The ultimate travel guide for a road trip through Istria, Croatia

Istria is Croatia's westernmost province. The peninsula is best known for its picturesque coastal towns on the azure Adriatic Sea. While the interior of Istria is similarly stunning, with green hills, authentic villages, and winding roads ideal for a memorable road trip. Discover all the highlights of Istria in this travel guide filled with tips and incredible sites.

The ultimate travel guide for a road trip through Istria, Croatia

Istria is Croatia's westernmost province. The peninsula is best known for its picturesque coastal towns on the azure Adriatic Sea. While the interior of Istria is similarly stunning, with green hills, authentic villages, and winding roads ideal for a memorable road trip. Discover all the highlights of Istria in this travel guide filled with tips and incredible sites.
Istria is Croatia's westernmost province. The peninsula is best known for its picturesque coastal towns on the azure Adriatic Sea. While the interior of Istria is similarly stunning, with green hills, authentic villages, and winding roads ideal for a memorable road trip. Discover all the highlights of Istria in this travel guide filled with tips and incredible sites.

Istria, Croatia’s Little Italy

Istria was previously part of Italian territory. The architecture, culture, way of life, rolling vineyards, and delicious cuisine reflect the region’s blending of Italian and Croatian culture. Part of the population in Istria is Italian and place names are frequently displayed in both Italian and Croatian. Istria is close to Italy, so it is possible to go on a day trip to Venice.

The 5 most beautiful towns & cities in Istria

1. Romantic Rovinj

By far our favorite place in Istria is Rovinj. This picturesque city has a vibrant historic center with colorful houses, winding streets, atmospheric bars and restaurants and magical glimpses of the water around the city.

The best thing to do is to get lost in the Old Town’s maze of charming streets. Then climb the hill to St. Euphemia Church. From here, you can see the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding small islands. Many artists gather in this area of the city to create the most beautiful paintings of Rovinj’s colorful streets. Lovely to have as a souvenir!

Continue strolling through the center, notice the cute balconies and cozy squares, and stop for a delicious Italian ice cream at Gelateria Italiana, which is run by an Italian family. Meanwhile, stroll down to the harbor to enjoy the pleasant atmosphere and the bobbing boats.

Finish the day with a cocktail at bar Mediterraneo. This bar, nestled among the rocks on the water, is ideal for watching the sunset. The last rays of sunlight illuminate the waves on the water, and when it gets dark, all of the little lights turn on. Cheers to a fantastic day!

2. Ancient port city Poreč

Poreč is an old port city in western Istria, right on the Adriatic Sea. The crystal clear water here turns several shades of blue. Poreč is vibrant, and strolling through the streets lined with restaurants, wine bars, and boutiques is the best thing to do.

The Euphrasian Basilica is a must-see in Poreč. This stunning basilica, believe it or not, dates from the 6th (!) century. It is no surprise that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can enter the complex for €7 per person (prices are from in May 2022). Admire the centuries-old mosaic floors, explore the bishops’ former residences, and climb the bell tower for a 360-degree view of the city’s orange-colored rooftops.

3. Artistic Grožnjan

The hilltop village of Grožnjan is reached via winding narrow roads. This walled city was once an important Venetian fortress. The Italian influences can be seen in the narrow streets, squares, stone houses, and views of vineyards and olive trees. Grožnjan is now the only village in Croatia where there are more Italians than Croats.

Grožnjan is a great place for creative people. It is a cultural hotspot with numerous art galleries and studios to visit. Concerts, festivals, and exhibitions are held here beginning in early May and continuing through the summer. There are also workshops in dance, art, music, and drama led by well-known experts.

The village is automobiles-free. There are a few paid parking spots just before entering the village. You can also park for free here. Grožnjan is a 10-minute walk from this parking lot.

Stop by this viewpoint by car for scenic views of Grožnjan and its green surroundings.

4. Enchanting Motovun

Motovun, located at the top of a hill, has a population of just over 500 people and about as many cats. This charming walled village has plenty to see and do. Explore the medieval city walls, admire the 17th-century Church of St. Stephen, and discover the 27-meter-high bell tower from the 13th century.

What you should not miss is the magical sunset, which can be seen from the many viewpoints in Motovun. You look directly out over the valley, the river Mirna, which flows beneath the village, and the Motovun forest.

The Motovun forest is plentiful in black and white truffles, which are found by specially trained dogs. The world’s largest white truffle, weighing 1.3 (!) kilograms, was found in the Motovun forest in 1999. A place in the Guinness Book of World Records drew foodies from all over the world to Motovun to taste its delicacies. In Motovun, there are several restaurants with beautiful views of the green interior and delicious dishes made with Istrian truffle. You can also do truffle tastings at one of the many truffle shops, get the best local truffle products, or go on a truffle expedition with the dogs and their trainers in the area.

Butoniga, a beautiful water reservoir, is a 20-minute drive from Motovun. Navigate to the Ukotići viewpoint for the best views of the reservoir.

5. Roman Pula

Pula was a bustling trade center during the Roman era, and Roman influences can be found throughout the city. The Temple of Augustus, the Cathedral of Pula, and the Triumphal Arch of Sergius are all impressive sights.

Pula’s main attraction is its well-preserved amphitheatre, which can hold up to 23,000 spectators to watch the gladiator fights. You can go inside the amphitheater for 70 kuna (prices are from May 2022). This fantastic location also hosts concerts and festivals during the summer.

All of Pula’s highlights are close around each other and can be easily explored in two hours.

Visit Kamenjak National Park

Istria’s southernmost part, Kamenjak National Park, is home to tropical bays and beaches, as well as white cliffs surrounded by clear blue water. In all of Istria, this area has the most sunshine hours (2300 hours). You could easily spend an entire day exploring the national park. Prepare for a day of cliff jumping, sunbathing, cave kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling, and beach bar hopping. In Kamenjak National Park, everything is possible.

How much time do you need in Istria

To make the most of your time in Istria, we recommend staying for at least 3 to 4 days. This allows you to visit several villages and towns at your leisure and alternate sightseeing with a day in nature.

Best time to visit Istria

Istria has a Mediterranean climate, so temperatures in the summer range between 25 and 30 degrees. Staying here in the spring is also a good idea because of the mild temperatures. That is why the months of May to August are ideal for visiting Istria. Because Istria has a maritime climate, it rains all year, with a higher chance of rain and peaks from September to February. In the winter, temperatures can drop to 9 degrees. So, Istria is not a winter sun destination.

Staying in Istria

Because Istria is a small province, it is possible to stay in one location and explore the entire region from there. In our opinion, Rovinj is the ideal destination for lodging. It is the perfect atmospheric city to return to every evening.

Find the perfect accommodation

Traveling to Istria

Istria can be reached in several ways.

By plane

Flying is the fastest way to get to Istria. Airport Pula is Istria’s international airport. Direct flights are available from a number of European cities. Find the most affordable flight.

By car

Traveling to Istria by car is by far the most practical option. This way, you have complete freedom to visit every location listed in this guide. Are you traveling by plane to Pula? Then, to explore the area, consider renting a car. Istria can also be the starting point for an unforgettable road trip through Croatia.

Rent a car


We are Abel & Danique, the enthusiastic travel couple behind HappyTravelSpots. With this blog we want to prepare you for your next travel so you know where to find all the happy travel spots. 

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