10 stunning Istria hilltop towns you have to visit

Istria hilltop towns

Picture yourself in a small village on a green hilltop. From the top, you have a panoramic view over the valleys, vineyards, a lake and other Istria hilltop towns.

Now, imagine waking up in the morning to the sound of singing birds. You look out the window only to discover the whole valley enclosed in mist with the sun rising in the distance, covering the sky in a palette of colours.

That’s how the Istria countryside in Croatia is like, at least if you’re in the town of Motovun.

I love the hilltop towns in Istria because it has such a rustic village feel and because of the great food (you know how much I LOVE truffles).

Here are a few of the best countryside retreats in Istria that also happen to be located on beautiful hilltops.

Read next: 12 best beaches in Istria you should visit (+ map)

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A map of Istria hilltop towns

Zoom in or out on the + and – sign in the right corner if you want to have a closer look.

How to get around in Istria

The best way to get around Istria is by car. Busses can take you between the major cities, but you’ll need a car to explore the hilltop towns and beaches.

You’ll most likely fly into Zagreb or Pula, so you should pick up your car at the airport. It’s important that you book the car before your trip to make sure there’s one available.

Car rental Malaga
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When booking your car rental online, I recommend Discover Cars. They compare prices at car rental agencies all over the country to get you the best deal.

10 best Istria hilltop towns

1. Frescos in Roc

Roč is this little village in Istria you’ve probably never heard of. Not a whole lot is happening here expect for the ancient frescos inside the Romanesque small church of St. Roč.

The village sits behind a 16th century city wall and with its narrow lanes, it savours the rustic feeling of Istria countryside.

Roč is just 10 km from Buzet and I’ve always visited by car. I’m not entirely sure, but I think public transportation is out of the question. Roc might be small, but it’s still worth visiting this Istria hilltop towns.

Read next: How to visit secret Roč, Croatia

Things to see in Roč:

  • Frescos
  • The folk music festival (International Accordion Festival) in the second weekend of May
Istria hilltop towns
The village church tower
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Frescos inside the church
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway

2. Visit the world’s smallest town: Hum

One of my favourite little Istria hilltop towns is Hum. It’s listed in Guinness Book of Records as the world’s smallest town.

Hum is really easy to walk as it only has two streets and covers an area of 100 x 35 meter. Despite only having 20 inhabitants, the town has kept the old ritual of electing a prefect for the year.

Once a year, all the men from the parish gather at the town hall to elect the mayor by carving their votes into a wooden stick.

If you visit Hum, I highly recommend paying a visit to the local restaurant Humska Konoba where you will enjoy delicious local food with a view over the hilltops.

Also, try the biska, which is a local specialty of brandy spiced with mistletoe. I’m usually not a fan of strong liquor, but this was quite good.

Read next: 10 things to do in Hum Croatia: The world’s smallest town

Things to see in Hum:

  • The town church
  • City walls
  • The frescos from the 12th century in St. Jerolim chapel
  • The Grappa festival, which is a brandy competition held every year in October
  • The Glagolitic Script at the entrance to the town
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
The main square
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Hum’s second street
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Church of the Assumption of Mary
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
The beautiful view from Humska Konoba
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
The church tower and city wall

3. Croatia’s truffle capital – Buzet

If you like truffles, and who doesn’t, you’ll love Buzet. This is the truffle capital of Croatia and it’s the place to indulge in this gourmet delight.

Buzet is a larger city and it has quite a few interesting food and wine stops. When there, I visited Batura Tartufi where I had truffles in all shapes & sizes and

I got to taste chocolate, honey, salt, sausages, cheese and cookies with truffle. It was great!

Things to do in Buzet:

  • Truffle tasting at Natura Tartufi
  • Truffle hunting (I hear the Karlic family is a good company to go with. Make sure to book ahead of time)
  • Visit the Aura Distillery for liquor tastings

Find the best food in Istria: Gourmet food in Istria you just have to eat

Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Black truffles
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
At the Aura Distillery
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Brandy barrels

4. Above the clouds in Motovun

Last but not least we have Motovun placed high atop a hill. Motovun is small, but its cute cobblestone streets and alleys will charm you away.

What makes it so unique is the morning mist that covers the valley with the sun rising above it. It’s epic, that’s what it is.

If you have a car, I highly recommend driving to Oprtalj and have dinner at Loggia – it’s such a great restaurant with an outstanding view and sunset.

Things to do in Motovun:

  • Walk the city walls
  • The church of St. Stephen
  • Motovun film festival (in late July)
  • Visit a winery
  • Paragliding (the price is around 550 Kuna / US $82)

Read next: 15 magical things to do in Motovun

Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Motovun from the river
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
St. Stephen’s church
Istria countryside is the perfect getaway
Motovun in the morning
Istria hilltop towns

5. Grožnjan

It took me three visits to Istria before I FINALLY got to Grožnjan-Grisignana. This little Medieval town with cobble-stone streets and small alleys is a former 14th century Venetian fortress.

Today, it’s the most important arts and music centre in Istria. 

Grožnjan is surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards and it’s home to beautiful Venetian architecture like the baroque parish church from 1770. I think it’s one of the most idyllic places in Croatia.

What to do in Grožnjan

  • The Renaissance loggia from 1587
  • Baroque parish church from 1770
  • Chapel of Sts Cosmas and Damian
  • Defensive walls

Read next: Grožnjan Croatia: How to visit the town of music and artists

Groznan Istria hilltop towns
The Renaissance loggia

6. Oprtalj

Another charming Istrian town is Oprtalj, also known as Portole (its Italian name). Oprtalj used to be a fort surrounded by defensive walls.

Opposite the town gates, there’s a loggia from the 16th century where you’ll get a beautiful view of the countryside!

If you stay for dinner, do visit Restauran Loggia. I had an amazing multi-course meal there with an incredible view and sunset in the background.

Read next: How to visit Oprtalj – Istria’s secret hilltop town

Things to do in Oprtalj

  • Oprtalj Loggia
  • The cypress tree-lined road
  • Church of Saint George
Itinerary Istria

7. Momjan

Momjan – a little hilltop gem with incredible vistas of Green Istria and the sea. If you’re interested in history, make sure to visit the 13th century cliff-top castle and the 15th century St. Mauro church.

Momjan is also home to Kozlovic winery, one of the best-known wineries in Istria.

Things to do in Momjan

  • Momjan castle ruin
  • Kozlovic winery
  • St. Mauro church
Photo by Canva

8. Završje

Završje is a small medieval hilltop village located between Oprtalj and Groznjan. It has a turbulent history with different rulers, and only after WWII did it become part of Croatia again. 

Although around 50 people live in Završje, it looks like a ghost town with overgrown buildings. This allows you some great photos and a quiet visit with an ‘off the beaten path’ atmosphere.

Definitely worth visiting!

Things to do in Završje

  • Church of St. Mary 
  • Castle from the 11th century
  • The overgrown houses
Photo by Canva

9. Buje

With a little over 3,000 inhabitants, Buje is one of the largest Istria hilltop towns. With an altitude of 222m, you’ll get an amazing view of the Istrian, Italian and Slovenian countryside from the top.

Buje is a good base to explore the rest of the area. 

Things to do in Buje

  • Parish church of St. Servulus
  • The bell tower from the 15th century
  • St Mary of Mercy church
  • Tower of St. Martin
  • Ethnographic Museum
  • Wine roads and olive oil roads
Photo by Canva

10. Labin

Another town in Istria with an artistic vibe is Labin. It’s located on the East side of Istria, overlooking Rabač and the sea. 

Labin used to be the largest mining centre of Croatia, and at the city museum you can visit a recreation of a coal mine site. 

Things to do in Labin

  • Church of Blessed Virgin Mary’s Birth
  • City Museum (+ mine)
  • The view-point from fortress Fortica
  • Battiala-Lazzarini Palace

Many thanks to Visit Istria for hosting me in Croatia. Whenever I travel, there will always be full disclosure about whether my stay was hosted by a tourism board. And even if I’m on a press trip, my view will never be swayed one way or the other.

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Motovun, Hum, Buzet, Groznjan, Roc, Labin, Oprtalj, Momjan, Zavrsje and Buje. Istria hilltop towns. Istria Croatia photography. Istria Croatia things to do. Things to do in Istria.
Motovun, Hum, Buzet, Groznjan, Roc, Labin, Oprtalj, Momjan, Zavrsje and Buje. Istria hilltop towns. Istria Croatia photography. Istria Croatia things to do. Things to do in Istria.

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    1. Thanks so much, Stephen! Most of the pictures are actually sunrises and they were definitely worth getting up at 5am for 🙂

  1. I absolutely love the sunset & sunrises photos! And that little street in Hum…I would love to visit cities or towns with these type of streets. They seem so quaint and just by looking at this one, kind of intimate!

    1. Aren’t they lovely? Croatia has those kind of cities all around the country and especially in Istria. That’s what I love most about it (except for the food 😉 )

  2. I have finally made it to Croatia and I’m currently in Split, the Dalmatian coast is beautiful. It’s not likely that we’ll make it to Istria on this visit but that area looks incredible too, one day we’ll have to return and check it out for ourselves.

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