Historic, Active & Fun Things To Do In Istria Croatia

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Historic, Active & Fun Things To Do In Istria Croatia

Croatia makes a new ‘must-see list’ each week, and I agree – you must see it for yourself. While here, let me show you the astonishing beauty and color that awaits you when you visit Istria Croatia.

Istria is a region which is very popular with foreign sunseekers who flock to this peninsula to swim in the crystal clear Adriatic sea throughout summer. Towns like Rovinj and Poreč are teeming with holidaymakers sunbathing along her shores – but let us for a moment pack up the beach towels and head inland – to green Istria, where fertile lands abound, charming medieval hilltop towns keep watch and idyllic villages have maintained their character from centuries ago.

If you haven’t heard of Istria, it’s time you checked it out. This is Croatia’s little slice of heaven, with an Italian twist thrown in for good measure!

Packed with hilltop towns, beautiful hidden beaches, fragrant roses, delicious wines, and some of the cheapest truffles you’ll find anywhere else in the world, Istria is a big contender for one of Croatia’s best-kept secrets.

I know, you’re also planning to head to Dubrovnik or the Dalmatian Coast in general, but take note of this. Flights into Pula Airport are becoming more and more frequent, and after summer Istria is still open, and jam-packed with things to do.

To give you a little glimpse into what you can see, do, and experience in Istria, check out this fun list of ideas.

Bewitching Bale

Picturesque Bale is a small town made entirely from stone – in fact, it reminds me very much of one of the sets from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. Located in the southwestern part of Istria just 20km away from the city of Pula,  is where you will find one of my newest favorites Croatian towns – a town which is made up of 48% Italians and is officially bilingual.

Once in Bale, it’s hard to believe that the maze of cobblestone streets and neatly restored houses are just 7km from the Adriatic Sea.

What To Do In Bale

  • Paleontologists should head to the town museum where fossils of the remains of the histriasaurus dinosaur are on display
  • Wander up along the cobblestone streets to the recently restored Gothic-Renaissance style castle of the Bembo family and shoot photos of the town below
  • Keep your eyes peeled for the 400-year-old olive tree
  • If churches and old frescos are of interest be sure to find the key to the Holy Spirit Church built in the 15th-century

Smell The Roses In May

May is when the roses around Istria are in full bloom, and how fragrant they are! You will see every color imaginable, practically everywhere you look!

Historic Hum

Despite reading (and hearing) over and over that Hum is listed as the Guinness Book of Records holder for being the smallest town, I can not find proof. Nor can I find any other town in the world so small. The Vatican City is smaller, but it’s also a country, so you decide. Either way. I introduce to you the teeny tiny Town of Hum.

Located in central Istria, the walls which run around the outside of Hum are still intact and display the former defenses which once protected the town. There are now 27 people who call Hum home – including four little ones. All 27 live on one of Hum’s two streets.

What To Do In Hum

  • While there isn’t a lot regarding touristic attractions in Hum town, simply due to its size, it is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery you will set your eyes on and has a tavern which serves traditional Istrian meals
  • Admire the frescos in the Romanic chapel of St. Jerolim
  • Try the local Humska Biska, a brandy made from the town’s mistletoe. If you enjoy brandy, plan your visit in October when the Town of Hum holds a Grappa Festival. Local brandy producers from all over Istria come to show off their concoctions to win prizes

Head Underground In Cave Baredine

If you have always been fascinated by what lies beneath the surface then you should be heading to Cave Baredine, where you can check out amazing stalactites and some rare wildlife. Close to Porec, visitors venture 60 meters below the surface to explore the five chambers.

Memorable Motovun

Things To Do in Motovun - Croatia Travel Blog

Many of Istria’s most beautiful destinations are not large touristic towns with loud nightlife, but instead, they are small, quaint villages which are overflowing with nature and beauty. Motovun is one of these destinations.

Motovun is perched on a hill, which means you get incredible panoramic views of the surrounding areas. The village is lapped by the River Mirna, which flows at the bottom of the hill, almost creating a ‘moat’ feel, adding to its charm. One of the village’s claims to fame is that this region is home to some of the best truffles in Croatia, found in the Motovun Forest. This in itself is a beautiful destination, packed with flora and fauna to explore, as well as endemic wildlife, and is home to the black and white truffles coveted by many foodies around the globe.

Motovun - Share Istria - 3

What To Do In Motovun

  • Take a nature walk in the Motovun forest, or try your hand at truffle hunting.
  • Head into the Church of the Virgin Mary. Inside is a 16th-century wooden hand carved Renaissance style gold-plated altar.
  • Kick back and watch the killer sunsets while you enjoy a refreshment at one of the bars.
  • Paraglide baby! The trip will take you over the hilltop town of Buzet! Magic.

Brijuni National Park

Island Gaz_Brijuni | Travel Croatia Guide
Photo Credit: Renco Kosinožić Croatian TZ

Here you will find 14 islands, and the most visited are Veli Brijun and Mali Brijun; both of these islands are easy to reach. The landscapes on the island differ on each one, and they are so beautiful that they were declared protected back in 1983.

Eat Truffles (No Need To Break The Bank)

Facts about Croatia - White Truffle - Chasing the Donkey
Here Is One We Purchased And Shaved Over Pasta

Istria is one of the world’s cheapest places to enjoy this luxurious dish, and you will find them everywhere! Motovun and Livade (amongst others) are where you will find pasta dishes laced with truffles for a fraction of the price tag you would expect.

I didn’t know much about truffles until 2010 when Mr. Chasing the Donkey and I went to a white truffle festival in Alba, Italy. I will never forget walking up to the entry door of the building and being overwhelmed by the pungent aroma.

I was pulling faces and looking for an explanation of what the smell was. Initially, I was baffled. I had never smelt anything like it before, then, I soon realized it was the scent of white truffles. Now I am a total convert. I get my truffle fix any chance that I get.

For those of you that have not had the pleasure of tasting a white truffle, you’re probably wondering what is so special about them. It comes down to two things:

  • The scent and taste. It really is unique. Some people describe the smell of that of dirty socks, others, newly-plowed soil, fall rain or burrowing earthworms. The fact is you can’t describe it, or, at least I can’t.
  • White truffles are extremely rare and can only be collected from September to January each year. Put together something unique and rare and you have a highly valuable product. So valuable in fact, that the prices range from €900 -€5000 per kilo. Now that’s more than the price of gold!

Each year you can plan to get an overdose of truffles at the ‘Zigante Truffle Days’ in Livade (close to Motovun). This event transforms Livade into the center of Istrian truffles. Each weekend you can attend the truffle fair, an international exhibition of wine and other indigenous Istrian products (such as Istrian prosciutto, sausages, cheese, olive oil, and rakija), truffle hunting and cooking demonstrations.

More Information

In 2018, the truffle days are held each weekend from the 5th of September to 18th of November 2018. You can find the programme here. 

 

Test Some Authentic Olive Oil

Istrian Food in Istria Travel Blog Croatia - 1
Yummy Croatian Souvenirs: Brist Olive Oil

There is no shortage of olive oil in Istria.  In Poreč, you can head to the Agrolaguna tasting room, and not only taste some delicious olive oil but also learn about how it is made. Istrian olive oil is famous for its quality.

One experience you will enjoy is to head to the super sleek BRIST Olive Oil tasting shop in Vodnanj near Pula. I loved this experience with the Puhar family who run BRIST. They make extra virgin olive oils which are produced from traditionally grown native olive varieties from their six-hectare grove. They also hand-pick all the olives – no machines are used in the picking process. Yikes, that’s hard work.

Istrian Food Olive Oil From Istria

While at BRIST, buy a bottle of the BRIST Intenso Olive Oil! And, if you want to be daring when you get home, drizzle some of the oil over premium vanilla ice-cream – I know it sounds odd, but trust me, it’s a real treat.

If neither of these olive oil suggestions are on your route, you can also look into:

  • Chiavalon Olive Farm in Vodnjan
  • Agrolaguna in Porec
  • Ipsa Olive Oil Tasting Room in Livade

More Information

Address: Trgovačka 40, Vodnjan 52215

You can contact BRIST here.

 

Spend An Afternoon At A Winery

Things To Do In Slavonia _ Kutjevo Winery

Whilst we mentioned the open door policy of wineries during a weekend in May, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is to enjoy a day at a winery, learning about how they are made and testing them out too. Istria is packed with wineries, so you certainly have plenty to enjoy. Just be sure to call ahead, they are not always open, so you need to ask when to come by.

Enjoy The Open Wine Cellar Day

Oh, and if you love wine. Be sure to be in Istria during the last Sunday of May, the wineries around Istria open their doors and all visitors to check out free wine tastings, as well as learning how local wines are made.

Visit The Roman Arena In Pula

Pula, Istria. Driving Zagreb to Dubrovnik

This is the 6th largest amphitheater dating back to Roman times and it is certainly breath-taking. You can check out the Colosseum and the caves under the surface, as well as checking out the audio tour, which will help you learn more about it all.

Each July you can head to the Roman Arena and enjoy the Pula Film Festival.

Scuba Diving

Around Pula, you will find several spots for scuba diving, as well as the Brijuni National Park. You can earn your PADI certification here also. The waters around Rovinj are also popular spots, with several shipwrecks to explore, including Baron Gautsch.

Enjoy Porec Old Town

Things To Do In Porec Istria Croatia

A little like heading back in time, Porec Old Town is very well preserved and has various different types of architecture to enjoy, including Roman, gothic, baroque, and renaissance.

Head To The Sea Shore

Croatia Travel Blog_Best Beaches in Istria_Girandella Beach
Girandella Beach. Photo Credit: Erwan lher

The beaches in Istria are dramatic and beautiful, and whilst many head to the Dalmatian coast instead, they are missing out!

You’ve heard of Rovinj, no doubt, but you can also look at seaside entertainment such as Vrsar, Pula, Rabac, Poreč, Umag, and Novigrad. We made a list of amazing beaches in Istria that have the clearest of clear waters, great food and plenty of all -year-round festivities.

What to do in Istria  & which beach to check out first

  • Vrsar: This is a small, but energetic town. You can spend an hour wandering the waterside, and the Old Town. Oh, and from Vrsar you can check out ‘Aeropark’ a company that grants you the pleasure of a tandem skydive, or a panoramic flight starting at 150 kunas. Also look at 12th-century Vergottini Castle.
  • Pula:
  • Rabac:
  • Poreč:
  • Umag: Exceedingly well-preserved tower and town walls dating back to Roman times. Also, check out an olive oil tasting at ‘CUJ’.
  • Novigrad:

Listen To Summer Music In Goznjan

Autumn afternoon on Grozjnan | Croatia Travel Blog

During July and August, musicians flock to the small town of Goznjan for the School for Musicians. This isn’t a touristy place at all, and it’s quite hard to get to on public transport, but if you hire a car you can really enjoy the off the beaten track vibe, and the authentic way of life.

During the off-season months, you can find fabulous fall (or Spring) foliage and cafes to sit back and watch the world go by.

Enjoy The View From Rovinj Bell Tower

Things To Do In Rovinj - Croatia Travel Blog

Rovinj is an entire blog post of it’s on – you can see all of the things to do there here. There are lots to keep you busy in this charming seaside town – though each year I do feel it becomes much more touristy.

One thing you have to try is to climb the bell tower. It is famous and you can climb to the top for amazing views over this historic town. Be warned though – it’s not for the faint-hearted (or chubby!), the stairs are narrow and rickety.

 

Croatia Travel Blog_Things to do in Croatia_Things to See & Do in Istria

 

 

Other Things To Do In Istria

Visit Istria Labin - Croatia Travel Blog

I have not done or seen any of these things myself, but many of my travel buddies and local friendly highly recommended these:

  • Hike Ucka Mountain:  Istria’s highest mountain is easily hiked if you have a good standard of fitness, and there are many walking trails and paths to follow, taking various lengths of time. The Korita hiking trail takes just 45 minutes and takes you through beautiful forest and to the freshwater spring at the end of the trail. The views are seriously breath-taking.
  • Porer Lighthouse or Savudrija Lighthouse
  • Visit St. Andrew’s Island:
  • Mountain Biking In Motovun: There is an old railroad which runs from Trieste to Porec and is goes through Motovun, where some of the most dramatic scenery can be found. There is a very good cycling path here, and this is a popular activity to enjoy.
  • Rent a bike and sightsee on four wheels: You can use ‘Next Bike’ in Poreč, ‘RM Group’ in Rovinj or in Pula contact ‘Malupe’.
  • Take a foodie tour: Most are walkable which means you can also see the local sights. Start looking at these two Flavors of Istria or  Pula Walking Food Tour and if they do not suit. also look up one of these.

Things To Do In Istria With Kids

Family Hotel Amarin: Coloured Robes
Family Hotel Amarin Have Kid’s Sized Robes!

I need to sit down and write a detailed post on this – but to get you started with fun things to do in Istria with kids – that you’ll all enjoy start off with one (or all) of these fun activity  ideas:

  • Dino Park in Funtana: If you’re with children or you’re simply interested in prehistoric creatures, check out Funtana. There is an old quarry which is covered with thick wooded areas. There are rides, paths, and plenty of dinosaur fun
  • Glavani Park: If you are traveling with kids, certainly head to Glavani Park where they can run off some steam on the high ropes. Located close to Barban, a small village, here you will find the first suspension bridge across a valley in Europe
  • Take a boat ride to Cres Island
  • Punta Corrente Forest Park: Just 15 minutes from Rovinj you will be submerged into nature, and you can enjoy plentiful outdoor activities, such as swimming, jogging, and cycling
  • Pazin Castle: The Castle of Pazin is the biggest and best-preserved fortress in Istria
  • Pican: Check out the 14th Century St. Nicephorus Cathedral

These are just a few of the activities and experiences you can have in Istria, and there are plenty more besides. The region is downright beautiful and as natural as you will ever find anywhere, meaning that visitors who choose to check out the Dalmatian Coast rather than Istria are missing out in a big, big way!

Where will you go? What will you do? You’ll need to plan your visit, and you’ll need to do your research, so you don’t miss out on the good stuff!

#ShareIstria - In Partnership With The Tourist Board Of Istria

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This post is part of a series #ShareIstria. Part (but not all) of the costs of transport, accommodation, meals, and local guides required to bring you this guide were provided by the Istria Tourist Board. But, all opinions are mine. All recommendations are given wholeheartedly and without bias.

 
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Comments (2)

  1. Groznjan is my favourite, its an artists paradise and such a charming town. Croatia has so many dimensions. It needs to start marketing the North of the country more effectively to draw in the tourists from the US & Australia etc on top of their loyal neighbours.

    Sail Croatia trips have become a hit with Aussies etc in South of Croatia, but the North islands and coastline could do the same. Pag, Mali Losinj, Rab, Krk, Cres, Opatilja and Rovinj could become the basis of the Northern Croatia sailing legs.

    Central Croatia could also do the same and encompass. Murter & the Kornati Archipelago , Zadar and Long Island, Sibenik & Krka, Primosten & Vodice.

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