Istria is a small peninsula located in the northwestern part of Croatia. It is known for its historic towns, beautiful beaches, picturesque scenery, quaint villages, and its production of fine wines. Although it is a relatively small region, there is a lot to see and do in Istra. After all, it is one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations. And to help you make the most of your trip, I’ve put together a list of the 12 top attractions and fun things to do in Istria. So let’s get started.
1. Explore the Roman Amphitheater in Pula (Pula Arena)
Pula Arena is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world and a must-see for any history buff. This massive structure was built in the 1st century AD by Emperor Vespasian and could seat up to 20,000 spectators. And today, it is one of the top tourist attractions in Istra for its size, history, and architecture.
Although it is in a state of ruin, the amphitheater is still an impressive sight. It’s like walking back in time! You can imagine the gladiator fights and other events that took place here centuries ago. And now, the amphitheater is used as a venue for concerts and other events. So if you’re visiting Pula during the summer, be sure to check the schedule to see if there’s anything going on.
Be sure to also visit the onsite museum, which is housed in the underground passage. This museum has exhibits on the history of the amphitheater as well as the Roman period in Istria. You’ll learn about the construction of the amphitheater, what life was like for the gladiators, and see some artifacts that were found onsite.
After exploring Pula Arena, take some time to walk around the old town. This is a great place to walk around and just take in the sights and sounds of this charming city. And for your shopping pleasure, visit the many boutique shops and art galleries in Pula’s old town. This is definitely one of the most famous places in Istria that you cannot miss!
2. Have fun at Istra Beaches
Istra’s coastline is dotted with many lovely beaches, so you’re sure to find one that suits your taste. For a beach vacation with a difference, head to the small town of Rabac, where you’ll find a number of unique beaches. One of the most popular is Girandela Beach, known for its clear turquoise waters and lovely setting. This beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and simply relaxing. Other great beaches in Rabac include Plaza Marsal Tito, Sveti Andrea, and Maslinica Beach.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing beach vacation, the town of Novigrad is the place to be. This vibrant town is home to a number of popular beaches, including Beach Maestral, Beach Laguna, and City Beach. These beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and simply taking in stunning views. And when you’re not lounging on the beach, be sure to explore Novigrad’s old town with its Venetian-style architecture and lively atmosphere.
There are many great beaches in Istria, so be sure to take some time to relax and enjoy the sand and sea. And since this is one of the most popular things to do in Istra, at least two beaches should definitely be on your list.
3. Visit the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec (Eufrazijeva Bazilika)
The Euphrasian Basilica in the town of Porec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved Byzantine monuments in all of Europe. Built in the 6th century, this beautiful basilica is a perfect example of Early Christian architecture with its stunning mosaic floors and magnificent frescoes.
The basilica is named after its bishop, Euphrasius, who oversaw the construction of the building. And today, the basilica attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year who come to admire its beauty and learn about its rich history. Highlights of a visit to the Euphrasian Basilica include the 13th-century ciborium (a canopy over the main altar) and the 4th-century sarcophagus of Saint Maurus in the crypt.
While in Porec, also visit the Porec Ethnographic Museum housed in the Baroque Sincic Palace. The museum’s collection includes traditional Istrian costumes, furniture, and other items used in daily life.In addition, this historic town also boasts beautiful beaches, so you can enjoy the sand and the sea. And for a taste of the local gastronomy, be sure to try some of Porec’s delicious seafood dishes like buzara (a shrimp stew) and brodet (a fish and vegetable stew).
Its location and well-preserved historic center make Porec one of the best places to visit in Istra. So don’t miss the chance to explore this charming town and its many wonderful sights!
4. Take a Walking Tour of Medieval Rovinj (Rovigno)
Rovinj (Rovigno) is a medieval town located on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. This well-preserved town is a feast for the eyes with its Venetian-style architecture, cobbled streets, and picturesque harbor. Rovinj is also one of the best places in Istra for art lovers as it is home to a number of galleries and museums.
Start your exploration of Rovinj at the town’s main square. This beautiful square is lined with restaurants and cafes, perfect for people watching. From here, be sure to stroll through the narrow streets of Rovinj’s old town and take in the lively atmosphere.
Be sure to stop at the Church of St. Eufemia. This beautiful Baroque church is one of the most photographed sights in Istra and definitely worth a visit. For stunning views of the town and its harbor, make your way to the top of the church tower.
Rovinj is also home to a number of museums, including the Rovinj Heritage Museum, which showcases the town’s history and culture. Another must-see museum is the Batana House Ecomuseum. This ecomuseum is dedicated to preserving the maritime and fishing traditions of the local community.
And finally, no visit to Rovinj would be complete without a walk around the harbor. This is the perfect place to enjoy the stunning views of the Adriatic Sea and watch the locals going about their daily lives.
5. Tour the Historical Attractions of Vrsar
One of the best things to do in Istra is to visit the small town of Vrsar. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the Adriatic Sea, Vrsar is a picturesque town with a long history dating back to the Roman era.
Among the town’s most popular attractions are the remains of Roman ruins scattered throughout its center. Highlights include the 10th-Century Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Crkva Sv. Marije Magdalene) and the Sea Gate. Also worth checking out is the 12th-century Vergottini Castle (Vergottini-Kastel), which was a former residence of the Bishop of Porec.
Vrsar is also home to a number of excellent beaches, including City Beach Orsera and Belvedere Beach. Both beaches offer stunning views of the Adriatic Sea and are great places to relax and enjoy the sun.
With its beautiful setting and wealth of things to see and do, Vrsar is definitely one of the best places to visit in Istra. So don’t miss the chance to explore this historic town and its many wonderful sights.
6. Explore the Medieval town of Motovun
The small town of Motovun is one of the most picturesque places in Istra. Situated atop a hill in the Mirna River Valley, this old town offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. And the best way to experience Motovun is to take a walking tour of the old town walls.
The walls were built in the 14th century for defensive purposes, and today they offer a great way to explore the town. The walk takes you around the entire perimeter of Motovun, past several towers and gates, and provides some of the best views in town.
In addition to the old town walls, Motovun is also home to a number of other interesting sights. These include the Church of St. Stephen, the Town Hall, and the Venetian House. Be sure also to visit the Motovun Forest, a protected area of forest that is home to a number of rare plant and animal species.
7. See the Baredine Cave (Jama Baredine)
The Baredine Cave is located in the western part of Istra and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. This natural cave is best known for its amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as its interesting rock formations. The cave is 60 meters (197 feet) deep and has five chambers.
You can explore them on a guided tour, which lasts about 45 minutes. Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes and bring a jacket as the temperature inside the cave is about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). And keep in mind that you’ll climb a lot of stairs during the tour, so it’s not recommended for those with mobility issues.
All in all, if you’re looking for things to do in Istria that are both fun and educational, then a visit to this cave is definitely a must!
8. See the Untouched Beauty of Brijuni National Park
Brijuni National Park is an archipelago of 14 small islands located just off the coast of Istra. The islands are best known for their pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities on the islands, such as swimming, sunbathing, hiking, biking, and boat trips.
One of the most popular attractions in Brijuni National Park is Veli Brijuni Island, which is home to a safari park and a golf course. The safari park is home to a variety of animals, including zebras, elephants, and giraffes. And the golf course is one of the best in all of Croatia, with stunning views of the Adriatic Sea.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing activity, then head to one of Brijuni’s many beaches. Or, if you’re interested in learning about the history of the islands, then be sure to visit some of its archeological sites.
Brijuni National Park is one of the top Istra attractions for its natural beauty and many activities. Although I didn’t have much time to explore the islands, I definitely enjoyed my time there and would love to go back.
9. Discover the Resort Town of Opatija (Abbazia)
Opatija (Abbazia) is a fashionable resort town located on the eastern coast of Istria. Its Mediterranean climate and beautiful scenery have made it a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.
The town’s main promenade, the 12-kilometer-long (7.5-mile) Lungomare, is one of its most popular attractions. This lovely pedestrian walkway stretches along the seafront, offering stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. Along the way, you’ll find numerous parks, cafes, and restaurants.
Opatija is also home to several notable museums, including the Croatian Museum of Tourism which tells the story of Opatija’s development as a fashionable resort destination. And if you’re looking for a place to relax and rejuvenate, the town is home to many spas and wellness centers.
So whether you’re looking to enjoy the town’s natural beauty, cultural attractions, or recreational activities, Opatija is definitely one of the best places to visit in Istra.
Read More: 9 Top-Rated Beaches in Croatia
10. Visit Istra Wineries
Do you love wine? Then you’ll definitely want to visit some of Istra’s many wineries. Istria is well-known for its red wines, which are some of the best in Croatia. And I’m not just saying that because I’m partial to red wine, but because Istria’s red wines have actually been recognized by some of the top wine publications in the world.
Today, the region is home to several family-run wineries, many of which offer tours and tastings. And a visit to two or three of them is one of the best things to do in Istra. Not only will you get to sample some delicious wines, but you’ll also learn about Istria’s rich winemaking tradition.
Some of the best wineries in Istra include Meneghetti Wine Hotel & Winery, Relais and Wine San Tommaso, Cattunar Wine Residence, and Kozlovic Winery 1904. Most of these wineries offer tours and tastings, so you can learn about the winemaking process and taste the different types of wines produced in Istria.
And since wine can make you a little tipsy, it’s best to visit the wineries with a tour. That way, you can have someone else drive you around, and you don’t have to worry about getting lost (or drinking and driving).
11. Take a Hike in Ucka Nature Park
Ucka Nature Park is a large protected area in northeastern Istra that covers over 16,000 hectares of land. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including many endangered species. And with its numerous hiking and biking trails, the park is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
One of the best things to do in Ucka Nature Park is to hike to Vojak peak (1,395 m), the highest point in the park. At the top of the peak is a stone tower that offers stunning views of the Istrian peninsula. The hike to the top takes about 3-5 hours, but the views of the Adriatic Sea and surrounding mountains are well worth the effort. For an easier hike, try the Slap Ucka trail, which leads to a series of waterfalls. This 2-3 hour hike is also a great way to cool off on a hot day.
Ucka Nature Park is one of the places to go in Istra for outdoor activities. So if you’re looking for some adventure, be sure to add this place to your list!
12. Visit the Museums of Pazin
Pazin is the largest town and administrative center of Istria County. And while it may not be as popular as some other towns in Istra, Pazin is definitely worth a visit.
This town is best known for its Castle of Pazin, a medieval fortress that has been inhabited since the 9th century. The castle is set on a cliff high above the town and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. Today, the castle is one of the top attractions in Istra as it is home to two museums: the Museum of Istrian Ethnography and the Pazin Civic Museum.
The Museum of Istrian Ethnography showcases a collection of traditional Istrian costumes, furniture, farming implements, and other items used in daily life. The Pazin Civic Museum, on the other hand, features collections of archeological finds, weapons, and works of art. Both museums are definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re interested in learning about the history and culture of Istria.
In addition to its museums, Pazin is also home to the Pazin Cave, one of the largest caves in Istria. This natural wonder is best explored with a guided tour which takes you through the cave’s many chambers and narrow passages. Save some time to stroll through Pazin’s old town and enjoy its Venetian-style architecture and pretty cobbled streets.
Istria is a beautiful region of Croatia with much to offer visitors. From its Roman ruins and Venetian architecture to its stunning beaches and delicious seafood, there are many great things to see and do in Istria. So be sure to add this region to your travel list if you’re looking for a wonderful place to explore. And if you need any help planning your trip, don’t hesitate to contact a local travel agent who can assist you in making the most of your time in Istria.