Nestled against the border of Italy as the westernmost outcropping in Croatia, there’s lots to love about the Istrian Peninsula. About 90 percent of it is Croatian territory with a tiny sliver in Italy and the rest in Slovenia. It not only offers stunning scenery with everything from pastel seaside villages to medieval hilltop towns with Venetian influence throughout but it was made to order for wine enthusiasts, foodies, history and nature lovers. Its striking natural beauty includes magnificent waterfalls that plunge into still emerald pools, dense forests home to the rare truffle and hills that are covered with vineyards and olive groves. The spectacular towns of Pula, Porec and Rovinj may get the majority of visitors but the enchanting hill towns of Groznjan and Motovun with their delicious eats and artsy feel are well worth visiting too.
Most of the hotels in Istria are clustered in the seaside towns of Rovinj, Pula, and Porec, but Motovun is a popular inland option. Porec is popular for its many hotels and resorts with gorgeous pools, ideal for those who plan to spend more time at their accommodation. Rovinj is a bit touristy, but it offers a central location with some beaches within walking distance along with an interesting Old Town. At the peninsula’s southern end, Pula is ideal for history enthusiasts with Roman ruins and an archaeological museum. Foodies should consider Motovun, with its fresh products, including truffles, olive oil, and local wines.
The picturesque coastal city of Pula is strategically situated on the tip of the beautiful Istria Peninsula. It was founded by the Romans in 177 BC, and later became the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s naval base. On a tour of the city, explore its heritage by visiting the ruins of the impressive amphitheatre that was modelled on the iconic Colosseum of Rome. It’s one of the 6 largest Roman arenas in the world and Pula’s star attraction.
Escape To Picturesque Villages
While Istria’s cities and towns offer plenty of sightseeing options, it’s the picturesque villages that provide an opportunity to sample authentic Croatian life. Escape to an idyllic hilltop village and enjoy breathtaking views of the rural landscape on the way. Visit Groznjan, Zavrsje and Oprtalj. In the ancient walled village of Motovun, sample black and white truffles that are found in nearby forests. Visit in the summer to participate in the annual film festival.
Explore Romantic Rovinj
Once an island, the enchanting fishing port of Rovinj flaunts historic and cultural attractions, beautiful beaches, and an archipelago of 14 islands, situated directly off the mainland. The Old Town boasts three well-preserved historic gates and cobblestone streets that lead you to the Church of Euphemia. The church’s towering steeple dominates the cobalt blue skyline and acts as a navigation point. To enjoy some quality downtime, venture to the serene pebble beach in Lone Bay.
When to visit Istria
The Istrian Peninsula is enjoyable all year round, but the summer months are the most popular time to visit. If you come in June, July, August, or early September, make your hotel reservations in advance and be prepared for bigger crowds. May tends to bring mildly warm temperatures and sunshine with fewer crowds and the second half of September can be ideal too. Typically, the water is comfortable for swimming from around mid-June through September or early October. Be aware that during the off-season, November through March, some hotels and restaurants will be closed.
Natalie Our Croatia Expert
How many days do you need in the Istria Peninsula?
When planning your itinerary, you’ll want at least four days to explore the Istria Peninsula, and ideally a week, with many charming towns and diverse landscapes that include beautiful beaches and serene countryside with vineyards and olive groves. With more time you’ll be able to spend time relaxing, perhaps lounging around a hotel pool, so that your trip isn’t rushed. In addition to must-visits like Rovinj and Pula, you’ll want to explore hilltop towns like Motovun and perhaps tiny Hum, said to be the smallest town in the world.
What is the best time to visit Istria for truffles?
While you can sample dishes with truffles throughout the year, the best time to come for this rare and delectable treat is in autumn. This season is the peak time for the white truffle, the tastiest and most expensive type. They’re celebrated from mid-September through mid-November during Truffle Days, an international exhibition of Croatia’s gastronomy with truffle hunting demonstrations and tastings, with truffle-based specialities prepared by top chefs. Culinary workshops also feature other Istrian products like Istrian ham, cheeses, honey, and olive oils.
What are the essential sites to see in Istria?
Natural attractions are a big draw, but Pula is home to many historical sites, with the most essential here being the Roman amphitheatre. It’s the world’s only one that remains with four side towers well-preserved, built between 27 BC and 68 AD. Rovinj boasts one of the most beautiful old towns where one can stroll winding alleyways to its highest point where the church of St. Euphemia is located, bringing an awe-inspiring view. In Porec, see the magnificent Euphrasius Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site while the main attractions in Motovun are the charming medieval alleyways, the historic town walls, and the many outstanding traditional konobas.
Is Istria worth visiting?
The Istrian Peninsula is truly a must-visit for everyone who visits Croatia. It offers something for all, from wine enthusiasts and foodies to beach lovers and history buffs. In fact, it’s a destination in its own right where one could easily spend a week or two and never get bored. Activities can be enjoyed indoors and out with beautiful beaches, tranquil hilly landscapes, romantic mountain villages, and seaside towns.
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