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:
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:
Luxury (150€ and up): Hotel Monte Mulini, Hotel Lone
Medium (50 – 150€): Hotel Angelo d’Oro, Casa Alice
Budget (50€ and less): Apartments La Casa di Loreto, Apartments and Rooms Erik
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:
Medium (50 – 150€): Hotel Pineta, Hotel Vista
Budget (50€ and less): Apartments Mirjana, Apartments Jurić
Restaurant Trošt – as usual, delicious food with an amazing view to Riviera. I felt like the food was too beautiful to eat…
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.
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!
As Motovun is also not a large town, the choice of hotels is not that broad, but I chose the ones with fabulous reviews, as always:
Medium (50 – 150€): Studio Sijara
Budget (50€ and less): Apartments and Rooms Nirvana
(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.
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.
Boutique Hotel Mauro
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
Budget (50€ and less): Guesthouse Casa Nova, Apartment Armando
There are handful of restaurants that will satisfy any foodie:
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:
Medium (50 – 150€): House Fiorela, Apartment Mita
Budget (50€ and less): Apartments Smile, Sobe Pintur
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:
Luxury (150€ and up): Boutique Hotel Oasi, Boutique Hotel Villa Vulin
Medium (50 – 150€): Rooms Villa Oasiss – I have stayed in this hotel, read the full review here, Boutique Hotel Valsabbion.
Budget (50€ and less): Apartment Mir, Apartments Hortensia
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!
All the below activities are described in details in this post about Pula.
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!
Medium (50 – 150€): Hotel Villa Rosetta, Hotel Zlatna Vala
Budget (50€ and less): Apartment Klara, Apartments Brnada
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!
The choices are not that many, as you understand, but they all have exceptional reviews:
Medium (50 – 150€): House Vera
Budget (50€ and less): Apartment Dores
Humska Conoba – a good home restaurant, I think it is the only one in the city in any way! 🙂
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!
How to get to Istria – by boat from Venice, or at Pola airport, get your hotel transfer here.
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!
As seen on the Heatheronhertravels.com