The Essential Guide to Istria
Collected by Anja Mutic , AFAR Local Expert
While Dalmatia often gets the spotlight, the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria (on the northern end of Croatia’s Adriatic coast) is also worthy of exploration. Food lovers in particular flock to the region for its award-winning cuisine and abundance of fresh ingredients—Istria is home to Croatia’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, Monte, as well as some of the country’s best wineries. Those willing to dive even deeper will find UNESCO World Heritage sites, spectacular parks, postcard-worthy coastal towns, medieval hilltop settlements, and a cobalt sea full of Adriatic dolphins.
Čabarnica 42, Zrenj, 52428 Oprtalj, 52428, Žnjidarići, Croatia
If you want to check out a real-deal agritourism operation (a family-run working farm), Tončić is the top choice. Located in a hilly hamlet in Istria’s bucolic interior, the farm not only has panoramic views of Čićarija mountain and the...
Paladini 14, 52420, Buzet, Croatia
Some of the most fun you can have in Istria involves roaming the forests around the medieval town of Motovun with the Karlić family, hunting for truffles. Based in a tiny village near Buzet, the Karlićs have been in business since the...
Ul. Joakima Rakovca 7, 52424, Motovun, Croatia
Rest your head in a 17th-century palace in the heart of medieval Motovun, an enchanting little town that tops one of Istria’s numerous hills. The hotel’s small spa with an indoor pool is a lovely spot to unwind, the restaurant offers...
Setaliste Vladimira Gortana 7, 52420, Buzet, Croatia
Another one of Istria’s hilltop highlights, this stylish boutique hotel is perched in the medieval town of Buzet, known for being Istria’s center of truffles—and decidedly less crowded than Motovun. It features just 19 rooms,...
Eufrazijeva ul., 52440, Poreč, Croatia
For Byzantine art at its best, head to this 6th-century basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located in the historic heart of Poreč, the remarkably preserved building is one of Europe’s most outstanding examples of religious architecture....
Trg Sv. Eufemije, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
For mind-blowing views of the Rovinj archipelago, visit this hilltop church and climb the bell tower, which features a copper statue of Saint Euphemia that rotates around its axis as the wind blows. On a really clear day, you’ll be able to...
Ul. Sv. Križa 1, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Go searching for Adriatic bottlenose dolphins on boat trips guided by local marine guides who are trained to track these spectacular sea animals and interpret their behavior. Excursions depart from Rovinj and head out to the dolphin-rich waters...
Obala Pina Budicina 2, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
At this small museum in a 17th-century town house by the sea, you can learn about the batana, the wooden, flat-bottom boat that’s long been a part of Croatia’s maritime heritage. Tour the interactive exhibits to discover fishing...
Ul. Sv. Križa 24, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Tucked away on the rocks in Rovinj’s Old Town, this cheerful café-cum-bar offers creative drinks and a boho-chic vibe. Valentino, just a few doors down, is the pioneer of cliffside bars in the area and still worth checking out, but...
Ul. Montalbano 75, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Chef and owner Danijel Dekić opened Monte right below St. Euphemia Church, in the courtyard of his parents’ house, back in 1985. Today, it’s a Michelin-star restaurant, where a grape tree grows inside the stone-walled interior and...
Obala Pina Budicina 16, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Art is the focus of this quirky hotel, located right on the seafront in Rovinj’s main square. In fact, artwork adorns almost every corner of the historic building—both the rooms and public spaces feature breathtaking works commissioned...
Ul. Luje Adamovića 31, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
A contemporary take on a classic 1970s Adriatic resort, Hotel Lone is Croatia’s first and only member of the Design Hotels network. The gleaming-white, Y-shaped building may sit amid the forests of Zlatni Rt Park (a 10-minute seafront stroll from...
Stancija Meneghetti 1, 52211, Bale, Croatia
Set amid olive groves and vineyards in the middle of the Istrian countryside, this typical stancija (homestead) is small—it has just four rooms and suites—but delightful. It first opened as an exclusive restaurant serving regional...
Northwest of Pula and just offshore from the seaside town of Fažana, this 14-island archipelago comprises vast meadows; forests of pine, holm oak, and laurel; rare flora like marine poppy and wild cucumber; and an ancient olive tree that’s...
Koparska ul. 35, 52100, Pula, Croatia
Whether you want to learn the secret to filleting fish, cook a traditional Istrian dish like žgvacet, or explore the peninsula’s top wineries, look no further than Eat Istria, run by food blogger Goran Zgrablić. The outfitter picks guests up...
Flavijevska ul., 52100, Pula, Croatia
The sixth-largest Roman amphitheater still standing today, the Pula Arena is Croatia’s most magnificent classical monument—and reason enough to check out Pula, Istria’s main city. Built in the 1st century C.E. during the rule of Emperor Vespasian,...
Kamenjak, 52100, Premantura, Croatia
Located on the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, this rugged nature park is the perfect place to set off with a backpack and be active for the day. You can follow in the fossilized footprints of the dinosaurs at Cape Grakolovac, visit an...
Čimulje 25, 52100, Banjole, Croatia
Run by a family of fishermen, this tiny, no-frills tavern just south of central Pula is the place to go for exquisite seafood, with unique offerings like fish liver and salted dried roe. In fact, whatever the family catches during their morning...
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