Ultimate List for Every Hedonist: Istria Region – the One That Has It All
It is difficult to single out what you should explore and visit during your holiday since Istria seems to have a bit of everything. We know – it is irresistible to visit! To help you out a bit, we have decided to make themed bucket lists so you can choose what to explore next in this enchanting region.
LIST 1: FOR GOURMANDS AND BEYOND
1. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
World-renowned liquid gold, extra virgin olive oil is a trademark of the entire region. A meal without olive oil is incomplete if you ask the locals, and after you taste it we are sure you’ll agree. Pick a local producer and take part in an organized tasting where you will hear all about the varieties, use and —- and bring a bottle home – this is the most important bit.
2. TERAN IS ISTRIAN
Istrian vineyards really offer a wide selection of varieties, but we wish to single out the Teran. A red, bitter wine that goes well with meat, and is good for your health. Find the perfect spot to watch the sunset pour yourself a glass of Teran and indulge in Mediterranean idleness without remorse.
3. LIM BAY
We could have put this on the list for nature lovers because it is beautiful. However, we love it because shellfish are grown in the Lim Bay and, in addition to tasting them in a nearby restaurant, you can also eat them taken directly from the water where they are grown. With champagne and oysters in hand, all you need is a spectacular view to complete your hedonistic experience.
4. HOMEMADE ISTRIAN PASTA
We just love tradition, and Istrian pasta is a delicious example of tradition in this region. Making homemade pasta is passed down from generation to generation in all Istrian families; it is the first culinary lesson that grandmoms teach their grandkids. Istrian pasta (fuži, gnocchi, pljukanci, ravioli) are perfectly tasty with any sauce.
5. HIS MAJESTY – THE TRUFFLE
This mushroom grows under ground and is literally paid for in gold. This delicacy most often grows in the Istrian inland, has an atypical smell and taste and is a specialty around the world. There are two types: the black truffle and the slightly more prized white truffle. Truffles taste wonderful with pasta dishes. If you always wondered how truffles are found, try truffle hunting with truffle dogs and we guarantee you will enjoy an unforgettable experience.
6. ISTRIAN CATTLE
Aka, Boškarin is another specialty you can only taste in this region. Although the Boškarin is a protected species, there are specialized farms in Istria where you can find them. You can taste boškarin meat with pasta dishes, its beefsteak is among the best in the world, and you can even enjoy a boškarin burger.
You thought we wouldn’t offer dessert? This dessert is so deliciously sweet, sugar is in its very name – cukerančići (cuker = sugar). These are traditional Istrian biscuits whose main ingredients include flour, eggs, sugar and a twist – homemade rakija. The biscuits are baked, dipped in rakija and then in sugar. We think your afternoon coffee can only benefit from a cukerančić or two.
Istria is well known for its gorgeous nature. Its forests, meadows and pastures are the ideal habitat for those hard-working bees, which produce the most scrumptious honey. Istrian homes always store a jar of honey as it’s often used instead of sugar. Locals know honey can boost your immune system and holds many other health benefits. Be sure to try it on your next visit.
9. ISTRIAN MANEŠTRA
This thick soup is served weekly in Istrian homes whether its summer or winter. We can’t single out a recipe, as there are so many variations, but we can recommend you taste it in a traditional Istrian konoba. This invigorating soup is healthy and different depending on the season since you can add various tasty ingredients.
We believe you have tried this vegetable many times, but Istria is home to a wild bitter-tasting asparagus that grows exclusively in the spring in meadows and forests. Wild asparagus are packed with nutrients and great for your kidneys. Locals mostly combine them with eggs or pasta and the taste can’t be compared to its cultivated variety.
LIST 2: FOR NATURE LOVERS AND EXPLORERS
1. UČKA MOUNTAIN – CLIMBING TO THE HIGHEST TOP
Choose wisely how you want to spend the day in this nature park because there are so many sports activities – you can hike, go free climbing, mountain biking, free flying, but you can also just walk along the educational and landscaped promenades. Whatever you decide, make sure you climb Vojak – the highest peak of this mountain with a magnificent view of Kvarner and Istria.
2. ZIP LINE ABOVE THE PAZIN CAVE
This one is for adrenaline lovers! A zip line ride will surely stir the blood in your veins. The Pazin Cave offers a unique attraction in Istria, which draws adventure lovers. This cave is a protected area and an exeptional hydrogeological phenomenon of inland Istria surrounded by many stories and legends. Visit Pazin and discover them all!
3. EXPLORE ISTRIA ON QUAD
Accept the challenge and enjoy driving a quad vehicle! The guides will help you master the technique, and then you can enjoy several hours of pure pleasure and fun. Explore beautiful locations that will entice you to stop and snap a few selfies, all with a good dose of adrenaline. It is so hard to decide which season is the best for this activity!
4. SKI LIFT ADRENALINE ZONE
Not far from the center of Poreč you will find the most famous Istrian ski lift park. We just love sports and learning new skills, so we highly recommend water skiing.
5. CYCLING TOUR IN ISTRIA
All cycling fans can put their feet to work in Istria. There are so many trails to choose from, but please don’t leave Istria until you have ridden the Parenzana trail, an 80-kilometer-long trail follows the old Istrian railway and passes through the picturesque towns of western and central Istria.
6. CAPE KAMENJAK
Cape Kamenjak is located near Pula and is on the list of protected areas since 1996. The crystal blue sea, numerous bays and amazing beaches make Kamenjak an ideal place for excursions and sports activities such as diving, kayaking or swimming. It’s such a wonderful area that even the world famous tourist guide Lonely Planet included Cape Kamenjak on its list of most desirable locations for a hidden holiday in the Mediterranean.
7. 7 WATERFALLS – EXPLORE THEM ALL
If you really enjoy hiking then this is a must for you! Seven magnificent waterfalls, turquoise lakes, adrenaline ziplines, wooden bridges and rocking ropes, ascents to hills with magnificent views, Napoleon’s Bridge and the fairytale village of Kotli with its old mills – do we really need to say more to convince you to explore this trail?
8. AQUARIUM IN PULA – THE LARGEST AQUARIUM IN CROATIA
With its interesting exhibit in the 130-year-old Austro-Hungarian fortress Verudela, Aquarium Pula presents the Adriatic with a rich display of its flora and fauna in a unique way. Instead of soldiers, fish, sharks and sea horses, jellyfish and sea turtles now inhabit the fort. Take a walk through the military history of Pula and socialize with the wonderful sea world!
9. ADRENALINE PARKS
Istria has many adrenaline parks and whichever you choose you will surely enjoy yourself. What can you do there? Well, everything there is meant for pure fun and a little adrenaline. Huge swings, jumps, motor parks, foot-billiards, football and many other adrenaline attractions await you there. It’s all about fun, fun, fun!
10. SOPOT – THE LARGEST ISTRIAN WATERFALL
The Sopot waterfall fits very unusually into the landscape, it is almost hidden – if you don’t know what you are looking for, you might not even find it. However, when you do find it, you will be delighted with its colors ranging from gray, through blue and green. The waterfall is the most beautiful in autumn, winter or spring because then it contains the most water. There is also a centuries-old bridge across the stream that flows into the waterfall. Once upon a time, it linked the nearby villages with Pićan, the center of the diocese.
LIST 3: FOR HISTORY BUFFS AND RESEARCHERS
1. PULA – A CITY OF RICH ROMAN HERITAGE
We don’t know where to start – maybe from the Arena amphitheater where gladiators used to fight, but is now a stage for summer cinema screenings and concerts of world-famous performers? Or maybe the Forum with the Palace and the Temple of Augustus, the Twin Gates, the Triumphal Arc of the Sergi or the Venetian Castle with an incredible view of the entire city – literally 360 °? Wherever you start your journey, be sure to explore it all in the largest city in Istria.
2. HUM – THE SMALLEST CITY IN THE WORLD
According to legend, Hum was formed when giants built cities in the Mirna Valley and eventually built Hum from the remaining stones. Today, this town has about twenty inhabitants, and it is known for “Biska” – mistletoe rakija that allegedly originates from this town. From legend to event, here you can taste many different rakija at the end of October when the Rakija festival is held. Producers from all around Istria come here to compete for the title, but the vibe is very relaxed.
3. EUPHRASIUS BASILICA IN POREČ
This cultural monument dates back to the 6th century, and in 1997 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The mosaics in the interior and on the facade of the church belong to the valuable legacy of Byzantine art. It is located in the center of Poreč, within the old city walls, and offers a unique view of the city and its surroundings from its bell tower.
4. MOTOVUN WALLS
Motovun is potentially the most charming town in inland Istria. This acropolis town is located on a hill with the longest Istrian staircase with as many as 1052 steps (don’t worry, you can go up by car). It is surrounded by two rows of city walls that were built from the 11th to the 17th century, and offer an incredible view of the vineyards and the Motovun forest.
5. FAŽANA, A LITTLE GEM UNDER THE SUN
Overlooking the Brijuni Islands, with the hinterland of Mediterranean vegetation, and a sandy beach spreading into the sea, Fažana invites you to discover its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking nature at any time of the year. The history and culture of Fažana and nearby Valbandon speak of ancient Mediterranean ties, exchange of experiences and goods. From economic center of Roman civilization in Istria to Venetian medieval rural and urban center, this town hides many historic profane buildings as well as restored sacral buildings. Discover it for yourself!
6. CHARMING GROŽNJAN – CITY OF ARTISTS
Legend has it that once upon a time giants lived in the valley of river Mirna and they were so big that they could pass tools and large stones and build many towns in Istria, including Grožnjan. Every year at the beginning of May, the streets and squares of Grožnjan experience a metamorphosis and turn into a real art hive: summer music academies for young people, art, dance and drama workshops can be found at every corner.
7. BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK
This archipelago is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Croatia, and is interesting for children as well as adults. There are 14 islands, of which the two most famous are Mali and Veliki Brijun, where you can go on safari and see animals, olive groves, beaches, archeological remains and sports facilities. You can reach the archipelago by boat from nearby Fažana or by organized excursion from almost every town on the West Coast of Istria.
8. ROVINJ – THE MOST CHARMING TOWN IN ISTRIA
The Rovinj peninsula, which was an island until 1763, holds a medieval town with intertwined, worn-out stone streets that flow through small arcs, over squares and piazzettas, and alongside small colorful houses.
The Rovinj peninsula is like a playful labyrinth that can captivate you as soon as you enter. However, no worries, Rovinj holds many little passages that will lead you back to one of the main streets, and you will find your way to the main town square in no time. Once you discover Rovinj you will be bound to return!
9. DVIGRAD – THE HIDDEN CITY
Dvigrad are the ruins of a medieval town located in Limska Draga near Kanfanar. Although hidden in the woods, these are the largest ruins of an urban settlement in Istria and provide a unique image of a fully preserved typical medieval town, i.e. kaštel. Double defensive walls, interconnected by three city gates, surround the city. Within the inner wall are three towers, which were built in their present form during the 14th century. Within the walls, the remains of more than 200 buildings streets between them have been preserved. Time to explore!
10. SAVIČENTA AND ST. MICHAEL
Theme Park Sanc. Michael is located on a beautiful property of 26,000 square meters, just 3 km west of Svetvinčenat. It’s an impressive fort where you can find a children’s carousel, torture devices, a witch’s dungeon, a souvenir shop and many other interesting things typical of the Middle Ages. Visitors can also try their hand at shooting a medieval bow and arrow. Nearby is the village of Svetvinčenat which is unique and beautiful – so don’t forget to visit.
Istria usually enjoys sunny and warm weather, ideal for exploring Istrian towns and all inbetween. Visit Istria’s many wineries, restaurants and local specialties, all while enjoying the natural beauty of the largest Croatian peninsula. Istria is a perfect escape from the mundane. Visit Istria at any time of the year and explore all the nooks and crannies of this magical land built by giants.