Europe Exceptional Trips

Exceptional trips 2023: Istria

Explore Croatia’s ‘Terra Magica’ with Sunvil.

Stunning landscapes, delicious cuisine and friendly people – these are just a few of the reasons why Istria is on our list of Exceptional Trips for 2023. Find our more with Sunvil, a tour company offering handcrafted holidays to lesser-known places…

Never have truer words been spoken than when the Romans called Istria the ‘magic land’ – ‘Terra Magica’.

Blessed with a beauty that seems familiar and exotic at the same time, this heart-shaped region to the north-west of Croatia brings together Venetian heritage, continental influences and local myths. The magic is in the feast this lush land brings to the senses and the way it captivates the soul. From its rolling hills, excellent vineyards, olive groves, hilltop villages and snow-capped mountains, to its resplendent fishing communities, bordered by turquoise Adriatic waters, there is majesty waiting at every turn.

Why should Istria be at the top of your 2023 bucket list? 

Home to myriad lesser-known gems, Istria is a destination loved by many that will set the heart of even the most well-travelled pounding.

There’s a lot more to Istria than it’s coastline – take the unique Hinterland pictured here as an example © Sunvil

Yes, this beautiful region of Croatia is home to a picturesque coastline where even in the height of season, you can find a spot to call your own – but that’s not all.

Take a moment to drive the roads which wind up through the bucolic hillsides and connect the region’s renowned hilltop towns and villages. The vistas (220m above sea level) stretch towards the Adriatic blue and call to be appreciated. It is here that you’ll find Livade, the Centre of the Truffle World; the Motovun forest, an area of 275 hectares now declared a special vegetation reserve, and one of the three preserved lowland autochthonous forests on the Mediterranean; and the medieval castle of Boljun. An additional must-visit is Pazin’s castle. Dating from 983 AD, the mysterious abyss located below its walls makes it a destination full of intrigue.

Towns like Rovinj are a prime example of Istria’s beauty © Sunvil

For the more independent traveller, experiencing the contrast between a rural stay in Istria’s inland valleys and a seaside escape is an award-winning combination. Choose from the picture-perfect village of Fazana, with its pastel-coloured buildings and pebble beaches; the historical Roman town of Pula, home to the iconic Roman amphitheatre; Rovinj, one of the most stunning locations in all of Istria, or Porec – a charming town with an impressive 6th century Basilica. This is not to mention the Brijuni islands, one of Croatia’s most impressive National Parks.

Doing things slowly

Of course there are sights aplenty, but it is in practising the art of slow travel that visitors will truly discover the rich heritage, myths and traditions on which Istria is founded. Enjoy a stroll in the mountains, horse-ride along the Mirna River valley or cycle along the route of the former Parezana railway line which once connected Venice with Porec. Whatever you do, be sure to take the time to be among the Istrians, visit local markets and breathe the country air – we guarantee you won’t be disappointed that you did.

Istria’s olive oil is considered some of the best in the world © Sunvil

A highlight of any journey to the hinterland is the discovery of its incredible culinary diversity, influenced by both the continent and the Mediterranean. The white truffle, delicate wines, and olive oil considered “the best in the world”, will have you eager for more. Tastings and tours can be arranged for visitors, and there are an abundance of food festivals to enjoy throughout the year…after all, produce of this quality is worth celebrating. 

More information

You can find more information about this Exceptional Trip, including details on how to book it, on the Sunvil website.

See the full list of 2023 Exceptional Trips here.