamp in town!

Additionally, Vodnjan also has its own collection of mummies. You didn’t see that coming, right?! You can see Vodnjan’s mummies, which are the preserved bodies of saints, in glass cases at the Church of Saint Blaise. That church, by the way, is also the largest in Istria, housing hundreds of religious relics, including, supposedly, one of the thorns of Jesus’ crown, a piece of Jesus’ cross, and a fragment of the veil of the Holy Virgin. This makes this stunning church a popular pilgrimage destination in Istria.

Another central claim to fame of this beautiful town is that it has the longest street in all of Istria. There’s plenty to see and do here for a few hours, in other words!

Another family first happened here – my eldest son ate his very first plate of the magical Istrian pljukanci pasta. Albeit with butter and not the Boskarin saice, we did.

Worlds Smallest Town Hum Croatia Share Istria - Croatia Travel Blog

Situated deep in the center of Istria, far away from the crowds along the coastal towns, Hum is self-proclaimed as the smallest town in the world —but not officially, as in the Guinness Book of World Records that we can see.

Although its population fluctuates between twenty to thirty, it is an official town – with a mayor and all.

Just this fact alone would make it an interesting place to visit, but there’s more to it than that. This tiny village consists of no more than about a dozen stone houses and is entirely encircled by a stone wall.

Surprisingly, such a small place needed to be fortified at a particular point in its history, a testimony to the fact that this region was once much contested, a fertile landscape valuable to several foreign powers.

Worlds Smallest Town Hum Croatia | Share Istria | Croatia Travel Blog

Attractions in and around Hum include the Glagolitic Alley, a three-kilometer-long walkway lined with massive stone monuments, the Romanic Chapel of St. Jerolim, and the stone streets, buildings, and walls. You may also want to explore the lush landscapes in the area, home to truffle forests , meadows, and hills.

Bale - Share Istria - Croatia Travel Blog - 2

Istria has many other charming towns beyond Rovinj, Motovun, and even Porec and Pula . One of the top Istrian places I suggest you visit is Bale.

It is situated in the southwestern corner of the Istrian peninsula, about twenty kilometers from Pula. This medieval town, its origins in the Roman stronghold known as Castrum Vallis, is sometimes regarded as the best-kept secret in Istria.

Bale - Share Istria - Croatia Travel Blog - 8

Constructed entirely from stone, it features a labyrinth of cobbled streets lined with old stone townhouses, a Gothic-Renaissance castle, and the 36-meter-high bell tower of the St. Julian Church.

A laid-back and welcoming atmosphere awaits you in this friendly town, while nearby rocky beaches and the camping area are among the most pristine on the triangular peninsula.

13. Labin – A Rovinj & Motovun Mix

Visit Istria Labin - Croatia Travel Blog

Perhaps the best possible mix of Rovinj and Motovun, two of the most popular tourist destinations in Istria, Labin lies about three kilometers from the Adriatic Sea. Set 325 meters high on a hill, it offers gorgeous views of the Kvarner Gulf, including the coastal resort of Rabac.

Labin is a quintessential picturesque hilltop town featuring the colorful architecture that’s found most notably in Rovinj. Its steep and narrow, sometimes cobbled streets take you on a fun urban adventure, while countless pastel-colored buildings contribute to the undeniable charm of this less-visited Istrian town.

Things to do in Labin Croatia_Labin old city_Old square

For such a small town, it packs a large number of attractions. These include the Fortica Fortress, the Mining Museum , and numerous art galleries and museums. Of course, it wouldn’t be a town in Istria, a food-focused region, if there weren’t several excellent restaurants as well.

14. Grožnjan

View of the Main town gate in Groznjan, Istria. croatia

Known as the “Town of Artists,” Grožnjan is a pretty hilltop town typical of Istria filled with studios and art galleries. It’s the setting of summer film schools, art, and music workshops.

It hosts an annual jazz festival, recently getting well-deserved international recognition as one of Europe’s best small jazz festivals. Additionally, it would do its nickname of artist’s town injustice if there wasn’t an annual painting festival, too!

This charming town boasts some beautiful medieval architecture in its historic center, fun cobbled streets, and amazing views of the surrounding Istrian countryside.

Old Istrian town of Buje stone street, Istria, Croatia

Engage with the rustic charm and gastronomic wonders of Buje, known particularly for unearthing the largest white truffle, propelling it to fame amongst culinary enthusiasts. This Istrian town, located near the Slovenian border, is a beacon for those exploring the best places to visit in Istria, particularly for wine and truffle aficionados.

Wandering through its old cobblestone streets, you’ll discover historical elements interspersed with vibrant eateries and bars. Buje is easily accessible by road from various points in Istria, and with the nearest airports being Trieste (Italy) and Pula, it’s possible to combine your visit with other European destinations.

16. Svetvinčenat

Where To Go In Croatia - Village of Svetvincenat

Calling Svetvinčenat a town might be somewhat of an overstatement. Home to just over 2,000 people, this is more like a village than an actual town .

Nonetheless, it boasts a centuries-long history and is home to a few fascinating historic attractions, making it a worthy stop on any Istria road trip itinerary.

The village grew around a Benedictine abbey, first mentioned in historical documents dating from the 10th century. Its premier tourist attraction nowadays is the striking Morosini-Grimani Castle, one of the best-preserved Venetian buildings in Istria. The Renaissance square, known as “Placa,” is a fun place to wander across, too, while the Church of Saint Vincent has remains of beautiful frescoes.

Nestled in the heart of Istria, Žminj exudes an authenticity that captivates those seeking to explore the best of Istria away from the bustling tourist hotspots. With its picturesque stone houses and narrow winding streets, Žminj offers a step back in time while simultaneously providing a vibrant cultural scene through its various festivals and events, showcasing traditional Istrian music, dance, and cuisine.

The centrally located town serves as an excellent starting point for exploring Istria by car, allowing you to embark on a delightful Istria trip, discovering charming villages and stunning landscapes that dot the region.

Each August, the town hosts the Bartulja festival, a celebration of its patron saint that transforms the quiet streets into a showcase of folklore and tradition. If you’re looking to explore Istria beyond its glossy veneer, a day in Žminj, with its welcoming residents and enduring customs, is a must.

A rather unassuming small town in Istria at first, Pićan has a cultural heritage so rich it would make other similarly sized towns across Europe super-jealous. Its history goes back to Roman times when this was the site of a military stronghold called Petina. Incidentally, the Pićan area’s wine was so good it was renowned even in the highest social classes in Rome . Nowadays, you can still sample world-class wine here!

Later on, Pićan was the seat of the Diocese of Pićan, one of the oldest and smallest dioceses in the Christian world, from the 5th to the 18th century. It became a thriving medieval community complete with governors, officers, and various artisans during this period. The 14th-century Town Gate is still the prominent landmark in town.

Other top attractions in Pićan are the Parish Church of the Announcement with its striking Bell Tower, the Church of Saint Michael, and the Saint Helen Viewpoint.

Historic Gems Around The Istrian Peninsula

19. glagolitic alley.

Places to see in istria - Glagolitic Alley

On my travels through Istria, I encountered the Glagolitic Alley—a notable 7km stretch from Roč to Hum, lined with 11 monuments that narrate the tale of the Glagolitic Script, right up to the imposing town gates of Hum. 

Let’s delve into the Glagolitic Script. It’s the oldest Slavic alphabet, emerging in the 9th century. Think of it as a fusion of Greek and Latin scripts conceived by the scholarly St Cyril. This Byzantine monk from Thessaloniki, along with his brother St Methodius, was tasked by Emperor Michael III in 863 to spread Christianity in Great Moravia.

During their mission, they sought to democratize the Christian texts. The result was the Glagolitic Script, but it wasn’t straightforward. Direct translations from Latin or Greek were impractical, leading to the invention of a new language, drawing from the Macedonian Slavic dialect of Thessaloniki.

The script gradually became integral to the region, surviving well beyond its creators’ lifetimes and leaving its imprint across Croatia. Despite Latin’s eventual dominance, Glagolitic’s heritage is immortalized on Glagolitic Avenue.

The script’s name originates from the Slavic word for ‘speaking.’ It’s even found its way into modern culture, appearing in video games like The Witcher and TV shows such as Log Horizon. It also diversified into styles like Angular and Round Glagolitic. Although it’s not used in daily communication today, its significance to Croatian culture is undeniable.

It’s a unique opportunity to connect with a vital piece of Croatia’s cultural heritage.

20. Dvigrad Ruins

Istria Itinerary - Ruins of Dvigrad. Dvigrad is an abandoned medieval town in central Istria, Croatia.

Its name meaning “Two Towns,” Dvigrad initially consists of two separate communities, Castel Parentino and Moncastello. Only the ruins of Moncastello remain today. This abandoned medieval town is one of Istria’s most fascinating attractions, having been inhabited from Illyrian times through the 18th century.

You can visit the ruins of Dvigrad today and wander through the remains of this medieval town castle. Surviving buildings and structures, although severely ruined, include two rings of town walls, defensive towers, the imposing Church of Saint Sophia, the main town square, and the palace.

Peaceful Retreats In Green Istria

Livade view of Motovun Istria

We used Livade as our base for exploring a section of Istria on more than one occasion. We did so for several reasons:

  • For its proximity to Motovun and the surrounding villages we planned to explore in Istria
  • We found a great place that has views across to Motovun, and that had a heated swimming pool
  • The Zigante Truffle festival takes residence here for ten weekends over September, October, and November  – and we wanted to spend time eating and drinking our way around the festival.

Airbnb Livade Belveder Pool

Livade is small, but it is an excellent base for central Istria. There is a market, several  coffee spots , and several excellent restaurants. I totally recommend Konoba Dorjana. A blog reader suggested it to me, and my host also gave it the local thumbs up – we ate two of our best meals there! Try the game goulash as well as the homemade fuži with truffles .

Konoba Dorjana Game Goulash

The Zigante Truffle Festival is definitely worth a few hours. There are many exhibits with free samples to try before buying. There is also a spacious eating area inside and outside for you to enjoy the dishes.

We loved the truffle eggs, burger, and chips with a truffle mayonnaise! But there was also truffle pasta and truffle tiramisu – if you can believe that!

Zigante Truffle Festival - Truffle Chip

Speaking of Zigante, Livade is also home to the famous Zigante Restaurant. It’s not cheap, but the food is something out of this world, and the experience is worth the extra euro . And trust me, if you like fine dining and truffles, you want to save your holiday pennies and eat here.

You can read about what to eat in Istria here.

Pazin, often hailed as the “heart of Istria,” invites travelers to explore its rich history, palpable through its robust medieval castle that dominates the town’s skyline.

Pazin, the administrative heart of Istria, may be small, but it punches above its weight in historical allure and adventure. The town’s star attraction is the medieval Pazin Castle, which towers over a stunning abyss that has become a playground for thrill-seekers with its exhilarating zip line.

After you’ve gotten your adrenaline fix, take a moment to explore the castle’s museum to dip into the local history. Wander the town’s streets, and you’ll be rewarded with quaint eateries where Istrian specialties like fuži pasta offer a taste of the region’s culinary heritage.

Wrap up your visit with a leisurely hike along the trails encircling the town, offering both a glimpse of the serene Istrian landscape and a chance to work off that hearty meal.

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Serene Beaches And Natural Wonders In Istria Croatia

23. duga uvala, close to pula.

Explore the serene ambiance of Duga Uvala, a concealed gem nestled along the eastern coast of Istria that promises a tranquil retreat away from the typical tourist trails. Distinguished by its secluded bays, clear crystal-clear waters, and pebble beaches, this quiet area offers a respite for travelers looking to immerse themselves in a peaceful coastal escape.

Duga Uvala, while renowned for its natural beauty, also caters to those seeking a leisurely holiday with its wellness center, offering a range of rejuvenating treatments and activities. Easily reachable by car, it’s between Pula and Labin, making it a convenient destination to include in your Istrian itinerary, especially for those exploring the peninsula’s exquisite beaches and tranquil bays.

As you can see, Istrian towns have a Mediterranean climate but are unlike the rest of Croatia. We hope that you enjoy our highlights of Istria.

Places In Istria FAQs 

What are the must-visit attractions in istria.

Istria offers a wealth of attractions, including ancient Roman ruins such as the amphitheater in Pula, the picturesque town of Rovinj, the Brijuni Islands National Park , and the beautiful beaches along the coast.

When is the best time to visit Istria?

The best time to visit Istria is during the spring and early autumn when the weather is pleasant, and there are fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season.

What are some traditional Istrian dishes to try?

Istria is known for its delicious cuisine. Some traditional dishes to try include “istrska supa” (fish soup), “fuži” (pasta with truffles), and “maneštra” (a hearty vegetable stew).

Is it necessary to rent a car to explore Istria?

While renting a car provides flexibility, exploring Istria is unnecessary. Public transport options exist, and many towns and attractions are accessible on foot.

Are there any music festivals in Istria during the summer?

Yes, Istria hosts several music festivals during the summer months, including the Outlook Festival in Pula and the Dimensions Festival in Štinjan.

Can you visit Istria on a day trip from Zagreb?

While Istria can be visited on a day trip from Zagreb, spending at least a few days to fully experience the region’s attractions and culture is recommended.

What are some outdoor activities to do in Istria?

Istria offers various outdoor activities, such as hiking in the Učka Nature Park, cycling along the Parenzana trail, and water sports on the Adriatic coast.

What distinguishes Blue Istria from Green Istria?

Blue Istria is recognized for its bustling fishing villages, scenic islands, and beautiful beaches along the coast. In contrast, Green Istria is renowned for its medieval towns, extensive wineries, and forests rich with truffles, presenting a more serene and verdant experience.

Can you name the key places highlighted in Blue and Green Istria?

In Blue Istria, some of the must-visit places include Rovinj, Pula, Poreč, Lim Fjord, and Duga Uvala. On the other hand, Green Istria, Motovun, Oprtalj, and Grožnjan are highlighted as remarkable destinations worth exploring.

What types of experiences does Istria offer to travelers?

Istria welcomes travelers with diverse experiences such as meandering through charismatic Old Towns, admiring the blend of Roman and Venetian architecture, participating in boating adventures, enjoying beach activities, exploring cobbled pathways, engaging in truffle hunting, and indulging in local wine-tasting sessions.

What are some of the best towns to visit in Istria?

Rovinj, Pula, Motovun, Oprtalj, and Grožnjan are popular town choices in Istria.

Which towns in Istria are known for their historic centers?

Rovinj, Motovun, Oprtalj, and Grožnjan have picturesque historical centers with charming architecture and winding alleys.

What are some quick visit options in Istria?

If you have limited time, consider visiting Rovinj, Pula, and Grožnjan. These towns offer a taste of Istria’s beauty and cultural heritage.

What does Lonely Planet recommend for Istria?

Lonely Planet suggests exploring the towns of Motovun, Rovinj, and Grožnjan and enjoying the local cuisine and Istrian wine.

What is the central part of Istria called?

The central part of Istria is known as Green Istria, characterized by its rolling hills, vineyards, and picturesque hill towns.

Which is the largest city in Istria?

The largest city in Istria is Pula, known for its ancient Roman architecture and the impressive Pula Amphitheatre.

Is there an Italian influence in Istria?

Yes, Istria has historical ties to Italy, and you can still see the Italian influence in its architecture, cuisine, and culture.

Are there sandy beaches in Istria?

Yes, Istria has several sandy beaches, such as Bijeca Beach in Medulin and Laguna Beach in Poreč.

Which town in Istria is famous for its wine?

Istria is known for its Istrian wine, and Motovun is a popular town for wine enthusiasts, offering opportunities for wine tasting in its vineyards.

What are some of the coastal areas to visit in Istria?

Rovinj, Pula, and Medulin are coastal towns that provide beautiful vistas, marinas, and access to the Adriatic Sea.

Is there an Istrian hill town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

No, there is no Istrian hill town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč is a UNESCO-listed ancient monument.

What part of Istria used to be part of Italy?

Istria was part of Italy in the past, particularly during the period between World War II and the breakup of Yugoslavia.

What is a good day trip option from the Dalmatian Coast to Istria?

Pula, the largest city in Istria, is easily accessible from the Dalmatian Coast and makes for a great day trip option.

Now, tell me, do you feel ready to visit Istria? 

  • What To Eat In Istria
  • Best Beaches In Istria
  • Labin And Rabac
  • What To Do In Istria
  • Central Istria

Comments (11)

Hidden jem…Grozjian!!

Hmm, I have been 2x, it’s okay… but don’t hate me, I don’t love it there.

Is there a good way to go from Zagreb to Buje in Istria? And where to stay in Buje? I understand it’s quite a small town. I’d like to visit this summer, it’s where my great-grandparents were from

It’s about 3 hours by car you can get a transfer with our company on the link below or by bus :D. That is so cool you are going back to your roots –<3 that.

(My) Jane and I will stay in Icici, Opatija 23/8-30/8 this year, and will drive around Istria as much as we can. Following week we will spend in Povljana, Pag – before we fly home again to Denmark. Will be a great vacation as usual …

yes, yes, sure sounds like it! You two should move here. Wink.

We (two retired teachers from Canada) are headed to Croatia in May and June, 2017. We will be staying in the Rijeka area for part of the time and exploring Istria before driving down the Dalmatian coast. We had planned trips to Groznjan, Rovinj, Pula and now you have added some new places to explore. Thank you!

Yay! You are so so very welcome. Enjoy. I have another post next week on Istria with even more ideas :D

Very proud Donkey ✅

I’ve been following you guys for some time now, but am only just actually finally getting around to planning a trip to Croatia this year. Thanks for all the tips!

You are so welcome!

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A large, triangular peninsula pointing down into the northern Adriatic, Istria (in Croatian, “Istra”) represents Croatian tourism at its most developed and diverse. In recent decades the region’s proximity to Western Europe has ensured an annual influx of sun-seeking tourists, with Italians, Germans, Austrians and what seems like the entire population of Slovenia flocking to the hotel developments that dot the coastline. Istrian beaches – often rocky areas that have been concreted over to provide sunbathers with a level surface on which to sprawl – lack the appeal of the out-of-the-way coves you’ll find on the Dalmatian islands, yet the hotel complexes and rambling campsites have done little to detract from the essential charm of the Istrian coast, with its compact towns of alley-hugging houses grouped around spear-belfried churches. Meanwhile, inland Istria is an area of rare and disarming beauty, characterized by medieval hilltop settlements and stone-built villages.

Brief history of Istria

West coast croatia, inland istria, east coast croatia.

Istria’s cultural legacy is a complex affair. Historically, Italians lived in the coastal towns while Croats were dominant in the rural areas. Despite post-World War II expulsions, there’s still a fair-sized Italian community, and Italian is very much the peninsula’s second language.

With its amphitheatre and other Roman relics, the port of Pula , at the southern tip of the peninsula, is Istria’s largest city and a good base for further exploration; many of Istria’s most interesting spots are only a short bus ride away. On the western side of the Istrian peninsula are pretty towns like Rovinj and Novigrad, with their cobbled piazzas, shuttered houses and back alleys laden with laundry. Poised midway between the two, Poreč is much more of a package destination, but offers bundles of Mediterranean charm if you visit out of season. Inland Istria couldn’t be more different – historic hilltop towns like Motovun, Grožnjan, Oprtalj and Hum look like leftovers from another century, half-abandoned accretions of ancient stone poised high above rich green pastures and forests.

Travel ideas for Croatia, created by local experts

Gorgeous gems of Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia

Gorgeous gems of Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia

From the spas of Budapest to Lake Bled with its castle and further on to Croatia - this itinerary takes you across 3 countries, with a special focus on Slovenia's lake area and the Dalmatian coast in Croatia.

Sailing Croatia

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Southern Pearls

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This ten-day trip will take you around three adjacent countries, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Your tour starts in Split, Croatia, moving south (hence the name "Southern Pearls") over the island of Hvar and Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina to end up in Montenegro.

Gourmet Tour

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You will visit three different adjacent countries and experience traditional local food and wines. You will visit some of the most intriguing restaurants and wineries in the area taste the delicious contrast between fine restaurants, and more traditional, authentic taverns.

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The Balkan Extended tour truly showcases the finest of Balkan’s heritage and natural beauty as you make your way through the 5 countries. Learn about the Serbian Athens, climb the splendid Old Bridge in Mostar, observe Slovenia's water castle and dive into the pearl of Croatia's beauty in Istria.

Istria gets its name from the Histri, an Illyrian tribe that ruled the region before succumbing to the Romans in the second century BC. The invaders left a profound mark on the area, building farms and villas, and turning Pula into a major urban centre. Slav tribes began settling the peninsula from the seventh century onwards, driving the original romanized inhabitants of the peninsula towards the coastal towns or into the hills.

Venetians and Habsburgs

Coastal and inland Istria began to follow divergent courses as the Middle Ages progressed. The coastal towns adopted Venetian suzerainty from the thirteenth century onwards, while the rest of the peninsula came under Habsburg control. The fall of Venice in 1797 left the Austrians in charge of the whole of Istria. They confirmed Italian as the official local language, even though Croats outnumbered Italians by more than two to one. Istria received a degree of autonomy in 1861, but only the property-owning classes were allowed to vote, thereby excluding many Croats and perpetuating the Italian-speaking community’s domination of Istrian politics.

Croatians and Italians

Austrian rule ended in 1918, when Italy – already promised Istria by Britain and France as an inducement to enter World War I – occupied the whole peninsula. Following Mussolini’s rise to power in October 1922, the Croatian language was banished from public life, and Slav surnames were changed into their Italian equivalents. During World War II, opposition to fascism united Italians and Croats alike, although this didn’t prevent outbreaks of interethnic violence. The atrocities committed against Croats during the Fascist period were avenged indiscriminately by Tito's Partisans, and the foibe of Istria – limestone pits into which bodies were thrown – still evoke painful memories for Italians to this day.

After 1945 Istria became the subject of bitter wrangling between Yugoslavia and Italy, with the Yugoslavs ultimately being awarded the whole of the peninsula. The Yugoslav authorities actively pressured Istria’s Italians into leaving, and the region suffered serious depopulation as thousands fled. In response, the government encouraged emigration to Istria from the rest of the country. Thousands of Serb, Macedonian, Albanian and Bosnian families came to the Istrian coast to work in the 1960s and has never looked back.

Istria today

Geographically distant from the main flashpoints of the Serb-Croat conflict, Istria entered the twenty-first century more cosmopolitan, more prosperous and more self-confident than any other region of the country. With locals tending to regard Zagreb as the centre of a tax-hungry state, Istrian particularism is a major political force, with the Istrian Democratic Party (Istarska demokratska stranka, or IDS) consistently winning the lion’s share of the local vote.

One consequence of Istria’s newfound sense of identity has been a positive new attitude towards the Italian parts of its heritage. Bilingual road signs and public notices have gone up, and the region’s Italian-language schools – increasingly popular with cosmopolitan Croatian parents – are enjoying a new lease of life.

Istria’s west coast represents the peninsula at its most developed. A succession of purpose-built resorts are scattered along the shore, but it's the long stretches of unspoiled rocky coast that give the area its character. Inland, the coastal strip fades imperceptibly into conifer-studded heathland, olive groves and the fertile red earth of farmers' fields bounded by dry-stone walls. Here and there you'll spot the enigmatic, conical-roofed kažuni, the stone huts traditionally used by Istrian shepherds for shelter when overnighting with their flocks. Rovinj is Istria’s best-preserved old Venetian port; farther north, beyond the picturesque hilltop village of Vrsar and the Limski kanal, spreads the large resort of Poreč – package-holiday-land writ large, although it does boast the peninsula’s finest ecclesiastical attraction in the shape of the mosaic-filled Basilica of St Euphrasius.

The presidential playground

Although the islands were a popular rural retreat for wealthy Romans, the Brijunis’ history as an offshore paradise really began in 1893, when they were bought by Austrian industrialist Paul Kupelwieser. Kupelwieser, whose aim was to turn the islands into a luxury resort patronized by the cream of Europe’s aristocracy, brought in Nobel Prize-winning bacteriologist Robert Koch, who rid the Brijunis of malaria by pouring petroleum on the swamps. Smart hotels and villas were built on Veli Brijun, and the Mediterranean scrub was cleared to make way for landscaped parks. The Brijunis’ heyday was in the period immediately before World War I: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Wilhelm II both stayed on the islands, and struggling English-language teacher James Joyce came here to celebrate his 23rd birthday on February 2, 1905.

Following World War I, the development of Brijuni as a golf- and polo-playing resort helped preserve the islands’ reputation as a key venue for aristocratic fun and games. Running costs proved high however, and Kupelwieser’s son Karl committed suicide here in 1930 when it became clear that this elite paradise would never turn a profit.

After World War II, Tito decided to make Veli Brijun one of his official bases, planting much of the island’s subtropical vegetation and commissioning a residence (the White Villa, or “Bijela Vila”) in which he was able to dazzle visiting heads of state with his hospitality. It was here that Tito, Nehru and Nasser signed the Brioni Declaration in 1956, which paved the way for the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement, which nowadays consists of 118 nations (but none of the republics of the former Yugoslavia). Far away from prying eyes, the islands were the perfect spot from which to conduct secret diplomacy – Yugoslav-sponsored terrorist Abu Nidal was a house guest in 1978.

Tito himself resided in an ultra-secluded villa on the islet of Vanga, just off the western coast of Veli Brijun. He contrived to spend as much time here as possible, conducting government business when not busy hunting in his private game reserve or pottering about in his gardens and orchards (tangerines from which were traditionally sent to children’s homes throughout Yugoslavia as a New Year’s gift). International stars attending the Pula Film Festival stayed here as Tito’s personal guests, bestowing his regime with a veneer of showbiz glamour.

After Tito’s death in 1980 the islands were retained as an official residence, and a decade later became the favoured summer destination of President Tuđman. Tuđman’s rank ineptitude as a world statesman ensured that no foreign leader ever came to visit him here, and with successive presidents declining to make use of the islands, it looks like the Brijuni have lost their mythical status in Croatian politics.

How you react to Poreč (Parenzo) may well depend on what time of year you arrive. From May to late September, Istria’s largest tourist resort can seem positively engulfed by mass-market tourism; outside this period it can be just as charming as any other well-kept Mediterranean port. Happily, Poreč’s gargantuan hotel complexes are mainly concentrated in vast tourist settlements like Plava Laguna and Zelena Laguna to the south, and the town’s labyrinthine core of stone houses – ice-cream parlours and tacky souvenir shops notwithstanding – remains relatively unspoiled. The main points in Poreč’s favour are the Romanesque Basilica of Euphrasius, Istria’s one must-see ecclesiastical attraction, and the town’s transport links, which make it a convenient base from which to visit the rest of the Istrian peninsula.

The Basilica of Euphrasius

Poreč’s star turn is the Basilica of Euphrasius (Eufrazijeva basilika), situated in the centre of the town just off Eufrazijeva. Decorated with incandescent mosaics, this sixth-century Byzantine basilica created by Bishop Euphrasius around 535 is the central component of a complex that includes the bishop’s palace, atrium, baptistry and campanile. Entry is through the atrium, an arcaded courtyard whose walls incorporate ancient bits of masonry, although it was heavily restored in the last century.

The basilica was the last in a series of late Roman and early Byzantine churches built on this spot, the remains of which are still in evidence. Surviving stonework from the first, the Oratory of St Maur (named after the saint who is said to have lived in a house on the site), can be seen on the north side of the basilica. This was a secret place of worship when Christianity was still an underground religion, and fragments of mosaic show the sign of the fish, a clandestine Christian symbol of the time. Inside the basilica, the mosaic floor of a later, less secretive church has been carefully revealed through gaps in the existing floor. The present-day basilica is a rather bare structure: everything focuses on the apse, with its superb, late thirteenth-century ciborium and, behind this, the mosaics, with Byzantine solemnity quite different from the geometric late Roman designs. They’re studded with semiprecious gems, encrusted with mother-of-pearl and punctuated throughout by Euphrasius’s personal monogram – he was, it’s said, a notoriously vain man. The central part of the composition shows the Virgin enthroned with Child, flanked by St Maur, a worldly looking Euphrasius holding a model of his church and, next to him, his brother.

On the opposite side of the atrium, the octagonal baptistry (baptisterijum) is bare inside save for the entrance to the campanile, which you can ascend for views of Poreč’s red-brown roof tiles. On the north side of the atrium is the Bishop’s Palace, a seventeenth-century building harbouring a fascinating selection of mosaic fragments that once adorned the basilica floor, and an exquisite collection of Gothic altarpieces and Baroque statuary.

Reached by regular bus, Novigrad (Cittanova), 18km north of Poreč, is a pleasant peninsula-bound place centred around a Venetian-style church, although it has lost most of its old buildings apart from a few toothy sections of town wall. Novigrad’s privately run hotels have more character than the package accommodation in Poreč, and the atmosphere is more laidback all round – this is one place on the west coast where you can safely wander the streets without being stampeded to death by herds of ice-cream-wielding promenaders.

For bathing, the stretch of rock-and-concrete beach on the south side of town is outshone by the wonderful stretch of coastline to the north, where the rocky reefs backed by woods are more attractive and less crowded.

You don’t need to travel away from the sea for long before the hotels and flash apartments give way to rustic villages of heavy grey-brown stone, many of them perched high on hillsides, a legacy of the times when a settlement’s defensive position was more important than its access to cultivable land. The landscape is varied, with fields and vineyards squeezed between pine forests, orchards of oranges and olive groves. It’s especially attractive in autumn, when the hillsides turn a dappled green and auburn, and the hill villages appear to hover eerily above the early morning mists.

Istria’s hilltop settlements owe their appearance to the region’s borderland status. Occupied since Neolithic times, they were fortified and refortified by successive generations, serving as strongholds on the shifting frontier between Venice and Austria. Many suffered serious depopulation after World War II, when local Italians were forced to leave. Empty houses in these half-abandoned towns have been offered to painters, sculptors and musicians in an attempt to keep life going on the hilltops and stimulate tourism at the same time – hence the reinvention of Motovun and Grožnjan in particular as cultural centres.

Beram, 6km west of Pazin just off the road to Poreč and Motovun, is an unspoilt hilltop village with moss-covered stone walls and some of the finest sacred art in the region.

One kilometre northeast of the village is the Chapel of Our Lady on the Rocks (Crkvica svete Marije na škriljinah), a diminutive Gothic church with a set of frescoes dating from 1475, signed by local artist Vincent of Kastav. Of the many well-executed New Testament scenes that cover the chapel interior, two large frescoes stand out. The marvellous, 8m-long equestrian pageant of the Adoration of the Kings reveals a wealth of fine detail – distant ships, mountains, churches and wildlife – strongly reminiscent of early Flemish painting, while on the west wall a Dance of Death is illustrated with macabre clarity: skeletons clasp scythes and blow trumpets, weaving in and out of a Chaucerian procession of citizens led by the pope. A rich merchant brings up the rear, greedily clinging to his possessions while indicating the money with which he hopes to buy his freedom.

Our Lady on the Rocks

Perhaps the most famous of the Istrian hill towns, Motovun (Montona) is an attractive clump of medieval houses straddling a green wooded hill, high above a patchwork of wheatfields and vineyards. Like so many towns in Istria, Motovun was predominantly Italian-speaking until the 1940s (when racing driver Mario Andretti was born here), after which most of the inhabitants left for Italy. The problem of depopulation was partly solved by turning Motovun into an artists’ colony – the godfather of Croatian naïve art, Krsto Hegedušić, was one of the first painters to move here in the 1960s, and several studios and craft shops open their doors to tourists over the summer.

The Motovun Film Festival

All accommodation in Motovun and central Istria is likely to be booked solid during the Motovun Film Festival , which usually straddles a long weekend at the end of July or beginning of August. Since its inception in 1999 the festival has established itself as Croatia’s premier cinematic event, with feature films (European art-house movies for the most part) premiered on an open-air screen in the main town square. Featuring a minimum of segregation between stars and public, the festival is also one of the key social events of the summer, with thousands of celebrants ascending Motovun’s hill – most are here to enjoy the 24-hour party atmosphere as much as the films. Box offices at the entrance to the Old Town sell tickets to the screenings.

Straddling a grassy ridge high above the Mirna valley, Oprtalj (Portole) was, like Motovun, off the map for many years, half of its houses in ruins and tufts of grass growing from the walls of the rest. In recent years, however, it’s undergone a rebirth; old houses are being renovated, new restaurants are opening and more and more visitors are finding out about the place. Both the fifteenth-century St Mary’s Church (Crkva svete Marije) in the village centre, and the sixteenth-century Chapel of St Rock (Crkvica svetog Roka) at the entrance to town have some interesting fresco fragments you can glimpse through the windows; otherwise the nicest way to spend your time here is simply to wander.

The Parenzana hiking and cycling trail

Completed in 1902 but only operational until 1935, the Parenzana (derived from Parenzo, the Italian name for Poreč) was a 130km-long narrow-gauge railway line that linked the port of Trieste with the growing tourist destination of Poreč. It followed a meandering course across the Istrian countryside, with embankments and viaducts negotiating the peninsula’s notoriously up-and-down terrain. The process of converting the former track into a foot- and cycle-path was begun in 2006, with a highly scenic 60km section of the railway (“Parenzana I”) in central Istria receiving most of the initial attention. A second phase (“Parenzana II”), revitalizing the stretch from Vižinada, 10km southwest of Motovun, to Poreč, was completed in 2012.

The most breathtaking sections of the Parenzana are those connecting Buje, Grožnjan, Livade, Motovun and Vižinada. Gradients are reasonably smooth, and seasoned cyclists will be able to cover a lot of ground in the space of a day’s riding; walkers should limit themselves to one stage at a time.

Free maps of the Parenzana are available from tourist offices in inland Istria; for more information see .

North of Motovun on the other side of the Mirna valley, Grožnjan (Grisignana) is an ancient hill village that was severely depopulated during the Italian exodus after World War II and given a new lease of life in the 1970s when many of its properties were offered to artists as studios. There’s also a summer school for young musicians, many of whom take part in outdoor concerts organized as part of the Grožnjan Musical Summer (Grožnjansko glazbeno ljeto), which takes place every August. Indeed high summer is the best time to come, when most of the artists are in residence and a smattering of galleries open their doors. Outside this time, Grožnjan can be exceedingly quiet, but it’s an undeniably attractive spot, with its jumble of shuttered houses made from honey-brown stone, covered in creeping plants. The town’s battlements command superb views of the surrounding countryside, with Motovun perched on its hilltop to the southeast, and the ridge of Mount Učka dominating the horizon beyond it.

The second-largest town in the Istrian interior is Buzet, whose original old hilltop settlement quietly decays on the heights above the River Mirna while the bulk of the population lives in the new town below. Though it’s not as pretty as Motovun or Grožnjan, Buzet has good accommodation, good food and is an excellent base from which to explore the region. The town’s importance as a truffle-hunting centre is celebrated with the Buzetska Subotina festival (“Buzet Saturday”; usually the second weekend of September), when an enormous truffle omelette is cooked on the main square and shared out among thousands of visitors – the tourist office will have details.

Reached by a winding road or a steep flight of stairs, old Buzet’s cobbled streets seem a world away from the largely concrete new quarter down on the valley floor. The remaining ramparts of Buzet’s medieval fortifications provide expansive views, with the Mirna valley below and the imposing grey ridge of the Ćićarija to the east.

Framed against the backdrop of the rocky Ćićarija ridge, the dainty village of Roč, about 10km east of Buzet, sits behind sixteenth-century walls so low that the place looks more like a child’s sandcastle than an erstwhile medieval strongpoint. Roč has a strong folk music tradition centred on an archaic, push-button accordion known as the Trieština, which is rarely found outside Istria and northeastern Italy. The best time to hear it in action is during the International Accordion Festival (Zarmoniku v Roč) over the second weekend in May: the tourist office in Buzet will have details.

With their neat rows of sturdy farmhouses, the narrow lanes of Roč provide a wonderful environment in which to savour the rustic atmosphere of eastern Istria. There’s a small display of Roman tombstones inside the arch of the main gate into town, and the Romanesque St Barthol’s Church (Crkva svetog Bartula) in the centre, an ancient, barn-like structure lurking behind an enormous chestnut tree and sporting an unusually asymmetrical bell tower.

Heaped up on a hill surrounded by grasslands and forest, Hum is the self-proclaimed “smallest town in the world”, since it has preserved all the attributes – walls, gate, church, campanile – that a town is supposed to possess, despite its population having dwindled to a current total of just fourteen. Originally fortified in the eleventh century, Hum was a prosperous place in the Middle Ages, and it still looks quite imposing as you pass through a town gate topped by a castellated bell tower. Beyond, the neo-Baroque Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Crkva blažene djevice Marije), built in 1802 as the last gasp of urban development in a shrinking town, lords it over a settlement which now amounts to two one-metre-wide streets paved with grassed-over cobbles and lined by chunky grey-brown farmhouses. A clutch of souvenir shops (usually open April–Oct) sell Glagolitic characters modelled from clay or wood, and locally made biska (mistletoe brandy).

Compared with the tourist complexes of the west, Istria’s east coast is a relatively quiet area with few obvious attractions. East of Pula , the main road to Rijeka heads inland, remaining at a distance from the shoreline for the next 50km.

Thirty kilometres out of Pula the road passes through RAŠA, built by the Italians as a model coal-mining town in 1937. Alongside neat rows of workers’ houses, Raša also boasts a fine example of Mussolini-era architecture in St Barbara’s Church (Crkva svete Barbare) – Barbara being the patron saint of miners. It’s an austere but graceful structure featuring a campanile in the shape of a pithead, and a curving facade representing an upturned coal barrow.

Five kilometres beyond Raša, Labin is divided into two parts, with an original medieval town crowning the hill above and a twentieth-century suburb, Podlabin, sprawling across the plain below. Labin was for many years the coal-mining capital of the Adriatic, and earned itself a place in working-class history in 1921, when striking miners declared the “Labin Republic” before being pacified by the Italian authorities. There’s precious little sign of mining heritage nowadays apart from the one remaining pithead in Podlabin, which still bears the word “Tito” proudly spelt out in wrought-iron letters. Subsidence caused by mining led to Labin’s Old Town being partially abandoned in the 1980s, although the subsequent decline of the coal industry, coupled with a thoroughgoing restoration programme, encouraged people to return. The offer of cheap studio space encouraged artists to move to old Labin, and several ateliers open their doors from April through to October. It’s consequently one of the more attractive of Istria’s hill towns – all the more so for its proximity to the beach at Rabac, only forty minutes’ walk downhill.

The Old Town

Labin’s hilltop Old Town is a warren of steep alleys threading their way between houses attractively decked out in ochres and pinks. At the highest point of the Old Town there is a viewing terrace providing superb views of the coast, with Rabac in the foreground and the mountainous shape of Cres beyond.

Top image: Ancient town Buzet with bell tower and old buildings flying above clouds. Unusual landscape of tourist destination in Istria, Croatia © Mny-Jhee/Shutterstock

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The Complete Istria Travel Guide (Top Towns, Best Food & Hotels)

a complete guide to istria, Croatia

An Istria Travel Guide

A country heavily influenced by its past landlords, the Romans and Venetians, Istria is like the cleaner, calmer version of Italy. The roads are a dream to navigate, even in the middle of August, as Istria has just the right amount of tourists appreciating its beauty. Equally, the weather too is the perfect combination of not too hot and not too cold which is ideal for both Istria’s beautiful beaches and day trips to its historic towns.

Maybe down to the fact that Istria doesn’t receive hoards of tourists every year, the locals still have a kindness about them which is sometimes hard to find in busier neighbouring countries – especially at peak season. They are desperate to share the love of their country with you and eager to let you try their truffles or local wine – you will find their enthusiasm so heartwarming. Also, English is taught in schools so most of the time it’s easy to get by and the Istrian’s don’t seem affronted that they need to use it. And when you go the extra mile to learn a few phrases in Croatian they can’t be more touched!

Read our Istria travel guide to discover all the best places in Istria, which towns to visit and what to see… 

One of the best views of the beach resort Opatija in Istria Croatia is from the coastal path

The Top 7 Best Towns In Istria, Croatia

Whilst the rest of the world is visiting Dubrovnic further south in Croatia, those in the know stick with the less touristy medieval fortress, Rovinj. A little like Venice over the Adriatic Sea, Rovinj began as an island, but in time the channel was filled joining it to the mainland. Rovinj will probably be the busiest place you will encounter in Istria but it’s easy to see why! It is a must-see on our guide to Istria if only to imagine what Venice would be like if it was polished. Gleaming white cobblestones in thin little streets eventually lead you up to the top for the best views of tiny people and turquoise waters. And if your legs will allow it, the extra climb of 192 steps up the most rickety staircase in the Church of St Euphemia will deposit you on a slightly less rickety platform for even better views of Istria and tiny people.

You’ll need to regain your confidence when you’re back on terra firma so wind back down through Rovinj and grab a glass of something stiff at one of the many restaurants and bars, or mosey around several of the seemingly hundreds of art galleries. Beautiful gift shops and boutiques also make Rovinj the perfect town for a spot of shopping too.

rovinj - like Dubrovnik or Game of thrones fame

Whilst Porec might be one of the main tourist resort areas for big hotels it needn’t put you off. This sweet little town on the Adriatic has loads going for it! Through the day you can take off on a boat trip to see whales and dolphins or even hire some jet ski’s, Porec is one of the main area’s to take water-related day trips – even a trip to Venice if you so require.

However, inside the narrow streets of Porec you will want to visit the UNESCO listed Euphrasian Basilica for its amazing mosaics and stunning Byzantine architecture. Or the remains of two Roman temples to Mars and Neptune – not that inspiring in themselves, but definitely a glimpse at what Porec would’ve been like under Roman rule. Interestingly, the gridlike structure of Porec’s streets is a nod to the Romans too.

Pre-Roman’s however, the Venetians owned Porec and the Venetian-style Gothic architecture can be admired at the Zuccato Palace and several other places as you wander around. Porec comes to life on an evening and has a reputation as a bit of a party town but honestly, it still has a relaxed vibe whilst people eat their huge pizza’s and drink their cheap local wine from restaurant terraces and pavement tables. Porec has a happy vibe and a lovely holiday feel.

porec pretty harbour town, Istria

If you make the trip over to Opatija in the top right corner of the Istrian triangle, you may as well have stepped into another country! When the rich and royals of western Europe were having a good old shindig in St Tropez, the Russian Oligarchs and eastern European gangsters were wining and dining their dolly-birds in the cliffside cafeterias of Opatija. The architecture becomes Austro-Hungarian, very grand and luxurious. Neatly painted stucco in soft pastel shades offset the white decorative mouldings at the edges. Preened gardens and box hedging, a jolly speaker-system attached to lamp-posts playing summer vibe songs, confectionary shops selling the prettiest Austrian pralines and bathers swimming in the lido’s: all reminiscent of a 1950’s seaside scene. Designer stores line the high street but this is no artificial paradise – the locals are present and cheery, probably because the rest of the world hasn’t discovered their little gem of a town. Yes, there are yachts in the harbour but it’s understated wealth and in no way pretentious.

Take a stroll along the Lungomare (seafront promenade) then grab a strong Austrian coffee at the famous Cafe Wagner for the ultimate people-watching opportunity. Sample another type of Istrian truffle, this time made with Austrian chocolate or grab a bit of shade in one of the towns shaded manicured gardens. Opatija was built with luxury in mind over 100 years ago but it still oozes it today and is quite a contrast to the more natural and rustic charms of the rest of Istria – a definite worthy day trip if you have hired a car in Istria.

A beautiful hotel in the Belle Epoque style of architecture seen from the Lungomare, or the coastal path of Opatija in Istria

Motovun, one of Istria’s hilltop towns, is great for foodies and has strong connections to the truffle trade of Istria. It turns up in any good guide to Istria and is one of the best towns to visit if you love your food! Hang off the walls (safely of course) and stretch your neck to see the forests below – forests of pigs searching for black and white truffles that seem to have put Istria on the (foodie) map. You can sample and buy their truffled delights in some of the little stores and gift shops or taste these local delicacies with your meal. There are a few nicely placed bars with tables on the town walls for the best view of the sunset – the perfect trip out for an hour or two in the early evening.

Motovun, a hilltop town in Istria, Croatia

5. Groznjan

The little town of Groznjan is great for a wander too – not only are the house fronts made to look their best with hanging baskets and vines of Bougainvillea, but the insides of stores are a shoppers dream – tiny little stone rooms filled to the brim with local artists pieces and unique Istrian gifts – like the olive oil soaps, wrapped so beautifully in designer packaging that even your smelliest friend wouldn’t take offense at a souvenir! There are many other little hilltop towns in Istria but Motovun and Groznjan are our favourite and well worth an afternoon out, exploring and debating the merits of these neighbourhoods in the clouds.

Medieval town of Groznjan in Istria, Croatia

With absolutely no intention of visiting the place, we stumbled across Fazana in desperate need of some food after a long day exploring some Istrian gems. It turned out to be the holiday destination we would rebook again and again! I don’t know if it was the euphoria of the giant slice of Pizza I shoved in my face or simply the beautiful outlook over the harbour to the islands of Brijuni, but we fell in love with Fazana instantly.

The Brijuni National Park just across the water brings in day-trippers to hire and charter boats, but once the rush is gone around early evening, the orange glow of the sun bathes one of the prettiest little fishing villages in all of Istria in the most glorious hues.

There’s not a lot to do here, except maybe meander the little market and tiny town, or sunbathe on the beach but we loved the feel of the place. There’s always action and enterprise going on in the working harbour giving Fazana a very local feel. But equally, the locals have recognized their beautiful town for what it is and there are enough restaurants and bars to accommodate a relaxed holidaymaker and their thirsty palate.

This place is so wonderful it deserved a blog post of it’s own, check it out here…

one of the best places on Istria - Fazana. A small town worth a day trip to see.

Literally a 5 minute drive from Fazana, and the main working town of Istria, Pula is as urban as it gets in this part of Croatia. It’s home to more than half of Istria’s population and also the area’s main airport. With that, of course, comes industry and high-rise housing, but if you want to see one of Istria’s gem’s and top tourist attractions then you must come to Pula to see the amphitheatre.

The most in-tact remaining Roman amphitheatre in the world, the Pula Arena is a sight to behold and there’s no way we’re leaving it off this Istria travel guide. It still has it’s four side towers preserved and dates back to AD81, finished by Emperor Titus who built Rome’s Colosseum too. Istria’s colosseum is used throughout the summer as a venue for concerts – in fact, we flew over the Adriatic recently and the bright lights of this concert venue could be seen from way up there, so make sure you check out their gig guide for when you’re visiting, it would make the best venue!

Pula's amphitheatre - something to see in Istria for sure

An Istria Travel Guide – What And Where To Eat

Istria stretches out like a green carpet when you stand on the walls of one of their hilltop towns – field after field of arable farms and vineyards make it easy to understand why food is such a big deal to the Istrians. It’s fair to say that their pride brings only the best and freshest ingredients to your plate and when you sit down to eat you get a sense of what it was like 50 years ago everywhere else in Europe when pretty much everything was organic and it was picked when it was good and ready.

Pizza is everywhere, and it’s good! We particularly like the harbour-front in Fazana which has a number of pizzerias with the best dinner time view. Or alternatively, you could visit Porec and eat your whole weeks’ meal in one with their seemingly famous ginormous pizza. There are a few restaurants that get the best reviews on trip advisor, but just wander around and you will see for yourself how big they are and how good they look!

If you visit Opatija for the day, you must eat at Submarine Burger in the neighbouring fishing village of Volosko – grab yourself a seat with a harbour view and order their mini triple burger plate.

Along the coast, you’re not short of fish and seafood restaurants with typical Croatian dishes like Skampi Buzzara (prawns in a tomato sauce) or Brodetto (a fisherman’s stew). Inland, you’re more likely to see more meat dishes on the menu, like Peka (or Ispod Cripnje) which is tender slow-cooked lamb or veal made in an earthenware pot, or platefuls of the local Istrian smoked ham. Try and get a booking at Konoba Mondo in Motuvun.

Istria is well famous for its truffles and thankfully they’re in good supply so it’s not too expensive to buy and you receive generous helpings when you choose a truffle dish – honestly, if you are in Istria you mustn’t miss out on the truffles! If you’re going for breakfast, start the day right and opt for the truffled scrambled eggs.

Konoba’s, or Gostionica’s, are little family ran restaurants where you can guarantee the food will be special and the setting a little more intimate. Often they use vegetables from their own gardens and wine from their own vineyards so the prices are so reasonable, if not surprisingly cheap. Basically, you can’t go wrong eating out in Istria.

Best place to watch the sunset in Istria

An Istria Travel Guide – Where To Stay In Istria

Where better to position yourself for a few days exploring in Istria than right in the middle of the Istrian triangular peninsula. Hotel Resort Cize is the perfect distance from all of the places you must see and in a beautiful location in the Istrian hills. The roads in Istria are excellent and nowhere is too hard to get to so this is the ideal base.

Finding modern hotels in Istria can be difficult yet Resort Cize is contemporary and immaculate. The rooms are simple but well equipped, and the bathrooms have a stylish design to them. The room which overlooks the pool has a balcony that receives the sun from late afternoon and is the best place to see the sunset over the hills. Or if you’re travelling with a family they also have a 4 and 5 person apartment, with its own little pool. Plus the option to rent bikes too.

What sets this small family ran hotel apart, however, is the level of service you will receive. Nothing is too much trouble and they are the perfect balance of friendly yet professional. You must eat here for dinner at least once in your stay because the food is all locally grown, exceptional value and can be tailored to however you prefer it. I’m going to put it out there and say this was possibly the nicest hotel we have ever stayed in, maybe not in terms of interior design but certainly in terms of comfort and home from home. I cannot recommend Resort Cize highly enough!

Alternatively, the coastal town Fazana has a lovely relaxed vibe to it and the Apartments Villa Nina is in perfect walking distance from the town and beaches and comes with breakfast too. Fazana is only a stones throw from Pula for the airport and if you were thinking of kicking back for a few days and not hiring a car then Fazana would be the perfect little town to get a bit of down-time.

resort cize Istria - best 5 star hotel in istria

So there you have it, our Istria travel guide and recommendations to getting the most out of your trip to Istria. Maybe you have come across some of your own little gems in Istria, if so – do let us know, we’d love to try them on our next visit. And any questions, send us a message below – we’ll do our best to help!

Istria has been our first taste of Croatia and we liked it very much, but I am super interested to know how it compares the rest of the country: has the old Italian influence made it a unique little peninsula or has the rest of Croatia got a similar vibe? I would certainly welcome any comments or feedback on this query. Feel free to leave me some input below and for more posts on Istria to follow, make sure you sign up to my newsletter. Thanks for reading!

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An Istria travel guide - places to visit, the best beaches, towns and highlights of Istria, Croatia #Istria #Croatia

13 Comments Add yours

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Sounds great! Do you know if it’s at all possible to find a quiet beach village in this region? I’ve almost booked my holiday in a small village in Hvar but am wondering if there’s also something like that in Istria since it’s closer to my country, Austria so easier to travel to!

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We really love Fazana and would go back in a heartbeat. It is a resort but we went with our family 3 summers ago and the beaches are no way crowded and there is just the right amount of people around at the restaurants in an evening. I wrote about Fazana if you wanted to read that post too. We stayed on the north side of the village and I’d definitely say it’s a bit quieter that side as it’s more villas than hotels but the south side where the resorts are aren’t too busy either. And when I say resorts I mean small hotels. Hope that helps.

Also, depending on your budget, I also link to a lovely villa in my Fazana post, great location, beautiful villa, lovely owners who live nearby and were so hospitable and helpful.

  • Pingback: Rovinj to Pula, Croatia: A Quick Istria Itinerary | Wander-Lush

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Very nice post, Alex. Istria looks stunning and not somewhere I’ve heard of before. Croatia is not somewhere I have visited yet, but it’s on my to do list sometime soon and this place looks like a perfect place to stop. Even better that it sounds like not many tourists visit there.

Its getting harder to find quiet spots these days. Hopefully the cruise ships won’t start docking there. It’s so lovely. Thanks for your input x

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you went to Opatija too? excellent:) the southern coast (Dalmatia) feels more like Greece, whilst the capital Zagreb is more like Budapest or Vienna:)

Yes. Opatija was definitely more Austro-Hungarian, quite different to the rest of Istria. I loved it and am half way through writing a post about it. Definitely a highlight. The thing that puts me off the Dalmatian coast is how popular it has gotten, we definitely prefer the more off the beaten path places.

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Sounds amazing! I’ve heard such amazing things about Croatia. If we went, I would much prefer the ‘off the beaten track’ gems idea. I’m making a note of that hotel!

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When I first read your title, I thought it said “More hidden gems than Crystal Meth!” That certainly got my interest, but it was not to be. This place looks amazing and I’ve never heard of it. We did a sailing thing around the islands in Croatia – not on my own yacht, it doesn’t say understated wealth – but on cramped passenger ferries with no formal timetables.

Your descriptions of Istria make it sound delightful. Plus, I’m a huge fan of truffle so count me in. And non-smelly drainage – what’s not to love.

Those islands look amazing – I absolutely totally am not addicted to Made In Chelsea but they were on there this summer and looked stunning. I’m eager to find out if the rest of Croatia is as gorgeous as Istria but part of me doesn’t want to risk it. Sorry there was no meth, I’ll see what I can do for next time. ?

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Looks so beautiful, Alex. I was just wondering – did you guys drive into Croatia by car? Were there any formalities at the border, anything special to consider? I’m really thinking we should try and visit Croatia soon, it’s so beautiful!

Yes we did. Actually, on our way in there was a huge queue so we swerved and took a side road which was literally the size of one car and took us parallel to the border crossing straight into Croatia with not even a hint that we’d crossed into another country. But on our way out of Croatia we took a different road and there were no alternative options so we just had to sit in traffic for ten minutes. They quickly checked passports but that was it.

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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Istria

Written by Meagan Drillinger Updated Dec 26, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Jutting out into the Adriatic Sea in the far northwestern corner of Croatia, Istria is a beautiful province that is geographically compact and easy to explore. You can base yourself in one of the three main towns, Rovinj , Pula , or Lovran , and take easy day trips from here to towns and attractions.

The entire county is known for its epic natural beauty, as well as its numerous medieval towns, sparkling blue beaches, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Istria also borders Italy and Slovenia, which means that the whole peninsula is a melange of cultures — and even languages. It's not uncommon to hear Italian on the radio, or German in the streets, as the drive from Austria to Istria, is a mere five hours, as well.

A colorful street in Pazin

For me, the very best part of exploring Istria was getting off the main highway (E751) and driving the local county roads past rolling hills, hilltop towns, and vine-covered stone walls. This is the best way to discover the interesting places to visit and see much more of the countryside in between town hopping.

The towns that most people visit in Istria are Rovinj, Pula, and Lovran, but not to be missed is the coastal town of Porec, along the northwest coast. Narrow, stony streets wind around squares and churches, not to mention the beautiful Basilica of Euprasius, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Istria has quite an ancient history, having been inhabited by both the Illyrians and the Romans. If you visit Pula, you'll discover one of the largest Roman amphitheaters, which actually pre-dates the Colosseum in Rome.

Discovering Istria was a highlight of my month-long visit to Croatia and my road trip from Istria to Dubrovnik . You can find more great places to visit along this picturesque peninsula with my list of the top attractions in Istria.

See also: Where to Stay in Istria

1. Take a Walking Tour of Medieval Rovinj

2. explore the roman amphitheater in pula, 3. historic porec and the euphrasius basilica, 4. swim and snorkel at rabac's beaches, 5. scale the old town walls of motovun, 6. see the untouched beauty of brijuni national park, 7. spend a day in the resort town of opatija, 8. visit the museums of pazin, 9. explore the old fortified town of lovran, 10. take a stroll along lungomare promenade, 11. see the historic attractions of vrsar, 12. the village of pican's perfect little cathedral, where to stay in istria for sightseeing, map of attractions & things to do in istria.

Medieval Rovinj

Perched on a piece of land jutting into the Adriatic that was established by the Romans, Rovinj is a beautiful medieval town and home to several excellent things to do. Don't miss the 18th-century Baroque Cathedral of St. Euphemia (Katedrala Sveta Eufemija) with its huge bell tower, which is at the highest point in town.

On the main square (Trg Marsala Tita), you'll find the old Town Hall , also known as the Communal Palace. It's here you'll also find Balbi's Arch (Arco dei Balbi), which opens to the harbor with its many pleasant restaurants and cafés. The Baroque arch was built in the latter half of the 17th century and is notable for its elaborate decoration, including the carved head of a Turk on the outer wall, while on the inner wall is the carved head of a Venetian. Over the arch is the Balbi family coat of arms and a relief of the Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice .

Balbi's Arch stands at the entrance to the old Venetian quarter. This is a delightful area to explore and features quaint piazzas and steep backstreets boasting a mix of architectural styles that includes Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical influences.

Don't forget about the beautiful beaches surrounding Rovinj , either. The area is carved out with Capri-like coves and gentle beaches surrounded by rocky outcrops. The waters around Rovinj are crystal clear.

My favorite beach near Rovinj was Cisterna Beach, located about 6 kilometers outside of town down a bumpy dirt road. The white, pebbly beach stretches around a shallow, turquoise-colored bay. It's a lovely, tranquil spot to take a quiet dip after exploring the town.

Pula Amphitheater

Due largely to its university town status, Pula (Pola) is known as a lively community with many great restaurants, hotels, and cultural events. A popular destination for day trippers, the city's main attractions are its Roman ruins , in particular the superb Pula Amphitheater. One of the largest of its kind, the Pula Amphitheater was built by Emperor Vespasian in the first century at around the same time as the Colosseum in Rome , though the Pula Amphitheater is technically older.

Capable of seating more than 20,000 spectators, the amphitheater's arena was used for gladiator fights and later for jousting tournaments. The subject of a great deal of restoration work, the site can still seat 5,000 people and is used in summer as a venue for festivals and performances, while its underground passages house archaeological finds and exhibits on the local olive industry.

Pula Amphitheatre

Also of interest in Pula is the ancient Roman Forum , a pedestrian-only area that still functions as one of the central gathering places in the city. The best-preserved portion of the forum is the Temple of Romae and Augustus (Augustov Hram) on the north side of the piazza with its many Roman sculptures.

Bring a bathing suit to visit Pula, as well. The beaches around Pula are some of the best in Istria. My favorite was Galebova Stijene, a rocky grotto with unbelievable turquoise-colored water and a cool cave to explore. Note that is not a traditional sandy beach, nor is it a pebbly one. It's one of Croatia's many rock cliff beaches, where you enter the water directly from the cliff face. The rocks are not high, so you can easily slip right into the water without jumping.

Address: Flavijevska ul., 52100, Pula, Croatia

Euphrasius Basilica in Porec

Porec, one of the most popular and well-promoted tourist destinations in Istria, boasts a beautiful seafront with a string of hotels and tourist complexes stretching some six kilometers along Plava Laguna and Zelena Laguna. A popular place for water sports including water skiing, parasailing, sailing, and kayaking, this historic old town grew out of an original Roman layout when the town was known as Colonia Julia Parentium.

A highlight from the town's early years is the beautiful 6th-century Euphrasius Basilica (Eufrazijeva bazilika). This remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site is well known for its beautiful mosaics on gold backgrounds. Highlights include a fourth-century sarcophagus holding the remains of St. Maurus, and a 13th-century ciborium with marble columns and gold mosaics above the steps leading to the altar.

Porec and the Euphrasius Basilica

Be sure to also visit the Porec Museum housed in the Baroque Sincic Palace with its displays on the history of the town and a particular focus on the Roman and early Christian eras. Collections include archeological finds from the third century BC, such as pottery fragments, religious icons and paintings, choir stalls, and furniture displays.

Afterward, stroll around the quaint harbor, where cafés stretch along the promenade, or take a water taxi to the nearby island of St. Nicholas (Sv Nikola), popular for its beaches.

Address: Eufrazijeva ul. 22, 52440, Poreč, Croatia

The resort town of Rabac

Those wanting to spend some time at the beach should head to the small town of Rabac. Once a small fishing village on Kvarner Bay, Rabac has in recent years grown into a popular resort town, known for its pebble beaches and clear, blue sea. Girandella Beach is one of the top beaches here, as the clarity of the water beyond it is stunning.

It is a great place to go for a swim or try snorkeling or diving as the fish are plentiful. You can also book boat excursions into the surrounding bay here. While the beach is pebble and there is little shade, you can hire sun loungers and umbrellas in the summer. It can fill up quickly.

In the town itself, you'll find more of a touristy holiday vibe than a historical feel, and there is a long promenade for wandering. An electric train runs along the promenade and connects various resorts and the town center. There are also plenty of cafés, shops, and restaurants in this low-key vacation destination.

Motovun seen from a distance

Nothing quite prepared me for the first time I feasted my eyes on Motovun. Driving west along D44, Motovun came into view as I drove around a bend in the road, and I had to pull over to fully take in its splendor. It's an impressive sight to witness this centuries-old walled city that rises out of the rolling hills and farmland.

Set high on a hill in the Mirna River Valley, Motovun is a wonderful, scenic, old-walled town that dates back to the 14th century when the Venetians built two sets of thick walls to fortify it. Today, it is known for hosting a popular film festival each summer and for its artistic vibe and fairy-tale good looks.

The hilltop village of Motovun

In the city center, you'll find a mix of Gothic and Romanesque buildings that host artists' studios, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés. Motovun sits at the base of the Motovun Forest, which is home to Istria's famed truffles.

If you're up for a culinary adventure near Motovun, head to the small town of Buje and make a stop at San Servolo Wellness Camping & Resort . This is a gorgeous "glamping" area and spa set amid olive and oak trees, but you don't have to spend the night to enjoy its fabulous restaurants.

We made a stop at San Servolo to sample the freshly wood-fired pizzas — and it was well worth the 25-minute drive from Motovun. Tip: Order the Bufalina, which is topped with lusciously thick buffalo mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

Brijuni National Park

Brijuni National Park (Nacionalni Park Brijuni) consists of two large and 12 small islands and islets and was used as a summer residence by Marshal Tito, the Yugoslavian President, from 1949 until he died in 1980.

In addition to entertaining heads of state and movie stars here, Tito introduced several oddities to the islands, including African animals such as elephants, zebras, and antelope, along with species of plants not native to Croatia.

Today, the only islands open to the public are the two main islands of Veli Brijun and Mali Brijun , although access is still restricted (the park must be visited as part of a tour unless you're staying at one of the Veli Brijun hotels — even then, visiting some parts requires a guide). The main highlights in Brijuni National Park are the remains of a second-century Byzantine fortress, a Roman villa, the Church of St. Germana, the safari park, and an interesting exhibit on Tito.

Access to the islands is usually from the town of Fazana , where the Brijuni National Park office is located. The park ferry departs from here, too.

Address: Brijuni, 52100 Pula, Croatia

Opatija's Perfect Climate

Long one of Croatia's premier resort towns , Opatija is a wonderful vacation destination thanks to the many elegant old hotels that line its pleasant coastline and attract visitors year-round. The climate here is mild, even in winter, as the town is protected by Mount Ucka from the "bura" (or bora) wind, a northerly wind that blows in off the Adriatic.

In addition to providing shelter, Mount Ucka , the highest point along the Istrian Peninsula, also boasts an abundance of beautiful scenery. Thanks to its mild climate, Opatija has numerous al fresco dining opportunities, with most restaurants and hotels offering pleasant terraces and patios, many of them open year-round.

A particular treat is strolling along the Lungomare promenade. It starts here and stretches some 12 kilometers, taking in some of the country's most spectacular coastal scenery along the way.

Clocktower in Pazin

One of the largest inland towns in Istria, Pazin's main draw is its superb medieval castle (Kaštel) and spectacular setting. Built in the ninth century, the castle is set dramatically high on a cliff top overlooking a gorge, with its entrance over a drawbridge.

The current layout dates to the 14th century when the four wings were joined to form a courtyard. The castle now serves as home to the Ethnographic Museum of Istria (EMI) with its many displays of traditional costumes, textiles, farming implements, fishing equipment, musical instruments, and household items.

Pazin's Medieval Castle

Also at the castle is the Civic Museum with its many archaeological finds, as well as collections of bells and weapons. Other interesting attractions in Pazin are the medieval Church of St. Mary and the 15th-century church of St. Francis (Sv Frane).

If you are driving, I recommend parking close to the entrance of the town and then take your time wandering the narrow streets. Pazin's Old Town is magical and the walk to the castle feels like a step back in time.

Address: Trg istarskog razvoda 1, 52000, Pazin, Croatia

Lovran oceanfront

Just five kilometers from Opatija , Lovran is one of the most sought-after summer resorts in Croatia. Protected from the cold winds of winter by Mount Ucka and spread out along the oceanfront, Lovran enjoys a mild climate that ensures it is busy year-round. Be sure to explore the old fortified part of the town, where some sections of the original wall remain.


Popular attractions in this historic area include the Romanesque bell tower and the 14th-century, Baroque-style Church of St. George (Sv Juraj) on the main square. Popular annual events held in Lovran include St. George's Day Celebrations in April, the Fishermen's Feasts during the summer months, Marunada in October, and a Yachting Regatta in November.

Lungomare waterfront

The Lungomare is a lovely 12-kilometer stretch of promenade, which runs along the Adriatic coast from Volosko to Lovran . Constructed in the late 19th-century when Opatija began to develop as a resort destination, today it is one of the highlights of this area.

The Picturesque Promenade of Lungomare

The Lungomare is a good place to stroll or find your own piece of oceanfront to soak up the sun as it's possible to set up along the shore at any of the many rocky points jutting out into the sea.

A street in Vrsar

Vrsar (Orsera), a once fortified fishing village with origins dating back to Roman times, contains many old Roman ruins, including the remains of an old villa and the Montaker quarry, still used by sculptors and their students as a source of stone. Remnants of the old Roman fortifications can still also be seen, most notably the sea gate from that period, while highlights from later periods include the 10th-century Romanesque Church of St. Mary (Sv Marija) near the waterfront.

Also of interest is the 12th-century Vergottini Castle, also known as the Bishop's Palace, and the nearby 19th-century Church of St. Martin. You'll also want to see the Dusan Dzamonja Sculpture Park just a little way out of town.

View Over Vrsar

To the south of Vrsar, the Limski Channel is a marine reserve popular for its many limestone caves, one of which was home to the well-known hermit St. Romualdo.

Head up to the top of the hill to explore the medieval streets of the historic town. Personally, I liked exploring the sections of the city that were pedestrian-only. Parking can be tight at the top of the hill, but if you happen to snag a spot you'll be free to head into the gates to the narrow alleys and stone-lined plazas.

Down the hill things become considerably more modern, with a yacht-filled marina and a selection of lively seafood restaurants. Trost is a wonderful option for its waterfront views and is known for grilling its seafood in a gradele, which is one of the more traditional ways to prepare food in this part of the Adriatic.


The quaint village of Pican, known as Petena during Roman times, lies about 12 kilometers southeast of Pazin and has been of religious importance since the fifth century with a long history as a bishop's see. Today, the village boasts a variety of well-preserved medieval buildings, including the lovely town gates dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Also of interest is St. Nicephorus Cathedral . Originally built in the 14th century and completely rebuilt in the early 1700s, it's a fine example of a Greek Orthodox cathedral and well worth visiting. Highlights include the main altar with a superb painting by Valentin Metzinger entitled Annunciation .

Also of interest is the Romanesque church of St. Michael (Sv Mihovil) with its splendid 15th-century frescoes.

Istria is geographically small, so getting around the region is quite easy. Base yourself in one of the main towns and from here, you can reach all the top things to do around the province on day trips. However, it's best to rent a car, as public transport is not great. We like these properties in Rovinj, Pula, and Lovran :

Luxury Hotels:

  • The Hotel Monte Mulini serves up five-star luxury in Rovinj . It offers rooms and suites with beautiful bay views, stylish decor, and deep soaking tubs. The grounds host a gorgeous waterfront pool and an excellent restaurant.
  • Another excellent luxury pick is the slightly less posh, four-star Hotel Adriatic , also in Rovinj. This boutique property has a fantastic location, city views, contemporary decor, and dramatic artwork.
  • Also, check out the Hotel Lone in Rovinj. It offers more affordable luxury, fabulous interior design, and a good location.

Mid-Range & Budget Hotels :

  • In Pula try the good-value Park Plaza Arena Pula . It features a private beach, sunny terrace, outdoor pool, and Roman spa.
  • Another top mid-range choice in Pula is Oasi - Boutique Hotel & Restaurant . It has a range of rooms, including apartments to accommodate families, and the on-site restaurant is quite good.
  • If you're looking for a budget sleep, try the Hotel Park Lovran . The Lovran Hotel comes with sea views, friendly staff, a swimming pool, and a sauna.

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Croatia's Dalmatian Coast: The coastline to the south of Istria is known as the Dalmatian Coast, and it is home to some of Croatia's top attractions . Zadar anchors the northern Dalmatian Coast, which stretches all the way south to Dubrovnik and is well worth visiting. Also on the Dalmatian Coast, Dubrovnik is perhaps Croatia's most stunningly preserved medieval town and a highlight of any visit.

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Things To Do In Istria, Croatia: Best Attractions, Activities and Day Trips

Wonder what to do in Istria on your next visit? Here is a list of the 45 best things to do in Istria!

Istria Riviera, a heart-shaped peninsula located in the northern Adriatic, is the most visited region in Croatia . The Istrian peninsula is very popular among foodies, cyclists, history aficionados, and just anybody looking for a relaxing beach time.

Things To Do In Istria, Croatia: Best Attractions, Activities and Day Trips, Illustration

In summer, tourists visit Istria in search of beach fun, water sports, and other fun-under-the-sun activities. But, as you will discover here, Istria has much more to offer than pure beach fun.

Table of Contents

Best things to do in Istria

Istria offers a plethora of activities, ranging from cycling and winery tours to zip-lining, water activities, and day tours. With so much to choose from, there’s an abundance of options to keep you entertained in Istria.

Visit a winery

A garden table with white wine and a plate of prosciutto

A visit to any (or many) family-owned wineries is one of the best things to do in Istria. Our favorite wineries in Istria include Damjanic , Kozlovic , Trapan , and Kabola Winery .

We also put together a list of Istrian winemakers  and wrote a post on top wineries to visit in Istria if you are interested in further reading.

To avoid drinking and driving (never drink and drive!), you can book THIS WINE TOUR with a guide and a driver. Also, this way, you’ll be able to visit many wineries in one day.

Parenzana cycling trail

From flat and easy coastal trails to the hilly hinterland, cycling in Istria is perfect for beginner and experienced cyclists alike.

This is the reason why both recreational and professional cyclists love Istria! And not to mention new cycling enthusiasts: 60+ on electric bikes.

For the ultimate cycling experience in Istria, take on the Parenzana trail !

Detailed Istria cycling info can be found on the Istria Bike Website . You can also check Fiore Tours agency for Istria and Croatia’s self-guided multi-day cycling tours.

  • Parenzana Old Railway Bike Tour
  • Bike Experience through Cape Kamenjak

Explore beaches

A beach in Zelena Laguna Campsite, Porec

Don’t forget that the sun and the sea are still the main reasons to visit Istria. Get your swimming suit, snorkeling gear, and dive right into the deep blue Adriatic Sea.

From the beautiful pebbly beaches of Rabac and amazing underwater caves along the coast of Pula to the fancy beaches of Rovinj Lone Bay and the shaded rocky beaches of Porec, Istria offers ample opportunity for swimming, snorkeling, and cliff diving.

Fried baby calamari, restaurant Sole in Umag

Local, fresh, seasonal, what else to ask from a perfect food?! Istria is a foodie’s dream destination.

Truffles, pork tenderloin, bean soup for the fall and winter, asparagus, wild mushrooms, crab meat, cheese curd, scrambled eggs for the spring, fresh vegetables, anchovies, sardines, and other fish for the summer.

Here are the best restaurants in Istria!

  • Flavors of Istria
  • Rovinj Walking Food Tour
  • Pula Walking Food Tour
  • Porec Walking Food Tour
  • Novigrad Walking Food Tour
  • Umag Walking Food Tour

Taste one of the world’s best extra virgin olive oils

olive oil tasting room at Chiavalon

Yep, that’s right! Chiavalon extra virgin olive oil is a world champ in the olive oil arena. World’s Best Olive Oil Association named Chiavalon one of the TOP 25 olive oil producers in the World, and recently, the Italian Organization Premio il Magnifico awarded their olive oils with 3 stars (think Michelin 3 stars but in the world of olive oil) and placed them among the TOP 12 producers in Europe.

Visit Chiavalon Estate in Vodnjan, and book yourself an olive oil tasting!

Enjoy history

Euphrasian Basilica in Porec

History aficionados will enjoy discovering the Istrian past through many historical sites, monuments, remains, and documents. Many of them are very well preserved to this day.

The two most popular historic sites in Istria are the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč from the 6th century, a Unesco world heritage site (more info on Things to do in Porec ), and Pula’s Amphitheater dating back to the 1st century AD, the sixth-largest Colosseum in the world.

Venetian architecture, medieval hilltop towns, churches, and towers are testimony of the region’s rich history.

Visit Rovinj

Panorama of Rovinj

Rovinj is the nicest town and a must-see place in Istria! Explore its winding cobblestone streets, visit charming art galleries, climb the bell tower for awesome views, have a real Italian gelato, taste fisherman’s pie at Maestral, and have a glass of wine in the Mediterraneo Bar.

  • Dolphin Watching Sunset Speedboat Trip with Drinks
  • A boat trip from Porec to Rovinj with a lunch
  • Private tour of Rovinj by electric bicycle

Explore Istrian countryside

Vaulted passage in Groznjan, Istria

Istrian countryside, with its rolling hills, medieval hilltop towns, vineyards, and olive groves, will make your dream. Take a day out to explore the towns of Motovun, a village of music and art Groznjan, a mystical and abandoned Zavrsje, or lovely Oprtalj. Visit the sleepy watermill in Kotli and Hum, the smallest town in the world.

Plan lunch at Stari Podrum, Morgan, or Tavern Toncic in Zrenj . Do wine tasting at Kozlovic, Cuj, or Kabola.

  • Full day tour of Istria with truffle tasting
  • Istria Highlights Tour from Pula
  • Half day trip to Grožnjan and Oprtalj with local delicacies tasting
  • Guided Tour of Inner Istria with Food Tasting

Visit Brijuni Islands national park

An archipelago consisting of 14 small islands, the Brijuni Islands are one of Croatia’s eight national parks .

A visit to Brijuni Islands includes a boat transfer from and to Fazana, a tourist train ride around the island of Veli Brijun, a visit to the remains of the ancient Roman villa dating back to the I century B.C, the archaeological museum, and the Church of St. Germain.

The ticket costs 190 Kn (March, April, May, October), 230 Kn from June through September, and 160 Kn in January, February, November, and December.

Hike Ucka Mountain

Visit Ucka, the highest Istrian mountain separating the peninsula from the rest of Croatia. It is a protected area and a nature park.

Choose one of the marked hiking trails and get up to the Vojak, the highest peak (1396 m). You’ll enjoy nice views over Istria, the sea, and the islands.

Go truffle hunting

Istrian white truffles

Did you know that the largest white truffle in the world was found in Istrian forests? It even made a Guinness World Record .

Don’t miss out the truffle hunting in Istria when holidaying here!

The Istriana Travel can organize a truffle hunting tour, or you can contact truffle hunters/producers Prodan Truffles and  Karlic Truffles directly.

Visit Glavani park

A boy walking the ropes im Glavani Park

Glavani Park is a place to see if you are looking for adrenaline-pumping activities! It is a high ropes adventure park with 2 m, 6 m, 10 m high rope courses, 11 m high giant swing, and Europe’s first suspension bridge across the valley.

Book in advance and save!

Spend a day in Istralandia or Aquacolors water parks

What better way to spend a hot summer day than splashing around in the water park?

We even have two water parks in Istria, Istralandia near Novigrad , and Aquacolors in Porec.

From a 27 m high free-fall slide to family rafting and gentle rides through the lazy river, Istrian water parks offer fun for the whole family!

Paragliding, Tandem flying, and Hang gliding

You’ll find eight take-off and landing sites for hang gliders and ten sites for paragliding. They are all located in the area of Buzet, at the Cicarija and Ucka Mountains. All flights are coordinated with local clubs.

Paragliding club Tići organizes tandem flights. The club currently has twenty paragliding pilots. More info you can find on their Facebook page .

Hang gliding is organized by the flying club Homo Volans, based in Opatija.

Paragliding Istra is another club with a flight training facility in Motovun. They also offer tandem flights. The prices start at 700 Kn for a 15-20 min flight.

Panoramic flights over the Istrian peninsula

People tandem flying over Istria

Get yourself on one of those scenic flights and enjoy the panorama of the Istrian peninsula. The prices start at 150 Kn (20 €) per person for a 10-minute flight. It’s seriously not that expensive. You need more courage than money for this activity.

More info and contacts are here!

Water activities

Would you like to kayak to hidden sea caves , get on a night glow SUP tour , push your limits with a guided coasteering adventure in Pula or try your hand at wakeboarding and waterskiing?

All these water activities and more you’ll find in Istria!

Jet-ski, boat rental, pedal boat, banana boat ride, diving, SUP, kayaking, and parasailing are the most popular water activities found in every coastal town and every resort in Istria.

Windsurfing equipment can be rented at ProSurf in Porec , Windsurstation in Premantura (Rt Kamenjak), Windsurfing Center in the camping Arena Stupice , and  Windsurfing in Fažana .

Rock climbing

In Istria, nine rock climbing sites on 20-30 m high short rocks have more than 270 equipped ascents.

These sites are Zlatni Rt Forest in Rovinj, Lim Bay, Dvigrad, Vitnjan near Pula, Rabac, Istarske Toplice, Raspadalica above Buzet, Vranjska Draga near the Ucka tunnel, and Pazin.

Istria has many underground caves, abysses, and pits. Some are open to leisurely visitors, while others are aimed at experienced explorers with professional equipment.

Popular caves in Istria are Baredine Cave near Poreč, Pazinska Jama near Pazin, Romualdova Spilja in Lim Bay, Feštinsko kraljevstvo near Žminj, a 361 m deep Rašpor pit on the Ćićarija Mountain, a 1036 m long Piskovica Cave in central Istria, and Mramornica cave near Novigrad.

Things To Do In Istria, Illustration for Pinterest

Visit Dinosaur Park in Funtana

Dinosaur Park in Funtana is a perfect place to visit with small children. Set in an ancient quarry surrounded by thick woods, the park has over 1.5 km of paths, life-size electric dinosaurs, amusement rides for small children, and a small farm where kids can ride ponies. The park also has regular shows throughout the day.

Zip line Pazinska jama

Looking for a real heart-pounding adventure? Go ziplining in Pazin! Feel like a bird while you are soaring through the treetops at speeds up to 50 km/h.

The views are spectacular, particularly from the last and longest line, as you see the wonderful Pazin Castle in front and the Pazin Canyon below.

The site is open from May to October, from 10 am to 7 pm (the rest of the year by appointment only).

Contacts | e-mail: [email protected] | t: +385 91 543 7718 | Facebook

Rope jumping free fall

Another activity for adventurous kinds, rope jumping free fall is organized by the same guys who run Pazin Zip Line. And the site is at the same spot. As you jump into the abyss from the small bridge, you swing within a 25 m radius. Definitely not for the faint-hearted folks!

It’s open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 12 pm to 6 pm. The price is 150 Kn (approx. 20 €) per person.

Contacts | Most Vrsic, Pazin | t: +385 91 1683 126 | e-mail: [email protected]

A day trip to Ljubljana

Ljubljana air view at night

Ljubljana is only 170 km from Istria. And Ljubljana is really beautiful, and if you have a day to spare, it makes a great day trip from Istria.

Ljubljana is a real little gem. A small, walkable (and cyclable) city with only 600.000 inhabitants, downtown Ljubljana, is set along the river, and it boasts great bars, restaurants, shops, and lovely architecture.

You can easily reach Ljubljana on your own by car (if you don’t have a car, rent one here ). Once you pass the border, you should be in Ljubljana in no time. To avoid lines at the main border crossing (Kastel), head for a small border crossing near Buzet.

A visit to Postojna Cave

Predjama Castle near Postojna

Just 120 km from Istria, you can visit the largest cave in this part of the world – Postojna Cave. It boasts in total 24 km of underground passages, halls, and galleries, although only 5 km are open to the public to explore.

There is an underground train that takes visitors for a 3.5 km ride. The rest is explored on foot.

You can visit Postojna cave on your own. However, it might just be more convenient to book yourself on a group tour to Postojna Cave out of Porec, Rovinj, or Pula.

Visit Lake Bled

Lake Bled is another natural marvel of Slovenia that offers a plethora of things to do. It’s located in the Julian Alps, 475 m above sea level, and surrounded by lovely forests.

Two main attractions are Bled Castle , atop a high cliff, and a small island in the middle of the lake with the Church of Assumption Mary . Vintgar Gorge , just five km from the lake, is another popular site worth visiting.

The lake is 220 km away from Istria. You can visit it on your own for a day, but it would perhaps be better if you either plan an overnight in Bled or take a group tour.

Discover Venice

Venice at nigh

When you are already in Istria, don’t miss a chance to visit Venice easily. Only 250 km away, it takes less than three hours to visit Venice. Or even better, visit Venice for a day by boat. There are two companies serving this route: Kompas’ Prince of Venice and Venezialines.

  • A day trip to Venice from Rovinj by boat
  • Visit Venice from Porec by boat
  • A visit to Venice by boat from Pula

Explore the Cape Kamenjak Park

Rt Kamenjak

Explore Cape Kamenjak, a beautiful natural site and the southernmost point of Istria.

This protected area is a great place for swimming, hiking, cycling, kayaking, surfing, cliff jumping, or just chilling by the sea. The visit is free for pedestrians and cyclists, while the car fee amounts to 80 Kn per day.

Don’t miss chilling out after the swim in the Safari Bar! Surrounded by tall reeds and hidden under a canopy of branches, Safari Bar in Cape Kamenjak Park is the coolest bar in Istria.

  • A Half–Day Cycling Tour of Cape Kamenjak With Wine Tasting
  • Explore Caves By Kayak
  • Pula Boat Trip To Cape Kamenjak With Snorkeling

Visit Aura Distillery

How about tasting local brandies while on holiday in Istria? Visit Aura Distillery or one of their four shops in Istria. Aura makes great liquors from Istrian mistletoe, honey, or wine liquors to less common choices like almonds and olive oil, rosehip, or sage brandy.

They also produce jams and other delicacies like chocolates and wild apple vinegar.

Contacts | a: II. Istarske brigade 2/1, Buzet | t: +385 52 694 250 | e: [email protected] | Website

Take a boat tour

A boat sailing in the Adriatic Sea

Boat tours in Istria are very popular. The most popular boat tours include a sunset cruise, a dolphin-watching tour, and a Lim Fjord tour with lunch.

All those tours are available from various boat companies in Rovinj, Poreč, or Pula.

Other less common boat tours include tuna-fishing and recreational tours abroad, smaller motor yachts (check Tuna Tail Fishing website ), adrenaline-filled tours abroad, very fast speed boats (check Porec charter website ), submarine tours, glass boat tours, and sailing tours (check Spark sailing out of Rovinj).

  • Boat Trip From Poreč to Rovinj with Lunch
  • Boat Cruise from Porec with Barbecue Lunch

Go-kart and other high-octane activities

If you like cars and other high-octane actions, you’ll find a couple of interesting sites in Istria. Halfway between Porec and the village of Tar, you’ll find Motodrom Porec. This is the longest and the best kart track in the entire Istria. At the same site, you will also find cross-karts, baby karts for kids, and quads.

Park Santarija is a motocross park located just outside Pazin, in central Istria. For more information, check their website .

Moto Club from Zminj organizes Enduro adventures in Istria. You can find more information on their website .

Taste Istrian craft beer

Are you a craft beer aficionado? No worries, Istria has you covered!

San Servolo Brewery is the largest and best-known of all local breweries. You can visit their property located near Buje, in northwestern Istria. You’ll find there a brewery and San Servolo Resort, where you can stay overnight, have a craft beer bath (I know, seriously?!), and have a beer-tasting and hearty lunch at their beer and steakhouse.

Bura Brew is located in Porec. You can find their beers in many bars and delicates shops all over Istria, but you can also taste and buy their beer directly from the brewery. More info here.

Kampanjola is the latest addition to an already exciting Croatian craft beer scene. This is the first Istrian eco-craft beer. Check their Facebook page for more info.

If you happen to be in Istria in the first week of September, don’t miss visiting Medulin Craft Beer Festival .

Mummies of Vodnjan

Vodnjan, a small town not far from Pula, is home to one of the world’s largest and unique collections of 370 Christian relics belonging to 250 saints. The relics include a piece of Virgine Mary’s veil, a thorn from Jesus’ crown, and the bones of many apostles.

Besides these relics, in the church of St. Blaise, you can see the preserved bodies of three saints: St. Leo Bembo, St. Ivan Olini, and St. Nikoloza Bursa. Although these bodies are not embalmed, they are well-preserved, including interior organs, veins, and soft tissue. This makes them very unique.

Contacts | St. Blaise Church (Crkva sv. Blaža) | t+385 52 511420, m: +385 98 198 3231 | e: [email protected] | Website

Working hours | June-Sept., Mon-Sat: 9.30 am-1 pm, 2.30 pm-6.30 pm; Sun: 12 pm-6.30 pm | Oct.-Feb.: on request | March-May, Mon-Sat 9.30 am-5 pm; Sun: 12 pm-5 pm

Admission | Museum: 7 € | Holy bodies: 7 € | Church: 2 € | Combo (museum, holy bodies, and church): 10 €

Cook like a local

Traditional Istrian cuisine changes as you move from the coast to the countryside. But few dishes remain the same: manestra (a bean soup typical for Istria), fuzi and pljukanci (different types of Istrian homemade pasta), njoki (potato dumplings, identical to Italian gnocchi). Add to that an abundance of seafood, black and white truffles, wild asparagus, and various homemade cold cuts, and you have a winning formula for yummy dishes.

A couple of companies offer cooking classes where you learn to prepare some of the typical Istrian dishes. Most often, you’ll learn to make at least one type of homemade pasta. We recommend Eat Istria cooking classes. You can find more information about Eat Istria cooking classes here.

Visit Susak

Have a taste of Croatian islands on a day trip from Istria to Susak, a small car-free island with sandy beaches, lovely nature, and tranquility.

In July and August, a catamaran boat operates between Pula and the island of Susak 5 times a week. It leaves Pula at 7 am and arrives in Susak at 8.40 am. On a return trip, the boat leaves Susak at 6.40 pm and arrives at Pula at 8.30 pm.

This schedule gives you plenty of time to explore the small island of Susak.

The same catamaran continues down to Zadar and makes stops on the Mali Losinj, Ilovik, and Silba islands. You can also plan a visit to those islands too!

More info on the Krilo Website .

A day trip to Cres

The largest of all Croatian islands, Cres is easily reachable from Istria. You can do it on your own by taking a car ferry from Brestova across to Porozina.

Another, more relaxing way to visit Cres is by tourist boat from Rabac.  This way, you get to see the most famed beach on the island (and one of the best Croatian beaches ) – Beach Sv. Ivan. below the village of Lubenice.

Experience glamping

Glamping tent in the camping Lanterna

Over 1.200.000 guests stay in campsites in Istria every year. But if you are not ready to rough it in Istrian campsites, consider glamping.

From the beachside cabins, and luxurious safari tents to family-friendly 3-bedroom mobile homes and luxury camping villas with private pools, glamping in Istria is something completely different.

Check the Amber Sea Luxury Village , Superior Mobile Homes in the camping Veštar, Premium Village in the camping Lanterna , Deluxe Mobile Homes in the camping Valkanela, and One 99 Glamping in Pula.

Rent a villa

Vacation in style with a villa rental in Istria! Villas are a very popular accommodation option in Istria. The majority of them are located in a beautiful Istrian countryside, surrounded by lush gardens, and featuring a private swimming pool.

And they don’t necessarily need to be expensive. If you are two families or a group of friends, you can share the cost and end up paying less than an apartment rental.

Explore Istrian Waterfalls

I bet you haven’t heard about Istrian Waterfalls! We’ve lived here for a long time before we found out about them. I think many people in Istria still don’t know about these waterfalls.

Gologoricki Dol is a small waterfall not far from Cerovlje. The largest and best-known waterfall in Istria, Sopot Waterfall, is simply beautiful, although access to it via a tiny and slippery downhill passage is rather scary. Check photos and reviews here.

Zarecki Krov is a favorite summer swimming spot for the people of Pazin. The waterfall is big, and it comes down to the lake from a large rock that looks like a roof. A great place to visit if you are in Istria. Check photos and reviews here.

Kotli is a small abandoned village not far from Hum. The Mirna River flows through the village, forming in its cauldron-shaped basin. These forms can get full of water depending on the total level of the water. Steep drops in water flow in some places create smaller and bigger waterfalls. Watch the video from Kotli here.

Sv. Foska Church

Sv. Foska Church

If you like sacral buildings and other monuments, or if you like to wander around long narrow, winding, and dreamy roads, consider visiting Sv. Foska Church.

The entire place is magical, and locals believe it is a part of the big energy field coming from the Brijuni islands through the sea, all the way to the church. People come here to meditate, ask for help, and just absorb this energy.

Istria is a popular diving destination full of exciting shipwrecks. The most popular diving site is the shipwreck Baron Gautsch near Rovinj. This Austrian passenger ship sank 9 nautical miles from Rovinj in 1914.

The wreck is today overgrown by algae and sponges. It lies at 28 m to 40 m depth on a sandy and stone sea bed.

Other diving sites in Istria include the caves and reefs of Banjol Island near Rovinj, the walls, and reefs of Sv. Marina, a wreck of cargo steamship Hans Schmidt, a minesweeper Coriolanus wreck, and many more.

Check more info here , here , and here .

Visit small islands

Although the Istrian coast doesn’t abound in islands like Dalmatia, there are still many small uninhabited islands around. This is particularly apparent around Vrsar, Rovinj, and Rt Kamenjak.

The regular Maistra line can easily visit Red Island (St. Andrew Island). The boat runs from 5.30 am to 1 am on every full hour (from the Red Island), or every hour on the half-hour from Rovinj to St. Andrew Island. The return ticket coast 40 Kn per adult.

Dvi Sestrice and Figarola are small islands off the coast of Rovinj. Many locals and boaties from nearby campsites come here for a swim.

Levan is an interesting island off the coast of Medulin. It’s a popular day trip because of the sandy beach. There is also a bar-cum-restaurant on the island.

Fratarski Island (Veruda) is located south of Pula and it is the favorite summer spot for people from Pula and beyond. Locals not only spend a day here, but instead, they spend the entire summer. There is a basic campsite on the island where many locals pitch their tents permanently for the summer.

Ceja is another island off the coast of Kamenjak. There is a beach bar, a small pier, and a beach. It’s a simple, chill-out place to spend a day.

Latus Dairy Farm

A small family-run farm located in the small village of Orbanici, near Zminj, in central-east Istria, Latus Dairy Farm produces cow cheeses (young, aged, and curd), as well as fresh milk and yogurt. Latus also offers onsite tastings in their stylish milk & cheese bar. The bar is open from June to mid-September, on Wednesdays & Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm.

Contacts | a: Gornji Orbanići 12/D, Žminj | t:+385 52 823 765 | e: [email protected]

Dekleva Lavender Farm

Visit a family-run lavender farm located halfway between Porec and Visnjan for lovely walks amidst lavender, rosemary, olives, figs, and grapes. Enjoy amazing fragrances, take a moment, and relax in nature, under the trees in a swing or hammock. A visit to the farm is free. But if you like what you see, you can buy some natural products made onsite by lovely owners. This is where they make money.

Contacts | a: Deklevi 1, Visnjan | t: +385 98 932 1745

Aquarium in Pula

Pula’s aquarium is the biggest aquarium in Istria and in my opinion the only one here worth a visit. It’s located on the Verudela peninsula, south of the center, and close to all the big hotels. Located in an old military fortress from the time of Austria-Hungarian monarchy, the building itself is worth a visit. Pula Aquarium features more than 250 species of fish, reptiles, and semiaquatic animals. The aquarium also features a sea turtle rescue center. You can read more here.

Sculpture Park Vrsar

If you like a pleasant and relaxing walk in a park with a bit of culture, then a visit to the Sculpture Park in Vrsar can make your day. Visiting the park is free, and there is easy parking next to it. Sculptures exhibited in the park belong to Dusan Džamonja, a famed Croatian artist whose work was featured in the Tate Gallery in London and MoMA in New York, as well as in other museums of Modern Art, like those of Paris, Antwerpen, and Sao Paolo.

Where: Valkanela 5, Vrsar

Working hours | Nov.-Feb., 9 am-5 pm; Mar.-May, Sept.-Oct., 9 am-7 pm; June-Aug., 9 am-8 pm

Free admission

Discover frescoes

Many visitors to Istria quickly learn that Porec is known as the town of mosaics. This is due to mosaics found in Euphrasian Basilica, UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, only a few visitors leave Istria knowing that the county is also rich in frescoes. These frescoes can be found on the walls of many churches, particularly those in inland Istria.

Some frescoes date back as far as the 8th century. However, the majority of Istrian frescoes were painted in the period from the 11th to 16th centuries.

The most popular frescoes are to be found in the Church of St. Martin and the Church of St. Mary in Beram near Pazin, and in the Church of St. Roc in Roc, in northeast Istria.

Further reading

  • 37 restaurants in Istria that locals love
  • Reasons to visit Istria
  • 5 experiences to have in just one day in Istria
  • Wineries in Istria worth a visit
  • Istrian hilltop towns to take your breath away
  • Awesome things about living in Istria

Are you planning to visit Istria? What are your favorite things to do in Istria? Let us know in the comments below. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated sites. This post might also contain affiliate links to other sites, like accommodation or activities. And if you purchase anything using these links, we earn a little commission with no extra costs for you. Thank you for supporting our blog! Read full disclaimer here.

Home / Destinations In Croatia / Istria, Croatia / Things To Do In Istria, Croatia: Best Attractions, Activities and Day Trips

45 thoughts on “Things To Do In Istria, Croatia: Best Attractions, Activities and Day Trips”

I love Istria! Every year we go on vacation to Istria, and this year we decide to rent a villa with pool for whole family and it was perfect!

Thanks for your suggestion, Atesa! We’ll look into it.

You’ve done a good job selecting :) Istria is indeed ful of lovely things to do, but you somehow managed to find the jewels… Only thing I wanted to correct you about – on the mention of all prices in the text you have put the price without commenting on it (is it high or low or ok) – as a journalist does. Only in the end, mentioning Dinopark, you wrote that it’s a bit high… It’s just a notice, you might correct it or not, it’s your blog :) Greetings from Croatia!

Hi Stephanie, the place is called Galebove Stijene, not far from camping Stoja. Hope this helps. Have fun!

Your website is fantastic – very informative. I am finding it very helpful!

I just have one question. I keep seeing these pictures of individuals kayaking through what they are titling as ‘the blue caves of pula/istria’. I can find no mention of them on your website ? Do you have any idea where they are?

hi frank where do you suggest we stay as a base to visit all these places in the istria region?

What a detailed list! Istria is in my travel plans for a few months already and your list will be enough to make my trip interesting. Thanks, Frank!

Brilliant information, thanks! We go to Croatia for the first time next week. Staying in Pula. Hoping to visit lots of places and go across to Venice as well.

Looking forward to it even more now we have found your blog..

Thanks for reading. Let us know if you decide to visit Istria. We’ll be happy to help you plan your visit.

What a place to escape! To be honest, have not thought of Istria to travel before. Thanks for changing my mind.

Lots of awesome activities, and Istria seems really beautiful! I would especially love to try the truffle hunting, which sounds really fun. The wine+cycling experience we did in Mendoza, and it was really cool! Thanks for this great post!

I am really starting to feel in itch to visit Croatia. Beautiful photos, and so many activities to do!

I have been to Motovun and Groznjan it is beautiful there. It is also possible to do truffle hunting in the forest of Motovun, with a guide :)

Great article

Obozavam Rovinj i Porec! :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Nice experience. thanks for posting nice views……..

Thanks for stopping by. Glad you’ve liked Istria.

We went to Istria last summer and absolutely loved it! Great post and an amazing blog, guys! Thanks for connecting with us on Twitter! Keep up the great work and travel safe!

Thanks for stopping by, Tonia! Truffles are delicious. The good thing here is that you can afford to order them in the restaurant. The bad thing is that you need to know where they serve genuine Istrian truffles, otherwise you might end up eating tasteless and cheap imported truffles.

I have personally never tasted real truffles. I grew up thinking truffles were a chocolate dessert! I found it fascinating to discover what they really were! I hope to try them someday. Most dishes here that contain the best truffles are quite pricey however. The photos of your country look quite tempting to visit I must say. The colors and scenery really take you in.

Thanks for stopping by, Vicky. Glad you like it and that you started thinking of Croatia as a new place to consider visiting.

I’m so glad I found your blog! What beautiful pictures and a new place to think about going!

L, Vicky #CommentLove #SITSBlogging

Nex year, Mrs Chasing the Donkey!

Man, I am still gutted we missed out on the truffle hunting while we were there. We got the truffles… but no hunting.

Truffle hunters use dogs here. I think on these tours, they do hide a truffle in advance, so you are sure to find it on your truffle hunting tour. However, you get the experience of walking the woods, dogs sniffing around, and finally digging the truffle. Wineries are plentiful and great to visit.

That’s my favorite activity too. Thanks for stopping by, Sharon!

Thanks, Michele! If you decide to visit, let us know. We’ll be happy to show you around.

Rovinj is really beautiful. Thanks for stopping by.

Lol, Ashley! Thanks for the comment.

Hi Samantha, we can say the same for Costa Rica. Plus, you always talk so nice about Ticos, their sense of community, that we are almost making the move :-)

Oh truffle hunting sounds quite fun, do you get dogs or pigs like they do in some places to hunt them? But I guess, like Sharon, I’ll go for the wineries for sure! Ha ha!

Oh wow that place looks amazing!! I especially like number 1 – wineries :)

Looks amazing can’t wait to experience for myself

Wow! Lovely, just lovely! I would love to visit Rovinj!! It looks absolutely stunning!! And Glavani Park sounds like an adventure!

I love all these ideas. I could definitely do them all. You’ve got to stop with the food photos though-you’re killing me!

Guys everytime I visit your blog it makes me want to go to Croatia more and more. This definitely looks like a place I’d fall in love with. History, culture, architecture, and water! Beautiful pics

Thanks Syd! Truffle hunting is definitely fun. And the lunch afterwards it’s even better :)

I would love to do all of these. Especially the truffle hunting. I’ve always wanted to do that. You take lovely photos–especially of streets and alleyways. Gorgeous.

Hi Anna, thanks! If you actually decide to come, do let us know. We’ll love to show you around.

Hi Greg, thanks for your comment. We even had a group called Wine & Bike. We would visit cellars on our bicycles, but would scheduled a van to come and pick us up later on :-). Still haven’t manage to do that trip both ways on my bicycle.

Oh wow – this is just beautiful – need to find a diary gap to visit here!! Stunning pictures, always sells a place to me!

Looks like a wonderful place to spend a week or 2. I particularly like the idea of combining the wine tour with cycling or maybe the ropes…that could be fun(ny). The beach sounds inviting and the local food wonderful. Makes me want to visit.

Thanks for your comment, Isabel. Then, it is time for some ropes :-)

The perfect list! Done them all except for #11.

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The Vienna BLOG

4 days in Istria Itinerary (Croatia) Best Activities Guide

Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by gregor

In this blog post, I’ll cover the perfect Istria itinerary to ensure you make the most of your short trip to the beautiful peninsula in Croatia.

Are you looking for a beautiful travel destination for your next vacation? Look no further than Istria, a stunning region located in Croatia. Istria is known for its beautiful beaches, historic architecture, and delicious cuisine. With only four days to explore Istria, having a well-planned itinerary is crucial.

All about Blue Istria and Green Istria – Visit Croatia

The terms “Blue Istria” and “Green Istria” are used to refer to two different regions in Istria, a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea that is shared by Croatia, Slovenia , and Italy .

Blue Istria, also known as Coastal Istria, is the western coastal area of Istria, which includes popular tourist destinations such as Pula, Rovinj, and Poreč. The name “Blue Istria” comes from the deep blue color of the Adriatic Sea that borders this region. It is characterized by its rugged coastline, crystal-clear waters, and numerous islands, coves, and beaches. Blue Istria is known for its rich cultural heritage, which includes ancient Roman ruins, medieval hilltop towns, and Venetian-style architecture.

Green Istria, on the other hand, is the central and eastern inland area of Istria, characterized by rolling hills, forests, vineyards, and olive groves. The name “Green Istria” comes from the lush greenery that covers much of this region. Green Istria is known for its picturesque hilltop towns, such as Motovun and Grožnjan, which are famous for their medieval architecture, narrow streets, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The region is also known for its gastronomy, which includes truffles, olive oil, and wines.

Map of Istria Croatia

Istria is easy to navigate, and the roads are good. You can get around by bus, although it isn’t super easy, so I recommend  renting a car   🚘 as it’s much easier and also quite cheap. It takes about 1 hour to drive from Novigrad in the north to  Pula  in the south.

Plan your Trip to Istria in Croatia?

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4 days in Istria itinerary – Best Travel Guide and Tips for the Istrian Peninsula

Day 1: exploring pula.

Pula is a great place to start your Istria adventure. This city is known for its beautiful Roman architecture, and the most iconic of these is the Arena. The Arena is a well-preserved Roman amphitheater that is over 2,000 years old. You can take a guided tour of the Arena, or you can explore it on your own.

Another must-see attraction in Pula is the Temple of Augustus. This temple was built during the Roman Empire and is dedicated to Augustus, the first Roman emperor. The temple is incredibly well-preserved, and it’s an excellent example of Roman architecture.

After exploring the Arena and the Temple of Augustus, you should head over to the Arch of Sergii. This arch was built in the first century BCE and is dedicated to the Sergii family. It’s a great spot to take some photos and learn more about the history of Pula.

You can find more information and  Book your Pula Arena Entry Ticket  here

Day 2: Exploring the Old Town of Rovinj

Rovinj is a picturesque coastal town that should definitely be on your itinerary. The town is known for its colorful buildings and winding streets. The most iconic attraction in Rovinj is St. Euphemia’s Basilica. This beautiful church is located at the top of a hill and offers stunning views of the town and the Adriatic Sea.

After visiting St. Euphemia’s Basilica, take a stroll down Grisia Street. This street is full of colorful buildings and local artists selling their work. You’ll find everything from paintings to handmade pottery.

Another must-see attraction in Rovinj is Balbi’s Arch. This arch is located at the entrance to the old town and dates back to the 17th century. It’s a great spot to take some photos and learn more about the history of Rovinj.

I always use GetYourGuide to book activities and attractions while traveling through Europe. You can search through over 25 Rovinj attractions on their website here 👇

Day 3: Exploring Motovun and Groznjan

Motovun and Groznjan are two beautiful hilltop towns that should definitely be on your itinerary. Motovun is known for its stunning views of the surrounding countryside, while Groznjan is known for its vibrant art scene.

When you arrive in Motovun , the first thing you should do is explore the town walls. These walls date back to the 14th century and offer incredible views of the surrounding countryside.

Top Tip: Truffles and Truffle Hunting Tour

After exploring the town walls, head over to the Motovun Forest. This forest is known for its truffles, and you can take a guided tour to learn more about truffle hunting .

When you’re ready to eat, head over to Konoba Mondo . This restaurant is located in the heart of Motovun and serves up delicious traditional Croatian cuisine.

After lunch, head over to Groznjan . This town is known for its vibrant art scene, and you’ll find galleries and studios throughout the town. Take some time to explore the galleries and see the work of local artists. You’ll also find some great views of the surrounding countryside from the town’s hilltop location.

Day 4: Exploring the Istrian Coast Poreč + Lim Fjord + Brijuni Islands Beach

On your final day in Istria, it’s time to explore the coast. Start your day in the town of Poreč , which is known for its beautiful beaches and historic architecture. The most iconic attraction in Poreč is the Euphrasian Basilica. This stunning basilica was built in the 6th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After exploring the Euphrasian Basilica, take a stroll down Decumanus Street. This street is lined with shops and cafes, and it’s a great place to do some souvenir shopping.

Next, head over to Novigrad. This town is known for its beautiful beaches and charming old town. Take some time to explore the town’s narrow streets and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

When it’s time to eat, head over to Damir & Ornella. This restaurant is located in the heart of Novigrad and serves up delicious seafood dishes.

After lunch, head over to the Lim Fjord. This stunning fjord is a great spot to take some photos and enjoy the beautiful scenery. You can also take a boat tour of the fjord if you have some extra time.

In the evening, head back to Pula to catch a sunset at Verudela Beach. This beautiful beach offers stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, and it’s a great spot to relax and reflect on your four days in Istria.

I always use GetYourGuide to book activities and attractions while traveling through Europe. You can search through over  10  Lim Fjord attractions & activities on their website here 👇

Best Things to Do in Istria

Please read my related blog post:


Tips for planning your 4 days in Istria travel

Planning a trip to Istria can be an exciting experience, but it can also be overwhelming. To make the most out of your 4 days in Istria, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Decide on your travel dates: The best time to visit Istria is during the summer months, between June and August when the weather is warm and sunny. However, keep in mind that this is also the busiest time of the year, so be sure to book your accommodation in advance.
  • Choose your accommodation wisely: Istria has many accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Choose a location that is central to the attractions you plan to visit, and that fits within your budget. 🏨 Find the perfect accommodation on
  • Plan your itinerary ahead of time: With only four days in Istria, it’s important to plan your itinerary ahead of time to make the most out of your trip. Consider which attractions and activities you want to prioritize, and plan your days accordingly.
  • Rent a car: To truly explore all that Istria has to offer, it’s recommended that you rent a car. This will give you the freedom to travel at your own pace and visit off-the-beaten-path destinations. 🚘 Rent a car on  Rentalcars
  • Pack appropriately: Istria can get hot and sunny during the summer months, so be sure to pack light and breathable clothing. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes.
  • Try the local cuisine: Istria is known for its delicious cuisine, which includes fresh seafood, truffles, and Istrian ham. Be sure to try some of the local dishes during your visit.
  • Be respectful of local customs: Istria is a welcoming and friendly region, but it’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Learn a few basic Croatian phrases, and be aware of cultural differences.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to plan the perfect four-day itinerary in Istria and make the most out of your trip to this beautiful region.

Best Tours to book during the 4 days in Istria, based on GetYourGuide Website

There are many tours available to book in Istria on GetYourGuide , but here are some of the best ones to consider during your 4 days in Istria:

  • Istria Hilltop Towns Tour: This tour takes you to the charming hilltop towns of Grožnjan, Oprtalj, and Motovun. You’ll explore their narrow streets and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll also have the opportunity to taste local wines and olive oils.
  • Istrian Food and Wine Tour: This tour takes you to some of Istria’s best wineries and olive groves. You’ll learn about the production process and taste some of the region’s best wines and olive oils. You’ll also enjoy a delicious lunch at a local restaurant.
  • Pula Roman Heritage Walking Tour: This tour takes you on a journey through Pula’s rich history, from its Roman past to its modern-day culture. You’ll visit iconic landmarks such as the Amphitheatre, the Arch of Sergii, and the Temple of Augustus.
  • Brijuni National Park Boat Tour: This tour takes you on a boat ride to Brijuni National Park, a beautiful archipelago off the coast of Istria. You’ll explore the park’s lush vegetation and enjoy stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. You’ll also visit the park’s safari park and archaeological museum.
  • Istrian Truffle Hunting Tour: This tour takes you on a truffle-hunting adventure in the Istrian countryside. You’ll learn about the history of truffle hunting and watch trained dogs search for these precious fungi. You’ll also taste truffle products and enjoy a traditional Istrian meal.

By booking one or more of these tours, you’ll be able to experience the best of Istria’s culture, history, and natural beauty. Make sure to book in advance to secure your spot, and enjoy your 4 days in Istria to the fullest.

I always use GetYourGuide to book activities and attractions while traveling through Europe. You can search through over 100 Istria attractions on their website here 👇

Istria is a beautiful region that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply relaxing on the beach, Istria has it all. With this four-day itinerary, you can explore some of the region’s most iconic attractions and enjoy its delicious cuisine. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in Istria.

✅ Don’t forget to book insurance for the trip. It is easy to do online via Visitors Coverage .

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ula Arena, a Roman amphitheatre that still hosts events today.

How to spend a weekend in Istria, Croatia's heart-shaped peninsula

Plunging into the Adriatic, Croatia’s northeastern peninsula is a quiet retreat from the region’s bustling hotspots, with secluded coastal hideaways, limestone peaks and spectacular ancient history.

Istria isn’t the sort of place that likes to interrupt. Stand on the shore anywhere between Fažana and Umag, as the sea laps the shingle and families chatter quietly, and you’ll understand: a 60-mile-long peninsula that juts down, like the lower half of a diamond, below Slovenia and the northeastern corner of Italy, this is Croatia at its unhurried best. True, there are towns — and one city, Pula — dotted along its west coast, where the Adriatic meets the shore under the shadow of chic hotels. But venture inland, and the region reveals its rustic heart, one where wineries and truffle farms are tucked into the landscape, mountains rising up silently on the horizon. With life moving at a gentle pace, Istria is easily explored. Thanks to excellent roads, you can drive from the bottom to the top of the peninsula in an hour, which means more time to absorb its most captivating qualities — from quiet coves to Roman ruins and restaurant terraces — without ever feeling in a rush.

Day one: seafront towns and beaches

Morning Base yourself in Poreč, the west coast town that’s thrived on its natural harbour for the best part of three millennia. The historical highlight is the Euphrasian Basilica — a sixth-century feast of mosaics and piety that was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The core of the town, squeezed onto a narrow peninsula of its own, spreads out in the shadow of this celebrated church, and the seafront promenade of Obala Maršala Tita is perfect for a leisurely wander. Don’t miss the main square, Trg Marafor, which was once the Roman Forum; the ‘Romanesque House’ on it dates to the 13th century.

Afternoon Head to the beach. Generally, things are less busy the further south you go: you might not meet another sunbather if you aim for Marić Beach, just beyond the village of Barbariga. Elsewhere, Stella Maris Beach, in northerly Umag, is something of a local hotspot attracting the area’s families, who come for the calm, sheltered lagoon and loungers on the shingle. If you’re looking for a more secluded spot, go further north still, to the uppermost edge of the peninsula, where Kanegra Beach barely emerges from the trees. The view is international: Portorož, on the opposite edge of the bay, is in Slovenia.

Evening Rovinj is arguably Istria’s postcard statement; pinned to a bluff that sticks out into the Adriatic with narrow, slanted streets and houses steeping above passersby. All routes lead upwards, to the 18th-century Church of St Euphemia, which has a baroque facade that’s so striking it competes with the wider panorama of orange rooftops and the coast stretching out in each direction. Have dinner at La Puntulina , an elegant spot serving wonderfully fresh seafood. Alternatively, if you’ve retreated to Poreč, Restaurant Marconi has an outdoor seating area in a courtyard behind the basilica.

Drinks on a terrace in Rovinj old town.

Day two: islands and mountains

Morning Hop on a ferry and head two miles off the coast to the Brijuni Islands , a national park since 1983. Veliki Brijun is the largest of the 14 outcrops – hire a bike at the dock and pedal up to the remarkable Brijuni Cretaceous Park, at the north-west end of the island. It preserves a series of dinosaur footprints, fossilised in the rocks along the water. No less wonderful is Verige Bay, a horseshoe inlet where you can paddle in the shadows of a first-century (BC) Roman villa. Ferries depart from Fazana, five miles north of Pula, roughly every 90 minutes in daylight hours.

Afternoon Once back on the mainland, delve into the Istrian interior: a gloriously mountainous backdrop to the glittering coast. In its northeast corner, the drive from Pula up through the limestone summits of the Učka range is dramatic, rising steadily through Pazin and Lupoglav past some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. Učka Nature Park was one of the first projects by the Croatia that emerged from former Yugoslavia; inaugurated in 1999, it has miles of forested slopes and hiking trails — one of which winds all the way to the top of Vojak, the highest peak at 4,580ft.

Evening Don’t dash back west just yet; instead, follow the road as it coils down to the peninsula’s east coast, where various villages illuminate the waterline. Mošćenička Draga is one of them, with a pebbly beach and a clutch of restaurants including Konoba Zijavica, where the likes of tuna tartare are served at tables right next to the shingle. To the north, the village of Lovran is equally attractive, its maze of alleys dominated by the butter-yellow tower of the Church of St George. If time is on your side, there are plenty of good hotels, parks and bustling restaurants to visit.

Three more Pula attractions

With a population of just 58,000, the only city in Istria packs a lot into its small size and has plenty to keep visitors entertained for an afternoon.

1. Pula Arena There’s a significant strand of Italian to Istria’s genetics — the peninsula was part of Italy from 1920 to 1947, something that’s reflected in many towns having dual names (Pula is also known as ‘Pola’). But the city’s Italianate connections go back even further. The spectacular Roman arena, which dates to the first century, is one of the best examples of an amphitheatre outside Rome and retains much of the visual power it must have had when its 23,000 seats were packed for gladiatorial fight. It still stages big events today, including summer screenings at the long-running Pula Film Festival . With a population of just 58,000, the only city in Istria packs a lot into its small size and has plenty to keep visitors entertained for an afternoon.

2. The Venetian Fortress There are more Italian footprints all across Pula. The Kaštel fortress is the centrepiece of the city and was built by the Venetians between 1630 and 1633. It’s a distinctive shape, with a square stronghold sharpened by spear tip towers at each corner, and a stroll around the fortifications is a must. But if it’s more glimpses of the city’s Roman past you’re looking for, then head to the Trg Forum square, where, on the western edge, stand the six symmetrical Corinthian columns of the Temple of Augustus, which is the same age as the amphitheatre. Also a short walk away is the grand Arch of the Sergii.

3. Contemporary Pula For all the richness of the city’s heritage, 21st-century Pula is easy to discover. Case in point is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria , with its rotating exhibitions of Croatian photography, film and sculpture. One block over, the Museum of Olive Oil burrows into the rituals of the region’s most eulogised agricultural product with tastings of the amber nectar also on offer. Round off a visit with a hearty lunch at Meating, on the harbourside strip of Riva Ulica — a welcoming restaurant that, as its name suggests, leans heavily on steaks served in a sleek, modern sitting. T: 00 385 98 182 3607

The seaside town of Rovinj, overlooking the Adriatic

Istria's best   fine-dining restaurants

Plavi Podrum Istria has a growing reputation for top-level cuisine. Its high standards are best savoured at this little spot, semi-hidden in the fishing village of Volosko, near Opatija, where sweet slivers of scampi carpaccio are paired with local wines.  

San Rocco If you didn’t know it was here, you wouldn’t notice this chic spa-hotel. It waits in the unassuming village of Brtonigla, five miles inland from Novigrad. But as well as 14 rooms, the hotel comes with a restaurant that revels in tasting menus and seasonal ingredients.

Meneghetti Another rural hideaway, near Bale, southwest of Rovinj, Meneghetti spoils diners with delicacies like monkfish tail in bisque foam. It also has a private beach club, hidden at the end of a trail through its vineyards.  

Monte High up in Rovinj’s old town, Monte made Croatian headlines in 2017 when it was hailed as ‘spectacular, almost theatrical in its presentation’ by Michelin, which awarded it the country’s first star. Run by chef Danijel Đekić, it’s feted for its suckling pig.  

Restaurant Badi Folded into the fields on the edge of Lovrečica on the coast, Restaurant Badi speaks proudly of its wine list, which incorporates Italian and Istrian vintages, as well as its traditional Croatian buzara (seafood stew), and hearty homemade pasta with regional truffles.

Three gourmet experiences to try

1. Kozlovic Croatia’s wine industry has been growing in stature for a number of years, with Istria playing its part. This respected producer, located up at Momjan in the north of the peninsula, is open for tasting sessions.

2. Prodan Tartufi Istria’s fertile soil is widely known for its truffles. Prodan Tartufi is a family-run farm in idyllic Buzet, where guests can join the guides and dogs on hunts for the revered gastro gold.

3. Aura Also in Buzet, Aura stiffens sinews by distilling a range of brandies flavoured with local fruits and herbs. Try before you buy and sample one of the blends distilled with cherries, wild apples or even olives.

How to do it

Various airlines fly direct to Pula from airports across the UK, mostly during the summer holiday season. Pula Airport hosts the usual range of hire car companies.

Published in the May 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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Best Places to Visit in Istria: 8 Charming Towns & Nature Spots for Your Croatian Istria Itinerary

Experience the beauty of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline and green heart. Here are 8 beautiful places in Istria – from fishing villages to ancient Roman ruins, clear water bays to olive groves.

About the authors: Maya and Sari of Chasing Lenscapes are two sisters with a passion for travel, photography, culture and food.

Croatia has so many beautiful places to visit , but on our last trip, we discovered a hidden gem: The Istrian Peninsula.

During our Croatian trip, we spent a few days in Istria after visiting the Dalmatian Coast. We quickly fell in love with the beautiful area and unique atmosphere.

Istria county is still a relatively unknown destination, but this is going to change in the coming years.

Generally speaking, Istria can be divided into two regions: Blue Istria and Green Istria. Blue Istria, along the coast, is where you’ll find colourful fishing villages, charming islands and rocky beaches.

The central part of Istria is referred to as Green Istria. Here you’ll find picturesque medieval towns perched on cliffs, wineries , olive groves and truffle-filled forests.

During winter , the interior remains temperate, making Istria a year-round destination.

Here are 8 of the most beautiful places in Istria and unique things to do there , from stunning bays to the best towns!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.

The best places to visit in Istria, Croatia.

Croatia essentials

Here are my favourite resources to help you organise your trip to Croatia.

FLIGHTS: Find affordable flights to Croatia on Skyscanner .

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Insure your trip with HeyMondo , my preferred provider for single-trip and annual travel insurance. Get 5% off when you use my link.

CAR HIRE: Use Local Rent to hire a budget-friendly car from a local agent (prices start from 30€/day) or jump on the Discover Cars website to hire a car through an international company.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best hotel and apartment deals on , the most popular booking platform in Croatia.

TOP-RATED CROATIA DAY TRIP: Five Island Speedboat Tour Featuring the Blue Cave and Hvar from Split (book through Viator).

How to get to the Istrian Peninsula

The heart-shaped Istrian peninsula is located in the north-west part of the Adriatic Sea, in the westernmost part of Croatia. It shares a border with Slovenia and a maritime border with Italy.

You can catch a flight, a bus or rent a car to get to Istria from Zagreb or any other major city in Croatia and the neighbouring countries . There are also direct ferries from Venice in Italy and Zadar in Croatia.

Getting around Istria

The easiest way to get around Istria is by hiring your own car and self-driving. Pula is an ideal place to rent a car and start your Istria road trip .

Use Discover Cars to compare prices on car rentals .

Best places to visit in Istria: Blue Istria

A colourful Rovinj Old Town with flowers on every balcony.

Rovinj stole our heart from the get-go. From the minute we started exploring its cobbled alleys and beautiful harbour, we couldn’t get enough of the colourful houses, cute boutiques, stunning viewpoints and general Croatian-Italian charm.

Rovinj is located in the centre of Istria’s west coast, and it’s this central location combined with the charming atmosphere that has turned Rovinj into such a popular destination.

Things to do in Rovinj

Explore Rovinj Old Town: The old town of Rovinj used to be an island, and it’s now one of the most charming places in Croatia. Wandering through Rovinj’s winding cobbled alleys, you’ll see ancient churches and colourful houses stacked upon each other.

There are cute boutiques and specialty food stores where you can buy Istrian olive oil, cheese and truffles. Look for the viewpoints to the Adriatic Sea and stop for a rest at one of the seafront bars.

Related: Incredible culinary traditions from Croatia and around the world.

Visit Rovinj Marina and Punta Corrente: Don’t forget to explore Rovinj Marina where you’ll find rows of boats set against a backdrop of colourful houses, seafood restaurants and ice cream parlours. It’s also a great viewpoint to photograph Rovinj Old Town.

You can walk along the promenade all the way to Punta Corrente where you’ll find scenic beaches, hiking trails and beautiful coves.

Where to eat and stay in Rovinj

Rovinj is one of the best towns in Istria for foodies at heart since it also has an excellent selection of restaurants to choose from. We especially loved the charming La Puntulina , which offers delicious and beautifully-plated dishes with the views of the Adriatic Sea.

We stayed at Residence Rovinj , which is located within walking distance of Rovinj Old Town and has private parking. If you prefer staying in the middle of the old town, check out Hotel Adriatic or The Melegran .

A stone amphitheatre in Istria, Croatia.

Pula is the largest city in Istria and where the international airport is located. Pula is best known for its Roman Arena, which dates back to first century. But there are other fun attractions in the area as well.

Things to do in Pula

Go Treasure Hunting in the Historic Centre: After admiring the impressive Roman Arena, you should explore the historic centre of Pula where you’ll find many more historical monuments. Check out Pula’s Roman forum which used to include three temples.

Nowadays you can only visit the Temple of Augustus, the only temple to survive the turmoil of time. The Golden Gate or Arch of Sergii is another famous ancient monument you should visit, but there are so many other ancient monuments and historical treasure all around Pula’s old town.

Admire the View from Fort Kaštel: To catch the best view of the area, climb up to Fort Kaštel, a beautiful Venetian Castle located on a hill in the middle of the old town. The castle dates back to the early 17th century, and it has a unique design.

The centre of Fort Kaštel has a rectangular shape and around it, you’ll find four towers. Historically it was an important defensive point for the Venetians (like Kotor and Perast ) and nowadays, it’s a lovely viewpoint which overlooks the whole area.

Related: How to travel between Rovinj and Pula by bus .

A sea of orange rooftops in Istria, Croatia.

Poreč is another picturesque town in Istria you must add to your bucket list. Just like Rovinj, Poreč’s central location makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations along the Istrian coast. This beautiful town offers a mixture of attractions that appeal to history, nature and beach lovers.

Things to do in Poreč

Get Lost in the Old Town: Poreč has a long and rich history so you should definitely start your visit by exploring its historic centre. Other than the usual cobbled alleys, crumbling walls, colourful laundry lines and beautiful squares, you’ll also find Romanesque and Gothic architecture, baroque palaces, ancient towers, and interesting galleries and museums.

Visit the famous UNESCO Site: . Don’t forget to stop by the Euphrasian Basilica, which combines classical and Byzantine elements and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The basilica, which was built during the 6th century, contains remnants from the 4th century since it was built on top of a previous church. Art and history lovers would love the beautiful architecture, intricate decorations and the mosaics that can be found inside.

Where to Stay in Poreč

If you’d like to stay longer in Poreč, Valamar Riviera Hotel & Residence has a great location and excellent reviews.

4. Lim Fjord

A bay with a rocky coastline.

Lim Fjord is one of the top natural wonders of Croatia and it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Istria. Lim Bay is not really a fjord, but a 10-kilometre-long estuary which is part of the Lim Valley. It reaches a few hundred meters in its widest part and on both sides of the bay you’ll find high walls covered by lush vegetation.

The best way to explore the bay is on the water. During the season, you can hop on one of the many boats and sail along the bay. There is also a small beach, a few restaurants and a little oyster shack since the bay is a great habitat for many fish species, mussels and oysters.

Since Lim Bay is located just north of Rovinj, you can visit by hopping on one of the tour boats from Rovinj or take your car and enjoy the beautiful viewpoints along the road.

5. Duga Uvala

A bay crowded with boats.

If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful places in Istria, you should visit Duga Uvala, one of the four beautiful coves of the rugged Vinjole bay.

Duga Uvala is located in the southeastern part of the Istrian peninsula, about an hour away from Motovun and 30 minutes from Pula. If you love beautiful coves, crystal clear water and laidback atmosphere, you’ll love Duga Uvala.

There isn’t much to do around but enjoy the beautiful scenery and swim in the bay. We were looking for some peace and quiet, so we strolled along the path and chose one of the private rocky beaches. There were steps along the way leading to the crystal-clear water.

There are a few simple bars and restaurants in the area and a few accommodation options if you wish to stay longer.

Beautiful places in Istria: Green Istria

6. motovun, a must-visit place in istria.

A beautiful white city and fortified castle atop a green hill in Istria, Croatia.

Motovun is probably the most iconic town in Istria. You’ve likely already seen photos of this beautiful village. This historic town is perched on a cliff and overlooks vineyards, olive groves and agricultural land. You really can’t visit Istria without spending some time in Motovun.

Things to Do in Motovun

Explore the Historical Monuments: Motovun is one of the best towns in Istria for history lovers. Motovun started as a Roman city, Kastelijer, and was later conquered by the Venetians. A stroll through the town will take you back to those ancient times, and you’ll discover many old gates, towers and defensive walls.

Similar to other Croatian towns and Slovenian coastal towns such as Piran , there’s a mixture of architectural influences and styles. You’ll find buildings and churches with Roman, Renaissance and Gothic elements.

Try wine tasting or truffle hunting: On your way to Motovun, don’t forget to stop at one of the many wineries in the area. You can even go truffle hunting during the season since Motovun forest is known as one of the best areas for Istrian truffles.

Where to Stay in Motovun

If you’d like to extend your stay in Motovun, you’ll find many apartments available to rent. There is only one hotel in town, Boutique Hotel Kastel .

7. Oprtalj, a hidden gem in Istria

A bright yellow building.

Not many people have heard about Oprtalj, but this tiny village is a true hidden gem that is located very close to Motovun. To be honest, there isn’t much to do in Oprtalj but to admire its sheer quaint beauty.

It’s one of those places where you stroll around the semi-abandoned alleys and feel as if you are on a movie set, waiting for the knights to enter the town’s gate.

The town sits on a hill and has breathtaking views. The small historic centre is charming, and so are the unbelievable views from the red-coloured Venetian Loggia.

Where to Stay in Oprtalj

Although there isn’t much to do around but admire the unbelievable view and eat amazing truffle pasta, we actually spent two nights here in the charming B&B Palazzo Angelica and loved the quiet atmosphere.

8. Grožnjan

Stone walls and coloured doors in a small town, one of the most beautiful places in Istria.

Grožnjan is located within a short driving distance from Oprtalj and Motovun. It has some stunning views of its own, but the main reason to visit this quiet village is for its unique shops and beautiful houses.

Things to do in Grožnjan

Explore the winding alleys: Take a walk through the winding alleys of Grožnjan and discover some of its unique shops and medieval houses. Many Croatian artists have chosen to live here and a stroll through the picturesque streets will reveal many creative displays.

Look for unique souvenirs: Grožnjan is one of the best towns in Istria for souvenir shopping , since you’ll find many artistic shops with jewellery and knick-knacks you won’t see elsewhere.  

Have a light breakfast/lunch with a view . We enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Mama Maria Café which overlooks stunning views. Other than the fantastic cappuccino, we had a fabulous cheese platter and freshly baked bread.

Where to stay in Grožnjan

If you wish to stay in the area, there are several apartments you can rent , but currently, there is no hotel in town.

More Croatia inspiration

  • Guide to Rovinj and Pula , highlights of Croatian Istria on the fly
  • 30+ things to do in Croatia , the ultimate wish list
  • Where to go in Croatia in winter , visiting in the off season
  • Guide to Sibenik and the Krka waterfalls
  • Things to do in Zagreb , Croatia’s capital city in the off season
  • 30 must-visit places in Croatia , from beaches to old towns
  • How to plan the perfect Balkan road trip – itineraries for Croatia and beyond
  • View all my guides to the Balkan countries

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  • The MICHELIN Guide Croatia 2024 Is Unveiled!

Croatia makes history with two MICHELIN Stars awarded in its 2024 selection

Croatia Michelin Guide Editor's Pick Michelin Stars Green Star

istria croatia tourism

  • For the very first time in the country, a restaurant receives two MICHELIN Stars
  • 93 restaurants are part of the selection, including 10 Star establishments (with a new address), 11 Bib Gourmand (with the addition of a new restaurant) and 71 recommended (with 7 new ones)

The MICHELIN Guide unveils today its selection of restaurants for the Croatian destination, which never ceases to charm travelers from all around the world with its authenticity and brightly colorful landscapes.

This 2024 vintage is a very special one for the MICHELIN Guide selection , with the first two Stars restaurant ever in the Croatian culinary history, demonstrating a constant evolution in the quality of the gastronomic offer, and the commitment of both chefs and professionals in the sector. With the addition of a new restaurant receiving a MICHELIN Star and the reconfirmation of no less than 9 restaurants already Starred last year, the Croatian culinary scene is more than ever showing its gourmet effervescence.

The restaurant « Agli Amici Rovinj » obtained two MICHELIN Stars

The Chef Emanuele Scarello and his young brigade crossed an historical stage in Rovinj by settling to the seacoast, on the modern and elegant Marina’s promenade. A charming corner, with a large terrace and a wonderful view on the blue expanse and its leafy islands; and at dusk the church of Sainte-Euphémie adds to the charm.

The kitchen is ruled by the resident and very talented chef Simon De Lucca who proposes two flavorful menus; “Rovinj” and “Istria”, one maritime and the other land-based that are highlighting excellent local produce, and well-mastered technique.

Agli Amici Rovinj - Sinisa Gulic

Dubravkin Put , the new Star brightening Zagreb

Tibor Valinčić , a talented chef, has helped accelerate the development of the whole restaurant; with his interpretation of cuisine combining technique, traditional gestures, and unique tastes in the service of harmony.

At Dubravkin Put, from the name of the forest, we can find a fresh and flavorful Mediterranean cuisine with a tendency for raw fish, as the carpaccio of sea bass and beet, light and flavored. Among meat dishes - of the highest quality – there’s a Kobe beef or a lamb chop from the island of Pag served with peas, shallots and thyme, a real delight. For those with a sweet tooth, we recommend the Louis XV dessert, with chocolate, foie gras and vanilla ice cream.

Dubravkin Put - Rajna Raguz

1 new Bib Gourmand is joining the 2024 selection: Fakin - Legrad

Since its opening years ago, this restaurant contributed to bring back to life Legrad village, in the north of Croatia. Situated next to the church, at the center of the village, it has a huge terrace, animated on hot summer evenings.

The simple, elegant and modern aspect of the inside anticipates the cuisine, which proposes Croatian and Central Europe meals. You'll find local ingredients, flavorful, with a certain modernity and creativity degree of technique, everything at affordable prices. The smoked trout with horseradish mousse, barley popcorn and pumpkin oil is excellent.

chef. hr - Fakin

7 new restaurants selected in the MICHELIN Guide

Wine Vault Restaurant – Levante Edition – Rovinj This restaurant, which boasts a beautiful terrace, offers local cuisine, with ingredients from the region enhanced by oriental influences. Great attention is paid to food and wine pairing, with a wide range of local and sparkling wines, as well as a fine selection of champagnes.

Wine Vault Restaurant - Levante Edition

Spinnaker – Porec Chef Goran Hrastovčak learned everything at Heinz Beck's Pergola how to sublimate the ingredients of a dish. In the two tasting menus on offer, “Istrian Fables” and “Modern Tales”, one more traditional and the other more innovative, the cuisine depicts the territory and its emblematic products: langoustines, squid, sea bass and Istrian beef. The lobster ravioli with Jerusalem artichokes and langoustine bisque are excellent. To top it all off, there's a view of Poreč’ pier and a wine list that's not limited to the excellent products of Istria, but represents the whole of Croatia and some other European regions with remarkable labels.

Robert Maric - Spinnaker

Torero - Zagabria In the more touristic and lively old town of Zagabria, this restaurant welcomes its guests with a wall covered of plants and leaves symbolizing the Medvednica, a mountain range to the north of the capital, from which the cuisine draws its inspiration. Favoring local, mostly organic produce, the menu is colorful and creative, and seeks to awaken the senses by highlighting the different components of taste: sweet, sour, bitter... The sommelier will suggest Croatian wines to match the dishes. Enthusiastic, attentive and pleasant service completes the experience. Don't miss the risotto with Acquerello rice and the Torero version of cheesecake.

Forest - Torero

Zinfandel Food & Wine bar – Split On a narrow street in the old town, this welcoming, lively restaurant is open for breakfast until dinner time, and offers a lively atmosphere with live music. The young Croatian chef offers an eclectic cuisine, combining Dalmatian and international influences. Homemade tonnarelli with Prošek wine, onion, garlic and shrimp sauce are excellent. The well-chosen wine list covers the whole country, with 15 wines by the glass.

Filipovic - Zinfandel Food & Wine bar

Restaurant Mare - Trogir Located on the island of Čiovo, 5-minutes walk from the historic center of Trogir, the restaurant is at the entrance of the Bifora Heritage Hotel, a 14th-century building renovated in 2016. Chef Robert Predag Zmire offers delicious cuisine based on premium products and a modern technique. Dishes are well-dressed and tasty, like the cuttlefish noodles with wild herb pesto, sea asparagus, lemon pearls and shrimp chips, or the very fresh sea bass ikejime served with a celery variant and parsley sauce. A warm and welcoming address, a little off the tourist trail. When the weather's fine, the intimate old stone patio is a charming spot.

Toni Ukic - Restaurant Mare

Konoba Zijavica - Mošćenička Draga In this charming fishing village, the sea is not only on your plate, but a few meters away from your table. Inside, you can watch the chef at work in the small open kitchen, but the real pleasure is to sit on the veranda by the sea, lulled by the movement of the waves. A seafood cuisine where the product is the real protagonist, and be indulgent if something is missing from the menu - it all depends on the daily supply from local fishermen and the fishing season. Simple but delicious recipes: raw fish, pasta, fish and shellfish by weight, an Eden for lovers of extra-fresh seafood. As for the enchanting Mošćenička Draga, it's the ideal place to lounge on the beach or take a bike ride on the surrounding heights.

Konoba Zijavica

The 2024 MICHELIN Guide Croatia at a glance :

- 1 two MICHELIN Stars restaurant - 10 one MICHELIN Star restaurants (1 new) - 3 restaurants receiving a MICHELIN Green Star - 11 Bib Gourmand (1new) - 71 restaurants are recommended by the MICHELIN Guide (7 new )

Hero image: Agli Amici Rovinj

The full MICHELIN Guide Croatia selection can be found on the MICHELIN Guide website and mobile app ( iOS and Android ).

istria croatia tourism

  • MICHELIN Guide Ceremony

istria croatia tourism

The MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2024 Full Selection: Inspectors' Favourite Dishes

Now that the newest MICHELIN-Starred restaurants in Singapore have been revealed, let's take a look at which dishes wowed our inspectors!

istria croatia tourism

The MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2024 Full Selection: Newly Awarded Restaurants Announced

283 locations comprise Singapore's 2024 MICHELIN Guide selection, embracing a multitude of cuisines and dining formats. Four restaurants are newly awarded One MICHELIN Star, bringing the total of MICHELIN Starred restaurants in Singapore to 51. Lastly, the second MICHELIN Green Star in Singapore is awarded this year, emphasising the commitment to sustainability of one new restaurant.

istria croatia tourism

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  1. Official tourist website of the Istria Tourist Board

    Travel to Istria; Brochures; Newsletter; Istria Tourist Board. About us; Business information; Contact; T. + 385 (0)52 452 797; F. + 385 (0)52 452 796 Pionirska 1; HR-52440 Poreč-Parenzo; Hrvatska - Croatia; OIB: 10163106072; VAT ID: HR10163106072; Visit us on our social networks:

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