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Best of Istria | Central Istria: Pazin, Buzet, Groznjan, and Motovun

central-istria-map

You’re most likely visiting Istria for the coastline but don’t miss out on inland Istria, just short distance from the coast. With its rolling green hills, historical hilltop villages, prominent grapevine and olive roads, and gourmet konobas serving delicious Istrian dishes, central Istria is not to be missed. One visit to Central Istria and you’ll see why many are referring to this region of Istria as the new Tuscany or Umbria.

Although this section is focused on Pazin, Buzet, Groznjan, and Motovun, these nearby towns are also worth visiting if you’re looking for unique Istrian experiences:
- Oprtalj: Oprtalj is a picturesque town with panoramic views not far from Motovun. It is best known for three churches dating back to 15th and 16th centuries with frescoes: St. George, Blessed Virgin, and St. Rocco. Oprtalj is also known for its famous Chestnut Festival (Chestnut Fair or Kestenijada) held in October.
- Svetvincenat: Svetvincenat is the best representation of Renaissance architecture, which is uncommon in Istria. Visit the renaissance square “Placa” for a celebration of the Renaissance period. Also visit the Morosini-Grimani castle with Venetian architecture. The New Wine Festival in October is a popular event that has been held for over 40 years celebrating the wine makers.
- Visnjan: Visnjan is a town with a rich cultural heritage. In nearby village Strpacici, copper earrings and needles from the Bronze Age were found. Visnjan is also home to the famous Visnjan observatory in Istria. Astrofest is a popular event celebrating the summer solstice, June 21 and 22.
- Vizinada: Visit Vizinada, a town on the hill rising above the Mirna valley, for panoramic views of Green and Blue Istria.
- Zminj: Zminj is the geographical center of Istria and the main historical intersection of roads in Istria. Main attractions are Festinsko Kraljevstvo cave tour and three small churches (Holy Trinity, St. Cross, and St. Anthony the Monk) painted in frescoes. Also, every last Saturday in August, Zminj hosts the biggest folk fest festival of Istria.
- Gracisce: Visit the nearby 12th century village with Venetian homes. Also check out Palace Salomon in Main Square and the parish church St. Mary na Placu, featuring frescoes and nails in the walls which, as legend has it, helped women get pregnant. The St. Simon walking trail takes you on a nice tour that includes a waterfall.
- Kringa: Visit the nearby village of Jure Grando, Europe’s first vampire. Legend has it that vampire Grando brought terror to the families of this town for 16 years after his death. Villagers opened the coffin to discover his body still intact. Only after they beheaded his corpse did the terrors stop. There is a Vampire Museum next to the village’s Vampire Cafe that you can visit.
- Sveti Petar u Sumi: This nearby village was named for its Benedictine monastery that dates back to 1174. Unlike other villages and towns of Istria, there are no houses around the church or monastery in this village. Legend has it that the Hungarian King Solomon spent some time here in the 11th century after he was dethroned in dynastic struggles.
- Zavrsje: Mystical, abandoned Medieval village surrounded by ancient walls and towers.
- Roc: Roc is a famous Istrian cultural center and has been the center of the Glagolitic literature since the 13th century. Roc is also well known for its folk music tradition centered on triestina, a type of accordion. The International Accordion Festival held during the second week in May is a great time to see the folk music live.
- Hum: Hum is the smallest town in the world, a spectacle in itself. When in Hum, also visit the Glagolitic Alley, a 7-km long trail that connects Hum with Roc. It consists of 11 sculptures created in the 1980s as copies of important Glagolitic scripts. Glagolitic alphabet was an archaic Slavonic script that was used by Istrian priests from Middle Ages until 19th century.
- Kotli: Spend quiet time in the isolated village by the waterfalls of the Mirna River, and enjoy the open-air Jacuzzis created by the waterfalls. There’s also a historic water mill that was in operation until 1964.
- Tinjan: Best known for the Istrian prsut (dried ham) festival in October, the Istrian house from 1442, and the round stone table with 12 stone seats where important decisions used to be made.
- Draguc:  Draguc is also known as “Istrian Hollywood” because many films have been filmed in this town. In Draguc you’ll also find many beautiful frescoes and will enjoy beautiful views from the hill.
- Sveti Lovrec: Sveti Lovrec is located near Vrsar and Porec, and is one the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Istria.

Pazin

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Pazin is the administrative capital of Istria. Pazin has been called the “heart of Istria” since the 19th Century because of its central location. The Pazin Castle was first mentioned in 983. During its 11-century-long history, the Pazin Castle was subjected to several major reconstructions and renovations. The castle is now home to the Ethnographic Museum of Istria and Pazin Town Museum. In the surrounding area of Pazin, there are many medieval towns holding secrets and treasures that make them worth visiting.

Best of Pazin:

- Pazin Castle: Best preserved castle in Istria with two museums inside.
- Ethnographic Museum of Istria: Inside the Pazin castle. Documents history of Istria.
- Zip Line Pazinska Jama: Two zip lines with great views.
- Pazin Cave: Pazin cave inspired the work of authors Jules Verne, who mentioned Pazin in his novel Mathias Sandorf but never visited Pazin himself, and Dante Alighieri, who lived in Pula during his exile and was inspired by the Pazin cave in describing the gateway to Hell in Inferno, the first part of his epic poem Divine Comedy. Fun activities include walking and zip lining inside the cave, and Speleo Adventure.
- Church of St. Nicholas: Built in 1266 in Romanesque style, the church houses frescoes from 15th century.
- Motocross Park Santarija: Take a ride on a dirt bike track.
- Church of St. Mary: See 15th century frescoes at the Church of Mary at the nearby Beram, including the Dance of Death fresco.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map
- Accommodation: Hotel Lovac and Resort Cize


Buzet

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Elevate your taste buds with some of nature’s most exclusive and expensive mushrooms in the ‘City of Truffles’, Buzet. Dogs scour the forests around this northwestern city for the world’s most highly prized truffles. Truffle business is lucrative as one kg of ruffles can cost in excess of $3,000. In Buzet and Motovun, group truffle tours teach tourists about this prized chef’s ingredient and why it is so important to the area. Every September, celebration of the white truffle season brings fans from far and wide, through the end of the season in December. This pleasant city, shaped by ancient Roman settlements then refined by the Venetians, quietly invites exploration of its charming streets and historic buildings. The new part of the town sits at the base of the hill, but the short walk up is worth the effort. Rewards include a peaceful walk over ancient cobblestones, steeped in the history of the ages.

Best of Buzet:

- Truffle Hunting: Buzet is known as “Truffle City.” Truffles are highly prized for their exquisite taste and aroma, and can be found in the surrounding area. Go truffle hunting in the Buzet area with Prodan Tartufi or Karlic Tartufi
- Truffle Tasting: You can find a variety of truffle products to taste at Natura Tartufi and Zigante Tartufi
- River Mirna: Nice views from this hill town situated right above the Mirna River.
- Buzet Region Museum: The museum in the Palace Bigatto houses pagan artifacts and items from the Roman period.
- Subotina Festival: September celebration of old crafts and fashion.
- Fritaja Event: Each September, Buzet citizens make a huge omelet feast with more than 2,000 eggs.
- Aura Distillery: Sample various brandies of Istria.
- Hot Air Ballooning: See Istria from above with a hot air balloon ride that you can schedule with Gral Putovanja
- Nearby Towns: Medieval towns around Buzet are a great way to spend afternoons.
- Wine Roads: Visit wine producers on the wine roads of Buzet.
- Mirna Valley: There are various well-marked trails you can explore by walking or cycling.
- Istarske Toplice: A health spa famous since Roman times. It is highly ranked among the therapeutic hot springs in Europe for beneficial effects on arthritis and skin conditions.
- Pietrapelosa Castle: Nearby castle dates back to 10th century.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map
- Accommodation: Vela Vrata, Hotel Fontana, and Vela Sterna B&B.  

Additional information about Buzet is available from the Buzet Tourist Board.

Groznjan

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The merry sound of music, accompanied by the creative buzz and lively color of the artists' community make Groznjan an irresistibly romantic destination. The summer music, drama, and peace-focused academies turn the quiet hill town into a cultural gem. A place where new Bohemian chic entwines amicably with Old World structures, Groznjan welcomes the creative class, having declared itself a town of artists in 1965. Set 225m up a hillside about 27km from the Porec, the town warmly welcomes visitors with authentic hospitality, opening the doors of its 14th-century Venetian splendor along with its galleries, cafes, and shops.

Best of Groznjan:

- Town Center: Town of artists and writers, with a fun, energetic ambience.
- Cobbled Streets: Enjoy walking in narrow streets paved with the cobblestones.
- Panoramic Views: Small covered terraces are perfect local spots to relax after exploring the town.
- Jazz is Back Festival: Traditional international jazz festival held in July.
- Groznjan Musical Summer: Outdoor music concerts held in August.
- Art Galleries: Groznjan includes 64 art galleries.
- Art Exhibitions: Starting in May, Groznjan transforms into a hub for music, film, and art.
- Street Music: Summer music, particularly jazz.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map

Additional information about Groznjan is available from the Groznjan Tourist Board.  


Motovun

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Famous for many things, the hillside town of Motovun continues to entice visitors to its coordinates with a pleasant mix of old and new. There are gravestones from the first century, Venetian ramparts from the 14th century surrounding the old town, and a beautiful Venetian Renaissance church. A legendary gentle giant from Motovun represents the Croatian people in a favorite folktale. Surrounding vineyards produce well-crafted local wines. The vineyards are fabulous reasons to climb the hillside to Motovun, but they are eclipsed each July as the annual film festival gathers crowds inside the ancient walls to view creative works by European and American filmmakers. A delightful destination, imagine the Andretti brothers, Mario and Aldo, as young boys racing their hand-built wooden cars through Motovun's narrow, winding streets. 

Best of Motovun:

- Motovun City Gate: The walk up to the town is long but enjoyable. Once you reach the gate, you’ll know you’ve arrived.
- Motovun Walls: Ancient walls are well preserved, marking the outer border of this hill town.
- Motovun Film Festival: Famous for its movie festival celebrating small, independent producers, the event began in 1999 and is held annually in late July or early August.
- St. Stephen Church: This Renaissance parish church has a 27-meter bell tower from the 13th century.
- Istra Paragliding: Enjoy paragliding over Motovun.
- Truffle Hunting: Go truffle hunting in the Motovun forest with Miro Tartufi. 
- Parenzana Trail: This former 130 km (80 miles) long train railway, which was operational from 1902 to 1935, runs from Trieste to Porec. Its name is derived from Parenzo, the Italian name for Porec. Today it is a bike and walking path. Take the small tourist train that runs from Motovun to Vizinada or go walking to enjoy the trail. Most scenic part of the trail is section connecting Buje, Groznjan, Livade, Motovun, and Vizinada.
- Motovun Group of International Publishers: A non-profit organization with about 80 members in over 20 countries, which was founded in 1977 by Bato Tomasevic and inspired by Motovun. 
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map

Additional information about Motovun is available at the Motovun Tourist Board

Additional information about Central Istria (Pazin, Buzet, Groznjan, Motovun, and other towns) is available at the Central Istria Tourist Board.


Go to the Best of Istria homepage to read other chapters of the book.

Best of Istria | Events in Istria

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There are events and activities in Istria throughout the year, not just summer. Listed below are the major events, organized by seasons. Events specific to towns are also listed next to town sections of the book.


Summer Events in Istria

- ShareIstria (held during summer throughout Istria): Marketing campaign by the Istria Tourist Board bringing together social network bloggers to share their adventures of Istria.
- Istra Inspirit (held during summer throughout Istria): Interactive performances of historical and mythological stories and legends at authentic locations, accompanied by rich gastronomic offerings.
- Croatian Summer Salsa Festival (held in June in Rovinj) and Summer Sensual Days (held in June in Rovinj): Week-long music festivals held back-to-back in June, with multiple artists and DJs, concerts, and parties.
- ATP Croatia Open (held in July in Umag): The popular tennis tournament is accompanied by numerous events, including gourmet festival and music concerts.
- Pula Film Festival (held in July in Pula): Istria’s biggest open-air theater film festival held in Pula’s magnificent Amphitheater.
- Motovun Film Festival (held in July in Motovun): Famous international film festival with five-day long film marathons.
- Groznjan Jazz Festival (held in July in Groznjan):  International jazz festival featuring globally recognized jazz musicians.
- Night of Street Musicians (held in July in Rabac): Fun music program along the promenade in Rabac.
- Medieval Festival (held in Aug. in Svetvincenat): Knights, archers, horsemen and medieval ladies presenting the daily routine of medieval period at the Morosini-Grimani castle.
- Rovinj Events (held in Aug. in Rovinj): Enjoy daily evens in Rovinj, including St. Lawrence Night when lights are dimmed; Grisia Annual Arts Festival that features art work by various artists; and Rovinj Night with a fun program and spectacular fireworks.


Autumn Events in Istria

- Truffle Days (held in late Sep. to early Nov. in Buzet, Motovun, and Livade):  Truffles are Istria’s highly prized culinary treasure.  They have a strong and distinct taste and are used very sparingly in cooking, typically grated over fresh food or used in a sauce. White (strongest flavor and most expensive) and black truffles have their natural habitat in the Istrian truffle triangle between Pazin, Buje and Buzet, especially in Mirna valley and Motovun Forest. Truffles grow underground and can only be found by specially trained dogs. Truffle-hunting season begins in late September and goes on throughout most of autumn. There are many festivities dedicated to truffles, including Zigante Truffle Days in Livade; Subotina with a giant truffle omelet in Buzet; Truffle Weekend in Buzet where you can taste and buy truffles and truffle products; Teran and Truffle (TeTa) Festival in Motovun with tasting of Teran wine and truffles; and Days of Momjan Muscat and Truffles in Momjan.
- Medulin Craft Beer Festival (held in Sep. in Medulin): Two-day craft beer festival with over 30 independent breweries from over 10 European countries with over 60 beers on tap.
- Istria Gourmet Festival (held in Oct. in Rovinj): Gathering of Istria’s leading chefs and restaurant owners to discuss future trends of Istrian gastronomy.
- ISAP International Prosciutto Fair (held in Oct. in Tinjan): Istrian prosciutto (also called vijulin, meaning violin, in Istria) is regarded one of the best in the world and it’s still produced following the traditional rules resulting in unique taste, smell, color, softness, and freshness.
- Chestnut Festival (held in Oct. in Oprtalj; ): Event dedicated to chestnuts and chestnut products.
- Festival of Istrian Grappa (held in Oct. in Hum): Annual review of Istria’s brandy which mostly originates from northern and central Istria.
- Restaurant Week (held in Oct. in Istria): Great opportunity to taste Istrian gastronomical delicacies in the best restaurants throughout Istria.
- Sole Fish Days (Oct. and Nov. in NW Istria): Month-long event in many restaurants and wine cellars of Umag, Novigrad, Buje, and Brtonigla dedicated to meals based on sole fish, served with quality wine and olive oil from Istria.
- Feast Day of St. Martin (aka Martinje; held in Nov. in Momjan): St. Martin, who is considered by European traditions consider to be the patron saint of vintners and wine growers, is also the patron saint of Momjan. Join the feast for wine-tasting sessions in Momjan and Buje cellars.
- Olive Oil Days (held in Nov. in Vodnjan): Annual international event attended by olive growers and oil producers from the entire Adriatic region. There are guided tastings of olive oil, lectures, and other fun activities.
- Open Door Days of Agrotourism (held in Nov. in various Istrian towns): Organized by Agency for Rural Development of Istria (AZRRI) in cooperation with Istrian county agrotourism to promote rural farms and Istrian gastronomy. The event includes over 10 agrotourism farms and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious farm-to-table meals.


Winter Events in Istria

- Rovinj Music Festival (held in Dec. in Rovinj): Music competition and festival.
- December in the City (held in Dec. in Pula): Numerous concerts, plays, gastronomical offerings, and other fun events.
- Christmas in Istria: Various Christmas events throughout towns of Istria.
- Days of Adriatic Squid (held in Dec. and Jan. in NW Istria): Month-long event in many restaurants and wine cellars of Umag, Novigrad, Buje, and Brtonigla dedicated to meals based on squid.
- Days of Seashells (held in Feb. and March in NW Istria): Month-long event in many restaurants of Umag, Novigrad, Buje, and Brtonigla with imaginative menus with shells.
- Carnival (held in Feb. in Istria): Cheerful parades with colorful masks and happenings throughout the streets and squares of towns in Istria.


Spring Events in Istria

- 100 Miles of Istria (held in April in Labin, Buzet, Motovun, and Umag): Endurance race along the Istrian hiking trail, starting in Labin and finishing in Umag.
- Days of Asparagus (held in March and May in NW Istria):  Month-long event in many restaurants of Umag, Novigrad, Buje, and Brtonigla focused on delicious and fragrant delicacies made from Istrian wild asparagus.
- Easter Festivals (held in March or April in Istria): Celebration of Easter throughout Istria.
- Exhibition of the Wine of Central Istria (held in March/April on Easter Monday in Gracisce): Tasting of various wines from Central Istria.
- Popolana (held in April in Rovinj): Three-day event in Rovinj offering a variety of fun activities for families.
- Istria Wine & Walk (held in May in Buje): The 11 km tasting walk consists of delightful meetings and tasting sessions with 8 Istrian winemakers and 8 local producers and caterers.
- Vinistra Exhibition (held in May in Porec): International exhibition of wine in Istria. The exhibition is open to the public and there’s wine tasting throughout the exhibition.
- Day of Open Wine Cellars (held on the last Sunday in May; ): 70 renowned Istrian winemakers open their wine cellars to the public.
- Gnam-Gnam Fest (held in June in Novigrad): Fest celebrating scallops as well as other shellfish and seafood.
- Veli Joze Days (held in June in Motovun): Festival dedicated to Istria’s giants and other fantasy creatures.


There are many other activities throughout the towns of Istria. Check the Istria Tourist Board website and events pages of the towns for the most current information.


Go to the Best of Istria homepage to read other chapters of the book.

Best of Istria | NW Istria: Umag, Novigrad, Brtonigla, and Buje

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NW Istria consists of the region comprised of Umag, Novigrad, Brtonigla, and Buje. Not only does NW Istria have a lot to offer for both adults and kids, but it also has a diverse array of choices. The region has some of the best hotels and camps in Istria, many beautiful swimming beaches, lots of exciting sporting activities and events, and extraordinary culinary and wine traditions to enjoy.


Umag

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As Croatia's westernmost city, Umag throws open the gates, embracing travelers from all points across Northern Europe to Croatia's breathtaking Adriatic coast. Once the summer residence of influential Roman citizens, the city of Umag gracefully exhibits architectural remnants of its historic past. Town walls and defense towers from the 10th century and lovely details of an ancient, grand, coastal Roman villa, nestled up to lush hillside vineyards and olive orchards, handsomely display its resilience. Umag has endured rule by the Romans, Byzantines, Lombards, Francs, Venetians, Turks and Genovese, only recently gaining independence. That newfound freedom has launched a wonderful era of tourism, inviting the world to explore Umag's blue flag ACI marina, 45 km of coastline, its ATP international tennis tournament, the Adriatic coast's oldest lighthouse, and exhilarating hiking, biking, climbing, and camping pursuits. Umag is truly the gateway to the Istrian peninsula, as well as a splendid Croatian holiday. Derived from the Latin "humagum," the name Umag is likely a derivation of "humus" meaning "fertile," and "magum," meaning "cultivated field."

Best of Umag:

- ATP Tennis Tournament: Held in late July, this popular event draws top tennis players and their fans; nightly concerts and parties.
- Beaches: Umag is known for its many blue flag beaches along the 45 km coastline.
- Umag Town Walls: With gated draw-bridge, dating from 10th century.
- Umag Town Museum: located in a preserved medieval defense tower.
- Assumption of Virgin Mary and St. Peregrine Church: Dedicated to the patron saint of Umag. The 33m bell-tower originates from 1651.
- Lighthouse of Savudrija: The oldest lighthouse on the Croatian coastline, legend has it that Count Metternich built the structure to express his love for a Croatian woman who tragically died on the same night the lighthouse beamed the first light of love.
- Wine and oil tasting in Savudrija: Taste the oil from Farm Jola and wine from Degrassi vineyards.
- Umag Train: Runs every 15 minutes between old town of Umag and Katoro with stops along the way.
- Umag Segway City Tours: Fun on two wheels throughout Umag.
- Subaquatic Diving Center: Diving from novice to experts.
- Glassboat Aquavision:  See the fish, underwater reefs, and remains of the sunken town of Sipar through glass-bottomed boats.
- Golf Club Adriatic at Kempinski Hotel: First 18-hole championship golf course in Istria.
- Wellness treatments in hotels: Many hotels offer soothing spa treatments. See Chapter 32 for more information.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map


Novigrad

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The sheltered harbor of Novigrad, on the west coast of the Istrian Peninsula, was likely established as a military outpost in the late Antiquity transition period during the rise of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The harbor, or Mandrac, continued to attract settlers, especially fishermen, throughout the ages. In Novigrad, visitors will discover Roman remnants from the fourth to the seventh centuries, Slavic cemeteries from the seventh century, a ciborium altar canopy used by Bishop Mauritius during the reign of Charlemagne, a classic Baroque church in St. Pelagius, and impressive stone walls, town loggia, and fortifications from the Venetian era around the mid-1200s. Visitors will also enjoy a lively, contemporary city with culinary emphasis and artistic expression known throughout Europe. All will find a stroll through the shops and homes on the charming, narrow streets an unforgettable experience leading to the heart of the city where engaging waterfront events take place. Often referred to as Cittanova d'Istria in Italian, Novigrad Istarski in Croatian, and originally Emonia via Greco-Roman influence, a visit to this inspired fishing village holds wonderful cultural, culinary, and historic treasure.

Best of Novigrad:

- Novigrad Old Town: Enjoy a glass of wine and beautiful sunset in the Old Town city streets.
- Novigrad town walls: Towers and what were once the main town gates.
- Museum Lapidarium:  Museum of Croatian history.
- St. Pelagio and St. Maxim's Parish Church: Dates back to 1883.
- Gallery Rigo: Contemporary Croatian art.
- Gallerion K.u.K. Marine Museum: Celebrates Novigrad's maritime history with an entertaining display.
- Istralandia Aquapark: Waterpark with over 20 waters slides, located between Novigrad and Brtonigla.
- Taste the Novigrad Kapesante: Novigrad pilgrim scallops, locally called kapesante, are considered one of the tastiest shellfish in the world.
- Gnam-Gnam Festival: Consists of eight gourmet events throughout the year.
- Pinesta Beach: Beautiful sandy beach. 
- Istria Granfondo Family & Gourmet Tour: Held in October.  A 25 km long recreational bicycle tour around Novigrad and its surroundings.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map


Brtonigla

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Brtonigla is first mentioned in written documents in 1234 as Ortoneglo or Black Garden, a name it received from the dark soil that is typical of the area. Brtonigla also has many sites dating back to the Neolithic era and Bronze Age, which hark back from 2100 to 1000 BC. The Roman Empire occupied Istria in the first century and Roman remains are scattered over the entire region of Brtonigla.  Recognized for its wineries and olive oil growers, visitors to Brtonigla can also enjoy exploring historical sites, and participating in famous folk festivals.

Best of Brtonigla:

- Mramornica Cave: One of the largest caves in Istria, with parts as deep as 60 meters below ground.
- Istralandia Aquapark: Waterpark with over 20 water slides.
- Paragliding: Go paragliding with GoFly.
- Winemakers and Olive Oil Producers: Visit local winemakers and olive growers. See Chapters 17 and 18 for more information.
- Skarline Nature Park: Park is named after Skarline stream that springs in the park and which has created a green canyon along its route to Mirna River.
- Unique Soil: The only place in the world with four types of soil – red soil (terra rossa), black soil (chernozem), grey soil and white soil which are used to grow different varieties of the famous Istrian Malvasia wine.
- Local Taverns: Plethora of Istrian delicacies.
- Mushroom Days: Mushroom exhibition held at end of October with presentations and expert guidance on all types of Istrian mushrooms.
- San Rocco Hotel and Restaurant: Fernetich family has been an evangelist of tourism in Brtonigla for over two decades.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map
- Accommodation: San Rocco


Buje

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Like many other Istrian towns, Buje has a long history dating back to the Bronze Age. Valued for its panoramic views, surrounding vineyards, and lush olive groves dotting its hillside, the town was a Roman settlement, then a medieval Venetian city, remaining under Italian rule from 1918 to 1945. An important border crossing from Italy and Slovenia, Buje has held a position of importance in government and economy for centuries. Our Lady of Mercy Baroque era church, and the Ethnographic Museum are highlights, but Buje is the start point for many wine road tours, visiting 23 winemakers along the route. Similarly, olive oil road tours encourage sampling produce from many producers in the Buje area.

Best of Buje:

- Panoramic Views: Wonderful views of Slovenia, Italy, Austria, and Croatia from the top of the “watchtower of Istria’’ that dates back to 15th century. 
- Town Walls: Buje is surrounded by ancient defensive walls and maintains a medieval atmosphere.
- Olive Oil: Buje is known by local producers and factories that offer extra virgin olive oil.
-  St. Servelus Church: This Baroque church located at the main square dates back to the 18th Century, housing a music organ constructed in 1791.
- Civic Museum: Includes arts and crafts by local artisans.
- Off-Road in Istria: Rent a car or go on a 4x4 tour with Camelus Tours
- Momjan Castle: Located on a rock just beside the town of Momjan.
- San Servolo Brewery: Local brewery with a visitor’s room, full bar, and terrace.
- Wine: Taste the Momjan Muscat. Visit local wineries, including Kozlovic Winery, Kabola Winery, and Prelac Winery
- The Festival of Grapes: This event in September marks the start of the grape-harvesting season with family entertainment.
- Istria Wine & Walk: The 11 km tasting walk in May consists of delightful meetings and tasting sessions with 8 Istrian winemakers and 8 local producers and caterers.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map

Additional information about NW Istria is available from the Istria Tourist Board at Colours of Istria where you can also download a free mobile app of NW Istria


Go to the Best of Istria homepage to read other chapters of the book.

Best of Istria | Regions of Istria

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Although just a part of Croatia, Istria feels like a small, magical country in itself. From the extensive coastline with crystal blue waters lapping at stunning beaches in mesmerizing coastal towns, to medieval hilltop towns with mystical castles and bell towers rising in the sky, Istria is packed with beautiful sights and unforgettable experiences. Istria is truly magical and is sure to seduce you with its charm.

Istria County consists of 10 towns (Buje, Buzet, Labin, Novigrad, Pazin, Porec, Pula, Rovinj, Umag, and Vodnjan) and 31 municipalities. Additional information is available at the Istria County website.

Istria Tourist Board divides Istria into 7 regions:

  1. NW Istria: Umag, Novigrad, Brtonigla, and Buje
  2. Central Istria: Pazin, Buzet, Groznjan, and Motovun
  3. Porec
  4. Vrsar and Funtana
  5. Rovinj
  6. Pula, Medulin, and Brijuni Islands
  7. Labin and Rabac

This book follows the regional structure of Istria County delineated by the Istria Tourist Board.

Additional information about all the major towns of Istria, and their attractions, is provided in the following chapters. All attractions listed in those chapters are also mapped in the Best of Istria Google map.

You can find more information about Istria from the Istria Tourist Board.


Go to the Best of Istria homepage to read other chapters of the book.

Best of Istria | Need to Know

best-of-istria-need-to-know


This section contains helpful information as you prepare for travel to Istria. The topics are listed alphabetically.

Accommodations

Various types of accommodations are available, including local houses, hostels, apartments, hotels, villas, and camps. Most hotels are near the beach, with the best prices available online. For a stay in a local house, check with city tourist offices that have access to many rooms available for rent by locals. See Chapters 4 to 10 for accommodation recommendations and Chapter 39 for recommended websites on booking accommodations.

Airline Restrictions

Restrictions about what you can carry on the plane are always changing. Visit Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) for the latest information on what you can bring, what you should check in your luggage, and what you can carry onto the plane with you.

Banks

Banks are usually the best place to exchange currency.  Also check with currency exchange offices which often have most competitive rates. Most banks are open from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Banks are closed on weekends and national holidays. When banks are closed, you can find ATMs in most cities.

Bus 

Istria has a well-connected bus service to coastal towns and major interior towns, but to visit inland villages you’ll need a car.  Autotrans (www.autotrans.hr) lists arrival and departure times for buses throughout Istria and also offers online booking.

Border Crossings

If you’re arriving to Istria from the western direction, you’ll cross the border to Istria through Slovenia on one of the three main border crossings: Dragonja, Secovlje, or Socerga. Dragonja (https://goo.gl/maps/6H89ffaDwkP2) border crossing on the Koper – Smarje – Dragonja is the most popular and the busiest. Secovlje (https://goo.gl/maps/dRcAt7TXgdT2) border crossing on the Portoroz – Secovlje road is somewhat less visited and less busy. Alternatively, some drivers also choose to go through the Socerga (https://goo.gl/maps/uGfcz3tNLFA2) border crossing on the Gracisce – Socerga road which is least busy but farther from the main roads.

HAK (www.hak.hr/en; Croatian Automobile Club) is the best source of traffic and road conditions.

Business Hours

Stores are generally open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and are frequently closed on Sundays. Most have longer hours in the summer.

Car Accidents & Breakdowns

If you have an accident, place a warning triangle 30 m (33 yd) behind the car and call the police. A reflector jacket is required at night or during poor visibility.

Exchange names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information with other driver(s) involved. A police report needs to be submitted to the rental and insurance companies. If there’s an injury, seek medical assistance.

If you are driving a rental car, call the emergency number of the rental company.

For emergencies, dial 112 throughout Croatia. For police, dial 192.

Car Fines

Fines for speeding and other road violations are often required to be paid on the spot. Get a receipt. If you don’t have cash on you, you’ll be taken to a bank. If you don’t have cash and don’t have a bank card, your car will likely be impounded until you pay the fines.

Car Insurance

Comprehensive insurance is advisable. If renting a car, supplemental insurance is also recommended to reduce or eliminate your deductible costs in case of an accident or damage to the car. Check with car rental companies about any additional fees. More information about car insurance is available at www.huo.hr/eng.

You typically won’t need a special border crossing card or additional insurance in order to enter Croatia from Italy or Slovenia. You will need to purchase a vignette in order to drive on all Slovenian motorways and expressways. Cost of a weekly vignette is €7.50 and €30 for half-year vignette. Additional information about Slovenian vignettes is available at www.dars.si.

Car Lights

Use of headlights is required at all times, except during summer when they do not have to be turned on until dark. High-beam headlights can only be used outside cities and towns.

Car Rentals

There are many car rental offices throughout Istria and nearby airports, with many types of vehicles to choose from, ranging from inexpensive compact cars to expensive luxury vehicles. Renting a car with an automatic transmission is about 50% more expensive than renting a car with a manual transmission. You can get better rates and better selection by booking online before your arrival. To rent a car, you’ll need to be 21 years or older, have a valid driver’s license, and a credit card.

Fees assessed for different pickup and drop-off locations are very high, especially when crossing country borders. Ask your car rental company for the most up-to-date information on local, national, and international regulations, policies, and fees.

Car rental companies in Istria: www.istra.hr/en/planning-your-travel-and-stay/useful-information/road-traffic/0-ch-3.

Children

Children smaller than 135 cm (53 in) are required to sit in the children car seats in the back. Children must be taller than 150 cm (59 in) to sit in the front. These regulations also apply to taxis.

Costs

Istria is not as inexpensive as it was just few years ago. These days, the prices are comparable to other European countries, although not as expensive as Italy or other popular tourist destinations.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere but bring cash for better bargains.

Call your credit card company ahead of your travel to let them know the countries you’ll be visiting so that your charges don’t get declined while traveling. A Capital One credit card doesn’t have international fees and I recommend getting it, or a similar credit card without international fees, for your travels.

Price negotiations are common with private vendors so you may get a better deal if you ask for it. Have cash to get the best price.

Currency

The Croatian currency is the Kuna. The exchange rate at the time of publication is around 6 Kunas per USD. Croatia is expected to transition to the Euro (€) currency as its official currency in 2019.

Customs

Travelers’ allowances for Croatia are the same as other EU countries. The duty free allowance is $800 per person once every 30 days. The rest is taxed at 3%. A number of goods are prohibited from import, including cheeses, fruits, vegetables, meat, and illegal drugs.

Documents

Prior to your trip, make copies of all your documents and store them in a safe place when traveling.

As another backup, scan all your documents and store them on Dropbox (free) or Google Drive (free) in case your luggage is lost.

Driver’s License

Visitors driving their own vehicles registered in their respective countries must be at least 18 years of age and must carry vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and a valid driver’s license. Third party insurance is required.

It’s also recommended that you obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) from AAA.

Drinking and Driving

In Croatia, the permitted blood-alcohol level is 0.05% (this is less than 1 drink per hour) for adults and 0.00% for anyone under 24. If you drink, don’t drive.

Driving Conditions

Traffic rules follow the Geneva Convention and use international road signs. Drive on the right side of the road, pass on the left, and give way at intersections to vehicles coming from your right.

Some drivers in Croatia drive fast and cross over middle lines of the road which can be particularly dangerous around blind turns. Exercise caution and stay alert when driving.

Driving Directions

Make use of the Istria Trip Google maps. You can also save your directions for offline use when on the road. GPS devices are available for rent at nearly all car rental offices.

If you prefer a paper map, download this high resolution map from Istria Tourist Board: www.istra.hr/.app/upl_files/KartaIstre.pdf. This map is also available at tourist offices throughout Istria.

Electricity

The current is 220 volts AC. Plugs have two round pins. For most electronic devices, you’ll only need to buy the plug add-on (~1 USD) since they already have an internal voltage converter. For other devices, buy a voltage transformer before you leave.

Embassies

All embassies in Croatia are located in Zagreb.

The US embassy is at 2 Thomas Jefferson Street, 10010 Zagreb (https://goo.gl/maps/7qEqQbeg7s12) and they can be contacted at 385-1-661-2200. Their website is http://zagreb.usembassy.gov.

The British embassy is at Ul. Ivana Lucica 4, 10000 Zagreb (https://goo.gl/maps/jdMeiBhURKC2) and can be contacted at 385-1-600-9100. Their website is http://ukincroatia.fco.gov.uk/en.

Emergency Telephone Numbers

For emergencies, dial 112 throughout Croatia. For police, dial 192.

Emergency road help with advice in English is available by dialing 987.

Entry Regulations, Passports, and Visas

The only document required for US citizens is a passport for any stay up to 90 days. If your passport is due to expire within 3 to 6 months of your ticketed date of return, you may be denied entry. It can take up to two months to get a new passport so renew your passport early. Make a copy of your passport or store a copy online in case it is lost or stolen. EU citizens need only a visitor’s card. Check regulations before you travel.

Ferries

Car rentals are permitted on Croatian car ferries. Rental cars cannot be taken across to Italy by ferry. Valid registration papers are required for international ferries.

Book your car ferry tickets in advance because they're often sold out. You can buy tickets at Jadrolinija’s website (www.jadrolinija.hr).

Festivals

Festivals take place in Istria throughout the year. In addition, every city has a patron saint and each one marks its saint’s day with special celebrations. For the most current listing of events in Istria, visit www.istra.hr/en/attractions-and-activities/events.

Footwear

Most Istrian beaches are pebbly or rocky. This is great for the color of beaches and your ability to see through water but not so great for walking under water. Sea urchins are also common. I suggest that you buy a pair of water shoes.


Gasoline

Most cars in Istria use diesel, not gasoline (petrol, octane). Make sure to pump the correct type of fuel. If you pump the wrong type of fuel, you can have your gas tank drained for €100. Fuel is very expensive (over 1€ per L).  Highways have 24-hour fuel stations.

Getting to Croatia: By Airplane

Croatia has eight main airports. They are located at Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Osijek and Brac. Five of them serve international flights: Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, Split, Zadar, and Dubrovnik. The main international airport in Croatia is the Zagreb Airport. Istria’s main airport is Pula (https://goo.gl/maps/YaBvwT48jut).

Slovenia's main airport is in Brnik, 25 kilometers from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Several foreign carriers fly from the airport but the largest number of flights are operated by Slovenia's only airline, Adria Airways. Portoroz is Slovenia's second international airport. Maribor airport has only national flights.

You can also fly into Italy at the International airports of Venice or Trieste. Trieste is closer to Croatia but Venice has more flight options with arrivals from more destinations.

You can rent a car at all of these airports. Make sure to reserve online before the trip to get the best prices.

Getting to Croatia: By Train

Trains from the continent arrive at Koper (Slovenia). A great resource on travel by train is available at www.find-croatia.com/railways/railway-train-map-croatia.html.

Getting to Croatia: By Car

Getting to Croatia by car from Europe is easy. Entry places to Croatia can be found at www.cromaps.com/granicni-prijelazi.

If coming by air, you have an option to bring your car with you. The cost is typically similar to your air ticket. Note that the car arrives by ship so you’ll need to send your car 4-6 weeks prior to arrival.

Renting the car at the airport is often your cheapest option, especially when booked together with airfare.

Getting to Croatia: Ferry Services

There are ferry connections between Croatia and Italy: Ancona – Split/Stari Grad/Zadar/Hvar; Venezia – Lussino/Porec/Pula/Umag/Rovinj/Rabac; Bari – Dubrovnik. An easy-to-use ferry directory is available at www.ferryto.com.hr.

In addition, there are many connections between mainland Croatia and offshore islands. Jadrolinija is the most economical way to go island hopping. Book in advance as they sell out quickly during the summer.

Guided Tours

Istria is safe and you’re encouraged to explore on your own. There are many travel agencies available if you prefer to travel with a guide.

Health Insurance

Croatia is a member of the EU and has reciprocal health agreements with other EU member states. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended for all others. Check with your medical insurance about what’s covered and what’s needed for reimbursement in case of medical care.

Holidays

January 1: New Year's Day
January 6: Epiphany
Easter and Easter Monday (variable date)
May 1: International Workers' Day
60 days after Easter; Corpus Christi (variable date)
June 22: Anti-Fascist Struggle Day
June 25: Statehood Day
August 5: Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day
August 15: Assumption of Mary
October 8: Independence Day
November 1: All Saints Day
December 25: Christmas
December 26: St. Stephen's Day

Insects

Mosquitoes can be a nuisance during the summer months, especially in camps. Wear insect repellent as needed.

Internet

Beware - internet charges on your mobile phone can add up quickly when using your home mobile device in Istria. You can buy a prepaid SIM card (e.g.,  www.tourist.bonbon.hr) to put in your mobile phone to save money. For only €10, you'll receive around 4GB of data to use within a month.

Also, most cities have free WiFi available throughout the city. If a city WiFi is not available, you can get free WiFi from cafes and restaurants.

My favorite way to access the internet in Istria is with the RoamFree Ninja (https://roamfree.ninja) WiFi hotspot (pocket sized device), which is inexpensive (about €8/day), provides great internet speeds, and allows connections for up to 10 devices simultaneously.

Jellyfish, Sea Urchins, and Other Sea Animals

Stinging jellyfish can be found in the water and are also sometimes washed up on the shore. Sea urchins, known for their porcupine-like spines, are also often found in water. Stepping on them can be painful. Pouring olive oil in the area around the spine will help with spine removal. Wear water sandals when you can and be careful where you step when walking barefoot. Consult a medical doctor when concerned with any medical incidents.

Language

Croatian is the official language in Croatia. Most people in Istria also speak Italian and English, although there are many, including in smaller villages, who only speak Croatian. In restaurants and stores, you won’t have any problems communicating in English, Italian, or German.

Learn a few words in Croatian. Download the Google translate app to translate on the go. The app works with a microphone as well.

Mail

Post offices are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Sending postcards is inexpensive. Stamps can be purchased at post offices and at many shops that sell postcards.

Measures

Croatia uses the metric system of meters, kilograms, liters, etc. Voltage is 220 volts and plugs have European prongs.

Medical Services

Most cities have 24-hour emergency services. Some cities share hospitals and you may have to be transported to a hospital in a nearby city for advanced medical services such as surgery. The doctor’s fees are typically paid in cash.

Dental work is popular in Istria because it’s still relatively inexpensive compared to Europe and US. The quality is comparable to dental work elsewhere in Europe.

For most up to date information on vaccinations and health tips when traveling, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for Health Information for Travelers to Croatia.

Mobile Phones

It is illegal to drive and talk on your cell phone without a hands-free kit.

Money

Bring some cash with you. This is your emergency stash. Small denominations work best.

For everything else, use your credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are accepted nearly everywhere. Debit cards are also accepted in most places. Check with your banks about transaction fees. When withdrawing money from ATMs, take out large amounts so that you minimize the fees associated with withdrawals.

In case you lose your credit cards, call your credit card’s international number (you can call collect) or these general numbers: Visa (410-581-9994); Master Card (636-722-7111); and American Express (623-492-8427). Take pictures of your credit cards and store them for use in an emergency.

Banks often provide the best money exchange rates but compare rates since they vary between banks. Also check the exchange rates with currency exchange offices which often have competitive rates.

Don’t bring travelers checks. They are cumbersome to cash and have many fees associated with them.

Motorcycles

You must wear a helmet when driving a motorcycle.

News

The most popular Croatian newspapers are Vecernji List (www.vecernji.hr), Glas Istre (www.glasistre.hr), and Jutarnji (www.jutarnji.hr).

You can find nearly every local newspaper in the cafes. Instead of buying a newspaper, order an espresso and read the newspaper for free.

The most popular English versions are Croatia Week (www.croatiaweek.com) and Total Croatia News (www.total-croatia-news.com).

For news in English, International Herald Tribune (http://international.nytimes.com), the global edition of The New York Times, is published almost daily throughout Europe. Two other great news sites for international news in English are www.EuropeanTimes.com  and www.bbc.com/news.

Parking

Parking in city centers is difficult since the historic old towns were not built to accommodate vehicles. Park outside the city center in parking lots and garages for lower parking fees. For some hotels in city districts, you may be required to obtain a special parking permit from your hotel.

Park in areas with white lines and a big 'P' sign. Yellow dots mean parking for disabled only. Parking elsewhere might get your car towed even if there are no signs informing you not to park there.

Real Estate

During your visit to Istria, you may fall in love with a destination and may decide to buy a vacation or investment property there. If you need assistance with buying or selling real estate in Istria, please contact me directly with any questions you might have.

Road Maps

I use Google Maps when traveling in Istria. My favorite paper map is the AA Road Atlas Croatia. Regional maps are also valuable for local exploring.

HAK provides an excellent electronic map on its website (www.hak.hr/en). HAK also has a free mobile app. Michelin maps and route planner is also a popular resource (www.viamichelin.com).

If you prefer a paper map, download this high resolution map from Istria Tourist Board: www.istra.hr/.app/upl_files/KartaIstre.pdf. These maps are also available at tourist offices throughout Istria.


Roads

Roads and toll roads are in great condition and easy to navigate. There are signs everywhere helping you get from city to city and between different parts of cities. Tailgating is common during summer months when streets become congested with tourists.

Road Signs

Croatia conforms to the International Road Signs standards. Some road signs differ between countries so it is important to familiarize yourself with the country road signs.

A comprehensive guide to Croatian road signs is accessible at www.adcidl.com/pdf/Croatian-Road-Traffic-Signs.pdf.

Sales Tax and Value-Added Tax (VAT) for Shoppers

Sales tax is 25% in Croatia. The sales tax is included in the price that you pay.

As a tourist, you can get most of that tax back if you make a purchase of more than €50 at a store that participates in VAT services. When you make a purchase, get the VAT paperwork that is required to process your VAT refund with the customs agent at the airport. Once you get those stamps, you can process your refund with Global Refund offices or Premier Tax Free.

Satellite Navigation Devices (GPS)

Most major satellite navigation devices, such as TomTom and Garmin, include maps of Istria. Most car rental offices offer GPS devices for rent.

Seatbelts

Wearing of seatbelts is required in all seats where they are installed. Baby car seats and children car seats are also required. Many car companies have them available for rent.

Security

Major crimes are rare in Istria. Petty crime, however, is present as in any other country, especially in inner-city and tourist areas. Avoid carrying backpacks and money belts which are easy targets. Also avoid leaving valuables on the shore while going for a swim.

Sightseeing

Sightseeing and entertainment is not expensive. Most events are free, and paid events range from €3 - €20. Most popular sightseeing venues rent audio guides to learn more about the landmark. They’re typically about €5. You can also hire private guides for about €20/hour. This is a great value if you get others to join you on your tour.

Smoking and Alcohol

If you’re over 18, you can smoke and drink. Smoking in public places is very common as many locals smoke. However, as in other countries in Europe, smoking is increasingly restricted indoors.

Local wine and alcohol is excellent and inexpensive. In a restaurant, a good bottle of Istrian wine costs €10 to €20. Croatian local beers cost €2 to €3 for 0.5 L (17 oz). Prices vary depending on location and restaurant. Prices in supermarkets are about half of what you’d pay in a restaurant.

Speed Limits

The speed limit is 50 kph (31 mph) on built roads, 90kph (55mph) on open roads, 110kph (68mph) on main roads, and 130kph (80mph) on highways.

Sunburn

The sun can be intense in Istria. Sunscreen is suggested at all times, especially from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun is at its peak. Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated and seek shade when possible.

Telephone

The country code for Croatia is +385. To call abroad, dial 00, then the country code, followed by the city code then the number. For example, to call U.S., you would call 00-1-222-222-2222. For mobile phones, you can also substitute + for 00. To call the same number from before, you would dial +1-222-222-2222.

Hotels typically add surcharges to calls from rooms.

If you have a GSM-ready phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for your phone. Calls to outside of the country are still expensive, although prices for calls and internet have recently become more reasonable.

You can call for free if you can find a Wi-Fi connection. If you have a smart mobile device, you can use apps such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Google to make free calls and send free messages.

Time

Local standard time is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Check the time for any city at www.timeanddate.com/worldclock.

Tipping

Tipping is not required since waiters are paid a full wage. However, tipping is always appreciated and will get you a better service especially if you plan on visiting the place often. If you decide to leave a tip, 5-10 percent is considered generous. If you’ll be visiting a local cafe every morning, leave a one-time tip with the morning waiter for excellent service during the entire stay.

Toll Roads

Istria has only one toll road: Istrian Y. You can purchase a motorway toll card from motorway tollbooths. You can also pay as you go in local currency (kuna) or with credit card. The pricelist for toll roads is available at http://bina-istra.com/Default.aspx?sid=2314.

The A1 Motorway is the longest in Croatia, connecting major cities on the Adriatic coast. It’s also free and the most scenic road in Croatia.

Tourist Offices

Before taking a trip, contact the Istria Tourist Board for maps, guides, and other useful brochures. They can also be downloaded at www.istra.hr/en.

Most towns in Istria have a tourist information office in the town center where you can pick up brochures and maps.

Traffic Information


Road traffic info is provided 24 hours a day by HAK on their website (www.hak.hr/en) and via 041 415 800.

Traffic information in English is available at 98.5FM during the tourist season.

Travel Agents

Travel agents can save you time and money by getting you the best airfare and accommodations.  They can also arrange for rental cars and other activities. If you need assistance with any travel arrangements, please contact me directly so that I can put you in contact with our partners.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is generally a good idea. It typically costs 5-10 percent of your total trip. Compare the costs and your tolerance for risk to make a decision on whether to buy travel insurance.  I recommend www.insuremytrip.com for comparison shopping.

Many credit cards provide some travel insurance with all your purchases (e.g., lost luggage, delayed flights, death, etc). The coverage is limited but it’s free. Check with your credit card company for more information about their coverage.

Useful Contacts, Resources, and Phone Numbers

The Croatia and Istria tourist information Boards are a wealth of news and information. Visit the Croatian National Tourist Board at www.croatia.hr and the Istria Tourist Board at www.istra.hr/en.

In an emergency, dial 112. For directory assistance, dial 11888.

Also see Chapter 39 for additional resources.

Visas

Visa regulations are different for various countries. For those from the U.S. or the E.U., no visa is required.

Warning Triangle

Warning triangles must be used in the event of an accident, breakdown, or when stopped on a road in fog, on a curve, or on a hill. The triangle must be placed no less than 30 m (33 yd) behind the vehicle.

Weather

Istria has a pleasant Mediterranean climate with mild winters and dry, warm summers. Temperatures in June, July, and August are typically in the high 80s F (~30 C) to low 90s F (~35 C). Winters are mild and it rarely snows. Fall and spring are pleasant. Visit Weather Underground at www.wunderground.com for 40-year historical daily averages for any city in the world.

The swimming season in Istria spans from May to October with the hottest months being July and August. Sea temperature is the lowest in March (around 10 C or 50 F) and is highest in August (around 24 C or 75 F).

Rainfall increases from the west coast towards the interior. Characteristic winds are bura, jugo and maestral. Bura is a cold wind that descents from coastal mountains and moves towards the sea. Bura blows in gusts, can come unexpectedly and severely, and can be dangerous if you’re on the sea, especially on a small boat. Jugo is a south-easterly wind that brings clouds and rain. Unlike Bura, Jugo is a developing wind that gradually gains strength over few days. Mild maestral (also known as mistral) is a mild wind that blows in the summer, from the sea to the continent, bringing a nice breeze. Maestral is frequent from spring to autumn and strongest in July and August. There are no hurricanes in Istria.

What to Bring

Bring your driver’s license, a voltage converter, and any medications. Also bring good walking shoes so you’re comfortable exploring the cities, the hiking trails, and the beaches.

When to Go

The most popular months to travel are June through September. July and August are peak season. August is the busiest month since most of Europe is on summer holiday during the month of August. Everything is open late and the crowds are at their peak. Expect to pay the highest prices during this popular season.

May through June, and September through October are the best times to travel. In May and June, the weather is warm enough to go sun bathing and stay in the more expensive hotels without paying top dollar. September and October are great for swimming because the water is still warm and most of the tourists have departed for home.

For road trips, May to June and September to October are your best options because the roads are not overcrowded.

Other months are off-peak months. Many establishments in small towns close until May. Those that stay open are open only during limited hours. In larger towns, most places stay open during the entire year.

What to Eat and Drink

Istria is best known for wine, olive oil, truffles, Istrian prosciutto (dry-cured ham), oysters and seafood, sheep and goat cheeses, and seasonal vegetables and fruits. Istria offer delicious food for reasonable prices, especially if you go off the tourist strip.

Istria cuisine reflects the cultures that have influenced it over the course of history. Coastal cuisine is typically Mediterranean with a lot of olive oil, garlic, herbs, and fish. Some of the most popular dishes of Blue Istria include brodet (fish stew), clam buzara (clams with shellfish sauce sautéed with white wine, olive oil, tomato, garlic, and other ingredients), scampi buzara (scampi stewed in a tomato and white wine sauce), fish soups, scallops, oysters, spider crab, sardines, scampi (known as “shrimp” in North America), and the many varieties of fish.

Fresh, wild premium fish and shell fish are relatively expensive (as throughout Europe) and are typically priced by weight. Fresh, wild non premium fish (e.g. sardines, mackerel) and shell fish (e.g. mussels, clams) by contrast are cheap and usually first rate.

Pizza is excellent wherever you go. Also popular are cevapcici (ground meat), pljeskavice (burgers), raznjici (pork grilled on skewer), and burek (pastry stuffed with cheese or meat).

Cafes and bars range from modest to spectacular with terraces and beautiful views.

Where to Stay

Istria offers a wide variety of accommodations. You’ll find accommodation recommendations in Chapters 4 through 10.

Private accommodations are typically the most inexpensive way to stay in Istria. You can rent an apartment or a room, often called a “sobe”. You can find a sobe simply by walking around and looking for signs on houses, or by visiting a tourist agency. The charges are in the €20-€30 per person range. In addition to being inexpensive, these private accommodations are a nice way of mingling with the locals.

B&Bs are another popular option. Many residents offer bed and breakfast accommodations in their homes. The best of these can be a great buy, with the added experience of warm local hospitality.

Most hotels are expensive, especially during the summer months. Prices range from €100-€250 in large hotels and €60-€120 in smaller hotels. Before accepting the room, make sure that you understand all the charges associated with the room.

Camping is also popular in Istria, and there are plenty of sites on the coast where you can camp. Top camping sites for each town are covered in the book and Adriatic Road Trip Google Map (https://goo.gl/PpIlDE).

If you’re traveling with a family, you can also rent a villa for few days or a week. There are over 3,000 private villas in Istria, most of them with private pools, which you can choose from at reasonable prices.

It is best to book in advance if you plan on traveling in July and August.  Reservations can often be booked online. Hotel rates are quoted per room. B&B rates are quoted per person. Villas are quoted per day or week.

All guests to Istria must be registered with the police within 24 hours of arrival. This registration is done automatically by the accommodation where you’re staying. You must remember to register yourself if you’re staying at a relative’s or friend’s house. Failure to register could cause potential problems upon departure.

For additional travel resources, see Chapter 39.


Go to the Best of Istria homepage to read other chapters of the book.

Best of Istria | Overview of Istria

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Often referred to as “Terra Magica” and “The Little Tuscany,” the Istrian Peninsula is home to diverse landscape, long history, rich culture, and booming tourism industry that is putting Istria at the top of many travel lists. Get ready to be amazed by Istria’s stunning coastline, charming medieval towns and villages, ancient architecture, rolling vineyards and olive trees, exciting land and water adventures, delicious gourmet cuisine, and other unique experiences as you embark on your unforgettable visit to Istria.

This book covers only the administrative county of Istria in Croatia. It does not include other parts of Istrian peninsula that fall outside the Istria County, such as Opatija (part of Kvarner County of Croatia), Istrian towns in Slovenia (e.g., Piran, Koper, and Portoroz), and Muggia (part of Italy located on Istrian peninsula).

Istria Map

https://goo.gl/YBkrmR

Google map of Istria with all recommendations from the book.

Download a detailed printable map from the Istria Tourist Board. You can also pick up a print copy of the Istria map at local tourist offices in Istria.

Brief Overview of Istria

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Historically important and culturally rich, the Istrian peninsula is suspended like a jewel at the head of the Adriatic Sea and is shared by three countries: Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. About 90% of Istrian peninsula, or 3,160 square km (1,220 square miles), belongs to Croatia, and 2,820 square km (1,089 square miles) of that area belongs to Istria County, which is about 5 percent of the entire surface of Croatia. Istria has a population of about 250,000 people, nearly five percent of Croatia’s entire population.  Over four million people visit Istria every year.

Istria is often called Terra Magica (magical land), as it was known to Romans. Istria is home to wineries dotting the magnificent hillsides, olive orchards edged with craggy coastlines, and historic villages tucked into the harbors, all surrounded by gorgeous blue waters full of marine life. With its pleasant Mediterranean climate, 539 km of intricate coastline adorned with islands and islets invites active exploration. Brijuni National Park’s 14 islands, Ucka Mountain and its surrounding hilltops, lush forests, and verdant agricultural fields make Istria a truly remarkable, magical vacation destination. Welcome to Istria, an incredibly beautiful part of Croatia.

Additional information about Istria is available at Istria Tourist Board.

Brief History of Istria


Istria has a long and rich history. The history of Istria reaches back to the age of the dinosaurs and beyond. Remains of those Mesozoic giants have been found throughout Istria, including at Brijuni National Park and near Bale. The oldest traces of prehistoric human life were discovered at the Sandalja site near Pula, dating back to the Paleolithic period about 800,000 years ago (Late Stone Age). Following the Ice Age, around 6,000 BC, the Neolithic era began (Early Stone Age) when ancient Istrians transitioned from nomads to settlers, building huts, the remnants of which can be found in south Istria to this day.

A mix of prehistoric tribes and clans inhabited Istria during the Bronze Age, throughout third and second Millenia BC, constructing hill-forts as dwellings. The Histrians, who gave rise to the name "Istria", were of Indo-European origin and inhabited Istria during the Iron Age. They were hunters and fishermen that raised goats and sheep, and traded with Greeks, as evidenced by traces of Greek pottery and culture found on the peninsula. Histrians also pirated in the northern Adriatic Sea, coming into conflict with the formidable Romans. Around 177 BC, the Romans arrived and took control of Istria, establishing major centers such as Pula, developing trade routes and roads, and architecture. The Roman era led to the development of culture, literacy, and art, with all inhabitants of Istria enjoying the same rights as Roman citizens. The Arena in Pula, the Arch of the Sergii, and the Temple of Augustus in Pula are some of the remnants from Roman times, paying homage to a peaceful, settled era through the fifth century.

In the second part of the fifth century, the Roman Empire fell under the rule of Ostrogoths. The Croats arrived at the end of sixth century and settled in Istria. The Byzantine Empire ruled Istria starting in sixth century for 250 years. The Euphrasian Basilica in Porec and Basilica of St. Mary Formoza in Pula are both from the Byzantine period. The Franks arrived in the 8th century and Istria became part of Charlemagne’s feudal state. Several centuries of turbulent history followed, with various German rulers controlling Istria until the 10th century when Istria became part of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 13th century, the Venetians took over the western part of the Istrian peninsula, continuing to rule until end of the 18th century. Many artists of that time visited Istria and left traces of their work. The inland region of Istria became part of the Habsburg Empire. The Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire from 1804 to 1867 and as the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918. In 1797, the Venetian part of the Istrian peninsula was taken by Austria which already controlled the remainder of Istria. From 1805 through 1813, Istria was under Napoleon's rule before it was handed back to Austria again.

With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I in 1918, Istria was given to Italy and remained part of Italy for 25 years until 1943. Thousands of Italians still live in Istria and most Istrians speak fluent Italian. After World War II, according to the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, the territory between Novigrad and Trieste became the independent Free Territory of Trieste, while other parts of Istria were incorporated into Yugoslavia. Then in 1975, under the Treaty of Osimo, the current Istria became part of Croatia. Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia June 25, 1991, but agreed on July 7 during the Brioni Agreement to postpone its independence to October 8, the date which is celebrated as Independence Day of Croatia. The agreement, however, didn't stop the war between Croatia and Serbia. The war ended on November 12, 1995, with Croatia emerging independent and preserving its current borders. Croatia and Istria could finally return to the peaceful places they once were, blessed with a gorgeous coastline, beautiful mountains, and warm, industrious people, ready to again enjoy all the wonders held therein. Two decades later, Croatia continues to maintain a stable government, nurturing a respectable economy, and welcoming visitors eager to enjoy this marvelous land and culture.

Additional information about the history of Istria is available at Istria Tourist Board.

Istria Tourist Board

The Istria Tourist Board is a great resource for all types of information for travel in Istria. The helpful resources offered include calendar of events, brochures, and much more.  You’ll find links to the Istria Tourist Board’s webpages with specific information on particular topics of interest throughout the book.


Go to the Best of Istria homepage to read other chapters of the book.