Here are 8 charming towns you should visit in Istria, Croatia:
Istria is a region in Croatia, a small peninsula just a couple of hours boat ride from Venice.
Don’t get scared by the amount of towns in this post about Istria – they are all tiny (including the smallest one in the world!) and are located close to each other.
In the past century, after WW1, Istria was an Italian region, but then, at the end of WW2 it was part of Yugoslavia. Now it is part of Croatia, and the local people are part Italian, part Croatian.
Istria is a charming region, in fact, one of my favorite destinations in Europe!
Here are the towns that are must visit and my recommendation for the things to do there:
Click on the button to jump directly to your town:
Did you know that Rovinj is THE most popular Croatian destination by the amount of nights?
No wonder, Rovinj is a pure seaside bliss!
Even if I usually try to escape touristic places, Rovinj is just too pretty and I was enchanted by it!
Shiny stones of the cobblestone streets, local market with delicious treats, little boats everywhere and a bell tower with the postcard-like view…
It does not matter how many days you decide to stay – 1 day or 1 week, it won’t disappoint!
Even though it is extremely romantic, it is not only for lovebirds! Both families and a large group of friends will find what to do in Rovinj.
All hotels have amazing reviews and are located in the heart of the Old Town. Check the rates for your dates by clicking on the name:
- Stroll around the cobbled alleys of the Old Town
- visit a local market
- enjoy the sun on the beach (check out Amarin Beach, Skaraba Beach and Borik Beach)
- visit Saint Euphemia Cathedral
- climb the bell tower for the best view of the town
- enjoy amazing sea food (see recommendations).
This town has all what all of the istrian towns have – natural wonders, stunning beaches, cultural heritage. I really recommend walking around the promenade and if you can, have a flight over the sea shore!
But Vrsar also has something else – a small airport where you can fly over the area and see from above how the marvelous region looks like.
This was by far the best things I have done in Istria!
Read more details in “What to do” tab. And watch the video below:
I have already seen Istria both on the ground and the underground (rapelling) and was charmed by both perspectives.
However, when I saw it from bird’s eye view, it took my breath away! I fell in love forever now!
Even though, there are many places in the world where you can fly over the region to see the view, Istria might be THE place to do it. The way you see the beautiful little islands of the Adriatic Sea from above made me feel like I am in Discivery channel, live. I still dream about it!
The coolest part-
I spoke some Russian with the pilot and he let me drive the plane a bit!
Mom, I drove a viper plane!
I have done a scenic helicopter flight over the Swedish Lapland afterwards, but this memory will stay with me forever! The helicopter flight too. Just right after this one.
Of course this one will be more expensive than your normal tourist excursion. But think about it, will you ever forget it? It is worth every penny, I guarantee you!
Vrsar aeropark offers panoramic flights, tandem jumps. Panoramic flights are from April to October on. The Price depends on the duration of the flight, it is from 150 to 300 kunas. 300 Kunas is approximately 45 USD, so don’t miss your chance!
More details here – Panoramic flight Vrsar
Motovun is located on the very top of the mountain, if you have ever been to Tuscany, you will find the landscape to be similar.
Except being a beautiful medieval town which still keeps its walls, Motovun is also a Mecca for paragliders!
I flew over the hilltop town and the green terrain! It was a marvelous experience, even if I did paragliding before, the view made me feel like I am in the opening scene of a movie!
- Zigante – a VERY well-known restaurant in Croatia where everything is made with truffles (yes, ice cream with truffle is also in the menu!). I loved it, an unforgettable experience! P.S. It is located just underneath Motovun, in the village called Livade.
- Restaurant Kastel – a restaurant with a nice terrace and tasty food.
- When in Motovun, I highly recommend paragliding!
(It is a #1 activity in the town for a reason! You will fly over a picturesque village called Buzet (which is 4 km from Motovun).
Your instructor, a highly experienced guy from Australia will make your visit of Motovun unique! If you don’t have your own GoPro, he will take care of the pictures. More info and pricing here.
- Olive oil tasting
- Truffles days – visit White truffle Fair every year in October and November
Porec is the city which history stretches back a long time, it is one of the biggest towns out of the 8 in this post.
It is one of the most touristic destinations in Croatia for good reason – it has a great balance of night life, family and extreme activities, beautiful beaches and good hotels.
If interested, I recommend exploring the historical sites of the city with a tour guide. The Euphrasian Basilica, for instance, dates back to 4th century and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site! The Basilica is free of charge on Sundays.
Also, if you have never done rappelling before, check out the Baredine cave (detailed description below), it is a lot of fun!
All of the hotels are handpicked by me, they have both great location and reviews. Click on the name to the rates for your dates:
Luxury (150€ and up):
Isabella Island resort – secluded and romantic, perfect for honeymooners and those trying to escape the touristic crowds.
Medium (50 – 150€): Valamar Riviera Hotel 4* – I stayed in this one for 3 nights. The breakfasts were marvelous, the room faced the Riviera, and the hotel has the most central location in the city. The staff is extremely nice, when I figured I forgot my toothbrush, the immediately gave me a new one free of charge!
Residence Villa Karda
There are handful of restaurants that will satisfy any foodie:
- Konoba Cakula – great location, food and décor of the place, it was my first restaurant in Istria
- Restaurant Divino – live concerts with local music during the evening, overview to the sea, central location. I loved the desserts!
- Hrast – amazing location outside of the crowd with the view to the own town, just 7-10 mins walking from the heart of the city. Everything is homemade, delicious and fresh!
- Restaurant Miramare – the restaurant is delicious and secluded, nothing can beat its location, as it is on the island (boats every 30 minutes and it takes 5-7 minutes to get). One of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen!
- The Baredine cave is a popular natural site near Porec. After you have seen the beauty of the place from both the ground and the air, you think nothing else can surprise you.
False! You haven’t been rappelling yet. It is an absolute new mysterious world down there. The guide was professional, I felt safe, and after putting on all the equipment he explained how to climb up.
Believe me, if even a small girl like me could do it, you can do it as well! No previous experience required.
But if you are still concerned you don’t want to do it, you can walk down a special path that will lead you to another gorgeous cave. A guided walk is approximately 40 minutes.
- Explore the rich heritage of the city – the Cathedral in the old town with the beautiful view overlooking the Adriatic Sea
- Cycle around
- Go wine tasting (yes, I am going to suggest this a lot!)
- Relax on the beach
- Be active on the beach – banana rides, jet ski rental, parasailing etc.
- Dino Park – especially great for those traveling with kids.
One more charming town better known as a “village of artists”.
If you visit it in July or August you will be able to enjoy seeing plenty of musicians playing in the streets. In that time, the town starts to be filled with people, and you will hear anything from jazz to classic music.
Except being artistic, Groznjan is great for outdoor activities!
How about a 3 hours descend by bike through the picturesque landscape and its bridges?
It is not difficult at all, just enjoy the fantastic views!
Most of the accommodation choices in Groznjan lay in the medium category, all are hand picked by me. The main criteria is, as always, good location and great reviews. Click on the link to see the prices for your dates:
Restaurant Zigante – a VERY well-known restaurant in Croatia where everything is made with truffles (yes, ice cream with truffle is also in the menu!). I loved it, it was a tasty and unforgettable experience! P.S. It is located just underneath Motovun, in the village called Livade.
Take a picturesque biking tour on a former railroad.
Originally, this railroad was meant to be a connection between Porec and Trieste. The railway was dismantled during WWII and now it is a beautiful scenic road perfect for biking.
More info here: Bike tour Grožnjan – Livade on abandon railway
Pula is the capital of the Istria region, it was not possible to skip it from my Top 8 cities in Istria!
When in Pula (or “Pola” in Italian ) don’t miss the Colosseum (Arena). The Arena of Pula is the 6th largest coliseum in the world. It is also the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have a four sided tower.
I wrote a separate post about things to do in Pula here.
All the hotels I recommend are centrally located and have great reviews, just choose your price range:
La Grisa, Bale – A restaurant that is probably the one I liked the most – a bit outside the city, but we are talking 5 minutes here, as everything is so close and the town is small.
La Grisa Boutique Hotel has a really interesting cuisine and olive oil to die for. The 3 course meal was about 35 Eur. If you go there, you are guaranteed to have an amazing lunch along with truffles and olive oil ice cream!
Umag is, probably, the first city you will arrive to in Istria if you are coming from the west.
If you are into history, you will love Umag for its greatly preserved town walls and towers which date back to Roman times.
The town of Umag has a busy touristic center thanks to its stunning beaches and the natural beauty around the town.
All the accommodation suggestion were carefully selected by me with 2 main criteria in mind: great location and fabulous reviews from travelers. Click on the hotel to check your rates!
Luxury (150€ and up): Melia Coral 5* – Amazing hotel overlooking the sea where you can get a BMW driving experience free of charge (ask at the front desk). I have stayed there for 2 nights and would love to come back one day!
Kempinski Hotel Adriatic – outstanding quality 5 star hotel with amazing décor. I was lucky to have a dinner in their restaurant, the food was delicious and the staff was perfect!
- Konoba Nono – it is a family tavern which gets the products from their own farm, so everything you eat will be exceptionally delicious and fresh! Of course I tried a lot of truffle-based dishes there (yes, again! 🙂
- Melia Coral restaurant – go there for sea food delicacies, all my dishes were outstanding. When we were there, the restaurant was almost empty, which is a shame, given the quality of service and the level of the prices!
- Kempinsky hotel Adriatic – I had a fine dining experience in my last night in Istria and had no regrets! I, of course, went for Istrian dishes, but there there are also Mediterranean choices and fusion cuisine presented. Oh, whatever you order, make sure you ask for pepper. Even if you don’t need it, trust me on this one! 😉
The smallest city in the world!!
I think we met all 27 of the inhabitants of the town. 🙂
The medieval streets are so atmospheric and inviting to discover them. It is great for a couple of hours visit!
Not much to be honest, you will cross the whole “city” in 5 mins. J In my opinion it is worth visiting, nevertheless!
That is it guys! There are many more charming towns in the area, but these one were in my top list.
Don’t skip them on your vacation when in Istria!
One last tip – to fully experience the region you should definitely rent a car.
The first time when I visited, I only had public transportation, and there was SUCH a great difference between the 2 experiences, you can’t even imagine! I hardly saw and felt 10% of what I managed to do when we had a car!
NEWS – I teamed up with with Sixt car rental and they are giving you 10% discount on any booking or 35% off if you rent a car for a week or more! It is a reliable company and you will get this great deal if you book through my links!
I think if Italy would go to see the Istrian coast of Croatia, Italy would get jealous by the beauty of the Adriatic coast and its lovely inland towns. And it should be, seriously! 🙂
I have spent 10 day tasting olive oil, drinking wine, enjoying delicious sea food and throwing myself to some extreme activities.
There is so much to do in the region, it is unbelievable how 10 days were absolutely not enough to fully explore the little peninsula!
If you are still thinking if you should visit or not, I hope this post was convincing enough!
Disclaimer: I have been invited by Share Istria team for part of my stay in Istria. My opinion is honest, I absolutely loved the region!
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Let me know if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer your comments!
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