Istria is the most northern province of Croatia with a great sweep of coastline jutting out into the Adriatic. There are influences from its neighbours - Italy, Slovenia and Austria which make this part of Croatia a little different and quite special. The scenery is simply stunning, the coastline, Mediaeval villages, inland hills and the history - most noteworthy is the magnificent Roman amphitheatre in Pula (third largest in the World after Rome and Verona).
Referred to by some as the "Little Tuscany surrounded by the sea" this alludes to both its landscape and the historic Italian influence on the people and places of Istria. The hillside villages, such as Motovun, vineyards and agriculture in general will certainly trick your senses at times to believing you are indeed in Tuscany.
We feature a personal selection of great hotels in the region - these include the fabulous resorts of Pula, Rovinj, Opatija [actually part of the Kvarner region but included here], Porec, Rabac and Lovran as well as the simply stunning hill town of Motovun. During your visit why not also make acquaintance with historical places such as Hum, the smallest town in the world and don’t overlook a visit to one of many agro-tourist households and sample the truffles or excellent local food and wine. Visit the Euphrasian Basilica in Porečor St. Euphemia’s Basilica in Rovinj, both UNESCO world heritage sites – a must for history buffs.
Pula is located on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and has been an important port for at least 3000 years. Its Roman amphitheatre is the biggest outside of Italy, in fact it is still a great venue for concerts featuring international artists. Pula is also host to a film festival in early August each year. Other sights in Pula include the Arch of Segius, the Forum and the Temple of Augustus.
The large harbour in Rovinj with its waterside restaurants leads out along narrow cobbled streets hiding away a wonderful array of shops, galleries and cafes into the town itself where there are tiny squares and historic building sporting family crests from a proud and glorious past. The colourful facades are visible almost in layers from the sea climbing up to the church of St, Euphemia at the top. The coastline here is a protected Natural Heritage Area and a beautiful place to explore all year round. Facing west the town's cafes and bars are famous for views of the sunset over the Adriatic. An excellent place to treat yourself to a meal of freshly caught fish.
Motovun is a city-monument, an ancient Istrian acropolis town situated on the top of a 277m hill whose current appearance originates from the Middle Ages, the 12th and 13th century. The longest Istrian stairway with 1052 stairs leads to the top of the Motovun hill and its Venetian town square. From such a rich heritage Motovun has so many sights such as the renaissance palace, the city lodge, the parish church of St. Stjepan, the medieval arrangement of the streets and many emblems on the front of buildings. The position and landscape of Motovun make it one of the most beautiful older cities on the Mediterranean. Hotel Kaštel is located on the main town square, in a 17th century palace.
Vineyards are spread all around Motovun where the grapes for the famous Istrian wines Teran and Malvasia grow, while the Motovun forest, which spreads kilometres through the Mirna valley is the habitat for the famous underground mushroom - the truffle - which is dug out in this area with the help of specially trained dogs. Summer and early autumn is the time the black truffles grow (Tuber Aestivium) and during late autumn and winter the tastiest and expensive white truffles are taken out (Tuber magnatum-Pico). In October the Days of Truffles are marked in several places in the Mirna valley, and meals with truffles are the pride of the Hotel Kaštel in Motovun.
Opatija, an elegant tourist destination, is the centre of the Riviera with the longest tourism tradition in Croatia. Its advantageous location, flourishing vegetation and pleasant climate are the reasons for the beginning and boom of tourism at the end of the 19th century. Built at the turn of the 20th century, Opatija has preserved a discreet harmony with nature through to the present day. Its parks, illuminated seawall (the 12 km Lungomare), exquisite beaches and beautiful fountains are a picture frame for Opatija's numerous villas and hotels.
Opatija is situated in the Kvarner Bay, the point where the Mediterranean cuts deepest into Central Europe, into the foot of the Učka Mountain (1,401m). Because of its relatively stable temperatures (winter average: 7°C, summer average: 22°C), its high pressure and constant circulation of air, Opatija´s climate is calming and refreshing. The contrast of the sea and mountains, the greenery of its parks (full of cedars, palms, magnolias, wisteria and mimosa) and the blueness of the water, the old buildings and modern comfort, fun amusement parks and quiet resorts make Opatija and its surroundings captivating for tourists all year long.
Porec is a city that is almost two thousand years old and is located in sea port to protect the islet of St. Nicholas. The climate is extremely mild, free of oppressive summer heat (August is the warmest month with an average of just 30°C and low humidity). The city has an average of more than 10 hours of sunlight on a summer day, the sea temperature can rise to 28°C, which is higher than the temperature in southern Croatia. The landscape has rich Mediterranean vegetation, with forests of pines and green brush. The ground has fertile red soil together with stones which is ideal for the production of organic foods, olives, grapes and quality wine varieties such as Malvasia, Gamay, Merlot, Pinot, and Teran, an important part of Porec economy.
Rabac in the middle of the east coast is in a beautiful bay well known for its numerous restaurants and its nearby small resort villages of Duga Luka and Ravni. The old town of Labin is just inland with its Venetian palaces, churches and high fortress offering views back down to Rabac and the coastline for many miles.
Lovran, once the winter holiday resort of Austrian nobility is a small medieval town on the eastern coast of the Istrian Peninsula, just southwest of Rijeka on the Adriatic coast. Lovran is fringed by luxuriant gardens, groves of pine, chestnut and cherry and sits below the mountain and Nature Park Ucka, part of the Opatija Riviera in Kvarner Bay. Linked to Opatija by the famous "Lungomare" coastal path, Lovran is a relaxing place which offers the visitor excellent fish cuisine and other local specialities in some fine restaurants and old taverns. A particular favourite of the area is the Chestnut (try the sweet cake, Maruni).
Pazin - a city in the heart of Istria and the centre of the Istrian county. The famous Jules Verne wrote about its most valuable monuments, the thousand-year-old Kaštel and the Pazin pit, in his novel “Mathias Sandorf”.
Buzet - approximately twenty kilometres north-east of Motovun and known as the “City of Truffles”.
RoČ - approximately 10 kilometres from Buzet, a town in the place of a prehistoric construction, has well-preserved town walls and a door with a stone monument with the oldest cannon in Istria and a Venetian bomber from the 15th century. The town is like Hum, an important, historical centre of Glagolism and between those two places is the Avenue of Glagolitic priests made of 10 monuments set there between 1977 and 1981 as a tribute to the letter.
Hum - a few kilometres in front of Roč is a small medieval town located on a stretched out hill which dominates the landscape. The town has town walls, a lodge and a parish church. It is also called the smallest town in the world.
Lim Bay - a protected landscape and underwater reserve (since 1964). The Lim Bay was created by sinking the canyon valley of limestone carst. With its narrow, 11 kilometre cut into the land, it is one of the most beautiful landscapes of Istria. It is a geomorphologic phenomenon with canyon cliffs which rise up to 150 meters above sea level.
Brijuni National Park - the Brijuni Islands National Park, an ancient summer residence of many presidents, is today the home of exotic animals.
Učka Nature Park - view the Istrian peninsula from 1400 m above the sea. Explore the rich flora and fauna of this beautiful mountain.
Islands of Kvarner - a tour to the neighbouring islands – Krk, Cres, Lošinj, Susak – will make your stay unforgettable. Susak, the island made of sand, will convince you with excellent wines. Krk, the largest island in the Adriatic Sea, hides one of the oldest memorials written in the old Glagolitic script. Cres is well known as a natural habitat of endemic species. The waters of Lošinj, the island with the most therapeutical climate, are home to Mediterranean dolphins.
Where to visit
Pula is located on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and has been settled for at least 3000 years of history. Its Roman amphitheatre is the biggest outside of Italy.
Where to stay
The Mauro Hotel is situated on the southern walls of the medieval town of Porec. A unique experience awaits you - there are 21 rooms in which there is contemporary design and elegance.
The hotel Villa Annette is situated on a protected slope overlooking the bay of Rabac with wonderful panoramic views over Kvarner bay to the islands of Cres, Lošinj and Unije beyond. Open all year.
The luxurious 4-star Hotel Bristol is situated in the centre of Opatija, only a few steps from the sea. Recently renovated with spacious rooms and suites reflectling the elegance of the architectural ...
The Villa Ariston Hotel, surrounded by a beautiful park, is one of the most charming and outstanding hotels on the Opatija Riviera.
The Hotel Savoy is located in the centre of Opatija, just above the sea; it is a luxury hotel, open all year round.
The Galeb Hotel is a small, family hotel located in the very centre of Opatija, right next to the main beach. This hotel is an ideal place for a holiday all the year round.
The Hotel Kastel is located in the centre of one of the most beautiful towns in Europe - Motovun. A cosy, family hotel offering quality accommodation, gastronomic delicacies and relaxation.
The Hotel Continental is the oldest hotel in Rijeka and was completely renovated in 2008/9 to a delightful 3* hotel right in the centre.
"Hotel Milan was very good: comfortable accommodation, very welcoming and friendly staff, and the food was excellent - the best of our whole stay, though much more expensive. The location was fine, half an hour walk into the city and 5 minutes from the beach."
R Swain, Oct 2015
"Galeb Hotel - Opatija. After a lovely drive through the countryside of Croatia, the rolling Tyrol style villages and pastures (we saw a lot of evidence of the war 20 years ago where many villages were still unoccupied or only just starting to come back to life - many derelict houses being slowly repaired) we saw the complete change in Coastline and much more like the Italian Riviera. Opatija was a nice town and our hotel was very 'genteel', quite formal but we had a lovely room and enjoyed a stroll along the front to the next village looking for a restaurant as most of them seemed to be attached to other hotels or just bars. We found a great modern restaurant in Opatija behind the coast street callled Ruzmarin which we would highly recommend."
K Saville, June, 2017
"All the connections, hotel vouchers, car arrangements and transfers went smoothly with no hitches so that is a credit to good planning skills. I would certainly go back to Croatia since our overall experience was a good one."
L Hesse, June 2016
"Villa Oasiss, Medulin - This was a gorgeous hotel - really modern, beautiful room and bathroom and a great pool area. It was totally private and on the last day we had the pool to ourselves all day. We did have quite a bit of trouble finding it as we had been unable to download the map for this and couldn't get a signal so we drove to Medulin hoping to just stumble across it (most of the towns listed the hotels as you entered and pointed you in the general direction) but we couldn't find it anywhere. Instead we found a Tourist information office - incidentally the most unwelcoming people we came across in the whole of Croatia which seemed strange given their job! and they discovered that the hotel wasn't in Medulin but in Vinkuran about 5 miles away. There is nothing in the village so if you want any sort of night life then this is probably not the place but with a car it is perfect. The staff were all lovely - the girls really spoilt us and Stefan the manager couldn't have been more helpful if he tried - he wanted to take us out in his car and show us around.... They do have a large screen in the garden and music playing in the evening and they also do food - on the last night there was a BBQ and a man playing live music. We visited Pula and Rovinj from there, both really easy and also the peninsular NP where you can sunbathe, cycle of do water sports. It was the perfect relaxing end to the holiday."
K Saville, June, 2017
"Hotel Continental was very basic and dated: there was no lounge or bar. However, the food was good and the staff very pleasant. We reduced our stay there by one night and added an extra at our last stop in Pula. Rijeka wasn't the best place to chose: Opatija would have been much better, although there were good places to visit in the area."
R Swain, Oct 2015
"Amazing country, amazing holiday. Package helpfully and expertly put together by rediscover to meet my many requirements. Is always slightly challenging for us to find suitable accommodation as a father with two older teens, so I really appreciate the effort that was made to find us proper triple rooms in friendly family run hotels in amazing locations. If I had been a bit more sensible, we should probably have cut out the one night stays (2 nights in Dubrovnik rather than 3 would have been adequate), but had we done so we would have missed out on the amazing hotel in Motovun for example, and I loved everywhere we stayed."
E Hunter, August, 2015
"I wish to thank you for organising our holiday. The criteria worked to perfection and the standard of accommodation was excellent. It was one of our most enjoyable holidays ever. Croatia is such a lovely country."
C Ferris, July 2013
"In all honesty we did not really enjoy this trip as much as the previous trip to Dubrovnik,Trogir, Plitvice etc. The Weather was not too good and whilst Hotel Kastel was excellent Jadran and Galija were not brilliant. We did in fact manage to change our Room at Jadran going from probably the worst Room in the Hotel to the 2nd worst. This is a particularly gloomy Hotel well situated but badly in need of an update. (ie) pulling down. Hotel Galija is very difficult to find and again we had to change Rooms after one Night as our Bed was broken (not by us.) Breakfast was also not very good and parking expensive.I do however congratulate you on getting us the best Room in the House at Kastel. This was superb. As regards the Resorts visited our thoughts are: Rovinj is wonderful and Porec also excellent. On arriving at Motovun in torrential Rain we did wonder what we were going to do for 2 Days but in fact we loved it there so it was time well spent. Postojna is a one Horse Town but we did get everything we wanted out of our visit and we would highly reccommend the Castle in the Cave which is a must see. Bled and the surrounding area was good and Ljubljana O.K. for one Day/Night. Hotel Galeb is nicely situated in Opatija but in inclement Weather the Town really does not offer very much and I am not sure that it would be much more entertaining on a nice Day. We were also disappointed with Pula as a Town. The Ampitheatre and some of the Roman remains are splendid and well worth going to see but other than that it is not particularly attractive. My fault entirely I think I expected something more like Rovinj. Pula is probably worth a Morning but certainly not 2 Days. So overall I would say that we had a good Trip, the Weather could have been kinder and if we were doing it again with the benefit of hindsight we would probably make it a couple of Days shorter. Thanks for all your help and I hope this is of use."
A Gamblin, October 2014