What to do in Istria, Croatia
It’s been summer 2020 when we spontaneously booked an apartment on a Sunday evening for the next day already. We packed up our things in the middle of the night and went on a little road trip to Croatia – to Istria, to be exact. We crossed three borders during our 8hr drive from Nuremberg to a small town called Gimino in central Istria. From here, we would go on a different adventure every single day. I absolutely fell in love with Rovinj, indulged in some food, had way too much truffle liquor, and conquered my fear of cliff jumping, yay!
To learn more about Croatia concerning the currency, language and more, skip to this article.
Istria -> what to see and expect
Istria is well known for medieval cities with magnificent buildings, excellent beaches, and great food. Wineries, Nationalparks, Olive trees, and caves are just some things to see in Istria. This part of Croatia is one of the most popular ones for visitors, predominantly European travelers. Most beaches are marked with the „Blue Flag“ for excellent quality, which is undoubtedly one of the main reasons most people love them. Historic cities like Porec and Rovinj add some great sightseeing program to your travel itinerary!
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Table of Contents
Let’s start with Istrias “capital city. “Pula is located in the south of Istria and offers an excellent touristic infrastructure. With its airport and touristic facilities, it is the city in Istria that will probably cross your way once or twice. In Pula, you can explore the town, the famous Arena, go shopping, and book many different adventures like kayaking, catamaran tours, and dolphin watching. Is Pula worth visiting? Well, honestly – we’ve been a little disappointed. Pula was the last city we visited, and it just doesn’t compare to Rovinj and Porec’s beauty, for example. It is excellent for travelers who want to explore a lot because of everything it offers. The city itself isn’t that special in my personal opinion.
WOW WOW WOW – I loved that little city. We spent one day here, and I can only recommend stopping by this beautiful, artistic place. The alleys, the shops, the restaurants, nature,… I can’t rave enough about how much I love it. This city is a must-see in Istria!
We went to Poreč to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site (the St. Euphrasian Basilica) and afterward walked through the city. The small town has a beautiful promenade along the water outside the old town we really liked. The old town itself invited to stay for some delicious food and drinks after indulging in the culture. I would love to return one day!
Other places to visit in Istria
Medulin: Medulin is located in the south of Istria and offers one of the rare sand beaches in Istria.
Novigrad: This is a very romantic city in the north of Istria with an excellent touristic infrastructure.
Fazana: Fazana is known for its colorful houses. The upstream Nationalpark Brijuni is another reason making Fazana worth a visit.
Rabac: This hillside fishing village offers white pebble beaches and a great view of the surrounding mountain range.
Motovun: A Romantic, medieval city on a 280m high hill. This city is well known for its historic architecture. It offers great possibilities to explore the local nature and the wineries.
Things to do in Istria
Enjoy the beaches
Croatia is well known for its beaches with crystal clear water. Besides that, there are so many hidden gems and lonesome beaches you can explore, making it a lot better. Most beaches are pebble/rock beaches, so make sure to bring some water shoes and a good mat underneath your towels. The best beaches in Istria we’ve been to are the ones at Cape Kamenjak.
Water sports: snorkeling, diving, cliff jumping
Talking about the great beaches and water quality: try water sports activities! Cliff jumping, snorkeling, and diving are just some to name. We went on a kayak tour with a local guide who showed us some caves you can only reach from the water. Afterward, we went cliff jumping, where mostly locals went on the weekends to jump off a rock 8m above the crystal clear water. It was amazing! 10/10 would recommend!!
If you’re more on the “active” side of life, Istria offers some excellent trekking and hiking possibilities. There are routes along the coast and central Istria, like the most famous “Parenzana “trail. Many trails would be great to also explore some waterfalls like the Zarecki Krov, Sopot, or Gologoricki dol. It would be an outstanding possibility to explore the country a little off the beaten track along with its caves, wineries, and olive farms. The national park “Urka “offers a fantastic view from the summit.
Explore the caves
Baredine Cave is very famous and easy to reach from most touristic cities. The cave itself is a stalactite cave. The Pazin cave can be found underneath the castle of Pazin. You can explore it on an educational path. You can also take a ride on the zipline over the Pazin gorge for a little more adrenalin. Silja Mramornica is another beautiful cave in the north of Istria. The deepest part of this cave is 20m below ground.
Fort Punta Christo
A hidden gem celebrating independence and nature: Fort Punta Cristo in Štinjan. Around 15min from Pulas city center, you will find a lost place called Fort Punta Christo. This Fort once was built by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to defend Pula.
Today, the Fort is more of a “ruin “and closed to visitors besides a big techno festival every summer. If you walk along with the Fort (you can park your car at the Fort), you will reach a “hippie “paradise after some time. Here, you’ll find an outdoor area full of handmade benches, tables, and arts – and of course, the famous bridge. The family living here is carefully making sure nature and their surroundings are treated well by visitors. You can also buy drinks here and look at people trying to cross the bridge while listening to music. Such a relaxed, fun, and peaceful vibe here! An absolute Istria highlight for me!
What else to do in Istria?
Take a tour to…
→ Venice: Got enough of Istria? You can actually book a day trip from Pula to Venice. A Katamaran will bring you across the Adria to Venice in only 3 hours. Crazy, right?!
→ Slovenia: Day-trips to Croatia’s neighbor Slovenia are also quite common. The most popular destination for a day trip from Croatia to Slovenia would be Lake Bled.
→ Brijuni national park: The island archipelago can be reached by ferry from Pula or Fazin. The 14 Islands offer a Safari Park with many animals, Golf courts, biking trails, Tennis courts, and so much more.
→ Limski Canal: A canal running between Rovinj and Vrsar. The whole area got declared as a nature reserve and invites for a boat tour or a hike in its beautiful nature. You can also visit the ruins of Dvigrad, from where you’ll have a fantastic view.
Food (you HAVE) to try once you visit Istria
As you might know, I am a huge foodie, and Istria didn’t let me down. The local cuisine includes many meat and fish; nevertheless, you will also find vegetarian or vegan options. Now let’s talk about what you should try once you’re there. First of all, Wine and Olives! The wine we had was outstanding, and even though I don’t like pure olives, we couldn’t resist but buy some pure, local olive oil. Absolutely amazing!
Another local specialty would be truffles. We tried truffle pasta, truffle cheese, and truffle liquor. My favorite must have been the truffle liquor. Well, my decision-making ability might have already been a little clouded after trying several kinds of local liquors in a small shop in Rovinj, lol.
(By the way, I’d also recommend trying red wine liquor. It tastes just like a cold, refreshing mulled wine!)
Now on to the food: Have you even been to Croatia without even eating Cevapcici?! We tried the classic Cevapcici with Djuviec rice and the cheese baked variation. Both were amazing. As in every other sea-side city, the fresh fish was absolutely amazing. We loved every single meal we tried!
So tell me, what would you love to do in Istria? Or maybe you’ve been there already? Let me know in the comments!
I definitely enjoyed our time in Istria and would love to return one day. It’s such a cool road trip destination, especially when you’re living in Europe. The water quality is breathtaking, and the friendliness of the people was heartwarming.
Stay happy and healthy! ♥
See you soon,