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Istria Itinerary Advice


I am looking for advice on where to go in the Istria region. My boyfriend are traveling in Slovenia, Croatia, and then to Venice for two weeks in early June. We start in Slovenia for a week and then to Zagreb for two nights and then in the Plitvice Lakes region for one night. From the Plitvice Lake region we will be driving to Istria and we will have three nights in the Istria region and then after Istria we will take a ferry from Trieste to Venice for three nights. Wondering if we should split those three nights up in Istria (maybe one night in a town and two nights in another town - ?) or should we just spend all three nights in one town and spend more time driving around the region? I really like Rabac because of the beaches and then I love the looks of Rovinj as well. We definitely want to visit Motovun and the Pula/Premantura region as well, but could do these as day trips. Anyone have any advice on what to do as far as how to see the most of this region but also not be staying in a different place every night? Also am I missing an "must-do's" of the area? Also just as an piece of information, we will have spent a lot of time seeing the countryside, nature, and cities with the rest of our itinerary so our goal in this region is to be on the water as much as possible and see the beaches of this region. With that, I have heard Motovun and some of the hillside towns are a must-do but wondering with what we will have seen previous to Istria should we include that or skip it?


Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3219 posts

You have to be careful with "must-dos" because what is a "must-do" for you may not be one for me!

I spent a few nights in Rovinj (loved it!) when I visited Istria. If you want more coast time, I see no reason not to base there your entire time in Istria. The town itself is pretty small and explored fairly quickly, but it's a great place to come back to at night (by June it should be pretty busy and touristy in the daytime anyway - a good time to be out exploring somewhere else). I enjoyed morning and evening walks there especially. It's still a fishing port, and you can go walk in the mornings along the water and see the odd fishing boat or two preparing to go out. I was there earlier in the season (late April/early May) and Rovinj was completely quiet in the morning - just me and a few fishermen and a few cats wandering around the waterfront.

I day tripped to Pula. I could have done without it. The town didn't charm me, and the Roman ruins, while nice, didn't exactly blow me away; I had been to Rome, after all. I did a day stop in some of the Istrian hill towns another day, stopping in Motovun and Groznjan (my favorite) and a few others. I guess I was indifferent about the towns - it wouldn't have killed me to miss them, given the effort to reach them. I loved Groznjan but it was fairly small - a perfectly restored artsy town that feels almost like a movie set. There are other towns that are still being restored and not so polished, others that are more "working towns" (e.g. Buje, which was pretty cool in spots). Motovun is much bigger and more touristy - I'm sure the views from the top are amazing in good weather, but it was raining by the time I got to the top so couldn't see very far. Some people do seem to enjoy the experience of sleeping over in the hill towns - not something I would be excited about myself. I much preferred my mornings/evenings in Rovinj.

If I had to choose, personally I'd choose the hill towns over Pula - my personal preference. Some people rave about Porec; I didn't get a chance to visit.

You could consider an extra day (if you want more coastal time) along the Kvarner Gulf on the way to Istria - e.g. the towns near Rijeka. Opatija is the most well-known but kind of ritzy and expensive and, in my mind, not all that charming. I spent a night in nearby Lovran, much smaller and laid back. I didn't care much for Lovran itself - but what I enjoyed a lot was the long walk along the Lungomare, a long seaside promenade between Rijeka and Lovran (and beyond). There are lovely old Austrian villas along the sea and you walk past them, as well as the rocky coastline (looks like a popular summer swimming area, but in early May in the rain no one was swimming). Opatija itself might be worth a quick stop, but I enjoyed the Lungomare walk much more, even in spotty weather.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
10369 posts

I'd go along with staying put in one place in Istria and side-tripping from there, and I think Rovinj might well be the best base. I also liked Porec (much more colorful architecture) and the small hill-top town of Vrsar. I took a bus tour that got me to Motovun and Groznjan and liked them both. I don't know where you're going in Slovenia so can't say definitely that Motovun and Groznjan will look different to you, but I was very glad to see them. In addition, inland Istria has pretty scenery and far fewer tourists than Rovinj. There's a zip line in Pazin. There's also at least one winery, but I have no idea where it is or whether individuals can just drop in for a tasting; my bus tour stopped there.

Be sure you know what the parking arrangements will be before you commit to lodgings in Rovinj.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2966 posts

We love Istria and go every Easter. You only need one base in Istria as the area is quite small. We usually rent a country villa in the center of the peninsula near Zminj, but if I had to pick a town to stay in it would definitely be Rovinj.

Our favorite towns and experiences are as follows:

  1. Novigrad - our favorite coastal town.
  2. Porec - our second favorite coastal town.
  3. Groznjan - our favorite hill town (Motovun is not as great, in our opinion)
  4. A secret restaurant with the best steak and truffles.
  5. The safari bar in Kamenjak national park (skip Pula altogether, in my opinion)
  6. Visiting an olive oil production/tasting facility
  7. Vrsar - our their favorite coastal town.
  8. The town of Hum
  9. Fish places around Trget
  10. The town ruins of Dvigrad
Posted by Cro on the go
Istria, Croatia
83 posts

A central base in Istria will be best for you. Rovinj would be ideal but avoid the centre which is crowded and is parking nightmare. Kamenjak area is lovely and hiring a bike would be benefit to you there. Do not miss Pula, it is not as picturesque as other towns but it has incredible history, and a life that takes time to appreciate. You should have time to see Groznjan and Motovun, also a winery or Ollie oil farm if they is your interest. I would rule out Rabac because of location, it would eat too much of your short time in Istria.