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The rocky coastline of the Adriatic meets the rolling hills and bucolic plains of Continental Croatia in Istria, the heart-shaped peninsula with a complex cultural legacy, including well-preserved Roman relics. In the past, Istria's towns were home to It... Find what you're looking for from your Istria holiday, by planning the whole thing with us using our handy Croatia trip generator.Read the Istria Holiday Planning Guide »
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©Porec Old Town
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©Monkodonja Hill Fort
©Brist Extra Virgin Olive Oil
©Kamenjak National Park
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©Saint Euphemia Cathedral
©Jama - Grotta Baredine
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Recently planned trips to Istria
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Istria Holiday Planning GuideThe rocky coastline of the Adriatic meets the rolling hills and bucolic plains of continental Croatia in Istria, the heart-shaped peninsula whose complex cultural legacy includes Venetian cities and well-preserved Roman relics. In the past, Istria's towns were home to Italians, while the Croats resided in the hilltop stone villages of "Green Istria." Your trip to Istria may very well begin inland, where one of the main attractions is the view from the hills over lush meadows, vineyards, wheat fields, and olive groves, which recall the local legends about ancient giants. A trip to the area's valleys and gorges provides the chance to experience farmhouse restaurants and rural hotels, which often feature regional delicacies like white truffles and wild asparagus. Although some of the coastal mega-hotel complexes lack the charm of Dalmatia's islands and coves, "Blue Istria" still has plenty of other places to visit, like resort towns with cobbled piazzas and narrow back alleys.
Places to Visit in IstriaRovinj: Istria's most popular coastal city, Rovinj is truly Mediterranean in nature, combining a traditional fishing port with a modern seaside getaway, plus an old town full of narrow cobbled streets and charming squares. Visitors here can sometimes overhear locals speaking the region's old Romantic language, Istriot.
Pula: A mild climate and calm seas draw visitors to this southernmost point of the Istrian peninsula, but the city's ample Roman architecture is a key reason they stay. Its impeccably preserved Roman amphitheater is the star attraction on many Istria itineraries.
Porec: With a scenic location along the Adriatic Sea, a number of historical buildings from different periods, and a 6th-century basilica listed as a World Heritage Site, the ancient town of Porec ranks among the most-visited tourist destinations on Istria holidays.
Premantura: A small town on the south of the Istrian peninsula, Premantura boasts crystal clear seawater of a rare blue-green color lapping some of the coast's most beautiful pebble and rocky beaches.
Motovun: Perched on top of a steep hill that overlooks a river, vineyards, and the Motovun forest, this small town in central Istria is well-known for its medieval flair and a popular film festival.
Barban: Enjoy riding sports, quad safari, or a peaceful farm stay in Barban. This medieval village surrounded by woods and a lush valley draws visitors with its agritourism and numerous wine cellars.
Novigrad: One of the smallest resorts in Istria and often overlooked by tourists, this charming fishing town features a lovely pebble beach, an open-air gourmet festival, as well as live music and street performances.
Buzet: A small, sleepy town at the epicenter of the truffle-growing region, Buzet features a labyrinth of narrow streets and squares and makes a perfect stop on any gastronomic tour of Istria.
Groznjan: The narrow streets of this charming town turn into an artistic beehive during the summer months, featuring dance, drama, and peace activism workshops, while jazz and classical music come from every corner.
Umag: Take a Segway tour and discover the allure of this small town featuring fortification walls, a gated drawbridge, a charming 16th-century church, and a number of restaurants serving local agricultural specialties.
Things to Do in Istria
Popular Istria Tourist AttractionsRovinj Old Town: As the keeper of Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian heritage, Rovinj Old Town features narrow, cobbled alleyways; small squares full of medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings and terraces; plus small churches, monuments, and old doors tucked behind every corner.
Pula Arena: Sit on the stone tiers of this star tourist attraction in Istria--built at the same time as the Roman Colosseum--and imagine how gladiators fought wild animals, or walk the underground passages and check out the reconstructions of ancient mills and presses for making olive oil and wine.
Porec Old Town: See how a variety of cultural influences shaped Porec Old Town over the course of nearly 2,000 years, and explore the town's rich heritage in museums and galleries, hosted in private houses and palaces.
Saint Euphemia Cathedral: This 18th-century Baroque church treasures the painted sarcophagus and relics of St. Euphemia, the patron saint of the town, and offers a great panorama view from its bell tower, which resembles the tower of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
Port of Rovinj: Stroll through the narrow lanes and soak up the atmosphere of one of the last true Mediterranean fishing ports, featuring historical and natural marvels, including the Lemme Channel, a Mediterranean fiord.
Euphrasius Basilica: Visit this World Heritage Site on your tour of Istria to see one of the best-preserved early Christian cathedral complexes in the world and admire the only surviving depiction of the Mother of God in an early-Christian western basilica.
Kamenjak National Park: Enjoy some downtime from city life in this national park, where you can discover many rare and native species of Istrian plants and animals while walking the path of fossilized dinosaur footsteps.
Jama - Grotta Baredine: Due to millennia of complete darkness and seclusion, this underground cave has developed a world of its own, complete with with sculptures, lakes, and odd little creatures called "human fish"--found only in this part of the planet.
Brijuni Islands: Once a lavish residence of Yugoslavian president Tito, Brijuni Islands offer nature trails with exotic imported plants, archeological finds, and lots of history such as Bronze Age settlements and former Byzantine, Roman, and Templar structures.
Glavani Park: Alongside a dense forest, look for a complex of treetop ropes and suspension bridges designed for outdoor adventure, where you can climb to 11 m (36 ft) and drop down on a giant swing, or soar 20 m (66 ft) above the earth on a zipline.
Planning an Istria Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Istria with KidsWith a balanced offering of natural and cultural attractions, including many ancient Roman architectural remains and a World Heritage Site, there are plenty of Istria vacation ideas for your family to choose from. You may well begin your trip with a fun history lesson in coastal Pula, which boasts a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, an Austro-Hungarian fortress, and a Venetian castle--all attractions likely to impress visitors of all ages. Porec and Rovinj, also both coastal, will interest young ones with their picturesque old towns and aquariums hosting an array of local aquatic life. Barban, Pazin, and Medulin offer a range of outdoor things to do, from adventure parks and water activities to windsurfing and ziplining. Another thing your kids will love is discovering the small town of Umag on a Segway tour. Other stops to consider adding to your family's Istria itinerary include Svetvincenat, which hosts a medieval theme park in a 15th-century castle, and Funtana--home to Dinopark, where the life-size dinosaurs are the major topic.
Things to Do in Istria with KidsThe lovely and diverse natural setting of Istria calls for a spectrum of outdoor activities the whole family will enjoy on your Istria holiday. At Brijuni Islands follow the nature trails with exotic plants, visit a safari park, and marvel at dinosaur footprints and a 2,000-year-old olive tree. For an outdoor adventure go to Glavani Park or slide on a zipline over cliffs and a medieval castle at Pazinska Jama. Meet a quirky little amphibian called "human fish" or "dragon offspring" at Jama - Grotta Baredine, an underground cave rich in cave sculptures and lakes. Visit the sea turtle rescue center at Aquarium Pula or discover a vivid world through the glass windows of the underwater cabin in Semisubmarine Medulin. Among several water parks you may consider visiting, Aquapark Istralandia features the largest wave pool in the Mediterranean.
Tips for a Family Vacation in IstriaThough the sea in Istria is crystal clear and great for snorkeling, it is colder than elsewhere in the Mediterranean and sandy beaches are rare. Most are pebbly and rocky, and your toddlers will probably need to wear plastic water shoes if your Istria vacation includes some beach time. If your children are still learning to swim, you may consider using the sheltered seawater pools or the pools at the resort hotels, apartment complexes, and campsites. On the southern coast in Medulin is the most child-friendly sandy strand.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Istria
Cuisine of IstriaIstrian cuisine has gained international recognition for its culinary delights: precious, pungent black and white truffles abound, and its olive oil is said to be among the finest in the world. While enjoying your tour of Istria, try typical products of the region, such as truffle-flavored olive oil and cured ham or prosciutto ("pršut"), which is often served as a starter. Those on a mission for truffles should consider a stop in Motovun, the truffle center of the peninsula. Grilled fish and shellfish are common dishes on the coast; scampi are a traditional favorite, together with calamari. In the interior, the accent is on meat, mainly the richly flavored beef of Boskarin cattle. The Italian influence can be seen on almost every restaurant menu, where pizza, pasta, gnocchi, and risotto are listed without fail. Rovinj offers an authentic fishing experience after which the guests can enjoy a typical angler’s dinner. Even the most modest “konobas” (taverns) provide good-quality meals accompanied by a wide variety of regional wines served in decanters. Visit a local winery to taste some varieties you won't find at home, such as Malvazija of Buje.
Shopping in IstriaWhile not known as a shopping destination, Istria nevertheless offers very good bargains when it comes to local products, especially foods like dried figs, fish, mussels and crabs, sausages and cheese, and the highly acclaimed olive oil. Some locals swear that the daily market on Narodni Trg in Pula is the finest and cheapest in all of Istria. If you're looking for truffles, at zigante tartufi shop you can choose from nearly 50 products made from the expensive gourmet fungus. If you feel like bringing home a souvenir from your trip to Istria, your best options might be cosmetics and natural soaps made from olive oil and scented with aromatic herbs, such as the ubiquitous lavender. For hidden treasures try to hit some of the local flea markets, like the one on the outskirts of the city park in Pazin. Arts and crafts fans can buy fine artisan work, such as unique hand-painted scarves and jewelry, at Groznjan Hilltop village of artists, Istria, Croatia.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Istria
History of IstriaThey don't call Istria "Croatia’s Tuscany" without good reason: the region was part of the Venetian Republic for centuries, and later belonged to Italy from 1918 to 1947. Still, while sightseeing in Istria you will notice that the peninsula's cultural heritage extends far beyond those periods, with traces of the many other powers to have ruled this land including Romans, Byzantines, Austro-Hungarians, and French. The Croatian population, which settled here around the 7th century CE, had to constantly fight for autonomy.
The main historical tourist attractions in Istria belong to the Roman legacy. Romans defeated the Illyrian Histri tribe (for which, incidentally, the peninsula is named), and established Pula as a vital administrative center. Pula Arena, a Roman amphitheatre, serves as one of the symbols of the region and is the highlight on many Istria itineraries.
After the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, the coast was mainly under the rule of Venetians, while the inland predominantly felt the German influence of Franks, Holy Roman emperors, and finally the Habsburgs. Rovinj, the Istrian Venice with a fascinating STARI GRAD, is keeper of the region's Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian heritage. Other historical sites you may consider visiting on your tour of Istria are Dvigrad, which features the ruins of two adjacent medieval towns, and the Byzantine Euphrasius Basilica, a World Heritage Site.
The 19th century was a time of revolution and of the awakening of national sentiment all over Europe, and Istria was no exception. Croatian nationalists were divided between those who wanted to unite with other Southern Slavs and those who dreamed of Great Croatia. Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarian repression and influence strengthened. Learn more about this period and others at Kastel, a Baroque fortification that houses the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria, where you can view arms, coins, and photographs of urban and suburban life on the peninsula.
Between the two world wars Istria was part of Italy, and after World War II it joined the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Istria became a county in the Republic of Croatia.