Explore Istria, Croatia’s Adriatic gem

Tip of the Mediterranean

If you’re wondering where Istria is, it’s on the northernmost part of the Croatian Adriatic coast, just next to Slovenia and Italy and easy to travel to from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France – by car, train, ferry or plane.

The Istrian peninsula got its name from the ancient Histri tribes, described by the Romans as fierce and capable pirates, protected by Istria’s rocky coasts. The pirates are long gone but the beauty of the Istrian coast has endured all through the ages— under the Venetian Empire, the Habsburgs, Napoleon, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and others.


Its exciting history has shaped Istria into a unique place that is home to fantastic beaches, historic sites well worth exploring, spectacular wildlife and national parks, vineyards, caves and islands, cities and rivieras, fantastic food and wine – everything a good holiday should include!

Just take a ride through the scenic Istrian countryside, rest your eyes on the bucolic landscape or stop and explore Istria’s enchanting, medieval hilltop towns and villages such as Motovun, Groznjan, Hum, Oprtalj or Pican. You’ll soon realize why Istria has been one of the Mediterranean’s best kept secrets.

The picturesque Istrian hills have long been home to some of the best Croatian winemakers and family owned restaurants offering world-class gourmet meals, where local fresh produce coming straight from the garden or neighbor next door has always been their way of living and preparing food, not just the latest culinary trend. But it’s not only Istrian wine that’s worth tasting – Istria is the world’s best region for extra virgin olive oil, with its producers regularly winning top awards in the most prestigious olive oil competitions.

When to visit Istria?

Anytime, really – Istria is most popular in the summer (late June to late August) because it’s hard to resist the charms of the Adriatic sea and Istrian riviera in the full glory of the summer sun, but there is plenty to discover throughout the year as the weather is always nice and the nature of inland Istria is just as rewarding in autumnal or winter colours – and what’s better, no crowds.

Spring and autumn are perfect for food lovers, as numerous wine, olive oil and truffle festivals and events take place in coastal towns and throughout the Istrian countryside. Bike enthusiasts especially love Istria in April and May as it is still not too hot to enjoy cycling through the peninsula’s numerous bike trails. While the Alps are still covered in snow, Istrian mountain trails offer the same adrenaline but with warm sunny days.

What to do in Istria?

Whether you’re planning a family holiday or only a bit of me-time, Istria has plenty to offer. Here are just a few of the highlights, sights, events and activities that await you.


Wine routes

Istria is, and has always been, wine country. The weather here is mild and the soil just right so the entire peninsula is criss-crossed by picturesque vineyard-lined roads, perfect for discovering on a bicycle. Meandering through vineyards, forests and sunlit villages, these routes and roads offer a rare glimpse into the Mediterranean as it was long ago — a place of peace and tranquility, a place for the senses. Of all the routes, these are the ones to see first.

You can always stop in one of the family owned wine estates and wineries, they would be happy to offer you a taste of their finest autochthonous wines such as Istrian malvazija or teran. One of the most unforgettable experiences is definitely sipping wine under centuries-old oaks. You can also enjoy delightful tasting sessions and meet the best Istrian winemakers at specialized events such as the Istria Wine & Walk or Days of Open Wine Cellars.

Bike trails

The Istrian terrain is pretty much perfect for cycling. It is equally popular among those who prefer road, as well as those who enjoy mountain biking. The mild Mediterranean climate makes Istria a desirable cycling destination, along with its well shaded, green, nature-scented bike trails which are perfect for exploring, and fit for recreational cyclists and pros alike. San Rocco hotel, situated in Gornja Buiština, is the best basecamp for Istrian cycling holidays, especially if you want to unite your love for fine dining and adventure. The hotel offers free bikes for their guests.

Brijuni national park

This lovely corner of nature is actually a group of islands that are now home to one of the most fascinating nature parks on the Adriatic — Brijuni National park. A protected area of biodiversity, it is a place where deer roam freely among the ancient Roman ruins, undisturbed by the safari onlookers. A place of immense beauty and historical significance, the Brijuni islands are a must-see. The best way to see them is by a private boat that takes you to the archipelago straight from the Meneghetti Wine Hotel & Winery, a fantastic place in its own right.

Učka nature park

Overlooking everything, the mountain Učka offers a view of Istria like no other. It’s an ideal destination for hikers, nature lovers and adventurers, offering stunning views of the northern Adriatic and a perfect place to take a break from the seasonal crowds on the coast and rivieras. If you’re looking for a place to stay near Učka, we recommend you check out Design hotel Navis.


Truffle hunting

Istria is renowned worldwide for its truffles — for some reason, they grow wonderfully flavorful and rich here. However, they are still very difficult to find and unearth. Trained hogs and hounds are often used in the hunt, because a hunt is what it is — a thrill of the rare, delicate discovery in the green, cool Istrian forests. Hotel San Rocco is again a great place to call home after a day truffle hunting in the magical forests of Istria.

Caves and grottoes

The coast may take all the glory, but Istria is rich in subterranean wonders as well — in fact, it holds one of the most interesting Croatian cave systems. Many caves and grottoes can be seen and explored throughout the peninsula, with Baredine cave being one of the most exciting. If you plan on visiting Baredine, Stories hotels in Istria are just a few miles away from the cave complex.


Pazin grotto

An incredible site, a hole that descends deep into the heart of the planet, so impressive in its size that it motivated Jules Verne to use it as inspiration for the entrance to the underworld in his epic Journey to the Center of the Earth. A must see for nature lovers, geologists, speleologists, sci-fi buffs and fans of all things awesome! Spooky local legends included and many more exciting sights to be explored in the nearby area. For a place to stay nearby, check out the Bevanda Hotel in Opatija, north Adriatic’s first five-star design hotel.


Istria is overflowing with history, and not on a small scale. It is easy to fill your holiday just exploring the rich heritage of the peninsula. If that sounds like your cup of tea, start at the Arena in Pula, an incredible and absolutely monumental example of 1st century Roman architecture, then move to Euphrasius basilica to witness some of the most exquisite mosaics, explore the numerous Roman ruins, coastal forts and strange, magical towns and villages such as Buje, Bale, Motovun or Hum — officially the world’s smallest city. Just a short drive away is the Adriatic Hotel in Rovinj, a place of refined luxury and a reflection of Rovinj’s art scene.


Istria has a lively pulse as well, with many festivals, concerts, regattas and fiestas throughout the year. Serious cinema fans will certainly have heard of the Motovun and Pula film festivals, music fans will know of Grožnjan jazz festival and those who are into sports know of Croatia Open ATP tournament in Umag and the Brijuni regatta, but there are many more local events, festivals and fiestas to attend in Istria – give them a chance, the locals are quite good at having fun. The nightlife is positively blooming in the summer months, especially in the larger coastal cities such as Pula, Poreč or Rovinj.

Family activities

Istria is perfect for family holidays. Activities as varied as canoeing, aqua parks, a dino park, an aquarium, diving and submarine tours or an underwater amusement park are never too far away from wherever you are. It is also a place rich with hiking and cycling trails ideal for nature lovers. The peninsula is also rich in heritage and historical sights ideal for curious young minds. For all those who wish to spend perfect family holidays in Istria, the Isabella Valamar Collection Island Resort is the place to recommend.

Beaches and the Adriatic sea

All that being said, the creme de la creme of Istria is still the stunning riviera that’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches of the northern Adriatic. Some good suggestions would be Klancac beach in Brsec, Cape Kamenjak in the very south of the Istrian peninsula or Golden Cape beach in Rovinj, but any attempt to rate them would be in vain — each and any of them, crowded or private, secluded or open to the horizon, could hold the key to your own personal wellbeing.
The sea is crystal clear as are the skies for most of the summer, as a rule. It’s heaven.


Where to stay in Istria?

If you need a place to stay in Istria, these are your three best options. Number one: find a nice hotel, as the service in most is impeccable and they are made to meet all demands that a modern traveller could have.

These are some of the most exclusive, luxurious, exciting and fresh hotels in Istria right now:
– Isabella Valamar Collection Island Resort, Poreč
– Hotel San Rocco, Brtonigla
– Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj
– Meneghetti Wine Hotel, Bale

Down south, in the Kvarner region of the peninsula, these should be on your list:
– Hotel Bevanda, Opatija
– Design Hotel Navis, Opatija

Number two: rent an apartment, an old house or a farm, or go camping — either way, you will experience a more sincere, unfiltered, genuine Istria. Number three: get married to a local and you’re set for life. We suggest you start with number one.

Lesser known facts about Istria

– Istria has the world’s smallest town, it’s called Hum and it’s really very small with population of 20, give or take.

– The dinosaurs also loved Istria as fragments of skeletons of some 10 species were found all over the peninsula and the islands.
– the world’s first pocket calculator was developed in Buje, it was called a Digitron, a name so well coined it has remained a local term for all calculators.
– Istria also has a leaning tower, it’s in Završje and it’s a bit more modest than the one in Piza but hey, it’s still leaning.

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All Stories hotels welcome Premium Mastercard cardholders with a variety of benefits that vary from hotel to hotel. Benefits can include: early check-in, late check-out (subject to availability), upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), welcome drink, free parking, a complimentary bottle of wine or a fruit basket, 10% discount on spa treatments…

All you have to do to get your benefits is use your Premium Mastercard and code STORIES21 when making a reservation.