We've decided to list top reasons to visit Istria in Croatia in hope to make Istria a part of your Croatia itinerary. After running this blog for awhile, interacting with our readers, and just by looking into our most read posts, we realized that overseas visitors, particularly those coming from US, Canada, and Australia, often overlook and skip Istria on their typical Croatian itineraries.
This tiny Adriatic region of Croatia still remains the most visited part of Croatia, but it's way more popular with European holiday-makers than their overseas counterparts.
We live in Istria and absolutely love it here. This part of Croatia offers the best food and wine experiences, lovely landscapes, cycling opportunities, charming coastal towns, and a great deal of cultural and historical sites.
If you haven't visited Istria yet, push it to the top of your must-visit list. And below are the reasons to visit Istria.
Reasons to visit Istria now
Enchanting hilltop villages
No other part of Croatia has so many wonderful hilltop villages like Istria.
If you enjoy cobblestone streets, old stone houses, medieval churches, endless vistas over the countryside and the sea, cute little shops, art galleries, and wine bars, Istrian villages will take your breath away.
Visit Groznjan, a “town of artists”, the forgotten town of Zavrsje, or Motovun, the most popular Istrian hilltop town, to feel a fairy tale vibe of the medieval times.
If you are dreaming of rolling hills, green meadows, olive orchards, and perfectly tended vineyards, set to explore Istrian countryside.
There are many tiny country roads that take you to most hidden corners of the region. We like a lot a road from Brtonigla to Buje, Vizinada to Ferenci, a drive to villages of Sovinjsko polje, or Hum. But these are just a couple of suggestions, as almost every country road will take you through some fabulous landscapes.
Get in a car and take on twisty country road to enjoy the scenery.
Istria is a popular wine region of Croatia. And while you can find in Istria a lot of international wine sorts, like Chardonnay, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon, two local sorts stand out as a true symbol of Istria.
Istarska Malvazija, a dry white wine, is the most popular wine here. Be aware as it's addictively yummy, and so easy to drink. Teran, a robust red wine, is made of an old Istrian grape variety.
Istria is a must-visit region for any wine aficionado. Wineries here are super popular, and many offer wine tasting tours. There is also a number of events throughout the year celebrating wine. Vinistra is the most visited wine event here.
We are a bit crazy about olive oil. So for us, the fact that some of the world's best olive oils are produced in Istria, is a big Yes! for visiting this Croatian region.
If you do visit Istria, we highly recommend to go for olive oil tasting at the Chiavalon Estate. After visiting the estate, you'll know how the olive oil is made, but also how to recognize a good quality extra virgin olive oil from the fake one. And if you wonder why you should care, we recommend you to read Tom Mueller's book Extra Virginity: The sublime & fascinating world of olive oil.
Trying to secure a table on a short notice at the local tavern, located in a remote village in Istria, on a winter day, when even the popular tourist resorts along the coast look more like ghost towns, just to hear “We're completely full”, makes you realize how popular restaurants in Istria are.
Croatians know it, as well as our Italian and Slovenian neighbors, who race here on weekends to indulge in delicious local dishes.
Fresh fish, seafood, hearty manestra, hand-rolled fuzi and pljukanci pasta with thick, savory stews, everything drizzled with top quality olive oil – should I say more?
Truffles, truffles, truffles
Truffles, and especially white truffles, are a rare delicacy found just in few world's regions. Istria is one of them!
This tasty tuber is foraged every fall in forests around Motovun. And a truffle season is celebrated with a couple of festivals in Istria throughout October.
A network of marked cycling trails, passing off and on asphalt roads, lovely scenery, and a healthy balance between uphill, downhill, and flat rides, makes Istria a great place to awaken a cyclist in you, whether you are an amateur or a pro.
The most popular cycling route called Parenzana, in honor of former narrow-gauge railroad, where this cycling trail passes today, is 100 km long. It starts in Trieste in Italy, passes through Slovenia, and goes all the way to Porec in Croatia. The total lenght is 123 km, but you can do shorter routes.
Full with wonderful nature
Istria boasts many wonderful natural sites, from Ucka, and Cape Kamenjak nature parks, to wonderful Lim fjord, many caves, and Brijuni National Park.
A couple of things you'll notice in Istria right away, Istria is green (sometimes I joke it's because it rains here :-)), and the coast, although perhaps not as pretty as Dalmatian coast, is perfectly preserved, with very little construction within first 100 m from the shoreline.
Visit Brijuni Island national park, swim at the Cape Kamenjak, explore Romuald or Baredine Cave, take a boat ride to the Lim Fjord, or hike Ucka Mountain.
Rich in culture & history
How about witnessing over 2.000 year of history at the roman colliseum in Pula, or admiring mosaics of the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec dating back to 4th century AD?
Istria has always been at the crossroads of different cultures, and throughout its history, it's been ruled by many tribes and nations. Each of them left a trace on its people, architecture, art, customs, and traditions.
Joie de vivre
All nine reasons listed above, bring us inevitably to the last one on this list – joie de vivre in Istria. Just imagine those beautiful rolling hills full of vineyards, and olive groves, calm green surroundings, medieval stone villages, colorful coastal towns, deep blue Adriatic Sea, fresh locally produced food, tasty local wines, twisty countryside roads, log-burning open fireplace in local taverns, …
Joy of life is contagious here in Istria.
We hope that we gave you enough reasons to visit Istria in Croatia. If you have any question, or suggestion, please leave them in the comments below.
Photo credit: Kabola winery: Kabola.hr ｜ Main photo: Sinisa Gulic