Croatia, a must-see destination topping many travel lists. When you think of a vacation in Croatia, you may envision the southern coast including magnificent Dubrovnik. A very worthy visit indeed, but today we are heading to Istra, a Croatian region in the northern Adriatic bordering Italy.
Istra was once ruled by the Romans, Venetians, Republic, Byzantines, and Italians - all leaving strong influences and colorful history behind. Many locals still speak Italian and Ciao, is a casual way of saying hello and good-bye in Istra and the rest of Croatia.
So, what is there to do and see in Istra?
Pula was established by the Romans as an important port, it is best known for its Amphitheater, one of the sixth largest surviving Roman arenas. The Amphitheater is still used today for summer concerts under the stars. Other Roman structures include the Temple of Augustus (Augustov hram) and Sergius’s Arch, locally known as the Zlatna Vrata, or Golden Door. Pula is also surrounded by the countryside, turquoise water of the Adriatic and National Park Brijuni off the coast.
BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK
Brijuni National Park is a group of 14 islands off the coast of Istra. It offers a blend of natural, historical and cultural heritage. Large numbers of birds which winter on these islands, turtles and dolphins can be seen from time to time, and the waters of the national park of Brijuni are extraordinary for scuba diving. The Park has an educational underwater snorkel trail offering users of all ages a unique experience exploring the natural and archaeological sites of the Parks marine world.
How to get here? Veliki Brijuni is the hub of the Park. A daily ferry boat is available to Veliki Brijuni. To explore other islands of the Park, hop on an excursion boat from Veliki Brijuni or stay overnight at one of the island hotels to fully savor the peaceful natural surroundings.
Rovinj is a town on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula that is officially bilingual with Italian and Croatian. Stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Town, climb the bell tower of the Church of St. Euphemia for the best views of Rovinj, sail to Lim Fjord or the nearby islands, try the traditional local fuzi pasta and visit one of the lovely local beaches to soak in the sun. If you are a diver, head underwater and dive one of Croatia's top dive sites - The Baron Gautsch, an Austrian merchant ship that was sunk after hitting a mine in the First World War. Protected by the ministry of culture, only pre-approved dive shops can visit the wreck.
Step away from the coast and you will find medieval fortified hilltop towns such as Motovun, dotting the landscape. Attend the annual international Motovun Film Festival and climb the longest staircase in Croatia. Take an excursion to the smallest town in the world, Hum where you can taste the homemade mistletoe brandy “biska”.
TRUFFLES, WINE & OLIVE OIL
Istra is known for its truffles. Buzet, the "City of Truffles" hosts the annual truffle feast festival each September launching the days of truffles in the region. Whether you are there for the truffle hunting season or not, be sure to enjoy the delicious cuisine and some great wine and olive oil trails.
Istra happens to be Croatia’s most popular cycling peninsula. With a big variety of trails ideal for everyone's taste, cycling is a great way to experience Istra. Bike by the oldest lighthouse on the Adriatic, through coastal towns like Umag, fortified towns like Novigrad, rivers, hilltop medieval towns, and mystic forests.
Breathtaking countrysides, medieval towns, ancient Roman ruins, and coastal Mediterranean towns.
Delicious cuisine, truffles, wines, and olive oils.
Biking, sailing, paragliding, scuba diving and hiking.
Whether you are looking to add a little or a lot of activity to your vacation, a custom vacation to Croatia and the Istra region is sure to deliver.