Istria – for sundowners, UNESCO-listed sightseeing & truffles

Explore hilltop towns and Roman ruins along Croatia’s spectacular Istrian Peninsula. 

Written by Bradt Travel Guides


You’ve done Dubrovnik and you’ve sampled Split – it’s time for something different. The Istrian Peninsula dangles at the head of the Adriatic and has a cultural and geographic identity unique to the region. Distances here are small meaning a long weekend is just about enough time to wander through the Venetian splendour of Rovinj, take in the rolling olive groves punctuated by traditional stone shepherds’ huts and visit UNESCO-listed mosaics and some fine Roman ruins.  And, with direct flights to Pula from several UK airports, it’s easily accessible to boot. Here’s how to make the most of that long weekend.

Head straight to Rovinj. This once-upon-a-time island town is, at this time of year, the perfect place to shake off the winter blues – the weather is warm and you’ve beaten the summer crowds. There’s no shortage of cafés along the harbourfront. Pick a spot in the sun overlooking the old town and simply soak up the views as the sun sets. And relax.

Rovinj, Istria, Croatia by Anna MooresThe view of Rovinj over its bay © Anna Moores

The next day explore the twisting cobbled streets of the old town, take in the magnificent view from the grounds of St Euphemia Church before hiring bikes and heading out along the coast through the Zlatni Rt Nature Reserve. There’s plenty of opportunity for refreshments en route.

You’ve earned a real treat this evening so, for the best sunset in town, head to the Puntulina restaurant. Grab a cushion and enjoy a sundowner on the rocks. It’s well worth reserving a table if you choose to eat here (and why not, you’re on holiday after all) either on the rocks or on one of the restaurant’s balconies.

Puntulina, Istria, Croatia by Anna MooresThe Puntulina restaurant is a great place for an evening cocktail on the rocks © Anna Moores

The following day brings choices: stick to the coast and head to Poreč to ogle UNESCO-protected Byzantine mosaics in the basilica or head inland and visit the spectacularly sited mountain villages of Istria’s truffle-rich interior. If you choose the latter, highlights might be pretty Grožnjan – ‘town of artists’: its tiny streets filled with galleries and studios, the views over the Mirne Valley superb. Or perhaps Motovun – its stunning location, atop a 277m hill, is enough to tempt the visitor alone. Try to lunch here: cosy Konoba Mondo offers a delicious range of truffle and homemade pasta dishes. If film locations are your thing, don’t miss picture-perfect Draguć which has appeared in both Croatian and international productions.

Arena, Pula, Istria by Anna MooresThe Roman amphitheatre in Pula © Anna Moores

Sadly it’s home time, but if your flight allows, make sure you take a stroll around Pula with its wonderful Roman sites: from the Sergius Arch, the Temple of Augustus to the city’s pièce de résistance – the amphitheatre: the sixth largest in the world and best preserved outside of Rome. There’s a full walking tour of Pula’s Roman heritage in Istria: the Bradt Guide which means you’ll miss nothing. Hint hint.

Are you now tempted to explore Istria? Here’s 10% off our guide:

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