15 Best Places to Visit in Istria, Croatia
Istria is a famous peninsula in Croatia and, certainly, one of the most impressive destinations in the entire Adriatic. Absolutely enchanting beaches, fascinating hilly landscapes and romantic mountain villages are just some of the most beautiful attractions to discover in Istria! But above all, it is the world-famous coastal towns such as Pula, Porec and Rovinj that attract countless visitors from all over the world every year. Furthermore, the culinary offer of this region is also fantastic. A varied Mediterranean cuisine, excellent wines, the best olive oil and local truffles make a vacation in Istria a true pleasure. But where is the most beautiful place in Istria, what are the best things to do, the most popular resorts and the best excursion destinations?
In this travel guide, we give you all the important information and tips about Istria in Croatia. In addition, we show you the best things to do in Istria, beautiful pictures, reveal exclusive insider tips and tell you where the best places to stay are.
General Information about Istria
Istria is the largest peninsula on the northern Adriatic Sea with an area of 3500 square kilometers. It borders Slovenia to the north and Croatia’s Kvarner Bay to the west. Istria is one of the top destinations for summer vacations due to its central location and many fantastic bays. However, this vacation region has much more to offer than sun, beach and sea, as Istria is home to some of the best attractions in all of Croatia. Among the most famous landmarks are Pula, with its amphitheater, and the impressive coastal towns of Rovinj and Porec, which have a picturesque old town. In addition, Istria has more than 30 nature reserves, more than 2,000 caves, spectacular waterfalls, and charming hilltop villages such as Motovun and Hum.
With an average of 2,400 hours of sunshine per year, you can usually count on a lot of sun and good weather during your vacation in Istria. The climate is Mediterranean mild, making it perfect for swimming, sightseeing, excursions and sporting activities such as cycling and hiking. The most common way to travel to Istria is by your own car, motor home or caravan. Flying is also an option, although many choose to rent a car once arriving. The nearest airports are in Pula and Rijeka.
Best Places to Visit in Istria
There is a lot to experience during a visit to Istria, as the choice of attractions and exciting activities seems almost endless. Here you will find a comprehensive list of the most beautiful places and the best things to do in Istria that should not be missed!
Probably one of the most beautiful things to see in Istria is the impressive port city of Pula in the south of the peninsula. The highlight is the extremely charming old town with countless historical attractions, first and foremost the Roman amphitheater, which is even considered one of the landmarks of Istria. Strolling through the charming stone alleys, you can enjoy the genuine Croatian flair, eat in small nice restaurants or treat yourself to a glass of wine in one of the beautiful quaint town squares. Also the surroundings of Pula are absolutely worth seeing and offer countless possibilities for excursions and activities.
But also the beautiful beaches in Pula are a wonderful thing. They are located around the port city and are among the best in the entire holiday region. Another reason why Pula is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Istria.
Tip: The Park Plaza Arena Pula is the perfect hotel for a vacation by the sea. Located at the famous Hawaii Beach, it is also only 5 kilometers away from the historic old town.
The harbor town of Rovinj is a famous attraction and definitely a true must-see in Istria. This fascinating coastal town truly amazes visitors as one of the most beautiful old towns in Croatia. Really impressive are especially the colorful town houses, which are lined up close to each other from the sea up to the top of the town. Small, winding alleys lead through the center up to the city hill, the highest point of Rovinj, where the church of St. Euphemia is located. The views up there are spectacular! Along the way, you’ll discover countless pretty attractions and photo spots, and cute restaurants and cafés invite you to take a comfortable sightseeing break.
Not only the old town of Rovinj is worth seeing. The beautiful bays and picturesque beaches of Rovinj, all located not far from the historical center, are also a real highlight. This is just one more reason why a vacation in this town is more than worth it!
Tip: The grandiose 5-star Hotel Monte Mulini is the perfect place for a special stay in Rovinj! This hotel is located on a beautiful beach and the old town is also within walking distance!
Porec is a real highlight and one of the best places to visit in Istria. Especially enchanting is the romantic old town, which is located on a small peninsula and is surrounded by a picturesque waterfront promenade. The center of the city is home to some wonderfully beautiful attractions, some of which date back to Roman times, and most of which are located in charming historic squares. One of the best things to do in this coastal town is a visit to the fascinating Euphrasius Basilica from the 6th century, which has even been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In addition, this Istrian seaside resort is a true paradise for vacationers who love the sea. Not far from the Old Town, along the picturesque coastline, there are the stunning beaches of Porec, which are actually an ideal place for a vacation by the sea!
Tip: Also the perfect offer of accommodations and campsites with cool mobile homes ultimately make Porec to one of the top destinations in Istria.
A visit to Motovun, situated in the green hinterland, is one of the best things to do in Istria. Surrounded by a picturesque landscape of vineyards and the green fields of the valley of the Mirna River, Motovun impresses first and foremost with its beautiful and colorful old town. It is perched on a steep, 277-meter-high hill and offers a magnificent view of the Istrian hill country. Among the main attractions are the historic city walls and charming medieval streets, as well as the many excellent restaurants and traditional konobas.
Motovun in Istria is also well-known for its abundance of truffles, and as a result, you can find them on every menu and in many of the delicatessen shops in the area.
Tip: A very special hotel recommendation is the beautiful Wine & Heritage Hotel ROXANICH in a unique location with an infinity pool.
Kamenjak Nature Park
A magnificent place to visit in Istria is Cape Kamenjak, a breathtaking nature park on the shores of the resort town of Premantura. The highlight of the park is the impressive 30 kilometers of rugged coastline, where you can find probably the most spectacular cliffs in the entire region. In addition, there are countless hiking and biking trails that wind through the park’s fantastic scenery. Along the way, you can visit a small dinosaur nature trail and take a break at a really cool safari bar with an adventure playground. There are also many small, picturesque bays and beaches, which are among the most beautiful in Istria.
If you travel to Istria in winter, you may even be lucky enough to see gray seals and dolphins in this nature park! In the summer, on the other hand, the Nature Park of Cap Kamenjak is a popular place for swimming and relaxing.
Tip: Very recommended is the lovely Aparthotel Punta Blu in the popular resort of Premantura, which has a pool and beautiful rooms.
The coastal town of Umag is one of the most sought after places for a vacation in Istria! Even the world-famous magazine National Geographic has already chosen it as one of the 10 best summer destinations in the world. Impressive is the extremely charming old town and the beautiful coastal landscape that surrounds the resort. In addition, there are really wonderful beaches and bays where you can relax and unwind. But also the hinterland with the vineyards and the mountain villages is absolutely worth seeing and offers countless possibilities for excursions and activities.
Tip: The Hotel Sol Sipar is one of the best hotels in Umag. Here you can enjoy a great location directly by the sea, a delicious breakfast and the old town can also be easily reached on foot.
The town of Hum, located in the hinterland of the peninsula, is one of the attractions that should not be missed when visiting Istria. It proudly holds the nickname “the smallest town in the world” and indeed, this village is absolutely tiny! Only about 30 people live in this medieval village, whose history dates back to the 11th century. The small town consists of only 2 cross streets, a few houses, a church, a town wall, a konoba and a cemetery. Strolling through the historic stone streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and discover a lot worth seeing, despite its rather small size.
The cute delicatessen shops in the center of town are also very inviting, offering regional delicacies such as olive oil, truffle products and Istrian honey. Especially Biska, the famous mistletoe schnapps from Hum, is a must-try on any visit.
Tip: A stay in the smallest town is an experience. A real insider’s tip is the beautiful Apartment Dores, where you can enjoy peace and relaxation.
The town of Vrsar is a small pearl on the west coast of Istria and definitely a highlight in Istria. The most important attraction is the charming medieval old town, which delights with its location on a hill and its quiet flair. The old stone houses are lined up closely together and, with the church of St. Martin at the top, create a unique backdrop. Below is probably one of the most romantic harbors in Istria, where countless boats and yachts rock in the calm sea and create a magnificent panorama with the old town in the background. Also beautiful are the coves and beaches in Vrsar, which are located around the center and are ideal for a beach vacation.
Tip: For a vacation in Vrsar there is a fine offer of fantastic accommodations. Recommendable are the Apartments Belvedere, which inspire with best beach location and pool.
Zarečki Krov Waterfall
One of the unique things to do is a day trip to Zarečki Krov Waterfall, probably the most stunning waterfall in Istria. It is located inland, not far from the small town of Pazin and delights with extraordinary scenery. Over 10-meter, this waterfall plunges into a basin with impressively bright turquoise watercolors, which create an absolutely magical ambience with the surrounding forests and the spectacular rock formation. Locals in particular are familiar with this gorgeous spot, where people gather to picnic, swim and jump off the cliffs.
Tip: During a trip to the waterfall, you should also plan a visit to the small castle of Pazin. Nearby, there is also a cool zip line that leads across the steep canyon.
Novigrad is one of the most charming coastal towns in Istria. Especially fascinating is the beautiful, romantic old town with the dreamy town harbor Mandrac and the picturesque waterfront promenade. The countless pastel-colored town houses create a marvelous ambience, and Novigrad’s colorful umbrella streets have become a popular photo motif in Istria. A walk through the town reveals many attractions worth seeing, first and foremost the well-preserved medieval town wall and the imposing church of St. Pelagius as a landmark.
Also amazing are the countless beautiful beaches in Novigrad, which are lined up along the coast and conjure up the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable vacation.
Tip: Novigrad is a great choice for a vacation in Istria. Fantastic is the Boutique Hotel Rivalmare, a small, fine hotel directly by the sea and close to the old town!
Brijuni National Park
A popular destination for day trips in Istria is Brijuni National Park near the resort of Fazana. This is an archipelago of 14 islands or islets, which has been protected since 1983. Daily excursion boats and a ferry take visitors to the largest island, Veli Brijun. Here, you can visit some highlights, such as the local safari park with lamas and zebras, a bird reserve in the south of the island and interesting archaeological sites. Really nice is also the approximately 24 kilometers long bicycle network, which is perfect for extensive bike tours through the national park.
Tip: The easiest way to reach the Brijuni National Park is by ferry from Fazana. The ticket price already includes admission to the national park.
The small town of Labin is located on the east coast and is a truly wonderful place in Istria. Especially beautiful is the medieval old town, which has recently developed into a charming town of culture with numerous artists. During a tour of the town, one walks through indescribably beautiful alleys, where many small galleries and stores have settled. Charming cafés and excellent restaurants make a trip really cozy and invite guests to linger.
Tip: Just a few kilometers from Labin away is the popular seaside resort Rabac, which delights with a variety of true dream beaches.
Cave Jama Baredine
The Jama Baredine Cave is a fascinating attraction and a popular destination in Istria. This stunningly beautiful, 132 meter deep stalactite cave is probably one of the most impressive in Croatia! On a guided tour you will visit five halls with incredibly impressive rock and stalactite formations. There is also a chance to have a look at the rare grotto olm. The cave was opened to the public in 1995 and can be visited from April to October. This is a real highlight that will delight both adults and children!
Limski Canal, also called Lim Fjord, runs between the vacation regions of Vrsar and Rovinj and is a true natural beauty in Istria. It has a length of about 11 kilometers and leads through a picturesque river valley into the sea. Thanks to the relatively low salt and high oxygen content, fish and shellfish are farmed here. Boat trips into the Limski Fjord are a popular activity offered in the surrounding resorts. Even if you travel by car, you can enjoy beautiful viewpoints over the channel along the coastal road. There are also small market stalls that sell regional products, such as schnapps and olive oil.
Tip: Beautiful excursions by wooden boats to the Limski Canal can also be found online on GetYourGuide! Many of those boat tours also include a lunch.
Bale is an attractive middle-age town in Istria, situated only 5 km from the sea. It is situated on a 142-meter-high karst hill and offers an enchanting view of the picturesque landscape. Also known as the “Stone Town”, a unique, dreamy setting awaits you as you walk through the center, taking you on a sort of journey through time. Along the way, you’ll discover countless photo opportunities and places of interest that invite you to linger and marvel. The surroundings of Bale are also beautiful, with countless olive trees and green vineyards. A real insider tip among the most beautiful sights in Istria!
Tip: Near Bale is the stunning Wine Hotel and Restaurant Meneghetti, one of the absolute best hotels for a luxurious vacation in Istria.
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