Picturesque bays, turquoise blue water and medieval mountain villages – the Istria region in Croatia is simply the perfect destination for a road trip. Why are you wondering? Well, in Istria there are so many different, beautiful places and sights in a small area. If you want to experience a lot in a short time, this is the place for you.
Perhaps you are considering making a trip through Istria and are still undecided which places are the most beautiful? Or are you wondering where is the best place to stay in Istria? Good news: You can find answers to all your questions in this blog article.
We have a detailed Istria travel guide with all our travel tips for your road trip put together. Curtain up for the most beautiful sights, the most enchanting places and our very personal insider tips for Istria.
1. Istria in Croatia: FAQs & first travel tips at a glance For orientation: Where is Istria and how do I get there? Istria is the largest peninsula on the northern Adriatic and stretches across three countries. By far the largest part belongs to Croatia, a part to Slovenia and a narrow strip of land to Italy. This blog article will be about the Croatian part of Istria.
From Austria the most popular way to get there is clearly overland. From Vienna you drive about six hours to Rovinj. (Important: do not forget the vignette for the motorway in Slovenia!) Arriving by plane from Germany is also an option. The largest airport is in Pula in the very south of Istria. You can find cheap flights on Skyscanner, for example.
Once you have arrived in Istria, long car journeys are no longer an issue. Istria is relatively small in terms of area. Or to put it another way: You rarely need more than an hour to get from A to B. This makes Istria a super road trip destination. By the way, we’ll tell you more travel tips for transport within Istria below this guide.
What makes Istria so special? Enjoyment: Istria is a culinary paradise! Truffles, olive oil, fish & seafood – the regional specialties run like a red thread through the menus of Istrian restaurants. The only drawback: Vegetarian cuisine is still the exception rather than the rule. However, we always found something and always had excellent food. Charming towns and villages: Whether on the coast or inland – in Istria there are countless pretty little towns with fascinating sights. We were particularly enthusiastic about Rovinj, Fažana, Grožnjan and Labin. You can find more information about the individual locations in Chapter 2 of this blog article. Beaches: Last but not least, Istria is of course also a popular destination for a beach holiday. We personally find the beaches in other parts of the country (e.g. Dalmatia) nicer, but of course there are also great bays in Istria. What is the best time to travel to Istria? Our standard answer to this question is usually: If possible outside of the high season. Istria is a very popular travel destination due to its proximity to Austria and Germany and this is particularly noticeable in the summer months.
Peak travel season in Istria We are of course aware that many people have no choice but to travel in July or August. In this respect we can reassure you: Of course you can also travel to Istria in midsummer.
However, you should be prepared for the fact that some travel destinations such as Rovinj or Pula will be extremely well visited . This means: It is best to book your accommodation early and reserve a table for dinner in popular restaurants in good time.
Summer has one advantage: The weather here is quite stable and the sea is usually pleasantly warm. However, you have to reckon with precipitation again and again in summer.
Low season in Istria Personally, we would recommend a trip in the low season. We ourselves were in May in Istria and even then there was surprisingly a lot going on. However, we always found a place in the desired restaurant without any problems, for example in the evening.
Otherwise we imagine September for an Istria road trip also very atmospheric before when the leaves are beginning to turn colour. In addition, the sea is usually still warmed up by the summer. So if you’re lucky with the weather, you can still swim in the sea in September.
Last but not least, autumn is also from a culinary point of view amazing. For example, the truffle season starts in mid-September. The coveted and valuable white truffle is then harvested.
Duration: How many days should I plan for an Istria road trip? In summary: It depends. Istria is a relatively manageable travel destination with small distances between the individual places. Everything is possible, from a short city trip to a one-week beach holiday or road trip.
3 to 4 days: If you only have about 3 to 4 days, we would recommend finding a home base. Here, for example, Rovinj (or its surroundings) is a good choice. From there you can of course also make one or the other trip inland or to other coastal towns.
5 to 7 days: Who a little more If you have time, you can of course make several stops at the same time. For example, we ourselves spent a few nights in Rovinj and a few in Labin and explored all of Istria from there.
Longer than a week: With a time budget of more than a week, we would personally almost consider also other parts of the country (e.g. the upper Dalmatian coast or an island) to visit. Of course, if you want to take it easy, you can only spend your time in Istria. You certainly won’t get bored – after all, there are really countless places to explore, as you will soon see.
2. The most beautiful places & sights in Istria Rovinj Let’s go with the jewel of Istria, the port town of Rovinj. Rovinj is considered the most beautiful town in the Croatian part of Istria. And quite honestly: We don’t want to contradict that. Rovinj is magical.
The winding, picturesque old town lies on a hill of a promontory. The most important sight, the bell tower of the Church of St. Euphemia, is enthroned in its centre. Climbing it and enjoying the spectacular view is, in our opinion, a must on a trip to Rovinj.
Rovinj is rightly one of the most popular travel destinations in Istria. This means: If you are looking for peace and seclusion, you are definitely wrong here. The lively harbor promenade in particular is a magnet for guests with its many cafés and restaurants.
We still like Rovinj very much and would highly recommend you to plan a stopover here when traveling to Istria. You simply have to see the town!
Here you will find all our tips: Rovinj sights
Pula Croatia or Italy? At first glance, you could almost think you’ve landed in Rome. The Roman town Pula in the very south is one of the most popular destinations in Istria, along with Rovinj.
In Pula there are lots of architectural highlights and sights from Roman times waiting for you, including the city’s landmark, the gigantic Colosseum.
Nevertheless, we have to admit that we were initially less enthusiastic about Pula than we thought. It may be that we were a bit spoiled by the picturesque old town of Rovinj, but somehow the spark between Pula and us didn’t quite fly.
Here you can find our detailed blog article: Pula travel tips
Cape Kamenjak The protected Cape Kamenjak is the southernmost tip of Istria. What awaits you here? In short: some of the most beautiful beaches in Istria. Dreamy bays are hidden along the rugged coast, where you can still find Croatia as you secretly hoped for.
Some parts of Cape Kamenjak can be accessed by car (for a fee), but almost exclusively gravel or sandy roads lead through the nature park. This not only meant that you should be reasonably proficient at driving, but also that an incredible amount of dust is stirred up. Although we always prefer the bike, we would (unfortunately) not recommend it here.
The southernmost tip is a popular destination for cliff divers. So if you are looking for an adrenaline rush, you can take the plunge here. But please exercise caution, the whole thing is not entirely harmless.
In this blog article you will find even more travel tips: Cape Kamenjak
Fažana The small coastal town of Fažana surprised us positively with its colorful stone houses and the cozy flair. Fažana is located on the west coast, only ten kilometers from Pula. It is therefore a good idea to combine a visit to these two cities.
What we liked so much about Fažana? The town is so pleasantly calm. The historic center is tiny, but very picturesque. The harbor promenade with its many restaurants and cafés is also worth seeing.
A little tip: You have a great view of Fažana from the jetty north of the center leads out to sea. Especially in the evening hours it is fantastic here. All in all, Fažana is a great place in Istria for a trip.
Vrsar Another port town that is one of our personal favourites: Vrsar. The old town of Vrsar is built on a slope and is really picturesque.
Vrsar is small but nice. We would plan about two to three hours for a visit. Worth seeing is zun next to the shore promenade. From there it goes through the narrow streets up towards Church of Sveti Martin.
Our tip: For refreshment we recommend the Caffe Bar Ladonja. The ambience on the small square is very nice. With a bit of luck you’ll get one of the tables under the gigantic tree with a view of the harbor and the sea.
Novigrad All good things come in threes: Novigrad is also a port town on the west coast of Istria. Personally, we liked Fažana and Vrsar better, but Novigrad is definitely worth a visit.
One of our favorite sights in Novigrad is the Loggia of the historic city wall, also called Belveder. This is not only a great photo motif, but the flair directly on the water is wonderful, especially in the early evening hours.
Another eye-catcher is the street with the colorful umbrellas , although we have to admit that the many souvenir shops cloud the impression a bit. We like it better on the water or on the promenade.
Labin From the coast to the interior: Labin is one of the most beautiful towns in the Istrian hinterland. You can expect a picturesque medieval town built on a hill with photo opportunities galore.
The old town is a friendly mix of colourful, Venetian-style buildings and sights as well as old stone streets. And best of all: Labin is actually still something of a insider tip in Istria – at least during our visit there was surprisingly little going on.
If you get hungry, we recommend a stop at Pizzeria Rumore. We ourselves have chosen Labin as one of our home bases in Istria and spent several nights here.
We will tell you even more tips in our detailed blog article: Sights in Labin
Motovun Welcome to what is probably the most famous mountain town Istria. Motovun is just a jewel from afar. The place sits majestically on a hill surrounded by lush green nature.
When you visit, you’ll soon realize that Motovun is very touristy. But it doesn’t matter – we still think the town is well worth seeing. In any case, you can look forward to a few sights.
Our tip: You should definitely not miss the walk on the historic city wall. The few Kuna entrance fees are well invested here. From the city wall you can enjoy fabulous distant views.
By the way, we had an excellent meal in the Konoba Mondo in the middle of the old town. A reservation certainly doesn’t hurt in the high season, because the restaurant is always busy.
In this article you will find even more tips: Motovun & other mountain villages
Grožnjan The picturesque mountain village Grožnjan has it for us personally particularly impressed. We came with no expectations – and were then all the more enthusiastic about the flair of the village.
Grožnjan is considered a artists’ village. In the The narrow streets of the medieval old town are lined with studios and galleries. Altogether it should be far more than 30 being. In any case, one notices immediately: Creativity is at home here.
Our tip: Just let yourself drift and enjoy the relaxed, creative flair far away from mass tourism. One of the most beautiful places in Grožnjan, in our opinion, is where the City Loggia is located – a building made from 16. century.
Bale A small Istrian insider tip is the medieval town of Bale. When you walk through the stony alleyways, you really believe that time has stood still. What a special flair!
Bale is tiny small and there are (with the exception of the church) hardly any sights worth mentioning. Nevertheless (or maybe because of that) we really liked it.
Our tip: We paid a visit to the olive oil producer Bembo in Bale. If you want to take delicious Istrian olive oil home with you, you’ve come to the right place.
3. Transport Travel Tips: Getting from A to B in Istria While it is possible to get from A to B in Istria by public transport (by bus, to be precise), we would definitely recommend the choice of Recommend cars – be it your own or a rental car.
Tips for booking a rental car If you are not traveling to Istria with your own car, you can do so on site rent a car, of course. This is possible, for example, in Pula (e.g. at the airport), but of course also in some cities such as Rovinj or Poreč.
We almost always book our rental cars with Sunny Cars. Sunny Cars is a platform that compares the offers of various rental car companies. So you book through Sunny Cars, but then pick up your car from a local company (e.g. Hertz).
The big advantage: you always get a from Sunny Cars. Fully comprehensive insurance. In the event of damage (also self-inflicted), Sunny Cars will even reimburse you for the deductible. We have used it ourselves and would never travel without such insurance again.
You can search for cheap rental cars here: Sunny Cars
Parking in Istria In most towns and villages there are one (or more) public parking lots near the center. Important to know: These are almost always chargeable. Our tip: It is worth having coins ready for the parking machine .
You can also park your car on the side of the road, but you have to pay attention to the markings. Short-term parking zones are usually marked with a blue line on the ground. You can also pay here using the parking machine.
Tolls in Istria Some roads in Istria (eg the highway from Umag to Pula) are tolled. There is no vignette for Croatia. You usually take a ticket when you drive up and pay with cash or card when you leave.
Because Istria is fairly small in terms of area, the tolls are relatively low (unlike Dalmatia, for example, where you drive hundreds of kilometers). A rough guide: For 684 kilometers it about 8 euros.
4. Culinary Istria: specialties & tips for restaurants Regional specialties in Istria Istria really is a culinary paradise! The cuisine is heavily influenced by neighboring Italy. Istria is well-known for the following specialities:
Truffle: Istria is a truffle Mecca! Istria has the perfect conditions for truffles. They grow especially around Motovun and are served all over Istria. We rediscovered our love for truffles in Istria and enjoyed pasta with truffles at least once a day. So delicious! Olive oil: Olives have been cultivated in Istria since Roman times. Istrian olive oils are excellent and are regularly voted among the best in the world. Our tip: We visited the organic olive oil producer Ipša (near Motovun) and stocked up on olive oil there. Fish & seafood: It is due to the location of Istria that fish and seafood are a fixed part of almost all restaurants. However, overfishing is a big issue. It is not uncommon for the fish that people think of as “regional” to come from far away. We personally therefore avoid saltwater fish and seafood. Great cafes & restaurants in Istria: Our tips Different than in other parts of Croatia, Istria has a surprising number of restaurants of a very high standard. Istria is a small gourmet paradise. We would therefore like to present our favorite discoveries to you.
La Grisa (Bale): Perhaps our favorite restaurant in Istria. We ate so deliciously here that we still rave about it to this day. In addition, the location in the middle of the medieval town of Bale is great and the service is excellent.
Konoba Mondo (Motovun): We had a surprisingly good meal in the middle of tourist Motovun. The Konoba Mondo is not an insider tip, but definitely highly recommended. Reservations are highly recommended!
Stari Podrum (Momjan, near Umag): This family-run restaurant offers excellent Istrian cuisine of a very high standard in a secluded location . It is one of the best in Istria.
Mediterraneo Bar (Rovinj): Our very favorite bar in the entire Istria trip. Here you can sit right by the water and enjoy coffee specialties or cocktails. Young, relaxed and informal flair – highly recommended.
La Grisa Mediterraneo Bar 5. Accommodation in Istria: Our accommodation tips One home base or multiple stopovers? Whether you spend your time in Istria in one place or plan several stopovers on your road trip is a question of time and taste.
Since the distances in Istria – as already described – comp are easily manageable, you can theoretically reach every corner of Istria as a day trip from anywhere. It is almost never more than an hour by car to get from A to B.
It makes sense to decide on a single Homebase. In this case, we would recommend the west of Istria, because that’s where most of the interesting places and sights are. Personally, we would choose accommodation outside of a city center. There are really well renovated historical estates in Istria. A hot tip, for example, is the San Tommaso Relais and Wine, which we will present in more detail in a moment.
Nevertheless, there are of course advantages several stopovers plan and explore the surrounding region from there. For example, we ourselves spent a few days in Rovinj (western Istria) and a few in Labin (eastern Istria).
Our personal hotel tips for Istria Rovinj If you plan to stay overnight in Rovinj, then we have a great tip to you. We chose the boutique hotel The Melegran – high recommendation!
The hotel is located in a historic, lovingly restored house in the middle of the old town of Rovinj, very close to all major sights. Each room is completely individually furnished with an incredible amount of love and a flair for detail .
Our conclusion: Perfect for a city stay in Rovinj! If you are looking for a really great place to stay with a feel-good factor, then we can only warmly recommend this gem of a hotel.
You can book the hotel here: The Melegran
Labin We can also highly recommend the colorful mountain village of Labin as a stopover. Here you can look forward to a friendly, Venetian-style town in the Istrian hinterland.
We stayed in the highly recommended Terra Residence Labin. A modern designed hotel awaits you here in a restored historic building.
Our conclusion: Top value for money and a very familiar atmosphere. Thanks to the hotel’s own parking spaces (only a few minutes away), the place is also a great starting point for exploring this corner of Istria.
You can book accommodation here: Terra Residence Labin
Bale If you are looking for quiet accommodation in a rural setting, then we recommend the San Tommaso Relais and Wine. This historical, beautifully renovated country estate is located outside the small village of Bale.
There are only four rooms – you can look forward to a very familiar and personal atmosphere. Thanks to the pool and the absolute quiet location, you can also relax wonderfully here.
Our conclusion: The accommodation is strategically located for excursions, offers everything your heart desires and is simply an oasis of well-being. We recommend.
You can book accommodation here: San Tommaso Relais and Wine
6. Map: The most beautiful places & tips for Istria at a glance Finally, we have marked all the places for your road trip through Istria on this map. Our tip: If you click on the rectangle at the top right, you can open the map on your smartphone in the Google Maps app.
Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
Do you have ever made a road trip through Istria? Which places did you particularly like? Please tell us about your experiences in the comments. We look forward to your additional travel tips!