The German language Istria-themed blog Inistrien.de has put together 10 reasons which make the largest Croatian peninsula unique and an interesting holiday destination.
Here they are:
Proximity & Short Distances
From Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland you can get to Istria by car in about 4 (Salzburg) to 9 (Stuttgart) hours. The flight and bus connections with the peninsula are becoming ever more numerous and affordable.
Once you have arrived, Istria can be explored by car, bike or by public transport. It takes about an hours ride to get from the southern tip of the island to the North of the heart-shaped peninsula.
A ride from Rovinj on the western coast to Labin and Rabac on the east coast takes less than an hour.
The openness, friendliness, hospitality and tolerance of the Istrians are rooted in the turbulent history of Istria.
The peninsula has already been highlighted and researched as a positive example of a multinational Habsburgian “Melting Pot” at times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In recent times, hospitality has, of course, also become an economically important factor.
For guests from German-speaking countries, the contact with the local population is often quite easy. German is taught in schools for decades in Istria, and there are free courses for private accommodation providers and other tourism workers.
Many people have also spent part of their working lives in Germany and Austria, or have gone to school there. Many of them are now active in the hospitality industry.
Although the Croatian part of Istria is only slightly larger than Munich, for instance, the nature of the peninsula is very diverse.
The West Coast is flat, the East Coast and the hinterland are hilly. The colour of the earth is red in the south, gray in the interior and white beneath the Ucka Mountain in the north.
Nature reserves and/or popular nature excursion destinations in Istria are the Ucka Mountain, the Cape Kamenjak, the Motovun Forest, the Limfjord, the Baredine Cave, the Pazin Gorge, the Brioni Island group, the Parenzana cycle path and many other places along the over 400 km long coast.
Sea & Beaches
With over 400 km of coastline, the peninsula offers a wide variety of beaches. From the modern equipped beaches of the resorts and camps, all offering a host of water sports activities; the sandy beaches of Medulin to small, hidden coves, there is a fitting spot in the sun for everyone. All beaches are accessible to everyone.
The peninsula also has an over five decades long lasting tradition of nudist beaches and has since been one of the European nudist hotspots.
No matter which beach you choose, the sea is crystal clear and clean all along the shore. Continuous controls and the awards of beaches with blue flags are proving this fact regularly. Some 95 percent of the waters are of outstanding quality. Another proof is the dolphins one can often admire at sunset.
The best-known landmark on the Istrian peninsula is, without a doubt, the sixth-largest and best preserved Roman amphitheater in Pula. In Pula there are also many other sights which stem of Rome. After the renovation of the Archaeological Museum of Istria, Pula will become even more attractive as a city break destination.
The Basilica in Porec is a UNESCO cultural heritage site and is always worth a visit with a guided tour. The old town of Rovinj, with its stone lanes, picturesque backyards and houses built directly on the shore is one of the most popular excursion destinations in Istria and the whole of Croatia. Locals often spend their weekends there.
A visit to the hill towns and villages such as Labin, Motovun or Groznjan can be combined with a hike and followed by a visit to a tavern. The fort and the caves around Pazin, the capital of Istria, were the inspiration and the site of a Novel by Jules Verne.
The mummies and the collection of over 400 relics in the St. Blasius Church in Vodnjan are part of the largest sacral art collection in Croatia.
Food (& Wine)
At the beginning of the year, a restaurant in Rovinj became the first in Croatia to be awarded a Michelin Star. Numerous other Istrian restaurants received recommendations. The Gault Millau restaurant guide has been recognising to the restaurateurs of the peninsula for years.
A wine from Istria topped the Decanter World Wine Awards 2016 in London (Best in Show – Single Variety). Istria is now recognized as a top wine region worldwide and the awards for the many small winemakers for their Teran and Malvasia wines are pouring in.
According to the most prestigious Italian annual olive oil guide (Flos Olei), Istria is the world’s best olive oil region. Italian gourmets visit the restaurants and taverns/konobas of the north-west of the peninsula on weekends to enjoy fresh truffles, fish or wild grown asparagus, game and other delicacies.
Refined Istrian homemade food in good restaurants and konobas is increasingly becoming a motive for visits beyond the summer season. Most of the best restaurants and konobas in Istria are located in the north-west of the peninsula.
Sports, Fun, Festivals & Entertainment
Pop, rock, and classical concerts, operas, film festivals, gladiator shows in the world’s best preserved Roman amphitheater take place almost every evening during the summer season. Fancy an ATP tennis tournament, matches of the world’s beach volleyball elite or a beach polo tournament followed by a Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) concert? Some of the events are free of charge, be there.
Top music festivals of various sizes and music directions at breathtaking, near-the-beach locations take place from spring to early autumn.
Water, adrenaline, dinosaur, go-kart, nature, art, archeology, herbal and fragrance parks are popular destinations for day trips. For boat trips from one coastal town to anther, to the Brijuni islands or the Cape Kamenjak can be booked spontaneously at the spot. Along the ever-better equipped beaches boats, kayaks, jet-skis, stand-up paddling, bicycles, etc. can be rented.
Traditional festivals and events such as the fishermen festivals in Fazana, Rovinj, Novigrad and elsewhere along the coast take place in the summer evenings. rise every evening during the summer months, as well as concerts at the numerous beach bars and a host of other venues.
Top Accommodation in Hotels, Resorts, Camps, Apartments & Villas
The offer of all types of accommodation is steadily becoming wider and better in quality. Most of the best camps of the country are located in Istria. They are annually graded by the ADAC and ANWB and receive top quality awards. Private landlords invest from season to season to successfully keep up with the market for holiday homes.
Free Wi-Fi Internet is available almost everywhere. All across the peninsula, there are cottages and villas for 6 – 12 people with private pools. Outside the peak season, these are often offered at unbeatable prices.
Hotels and resorts are also becoming better every year. In Istria, and the whole of Croatia, one can still rely on the classification by stars. Every hotel deserves every star. All-inclusive offers will remain rare. The development heads towards the well-equipped specialized bike, adults only, family and other hotels and facilities. They are almost always located directly at beaches.
We do not want to go deeper into the subject of safety. A holiday in Istria has always been safe. In forums and in Facebook groups there are often statements by Istrian holidaymakers who have been spending their holidays here for over 30 years without ever having anything stolen. Croatia as a whole is one of the safest holiday destinations in Europe (according to The Safety Rankings – World Economic Forum, April 2017).
Whether you are hiking, cycling or exploring the peninsula by car, in Istria you are sure to be safe in every corner. If something should happen in spite, the state’s most modern hospital is set to be opened in Pula next year.
Year-Round Holidays in Istria
Due to its climate and its location, Istria is a great holiday destination at any time of the year. Top hotels and small boutique hotels are often open all year. Many wellness, gourmet, and other offers can be experienced more intensively outside the summer season.
Insider tips for interesting activities and visits can be found in German on inistrien.de and here at croatiaweek.com.