Even though I live in Dalmatia, I have to say *looks around cautiously* Istria is where I belong. I know, I know, I am opening a can of worms here. It’ll have my neighbors spitting on me and telling me to leave. But first, let me explain.
It’s the food. Like these tasty morsels that you can eat in Istria.
It’s the small hilltop towns.
It’s so easy to get off the beaten path.
It’s the spectacular historical landmarks.
It’s the diversity. From the blue sea to the lush green lands.
It’s the fact that you can be on the seaside for coffee in the afternoon and in a meadow, vineyard, or forest by dinner.
Istria is a charmer; it has me in a spell. A vacation in Istria will jam-pack your days with adventure, culture, gastronomical delights, and history.
Join me to discover a sample of what Central Istria has to offer.
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I haven’t experienced Istria in the summer, as I find it too beautiful in the spring and autumn to be bothered to join the hustle and bustle of the summer season. With it so much quieter, the cobbled streets of gorgeous towns like Motovun can (almost) be yours in late autumn, and you can experience a real sense of calm. Cooler temperatures mean long days of exploring are easier on the body, and your food cravings change, too, which is a good thing in the Istrian harvest of autumn. So much good food can be found – and for cheap!
In this quieter time, we love to enjoy the less-packed but still open restaurants. Belly warming soups like Istarska maneštra, an Istrian minestrone-bean-filled soup that will leave you feeling beyond satisfied when served with crusty bread and local wine.
What’s gold in the Istrian autumn is its abundance of white truffles. What might set you back 50 euros for white truffle shavings in New York or London is less than 20 euros for a hearty meal in Istria. If you’re any kind of a foodie, add it to your bucket list.
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Located between two of the most famous valleys in the Istria region, you will find Zminj. Lim Valley and Rasa Valley are lush, fertile, and packed with scenery, which should give you some idea of the beauty of Zminj itself.
Around this region, you will also find many different culturally significant sites, one of which is in the town center itself, in the form of a large tower citadel. The Old Town is a definite must-visit, packed with winding, cobbled streets, giving you an idea of times gone by.
On top of all this history and beauty, you will find gastronomy and delicious dishes to try in Zminj. Check out some of the local cuisines on offer, like a stop at Mljekara Latus. This milk bar opened its tasting room in March 2016, and they know cheese, so don’t be shy. Located in Žminj, not very far from Rovinj, the tasting room is one kilometer from the main road to Pula – Pazin, so it’s easy to make a stop to or from Pula. If cheese is your not bag, what about Istrian Ox?
This mouth-watering traditional dish can be enjoyed at Konoab Puli Pineta in Żminj; their specialty is meat, meat, and more yummy meat so that you won’t be disappointed.
And. of course, there are also many hiking and cycling routes to explore the stunning nature and landscapes around the region. It’s also an excellent way to burn off some of that food you gorged on in the town’s restaurants!
Grožnjan is a charismatic hilltop town known as the “town of artists,” thanks to the many galleries and studios that are located there.
In the summer, the town becomes a venue for art and music workshops. Its charm lies in its medieval architecture, cobbled winding streets, and just like all hilltop towns – the dramatic view over the valley below.
Buzet is a small town in Central Istria but one which packs a big punch. It’s the epicenter of the Croatian truffle trade.
The town itself is located on the top of a large hill, with sweeping views of the region. Buzet has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond. These days Buzet is most famous for the pungent subterranean fungus, which can be found in the area.
You’ll find all the big truffle producers in Buzet, one of which is Natura Tartufi, who have been truffle hunting for around 50 years. It’s here you can experience a truffle hunt for yourself and finish up the hunt trying some of their outstanding truffle products in their purpose-built tasting room.
If it’s a little hiking you after, take a walk along the beautiful seven waterfalls trail where you will follow a tributary of the Mirna river through pristine nature, crystal clear pools, and, as the name suggests, seven waterfalls.
Around 5 miles away from the town of Buzet, you will find Roč. The two towns are connected by a road which is not only beautiful and runs through some of the best scenery you are likely to see in the Istrian region, but it also has lots of historical importance too, the major drawcard being the Glagolitic Alley.
Here you will find 11 monuments that were erected to honor the development of the old Croatian Glagolitic script. The road itself is around 7km long and is not only historical but beautiful too. This is definitely one for the camera and history buffs.
The town of Roc itself is laid-back and charming and will show you plenty in the way of traditional life in the Istria region. There are many traditional restaurants where you can try some local favorites.
Hum (pronounced haah-m) is located in central Istria and claims to be It’s the World’s Smallest Town. When I first wrote about Hum, it had 21 inhabitants (2011 census), but it seems that between 2011, and 2017 there has been a baby boom. There are now 27 people who call Hum home – including four little ones.
I always shout out about how safe Croatia is for kids and how we love that part of our lives. But this small town must be the quietest and safest town to live with children. That is if you discount the two cobblestone streets. Yes, really, there are only two streets.
After wandering the tiniest town (it will take longer than you think as you’ll stop and take a million photos along the way), you should stop at Humska Konoba, a tavern that serves traditional Istrian meals.
We sat for some 2 hours overlooking the vineyards and olive groves, eating, drinking, and chatting. My suggestion is to plan your arrival at Hum around 10 am, wander the streets, and be seated before the crowds arrive. You’ll want to claim your table overlooking the delights below.
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The town of Pazin is located right in the center of Istria and has a long history. The Castle of Pazin dominates the town and is the best-preserved medieval castle in Istria.
Right beside the Pazin Old Town, you’ll find Pazin canyon, where thrill-seekers will have a blast zip-lining across the 100m deep canyon. If that’s a bit too much of an adrenaline rush for you and you would like to get off the beaten path, take a short drive and head for the Zarečki Krov waterfall, where you can sit by the waterfall and enjoy the serenity.
If that’s a bit too much of an adrenaline rush for you and you would like to get off the beaten path, take a short drive and head for the Zarečki Krov waterfall, where you can sit by the waterfall and enjoy the serenity.
Now, where in Central Istria will you explore first? Tell us below in the comments; we’d love to hear from you.