Istria is the westernmost region in Croatia, located on the Istrian peninsula. It is historically and culturally rich and unique region, highly influenced by its Italian neighbours. Therefore, it contains some of the world’s most recognizable sights along with amazing Istrian cuisine, picturesque small towns and gorgeous Istrian riviera. Discover the very best of this region by getting to know its most attractive cities for an ideal vacation.
The largest and the main city of Istria is Pula, known for its protected harbour and remarkable architecture dating back to the Roman empire of which the most recognizable is Pula Arena, a Roman amphitheater. Every year, the amphitheater hosts various attractive events such as Outlook festival or Pula Film Festival. Thanks to its mild climate, Pula is also among favorite Croatian summer destinations with some of the best beaches that stretch all the way to Premantura peninsula. A short boat ride from the city takes you to National Park Brijuni, known as a holiday resort of the former Yugoslavian president, Josip Broz Tito, and for its Safari park with wild animals.
Food: Istrian cuisine is based on the Mediterranean cuisine, which is similar to the Italian one. You will find a lot of fresh ingredients prepared with olive oil and herbs like rosemary and sage, garlic and tomatoes in almost every sauce. One of the most popular dishes in Pula and region are fuži, a Croatian type of pasta made of homemade dough. Istrian prosciutto is another delicacy, and it is a type of cured meat covered in a mixture of different herbs, exclusively produced within Istria.
Picturesque city of Rovinj is definitely among the top Croatian destinations, especially in the summer months. This small town, once a harbour and a fishermen’s village is a unique combination of modern city with traditional features. Explore its main sights in the charming and compact Old Town such as the Church of St. Euphemia and the Franciscan Monastery, but also head to its islets St. Andrija and Maškin. If visiting in summertime, Rovinj has a wide selection of stunning beaches that offer a variety of exciting water sports and activities. Besides that, Rovinj has some worldwide recognized festivals worth visiting such as Croatian Summer Salsa Festivals and Weekend Media Festival.
Food: Istrian cuisine is unimaginable without olive oil that gives that final touch to every dish. Olive oils of Istria region are often awarded as being the best ones in the world. While in Rovinj, get the chance to try fresh fish delicacies such as brodet or buzara, traditional ways of preparing fish. This region serves a lot of shellfish dishes as the Adriatic shellfish are truly among the cleanest ones in the world. Besides the food, Istrian wine steals the awards as well! Seafood is perfectly accompanied with some good Istrian Malvasia, but we suggest you do the wine tasting in wineries, tasting rooms or bars of Rovinj such as Piassa Granda, Villa Dobravac and San Tommaso.
Getting from Pula to Rovinj: A 45-minute ride takes you from Pula to Rovinj with several bus departures per day.
In the heart of the western coast of the Istrian peninsula lies a city that is almost 2000 years old. Being another important historical and cultural center of Istria, Porec is commonly recognized as a summer destination with beautiful landscape and gorgeous beaches. Besides that, the off-season offers a more peaceful side of the city when you can easily explore its main sights such as the famous Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Opposite of the town is the St. Nikola island with some truly stunning beaches. Also, only 12 kilometers from Porec is a small, charming place called Visnjan, known for its famous planetarium.
Food: Another city by the coast gives another opportunity to enjoy the best of Istrian seafood. It is often combined with pasta and rice, in so many ways. Although popular across the entire Adriatic coast, try the Istrian version of black risotto with cuttlefish. One of the symbols of northwestern part of Istria is sole fish or švoj, and there is even a festival dedicated to it in Novigrad, a 30-minute ride from Poreč, offering a chance to try one of the most popular dishes prepared in so many ways.
Getting from Rovinj to Porec: A 45-minute ride takes you from Rovinj to Porec with several bus departures per day.
In the heart of Istrian region lies a lovely, picturesque town in the form of a hill. Motovun attracts numerous visitors for so many reasons as it’s often referred to as the most visited town in Croatia. Explore its cobbled, steep streets and medieval walls that offer a stunning view. This place has some of the longest staircases in Croatia, and cycling along the river Mirna sounds like a perfect activity. Charming Motovun is also known for its truffles, so here is the ideal opportunity to try them. Less than 20 minutes away lies a smaller but similar place called Groznjan which you can visit if having enough time.
Food: Visitors of Istria and Croatia in general love to experience the authentic side of the region. Truffles are on top of the list of every visitor and Motovun is the most perfect place to try them. Thanks to the moist soil of the forests, Motovun had all the conditions for growing the finest truffles. The most common dish is fuži with pasta, but they can be found in many other combinations. In the end, dare to try an ice cream with truffles, you will be glad you did.
Getting from Porec to Motovun: From Porec to Motovun there is a 45-minute ride and you can take a bus from the main bus station in Porec. Still, the countryside of the Istria region is simply stunning, so rent-a-car might be an even better option in this case.
While travelling Istria, get the chance to visit the smallest town in the world! Hum is a town of only 30 habitants and only two streets. Every year, there is a tradition of electing the town’s governour when all men elect the head of the village by carving their votes into a wooden stick. The day ends with music and performances till the evening hours. The funny legend has it that the giants, who were building towns of Istria, had only a few stones left when decided to use them in order to build the Hum fortress.
Food: To move from all the non-meat specialties, here is one for all the meat lovers. Istria is also special for its own way of preparing meat products, and pork is among the most typical types of meat. Along with prosciutto, try special Istrian sausages boiled with laurel leaves and rosemary. Another dish that is especially soothing in winter months is maneštra stew, once the meal of peasants and today a true specialty. It consists of beans and potatoes prepared with seasonal vegetables.
Getting from Motovun to Hum: 35-45 minutes of driving takes you from Motovun to Hum. Consider car rental as the countryside of Istria is truly picturesque.
Umag is Croatia’s westernmost city, a well-known town among tennis lovers with its Croatia Open Umag, ATP tennis tournament. Like the rest of Istria, Umag is highly influenced by the neighbouring Italians and the architecture dates back to the Roman empire. You will find many interesting activities in town and great opportunities to try the best of Istrian food and wine. Of course, being situated on the coast, it is a perfect summer destination for friends and family offering a relaxing, yet active holiday.
Food: Local fresh fish products and traditional specialties can be found in Umag, as well. Being a coastal town, seafood is simply the best choice to try here. Adriatic squid, octopus, sardines and sole fish is served fresh every day. In the end, the whole Istrian region shares the same type of cuisine which can be tried in every corner of Istria, just pick a restaurant that offers a traditional menu, and you will hardly make a bad choice.
Getting from Hum to Umag: There is a bus connection from Buzet to Umag, meaning you should get to Buzet by taxi (15 min ride). The journey lasts around an hour. The other option is to rent a car.
Accommodation in Istria
Most of the listed cities are tourist centers of Istria, so finding an accommodation that suits you best shouldn’t be a problem. There are various types of accommodation on offer such as hotels, hostels, private accommodations and campsites in almost each of these places. Remember that the region is highly popular during the summer season which means planning your trip and booking your accommodation on time is necessary.