Some of them are fortified and have a well-preserved medieval style.
Others are colourful or just plain charming. If you’re going to Istria and looking for off the path places, this is where to go.
Ready to be swept away?
Ok, here goes:
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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.
Best towns in Istria
The first town in Istria I want to introduce you to is the super romantic Vrsar. Aside from having a name I dare not pronounce, it was described as “a place of good wine and beautiful women” by the legendary Casanova.
This was my second visit to Vrsar and I keep discovering new beautiful spots around town.
Vrsar has so many view points, charming houses with small benches in front, and narrow alleys with old houses, chairs and seats.
Also, it has a beautiful marina with the best seafood restaurant (Trost) I’ve visited thus far.
Another Croatian town I like is Vodnjan. It’s not as colorful as many other towns in Istria, but it has plenty of charm. The streets are smooth and shiny, and the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture brings something extra to the table.
If you’re visiting, make sure to pay a visit to the mummies in the St. Blaise church basement.
Find the best sights in Istria here: 12 highlights of Istria
The village of Zminj is very small, but there are a few interesting things to see around the area. I tried cheese tasting and was introduced to truffle cheese with great delight.
And just outside Zminj there is a cave with an impressive inside view. It takes about 20 minutes to walk around it and it’s a fun experience.
* Photography tip: The cave is dimly lit so bring a tripod to get good, clear photos.
When you visit Istria, make sure to include Grožnjan. This charming, little Medieval town is a former 14th century Venetian fortress turned into the most important arts and music centre in Istria.
Make sure to see the Renaissance loggia from 1587 ↓
Panoramic views, a relaxed vibe and a medieval Morosini-Grimani Castle await you in Svetvinčenat. Don’t miss the Renaissance square and the frescoes in St Vincent church.
Svetvinčenat is definitely worth a visit.
I’m saving the best for last!
This year I was introduced to a few new towns in Istria – Bale was one of them and I instantly liked it.
Bale is built on a hilltop and has narrow streets and a charming bell tower. It’s one of those places you just love, but can’t really put your finger on why.
So far Bale is my favourite discovery this year and I have a feeling I’ll be back for more.
Looking for more charming Croatian towns? Find the best Istria hilltop towns here.
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.
Istria towns FAQ
What is the nicest area of Istria?
My favourite place is Istria is Rovinj, a picturesque coastal town with a lively harbor, colourful buildings, and a well-preserved old town.
I also recommend Motovun, which is a charming hilltop town.
What is the main city in Istria?
The largest city in Istria is Pula.
What are the mountain towns in Istria?
The best mountain towns in Istria are Motovun, Opalj, Hum, Roc and Groznjan. Find the most beautiful hilltop towns here.
More stuff you’ll love:
- Croatia guide: The Ultimate Croatia Travel Guide for First-Timers
- Istria itinerary: 15 best things to do in Istria
- Hilltop towns: 10 Istria hilltop towns you have to visit
- Istrian food: Gourmet Food in Istria you just have to eat
- Rovinj: 12 amazing things to do in Rovinj
- Pula and Porec: A tale of two ancient cities: Pula and Porec
- Beaches: 12 best beaches in Istria you should visit (+ map)
- Smallest town in the world: 10 things to do in Hum Croatia