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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Best of Istria | Best of Green Istria in a Week

green-istria-hum

An overview of these towns and their highlights was provided in the earlier chapters. Please revisit those chapters for additional information about each of these towns.

Additional information on the towns of Green Istria is available at Istria Tourist Board.

best-of-green-istria

Motovun: The famous Motovun is graciously located on an almost 300-meter hill overlooking the Mirna River valley and the mysterious Motovun Forest. Additional highlights of Motovun are listed in Chapter 5.

Groznjan: Groznjan is the “town of artists” with abundance of lively galleries and art studios to awaken your inner art spirit. Additional highlights of Groznjan are listed in Chapter 5.

Buzet: Buzet is the city of truffles with this highly prized and scarce delicacy growing in nearby forests. Additional highlights of Buzet are listed in Chapter 5.

Hum: Hum is claimed to be the smallest town in the world, with less than 30 inhabitants. Hum is also the birthplace of Humska Biska, an ancient liqueur made with mistletoe. While there, have an Istrian meal in the local tavern. Hint: there’s only one!

Pazin: Pazin is the administrative center of Istria, located in middle of the peninsula. Additional highlights of Pazin are listed in Chapter 5.

Labin: Sitting on the 300-meter hill is the best preserved acropolis settlement in Istria. Additional highlights of Labin are listed in Chapter 10.


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

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Best of Istria | Best of Blue Istria in a Week

blue-istria-liznjan

An overview of these towns with their highlights was provided in the earlier chapters. Please revisit those chapters for additional information about each of these towns.

Additional information on towns of Blue Istria is available at Istria Tourist Board.

best-of-blue-istria

Umag and Novigrad: Umag and Novigrad are located in the NW Istria and are the first two coastal towns encountered as you enter from the north. Additional highlights of Umag and Novigrad are listed in Chapter 4.

Porec:  As you drive south, you’ll come to Porec, one of the most photographed places of Istria. Additional highlights of Porec are listed in Chapter 6.

Vrsar and Funtana:  Panoramic Vrsar and historic Funtana are famous for their beaches. Additional highlights of Vrsar and Funtana are listed in Chapter 7.

Rovinj: Rovinj is the pearl of Istria and the most visited town in Istria. Additional highlights of Rovinj are listed in Chapter 8.

Pula: Pula is the largest town in Istria and has a rich history of Roman and Austro-Hungarian culture to explore. Additional highlights of Pula are listed in Chapter 9.

Rabac: Istria’s east coast is less visited but Rabac is still charming. Additional highlights of Rabac are listed in Chapter 10.


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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Google Local Guides: New Points, Levels, Badging and Features

locaguides-update

Local Guides points, levels & badges have gotten a makeover.

Check out the overview video.




New Local Guides Points

localguides-contribution-points

In the program revamp, higher impact contributions, like being the first to add a place on the map or leaving a review, earn more points.

  • Review: 5 points per review
  • Rating: 1 point per rating
  • Photo: 5 points per photo
  • Answer: 1 point per answer
  • Edit: 5 points per edit
  • Place added: 15 points per place added
  • Fact checked: 1 point per fact checked

New Local Guides Levels

localguides-levels

Points will be updated with the new changes. You may have even changed levels so make sure to change your current points and new level.

  • Level 1: 0 points
  • Level 2: 15 points 
  • Level 3: 75 points
  • Level 4: 250 points 
  • Level 5: 500 points 
  • Level 6: 1,500 points 
  • Level 7: 5,000 points 
  • Level 8: 15,000 points 
  • Level 9: 50,000 points 
  • Level 10: 100,000 points

With new levels come new badges for levels 4 through 10. These badges will appear next to profile photos for Local Guides on Google Maps and across Google channels.  

Additional information about the updates is available at Local Guides and Local Guides Connect.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Best of Istria | Highlights of Istria in a Week

istria-highlights-rovinj

Selecting just a few places for Istria highlights is not easy considering the many historical landmarks, beautiful coastal and inland town centers, and the many other charms that make Istria so intriguing. Rather than being a comprehensive list of highlights to see, this is a list of highlights in Istria that you should not miss. While visiting the highlights listed in this chapter, also explore the surrounding attractions of the town for a full-day experience.

highlights-of-istria

The Arena, Pula

arena-pula-istria-croatia

The Arena is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world and the sixth largest.  It was built through different periods, starting in 27 BC, and finished in first century. The Arena is three stories high (almost 33 m), as is the Amphitheater in Verona, Italy, but the Pula Arena is much better preserved. It is 133 m long and 105 m wide, and could seat 20,000 people when built, but only around 5,000 today. Mock-gladiator fights still happen in the Arena and there are many concert and entertainment events scheduled in its open-air atmosphere, especially during the summer. While in Pula, also hop on the Pula bus for a tour through this fascinating city.

Brijuni National Park

brijuni-istria-croatia

Brijuni National Park is comprised of 14 islands off the SW coast of Istria in the vicinity of Pula. Brijuni is a Croatian National Park and a site of marine interest. Veli Brijun and Mali Brijun, the two largest islands, have been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by the many archeological sites and dinosaur footprints on the islands. Former Yugoslavia President Tito reserved Brijuni as his residence for over 30 years where he hosted meetings for other international leaders and visitors. The islands can be reached by ferry from nearby Fazana in 15 minutes or you can take sightseeing tour of the archipelago from Pula.

St. Euphemia Church, Rovinj

euphemia-rovinj-istria-croatia

St. Euphemia church was built in 1756. Located on the highest point of Rovinj, St. Euphemia church was built in 1756. Relics of St. Euphemia are kept inside the church. Legend has it that in the year 800, the church bells rang in the morning as residents flocked to the sea to find a floating sarcophagus of St. Euphemia of Chalcedon who was killed on September 16 of year 304. Nobody could move the sarcophagus save for a young boy to whom St. Euphemia appeared in his dreams. To this day, September 16 marks Rovinj Day and St. Euphemia feast, celebrated with food and wine. This is just one highlight from Rovinj, the most picturesque town in all of Istria.

Euphrasian Basilica, Porec


euphrasian-basilica-porec-istria-croatia

The Euphrasian Basilica is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture built by Euphrasius of Thrace, the Bishop of Porec, in the sixth century. It has been listed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNSESCO) World Heritage List since 1997 and is the only historical site in Istria listed on UNESCO. While in Porec, also walk the streets of old town.

Motovun

motovun-istria-croatia

Your Istria experience won’t be complete unless you also visit the distinctive hilltop towns of Istria. The view from the hilltops is astounding, as are the views from valleys below as you approach them. They all have their unique stories to tell, which kids, as well as adults, find intriguing. 

The most visited inland town in Istria is Motovun, located on an almost 300-meter hill with a view of the Mirna River valley and mysterious Motovun Forest. You can walk the walls of Motovun for a spectacular view of the world below. The town is fully alive at the end of July for the Woodstock-like Motovun Film Festival. Additional highlights of Motovun are listed in Chapter 5.

In Istria you must also feast on the delicious food and hearty wine. While in Motovun, stop by the nearby Zigante Restaurant for excellent meals with truffles. They also have a store where you can sample their truffle spreads and various types of wine. Nearby Toklarija and Konoba Vrh are also excellent restaurants serving delicious meals with truffles.

Groznjan

groznjan-istria-croatia

Not far from Motovun is Groznjan, the “town of artists.” Groznjan is packed with galleries and art studios. As you walk along the cobbled streets with stone houses, you can feel the artistic vibe. There are special events throughout the year but the town comes fully alive with jazz nights, classical concerts, and various other art events during the summer. Additional highlights of Groznjan are listed in Chapter 5.

Istria highlights trip can be completed in a week by spending a day in each destination, or in fewer days if you combine more than one highlight in a day. As you explore other trips in the book, I encourage you to develop your own Istria trip map of highlights that you will explore. I’d be happy to take a look at your planned trip map to provide any additional tips before you finalize your plans.


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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Best of Istria | Best Beaches in Istria in a Week

best-beaches-in-istria

Istria's coastline is nearly 445 km long. With many coastal inlets and numerous islands, there are another 300 km of untouched beaches awaiting your arrival. Istrian beaches are as enchanting as the peninsula itself, welcoming you to pebbled beaches, sandy beaches, rocky beaches, beaches in small and large bays, and even beaches with hidden coves. There are over 200 beaches in Istria which are regularly tested for sea quality, with results showing some of the cleanest beaches and purest water in the world.

Additional information about Istrian beaches is available at Istria Tourist Board. The website also includes a list of beaches that were awarded blue flags.

best-beaches-in-istria-google-map

Kamenjak: Cape Kamenjak is a nature preserve with some of Istria’s best beaches. Also visit the Safari Bar for refreshing drinks and snacks.

Rovinj: Golden Cape is a forested nature park full of beaches.

Porec: Beach Oliva, St. Nicholas Island is on an island near Porec that can be accessed with ferry boats that run every 15 minutes. Also visit Delfin beach, and beaches in Zelena Laguna and Lanterna.

Pula: Punta Verudela is the most popular pebbled beach with water activities nearby.

Bale: Colona and San Polo.

Umag: Laguna Stella Maris and Katoro are popular pebbled beaches near Umag city center.

Rabac: Maslinica and Girandella. Also visit Golubjera beach in Bounty Bay, Brsec beach, and Ravni beach.


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


Best of Istria | Guide to Istria Road Trips

istria-road-trips


Traveling by Car in Istria

Istria’s main geographic advantage is that it’s easy to visit by car. Just a quick drive from Slovenia and Italy, it’s an easy trip only few hours away. Main roads are in great condition and are well marked. Some of the smaller roads, especially those in remote villages, may be difficult to navigate with traditional cars. Exercise caution when traveling around blind turns as drivers on opposite lines often cross over the middle lines. Within Istria, you can reach any other spot on the peninsula within two hours.

Istria is connected by the “Y Highway” which conveniently connects to all places in Istria. The A9 branch runs parallel to the coast from Slovenia to Pula and the A8 branch cuts diagonally to Ucka Tunnel leading to Rijeka in the Kvarner region of Croatia. Tolls on the highway are modest and you can pay with a credit card. You can also travel the entire length of Istria via local roads that don’t have any tolls but might be crowded during the peak season month of July and August.

Hrvatski Autoklub (HAK) is a great resource for driving in Croatia. The HAK map (they also have an app for mobile devices) is a highly recommended interactive electronic map that can be used as a route planner, to calculate highway tolls, and to see the live stream of traffic on the roads.

My recommendation is that you use the Google Maps for route planning. Use the Google Maps in this book as the starting template and then modify to fit your interests and schedule.

Car Rentals in Istria

To get best availability and price, rent online for pickup at the airport where you’ll be arriving.

Make sure to carefully read the rental agreement to understand the fees, insurance coverage, hidden expenses, and any additional surcharges that you might be responsible for.  Also, carefully check the car for any damages before driving away as you might end up paying for any damages that you may have missed during your inspection. Be wary of any verbal agreements and get everything in writing. Get full insurance on the rental car if you don’t want to take any chances with surprise fees that will be time consuming to dispute.

If you’re planning on renting a car just for a duration of your trip, there are car rental companies in all major towns in Istria. The largest companies are listed below with links to their locations on Google Maps (or company websites if Google Map listing is not available).

Umag:


Pazin:


Porec:


Rovinj:


Pula:


Pula Airport:


For a comprehensive list of car rental companies in Istria and their contact information visit Istria Tourist Board website.

How to Use Istria Road Trip Maps in this Book

The trips in this book are organized by interests. There are 25 trips altogether. You can try all 25 of them, time permitting, or just pick a few that you find most interesting, mixing points of interest into your own, unique trips.

Each trip includes at least top 6 places that can be covered within a week. Some trips also include additional recommendations in case you have additional time.

Every place in the book has a link to Google Maps. If the place is not on Google Maps, a link to the website of the place is included instead.

Destination points in the Google Map trip routes are arranged for a continuous drive typically starting at the northern part of Istria and heading south. You can rearrange the routes based on your starting location or by order of interest. For example, if you’re staying in Rovinj, you might want to start with a stop near Rovinj and then drive to other points of interest.

You can also shorten each Istria trip so that you can pursue more than one trip of interest in the time you have allotted. For example, you can pick only few historical sites from Istria Trip 6 map to do in one day, then follow another day with exploration of museums from Istria Trip 7 map. This way, you’re using modified versions of each Istria trip for a day adventure rather than a week-long trip.

To modify the map, first copy the provided Istria Trip map (right click on the three dots by the title of the Google map and select “copy Map”), and then save it as a new map in your Google My Maps where you can then make additional modifications to the copied map.

Here are the links to the Istria trip maps:


As you create your personal trips in Istria, please consider sharing with a link to your map(s) so I can share them on the Adriatic Road Trip website for the benefit of other travelers to Istria.


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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Best of Istria | Additional Resources

best-of-istria-additional-resources

Compiled here are some of the best resources about Istria.


Istria Tourist Board and Croatian National Tourist Board




Travel




Culture


  • Istria Culture: Istria Tourist Board project with pictures, locations, and descriptions of top cultural attractions in Istria.
  • Istra Inspirit: Comprised of series of events that revive history, Istrian myths and legends at authentic locations.
  • Istria from Smrikve:  Extensive information about towns and villages (architecture, history, food, languages, and traditional dances and music), town maps with heritage buildings, and photo galleries. It also includes a database of over 300 top restaurants, olive oil producer, and winemakers.
  • Histrica: Information about towns and events in Istria.
  • Istrianet: Historical information about Istria, including profiles of prominent Istrians.
  • Istrapedia: Information about various topics related to Istria.
  • Croatian Museums: App with information on more than 100 Croatian museums.
  • UNESCO World Heritage List and UNESCO Cultural Heritage List


Food & Wine




Accommodation




Istria Tours




Transport




Outdoors




Parks and Environment




News




Best of Istria Book Resources:



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


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Best of Istria | Pula, Medulin, and Brijuni Islands

pula-medulin-brijuni-map

The Pula region has a 3,000-year history and dates back to the myth of the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece. Pula was the home of the Histrians, the Romans, and the Venetians, and was also a major Austro-Hungarian port. Pula, and it surrounding region, is now the largest cultural and economic center of Istria.

Although this section is focused on Pula, Medulin, and Brijuni Islands, these nearby towns are also worth visiting if you’re looking for unique Istrian experiences:
- Barban: Barban is best known for Loredan’s Palace and the unique knightly race Trka na Prstenac (the race for the ring) that was established in 1696 and takes places every summer in August, the feast of wine, and the fig festival. Barban is also the birthplace of Pietro Stancovich (1771-1852), a canon, archeologist, historian, and author of Biographies of Distinguished Istrians covering 478 Istrians.
- Fazana: Fazana is a fishing town that is more than just the port of departure for the 15-minute ferry crossing to the Brijuni National Park. Visit Fazana to visit the Gothic-style parish Church of Saints Cosmas and Damiango dating back to the 15th century, go swimming in its beautiful beaches, walk along the waterfront promenades, and eat at restaurants along the water while enjoying the view of Brijuni islands.  Also visit the nearby Valbandon for a nice seaside walk. Fazana is well known for its pilchards (sardines) and holds the Pilchard Festival in August. Additional information is available at Fazana Tourist Board.
- Vodnjan: Vodnjan is best known for the olive oil producers, long history and multitude of building from different periods, its bell tower that is the tallest (62 m) in Istria, and the mummified bodies of saints and collection of relics in St. Blaise church. Also visit the Istrian de Dignan Ecomuseum to learn more about traditions and customs of Istria. You can also ride on the main street of Vodnjan in an old carriage pulled by donkeys.
- Liznjnan: Liznjan’s coast is 28 km long and offers some of the most unspoiled beaches in Istria. The hills of Liznjan overlook the Kvarner Bay and the islands of Cres and Losinj. Liznjan is great for biking on the coast, horse-back riding, hunting, and diving.
- Sisan: Sisan is a village next to Liznjan. Rent a bike from BRB Sports and go riding and swimming on the coast of Sisan and Liznjan.
- Marcana: Mercana is an old Istrian settlement also known as the village of many wells. The coastal area of Marcana is dominated by green peninsulas and beautiful bays.

Pula

pula-istria

Almost at the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula, the town of Pula busily goes about her industrial day amid first century Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, Austrian forts, and water so stunningly blue that it mesmerizes with every glance. Still, Pula is not the quaint, charming, relaxed town of her Istrian sisters. She is hard-working and industrious, busy fishing, building boats, and in general, making a living. Pula still has much to offer the patient visitor, however. Her roots run deep into history. The nearby Cave of Sandalja is the site of a Paleolithic find of Homo erectus inhabitants from a million years ago. Following in those footsteps, hill forts containing tools and jewelry of the Proto Illyrians marked the coming of the Bronze Age. Ruins from the first century, such as the Arena and the Temple of Augustus, provide reminders of a period of Roman rule. The city was destroyed once, in the midst of the Roman area, and once by an invasion of the Ostrogoths, eventually giving way to Byzantine, Austrian, Italian, and Yugoslavian rule. It's no wonder that the people of Pula speak so many languages in addition to their own. A reflective day spent exploring the city's past easily leads to an evening spent enjoying the area’s finest wine, seafood, olive oil, and delicious truffles.

Best of Pula:

- The Arena: 1st century Roman amphitheater, one of best preserved examples of Roman architecture in the world. The arena hosts various performances during the summer.
- Cape Kamenjak (aka Rt Kamenjak): Nature park at the southernmost tip of Istria that contains some of the most gorgeous views and spectacular beaches in Istria.
- Temple of Augustus (aka Augustov Hram): Completely preserved; one of the majestic twin temples from ancient times that was built between 2 BC and 14 AD.
- Triumphal Arch of Sergius: Dates back to 27 BC. The arch leads to the Via Sergia which heads into the historic Pula.
- The Town Hall: The Town Hall or City Palace is one of the central points at the old Roman square.
- Gate of Hercules: Oldest city gate from ancient times.
- Porta Gemina (aka Twin Gate): Another Roman gate in Pula.
- Kastel: Castle fortification with amazing views from atop and the Museum of Istrian History inside.
- Museum of Istrian History: Inside the 17th century Venetian fortress, go to the top for amazing views of Pula. The museum has models of shipping vessels throughout history and World War II displays.
- Archeological Museum of Istria: Exhibits date all the way back to the Histrian era. During summer, spend an evening listening to live musical events in the sculpture garden of the museum.
- Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria: Unique collection of maritime artifacts.
- The Punishment of Dirce: Roman floor mosaic.
- Small Roman Theater: In addition to the Arena, Pula had two other theaters built during the Roman period. The larger one was situated outside the city and was not preserved. The Small Roman Theater was situated within the city walls and is preserved.
- Pula City Tour: Enjoy the cultural and natural sights of the town by touring on the bus.
- Zerostrasse: Network of underground tunnels built during Austro-Hungarian rule to enable safe passage in the event of bombardment. It can accommodate up to 6,000 people.
- Market: Fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, and fish.
- Cathedral of St. Mary: A mix of architectural designs.
- Sacred Hearts (aka Sveta Srca): This gallery was opened by the Archeological Museum in 2011 in restored Church of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and hosts a variety of exhibitions.
- Franciscan Monastery (aka Franjevacki Samostan): The 13th century monastery with an adjoining museum that contains artifacts from Roman and medieval times.
- Makina Gallery: Photography gallery with local and international work.
- Lighting Giants: These iconic cranes of an operating shipyard are illuminated every hour during the summer.
- Villa Trapp: The real von Trapp family which inspired the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music” lived in Zadar and Pula until the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. The von Trapp villa, built by Georg von Trapp who was born and raised in Croatia, still stands in Pula and his parents are buried at the Austrian Navy cemetery in Pula.
- Aquarium Pula: Aquarium is located in the Austro-Hungarian fortress Verudela, which was built in 1886. Go to the top of the fortress for amazing views of Pula.
- Verudela: Pula’s marina, south of the city center. Most of Pula’s large hotels are located here. The most popular beaches are Hawaiian beach and Ambrela beach.
- Lungomare: 4km long boardwalk inside the woods, famous for evening walks.
- Galebove Stijene:  Most western beach of Pula. The beach is rocky and the water beautiful. If you get a chance, also kayak in the caves for an amazing experience.
- Valkane bay and Valsaline bay: Popular beaches with locals.
- Nesactium: Capital of the Histri tribe (currently the village of Vizace) before Romans conquered Istria.
- Pomer: Pomer is a tourist town near Pula. It was founded by the powerful Roman family Aranum and its original name was Pomerium. Pomer is now best known for its large marina, camp, and beautiful beaches.
- Film Festival: Since 1953, for two weeks in July, films are hosted from all around the world.
- South on Two Wheels: 6 cycling tours on the bike trails of south Istria.
- Porer Lighthouse:  The southernmost point of Istria boasts a lighthouse built in 1833. It is still active and can accommodate guests for sleepovers.
- Smrikva Bowl: One of the most important tennis tournaments in the world for players under the age of 10. Also meet Mio Bozovic, author of Istria from Smrikve.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map.
- Accommodation: Park Plaza Histria, Park Plaza Arena, Villas Verudela, Hotel Galija, Hotel Brioni, Hotel Valsabbion, and Boutique Hotel Oasi.

Additional information about Pula is available at Pula Tourist Board.

Medulin

medulin-istria

Roman ruins dot the landscape of many cities and towns along the Croatian coastline, and Medulin is no exception. The archeological site at Vizula, and the remains at Vrcevan Hill, St. Petar, and the nearby tombs all speak to the Roman influence. Medulin escaped notice for much of history, however, the town upon which it is built was destroyed by the Romans after they took notice in the 2nd century. The settlement did not change much until its growth under Venetian rule, with continued emphasis on fishing and farming. The highlights that draw today's tourists have more to do with the sandy beach at Bijeca, or the rocky Belvedere shore, and the clean, modern hotels that host thousands of tourists during the busiest of seasons. Visitors can mix discos, dining, dancing, and music, with views of 15th century Glagolitic writing on ancient church walls, enjoying a rewarding experience that spans the ages, lounging in contemporary comfort. Medulin lies in a harbor protected by a cape, making it an ideal spot for boating, camping, diving, and simply enjoying nature along Medulin's 80 km of intricate coastline.

Best of Medulin:

- Levan Island: Pleasant little island lying on the crystal clear sea.
- Excursions: Take a lovely cruise around the Medulin peninsula. Medulin Excursions is a popular boat tour.
- Metta Float Yoga: Yoga on the water. Yoga at night is especially interesting.
- Beaches: Great beaches, especially the sandy beach for kids.
- Adrenalin Park: Various activities for kids.
- Horseback riding: Horseback riding by the water. Samy’s Ranch had great horses and experienced trainers.
- Sea sports: Windsurfing and other water sports at nearby Windsurfing Station in Premantura.
- Diving: The Medulin Riviera treasures a great number of sunken ships.
- Delic Air: Offers scenic flights over Istria.
- Medulin Craft Beer Festival: Two-day craft beer festival held in September with over 30 independent breweries.
- Shopping: Grab some wine, olive oil, or other souvenirs at the Terraneo Souvenir Shop.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map.
- Accommodation: Park Plaza Medulin, Park Plaza Belvedere, Villa Velike Stine, Hotel Minerva, Holiday Hotel, and Hotel Arcus Residence.

Additional information about Medulin is available at Medulin Tourist Board.

Brijuni Islands

brijuni-istria

The Brijuni Archipelago, embracing a clutch of 14 pretty island jewels collected near the southeastern coast of the Istrian Peninsula, is both a contemporary resort and historic preserve. Ancient ruins reflecting early Roman villas, a 13th century church of the Knights Templar, and Bronze Age hill forts compete for attention alongside an exclusive star-studded resort turned Presidential summer retreat, graced with abundant flora and fauna. The Romans initially settled in the Brijuni because of its valuable quarries, transporting the stone back to Italy for buildings and works of art. The Middle Ages brought rule by the Venetians, followed by a brief Napoleanic era. Next, the Austrian Empire built a fortress on Veliki Brijun. Paul Kupelwieser, an Austrian businessman, bought the entire archipelago in the 1893, turning it into a luxury holiday destination. Italy took control after WWI, but the successors could not navigate the difficult economic conditions following the 1929 stock market crash, resulting in bankruptcy. Under Yugoslavian rule between 1949 and 1979, President Marshall Tito made the Brijuni his personal summer estate. The islands became a National Park upon Tito's death, and with Croatia's independence in 1991, the grand Austrian era hotels were reopened as the destination transformed into an International Conference Center. Today, many visitors come for ecological holidays, either sailing their own boat into the marina, or hiring a tour for the trip. There are no motor vehicles on the island other than service vehicles. Protected for more than a century, the waters and landscapes remain pristine and untouched, making this a fabulous destination for enjoying a swim, a hike, or a photo shoot.

Best of Brijuni:

- Byzantine Castrum: A fortified wall town from Byzantine Empire which ruled from 6th to 8th century.
- Roman Villa: Roman remains back to the first century BC. You can also go swimming in this Roman bay.
- Gradina: Fortified Bronze Age settlement with preserved walls.
- Tito Museum: Learn about President Tito’s life. Across the exhibition building, visit Koki the parrot, one of President Tito’s favorite pets.
-  Underwater trail: Unique experience visiting natural & archaeological sites of the marine world.
- Archeology: Professionally guided tour introducing visitors to various cultural periods of the islands.
- Golf Course: Historical 22-hole golf course on which you can still play.
- St. Jerolim Island: All-day tour on St. Jerolim Island with sunbathing.
- Garden: Beauty of Brijuni islands includes various Mediterranean flora.
- Safari Park: Stretching over 9 hectares, the park is the habitat of animals from all over the world given to President Tito as gifts.
- Swimming: Brijuni’s entire coastline features unspoiled nature and clear water.
- Biking and walking: Rent a bike or take a walk on the beautiful Veliki Brijun.
- Theater Ulysses: Classic theater performances are held in July and August at the fortress on Mali Brijun.
- Overnight stay: The best way to see the Brijuni National Park. There are 2 hotels and 5 villas on Veliki Brijun.
- Accommodation: Neptun Istra Hotel and Hotel Karmen.

Additional information about the Brijuni National Park is available at Brijuni Tourist Board.

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Best of Istria | Labin and Rabac Region

labin-rabac-map

Istria’s east coast is less traveled and developed than Istria’s west coast. The landscape is rugged, the coast is rocky, and the landscape has many pine-covered mountains. While it may not have the appeal of Rovinj and Porec, the towns of Labin and Rabac have their own unique charms.

Although this section is focused on Labin and Rabac, these nearby towns are also worth visiting if you’re looking for unique Istrian experiences:
- Krsan: Krsan is an old medieval fortified village. It is best known for the Krsan castle and the Survey of Istrian Land Boundaries (Istarski Razvod) that dates back to 13th century. While at Krsan, you’ll also enjoy gorgeous views of Ucka.
- Rasa: Unlike other historical towns in Istria, Rasa is less than century old and is the youngest town in Istria. Rasa was built by the Italian government, starting in August 1936 and completed in 1937, as a coal mining town. From 1943 until 1945 it was occupied by Germans and had a population of over 10,000 inhabitants. Mining activities ended in 1989.
- Plomin: The last stop in Istria before reaching Kvarner region is a somewhat empty town with great views of Kvarner Gulf and Cres Island.

Labin

labin-istria

The earthy town of Labin stands proudly above Rabac, overlooking the bright blue waters of the Kvarner Gulf on the east coast of Croatia's Istrian Peninsula. Looking back 2,000 years, the castellum of Kunci occupied nearly that same space during the Bronze Age. Around the fourth century BC, the Celts founded Albona upon the ruins, carrying the name forward to a third century Roman relief announcing "Res Publica Albonessium," the Roman Republic of Albonia. The town earned the title of a republic once again during its history, as coal miners from the area's four mines went on strike in 1921 forming what was termed an "anti-Fascist rebellion". Today, the mines are all closed but the spirit of the town continues to inspire independence. Contemporary Labin is a hub of nature, from its hiking trails and beautiful hillsides, to its art galleries, natural bath product shops, artisan bakery and cheese shop, to its health spas and locally sourced homespun restaurants that serve various delicacies, including the local specialty krefi (sweet and sour ravioli). It is a town engaged with nature in every respect, looking to earn a reputation as a place of health and wellness.

Best of Labin:

- Hilltop Old Town: Enjoy a delightful stroll through the streets and beautiful coast below.
- Chruch of Blessed Mary Virgin’s Birth: Built in 1336 with foundation from 11th century. It has both Renaissance and Gothic style.
- Town Museum: Local and national artwork housed in the Battiala-Lazzarini Palace, a Baroque-style building.
- Porta Sanfior: Main city door from 1589; memorabilia of mixed Venetian and Austrian administration.
- Diving: Go diving in nearby Rabac.
-  Glavani Park: Fun and adventure for families.
- Nearby Towns and Villages: Visit nearby Barban, Trget, and Stari Rakalj for a great view of Raski Bay and Island Cres. Also visit Rasa, a former mining town that ceased its mining activities in 1989.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map.
- Accommodation: Zahtila Apartment, Villa Venera, B&B Morena, B&B Rogocana, Villa Calussovo, and Villa Stefanija.

Rabac

rabac-istria

Charming and quiet, the tiny fishing village of Rabac was content within its status for over a century, with just a handful of familiar households making it their home. Wealthy landlocked businessmen began to build large summer residences on Rabac's coast in the 19th century. As travelers spread the word boasting Rabac's beautiful, white pebble beaches, verdant hillsides, and friendly fishermen, tourism boosted the population and sped development. Known as "the pearl of Kvarner," referencing its idyllic spot on the edge of the protective bay of the same name, Rabac now hosts events gathering thousands of visitors, easily accommodating them in more than a dozen hotels and a bevy of villas. Positioned just below the historic hillside town of Labin, the area is home to both historic and contemporary highlights, from the cliffs to the beach, delighting visitors with views of its magnificent coastline.

Best of Rabac:

- Beaches: Lovely pebbly beaches with view of Kvarner Bay.
- Music: Numerous music events and festivals are held in Rabac during summer.
- Rabac Summer Festival: Music festival with international DJs taking place in July on Girandella Beach.
- Morning town walks: Catch the fishermen returning from the sea.
- Nature: Beautiful and well-preserved nature.
- Boat Tours and Fishing Tours: The coast around Rabac is stunning. You can take boat tours to caves, hidden bays, and Cres island.
- Four Elements Art of Adventure: Sea kayaking, water sports, and mountain biking.
- Diving: The coast has many ship wrecks, colorful reefs, and marine life to explore.
- Restaurants: Best restaurants are listed in Chapter 31. You can find other recommended restaurants in the Best of Istria Google Map.
- Accommodation: Valamar Bellevue Hotel, Miramar Hotel, Casa Valamar Sanfior, Hotel Mimosa, Adoral Hotel, Mare e Monti, Hotel Villa Annette, and Casa M Apartments.

Additional information about Labin and Rabac is available at Rabac-Labin Tourist Board.

This concludes the section of the major towns of Istria and their top attractions. If you’re staying in Istria for an extended time, you might also want to explore some of the smaller towns in Istria that were mentioned in the book but not covered extensively.

Additional information about all towns of Istria and brochures that you can download can be found at the Istria Tourist Board.

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

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