15 Best Places to Visit in Istria, Croatia
Istria is one of the most popular destinations in Croatia and certainly one of the most impressive regions on the Adriatic. There are so many amazing things to do in Istria and a lot of interesting places to discover. Gorgeous beaches, fascinating hilly landscapes and romantic mountain villages are just a few of the most beautiful sights to enjoy! Especially the famous coastal towns, such as Pula, Porec and Rovinj attract countless visitors from all over the world every year. Another highlight is the cuisine of this region: the Mediterranean cuisine, fantastic wines, the best olive oils and truffles make a visit to Istria a real treat. What are the most amazing places in Istria, what are the highlights, where can you find the best vacation resorts and what are the best day trips?
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 our 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, covering an area of 3,500 km². The region borders Slovenia to the north and the Croatian Kvarner Bay to the west. Thanks to its central location and many fantastic bathing bays, Istria is one of the best destinations for a summer vacation in Croatia. However, this region has much more to offer than sun and sea, as beautiful Istria is home to some of the best attractions in Croatia.
Among the most famous attractions are the amphitheater of Pula, a colosseum similar to the one in Rome, the smallest city in the world Hum, which is hidden in the interior of the country and, of course, the impressive coastal cities such as Rovinj and Porec, which impress with a picturesque old town. In addition, the intact nature, which is preserved through more than 30 nature reserves, is also surprising.
The best time to visit Istria is in summer, from June to September. Especially on the coast you can enjoy temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees. With about 2,400 hours of sunshine per year, you can generally count on plenty of sun and good weather. The climate is mild and therefore perfect for sightseeing and sports, such as cycling and hiking.
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.
The beaches in Pula are really beautiful too. These are located around the port city and are even among the most beautiful in the entire vacation region; another reason why Pula has become one of the most popular resorts in Istria.
Tip: The Park Plaza Arena Pula is the perfect hotel for a vacation by the sea. Located on an absolute dream beach, the famous Hawaii Beach, it is also only 5 kilometers away from the historic old town.
Porec is a real highlight and one of the most beautiful places in Istria. The romantic old town is especially enchanting, situated on a small peninsula and surrounded by a picturesque waterfront promenade. The town center hides some wonderful and pretty attractions, some of which date back to Roman times. Most of them are located in lovely historical squares. One of the main attractions of the coastal town is the beautiful Euphrasius Basilica, which was put on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In addition, the resort is a true paradise for beach-seekers. Not far from the old town the fantastic beaches in Porec are ideal for a vacation by the sea!
Tip: Also the perfect offer of accommodations and campsites with cool mobile homes ultimately make Porec one of the top destinations in Istria.
Definitely one of the most famous attractions and actually a must-see in Istria is the port town Rovinj. 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 amazing! Along the way, you’ll discover countless pretty attractions and photo spots, and cute restaurants and cafes invite you to take a comfortable sightseeing break.
Not only Rovinj is worth seeing, amazing are also the picturesque beaches in Rovinj, which are all located not far from the historic old town. One more reason why a visit to this port city is more than worthwhile!
Tip: The grandiose 5-star Hotel Monte Mulini is the perfect accommodation for a very special stay in Rovinj! In addition, this hotel is located on a beautiful beach and the old town is also within walking distance!
Kamenjak Nature Park
A visit to Kamenjak Nature Park is definitely one of the best things to do in Istria. It is a stunning nature reserve on the outskirts of the resort of Premantura. The impressive 30 kilometers of rugged coastline, where you can find the probably most spectacular cliffs in the entire region of Istria, are just spectacular. In addition, countless hiking trails and bicycle routes lead through the park, along a fantastic landscape. On the way, you can explore a small dinosaur nature trail and take a break in a really cool safari bar with an adventure playground. Beautiful are also the many small hidden bays and beaches, which are among the most beautiful of Istria.
If you come in winter, with a little luck you can even watch grey seals and dolphins! In summer, on the other hand, the Kamenjak Nature Park is a popular place to go for a swim and relax afterwards.
Tip: Very recommended is the lovely Aparthotel Punta Blu in the popular resort of Premantura, which has a pool and beautiful rooms.
Probably one of the most beautiful attractions in Istria is Motovun, a lovely town located in the green hinterland. Surrounded by picturesque countryside with vineyards and the green fields of the Mirna valley, Motovun impresses above all with its pretty old town. It is perched on a steep 277-meter-high hill and offers a magnificent view over the hilly landscape of Istria. Among the main attractions are not only the historic town walls and charming medieval alleys, but also the many excellent restaurants and traditional konobas.
Tip: The region around Motovun is famous for the abundance of truffles, so you can find them on every menu and in numerous delicatessen stores.
The coastal town of Umag is one of the most popular 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 amazing beaches in Umag where you can relax and unwind. Also the hinterland with its vineyards and mountain villages is extremely worth seeing and offers countless destinations for day trips.
Tip: The Hotel Sol Sipar is one of the best hotels in Umag. Here you can enjoy a great location directly by the sea, delicious breakfast and beautiful rooms. The old town can also be easily reached on foot or by bike.
A place that should not be missed on any trip to Istria is the small town of Hum in the hinterland. It proudly bears the nickname “the smallest town in the world” and really, this town is tiny! Only about 30 inhabitants still live in this medieval village, which basically consists of only 2 cross streets, a few residential houses, a church, a town wall, a konoba and a cemetery. Strolling through the historic stone alleys, you will feel like you travelled back in time and discover a lot worth seeing, despite its tiny size.
Tip: The delicatessen stores, where you can taste regional products, are also really inviting. You should definitely try the Biska, the famous mistletoe schnapps from Hum.
The town of Vrsar is a small pearl on the west coast of 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 of Vrsar, which are located around the center and are ideal for a beach vacation.
Zarečki Krov Waterfall
One of the most unique things to do is a day trip to Zarečki Krov Waterfall, probably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Istria. It is located inland, not far from the small town of Pazin and delights with extraordinary scenery. Over 10-meters 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.
Brijuni National Park
A popular destination 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 llamas 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.
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!
The small town of Labin is located on the east coast and is a really pretty 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. Nice cafés and excellent restaurants make a trip really cozy and invite guests to linger.
Tip: Not far away is the popular seaside resort Rabac, which delights with a variety of true dream beaches.
Cave Jama Baredine
Another interesting attraction and also a popular destination for day trips in Istria is the Jama Baredine cave. This breathtakingly beautiful stalactite cave is probably one of the most impressive in Croatia! Via a guided tour you can visit five halls with incredible rock and stalactite formations. You can also discover the rare grotto olms here. Since 1995 this cave is open to the public and can be visited from April to October via a cave tour. A real highlight for young and old!
Limski Canal 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.
Tip: Along the road to the south, small market stalls sell regional products, such as schnapps and olive oil. A short stop is worth it, because from here you have the most beautiful view of the Limski Canal!
Bale is a charming medieval town in Istria and is located only 5 kilometers from the sea. Also known as the “Stone City”, a unique, dreamy setting awaits you here, where a city tour might feel as if you were in a different time. While walking, you’ll discover countless great photo spots and places worth seeing that invite you to linger and marvel. The surroundings of Bale are also beautiful because of the countless olive trees and green vineyards. A real insider tip among the most beautiful attractions in Istria!
Read more about Croatia:
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Meaning that if you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.