Istria is the most northerly province of Croatia with a great sweep of coastline jutting out into the Adriatic. There are influences from its neighbours - Italy, Slovenia and Austria which make this part of Croatia a little different and quite special. The scenery is simply stunning, the coastline, mediaeval villages, inland hills and the history - most noteworthy is the magnificent Roman amphitheatre in Pula (third largest in the world after Rome and Verona).
Referred to by some as the "Little Tuscany surrounded by the sea" this alludes to both its landscape and the historic Italian influence on the people and places of Istria. The hillside villages, such as Motovun, vineyards and agriculture in general will certainly trick your senses at times to believing you are indeed in Tuscany.
We feature a personal selection of fantastic small hotels in the region - these include the fabulous resorts of Pula, Rovinj, Opatija [actually part of the Kvarner region but included here], Porec, Rabac and Lovran as well as the simply stunning hill town of Motovun. During your visit why not also make acquaintance with historical places such as Hum, the smallest town in the world and don’t overlook a visit to one of many agro-tourist households and sample the truffles or excellent local food and wine. Visit the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč or St. Euphemia’s Basilica in Rovinj, both UNESCO world heritage sites – a must for history buffs.
Pula is located on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and has been an important port for at least 3000 years. Its Roman amphitheatre is the biggest outside of Italy, in fact it is still a great venue for concerts featuring international artists. Pula is also host to a film festival in early August each year. Other sights in Pula include the Arch of Segius, the Forum and the Temple of Augustus.
The large harbour in Rovinj with its waterside restaurants leads out along narrow cobbled streets hiding away a wonderful array of shops, galleries and cafes into the town itself where there are tiny squares and historic building sporting family crests from a proud and glorious past. The colourful facades are visible almost in layers from the sea climbing up to the church of St. Euphemia at the top. The coastline here is a protected Natural Heritage Area and a beautiful place to explore all year round. Facing west the town's cafes and bars are famous for views of the sunset over the Adriatic. An excellent place to treat yourself to a meal of freshly caught fish.
Motovun is an ancient Istrian acropolis town situated on the top of a 277m hill whose current appearance originates from the Middle Ages. The longest Istrian stairway with 1052 stairs leads to the top of the Motovun hill and its Venetian town square. From such a rich heritage Motovun has so many sights such as the renaissance palace, the city lodge, the parish church of St. Stjepan all surrounded by the medieval arrangement of the streets with emblems on the front of buildings. The position and landscape of Motovun make it one of the most beautiful older cities on the Mediterranean. Hotel Kaštel is located on the main town square, in a 17th century palace.
Vineyards are spread all around Motovun where the grapes for the famous Istrian wines Teran and Malvasia grow, while the Motovun forest, which spreads kilometres through the Mirna valley is the habitat for the famous underground mushroom - the truffle - which is dug out in this area with the help of specially trained dogs. Summer and early autumn is the time the black truffles grow (Tuber Aestivium) and during late autumn and winter the tastiest and most expensive white truffles are taken out (Tuber magnatum-Pico). In October the Days of Truffles are marked in several places in the Mirna valley, and meals with truffles are the pride of the Hotel Kaštel in Motovun.
Opatija, an elegant tourist destination, is the centre of the Riviera with the longest tourism tradition in Croatia. Its advantageous location, flourishing vegetation and pleasant climate are the reasons for the beginning and boom of tourism at the end of the 19th century. Built mostly at the turn of the 20th century, Opatija has preserved a discreet harmony with nature through to the present day. Its parks, illuminated seawall (the 12 km Lungomare), exquisite beaches and beautiful fountains are a picture frame for Opatija's numerous villas and hotels.
Opatija is situated in the Kvarner Bay, the point where the Mediterranean cuts deepest into Central Europe, into the foot of the Učka Mountain (1,401m). Because of its relatively stable temperatures (winter average: 7°C, summer average: 22°C), its high pressure and constant circulation of air, Opatija´s climate is calming and refreshing. The contrast of the sea and mountains, the greenery of its parks (full of cedars, palms, magnolias, wisteria and mimosa) and the blueness of the water, the old buildings and quiet resorts make Opatija and its surroundings captivating for tourists all year long.
Porec is almost two thousand years old and is a seaport protected by the islet of St. Nicholas. The climate is extremely mild, free of oppressive summer heat (August is the warmest month with an average of just 30°C and low humidity). The city has an average of more than 10 hours of sunlight on a summer day, the sea temperature can rise to 28°C, which is higher than the temperature in southern Croatia. The landscape has rich Mediterranean vegetation, with pine forests. The fertile red soil is ideal for the production of organic foods, olives, grapes and quality wine varieties such as Malvasia, Gamay, Merlot, Pinot, and Teran, an important part of Porec economy.
The tourist town of Novigrad is situated on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula, at the western gateway to Croatia; it is reputed to have the warmest sea temperature and offers visitors a rich monumental heritage. Just 50 km from Trieste and 70 km from Pula. Over the years the small town of Novigrad, which used to be a quiet fishing village, has become an attractive destination for tourists from all over Europe and the world. Novigrad has preserved its irresistible charm; however, offering a distinctive, almost intimate, atmosphere typical of small Mediterranean towns. The town’s fortification, the stone walls dating back to the 13th century are the most precious jewel from the rich treasury of the Novigrad’s historical heritage. The town walls have preserved the rich history of the town, its valuable cultural heritage, traditions and culture, its rich gastronomy, as well as the kindness and hospitality of its people.
Rabac in the middle of the east coast is in a beautiful bay well known for its numerous restaurants and its nearby small resort villages of Duga Luka and Ravni. The old town of Labin is just inland with its Venetian palaces, churches and high fortress offering views back down to Rabac and the coastline for many miles.
Lovran, once the winter holiday resort of Austrian nobility is a small medieval town on the eastern coast of the Istrian Peninsula, just southwest of Rijeka on the Adriatic coast. Lovran is fringed by luxuriant gardens, groves of pine, chestnut and cherry and sits below the mountain and Nature Park Ucka, part of the Opatija Riviera in Kvarner Bay. Linked to Opatija by the famous "Lungomare" coastal path, Lovran is a relaxing place which offers the visitor excellent fish cuisine and other local specialities in some fine restaurants and old taverns. A particular favourite of the area is the Chestnut (try the sweet cake, Maruni).
Pazin - a town in the heart of Istria. Jules Verne wrote about its most valuable monuments, the thousand-year-old Kaštel and the Pazin pit, in his novel “Mathias Sandorf”. Today the castle houses a musuem and you can fly across the "pit" on a zip line.
Buzet - approximately twenty kilometres north-east of Motovun and known as the “City of Truffles”. Some great local products made from truffles, mushrooms, olives and honey are fabulous reminders of the high quality cuisine of the area to take home.
Roc - approximately 10 kilometres from Buzet, this town has well-preserved walls, the oldest cannon in Istria and a Venetian bomber from the 15th century. The town is an important, historical centre of Glagolism and between here and Hum is the Avenue of Glagolitic priests made of 10 monuments set there between 1977 and 1981 as a tribute.
Hum - is a small mediaeval town located on a stretched out hill which dominates the landscape. The town has walls, a lodge and a parish church; it is also called the smallest town in the world.
Lim Bay - a protected landscape and underwater reserve (since 1964). The Lim Bay (or channel) was created by the flooding of the limestone karst canyon and is one of the most beautiful landscapes of Istria. It is a geomorphologic phenomenon with cliffs rising up to 150 meters above sea level.
Brijuni National Park - the Brijuni Islands National Park, an ancient summer residence of many presidents, is today the home of exotic animals. Many boat trips are available from the small port of Fazana (about halfway between Pula and Rovinj).
Učka Nature Park - view the Istrian peninsula from 1400m above the sea. Explore the rich flora and fauna of this beautiful mountain.
Islands of Kvarner - a tour to the neighbouring islands – Krk, Cres, Lošinj, Susak – will make your stay unforgettable. Susak, the island made of sand, offers some excellent wines. Krk, the largest island in the Adriatic Sea, hides one of the oldest memorials written in the old Glagolitic script. Cres is well known as a natural habitat of endemic species. The waters of Lošinj, the island with the most therapeutical climate, are home to Mediterranean dolphins.
Where to visit
Opatija, an elegant tourist destination, is the centre of the Riviera with the longest tourism tradition in Croatia.
Pula is located on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and has been settled for at least 3000 years. Its Roman amphitheatre is the biggest outside Italy.
Where to stay
The Mauro Hotel is situated on the southern walls of the medieval town of Porec. A unique experience awaits you - there are 21 rooms in which there is contemporary design and elegance.
The hotel Villa Annette is situated on a protected slope overlooking the bay of Rabac with wonderful panoramic views over Kvarner bay to the islands of Cres, Lošinj and Unije beyond. Open all year.
Things to do
"We just wanted to thank you for a wonderful holiday, it was so interesting and different at each stop we had and also the trips in between. The hotels were all good and everything went very smoothly. We really enjoyed Istria and Slovenia was lovely."
R Gough, UK, July, 2019
"Absolutely loved our experience of Slovenia, scenery, people, food and wine. Having this sandwiched with a couple of resorts in Istria worked well, and the circular trip provided an excellent balance of beach, city break, lakes, mountains, treks and history. Thank you for helping us plan a memorable and enjoyable trip."
C Poulsen, UK, Sept 2018
"Galeb Hotel - Opatija. After a lovely drive through the countryside of Croatia, the rolling Tyrol style villages and pastures (we saw a lot of evidence of the war 20 years ago where many villages were still unoccupied or only just starting to come back to life - many derelict houses being slowly repaired) we saw the complete change in Coastline and much more like the Italian Riviera. Opatija was a nice town and our hotel was very 'genteel', quite formal but we had a lovely room and enjoyed a stroll along the front to the next village looking for a restaurant as most of them seemed to be attached to other hotels or just bars. We found a great modern restaurant in Opatija behind the coast street callled Ruzmarin which we would highly recommend."
K Saville, UK, June, 2017
"Villa Oasiss, Medulin - This was a gorgeous hotel - really modern, beautiful room and bathroom and a great pool area. It was totally private and on the last day we had the pool to ourselves all day. We did have quite a bit of trouble finding it as we had been unable to download the map for this and couldn't get a signal so we drove to Medulin hoping to just stumble across it (most of the towns listed the hotels as you entered and pointed you in the general direction) but we couldn't find it anywhere. Instead we found a Tourist information office - incidentally the most unwelcoming people we came across in the whole of Croatia which seemed strange given their job! and they discovered that the hotel wasn't in Medulin but in Vinkuran about 5 miles away. There is nothing in the village so if you want any sort of night life then this is probably not the place but with a car it is perfect. The staff were all lovely - the girls really spoilt us and Stefan the manager couldn't have been more helpful if he tried - he wanted to take us out in his car and show us around.... They do have a large screen in the garden and music playing in the evening and they also do food - on the last night there was a BBQ and a man playing live music. We visited Pula and Rovinj from there, both really easy and also the peninsular NP where you can sunbathe, cycle of do water sports. It was the perfect relaxing end to the holiday."
K Saville, UK, June, 2017
"Hotel Milan was very good: comfortable accommodation, very welcoming and friendly staff, and the food was excellent - the best of our whole stay, though much more expensive. The location was fine, half an hour walk into the city and 5 minutes from the beach."
R Swain, UK, Oct 2015
"Amazing country, amazing holiday. Package helpfully and expertly put together by rediscover to meet my many requirements. Is always slightly challenging for us to find suitable accommodation as a father with two older teens, so I really appreciate the effort that was made to find us proper triple rooms in friendly family run hotels in amazing locations. If I had been a bit more sensible, we should probably have cut out the one night stays (2 nights in Dubrovnik rather than 3 would have been adequate), but had we done so we would have missed out on the amazing hotel in Motovun for example, and I loved everywhere we stayed."
E Hunter, UK, August, 2015