This Istria Itinerary highlights the best things to do and see in Istria, Croatia in just 7 days!
Located in the northwest corner of Croatia, the Istrian Peninsula is a fairytale-like region with a strong Italian heritage. Its rustic interior of emerald green hills and medieval hilltop villages attract visitors seeking gastronomic delicacies, while its rugged coastline and pristine beaches are popular with sea and sun lovers.
The Istrian Peninsula takes on a heart-shape and can be divided into two regions: Blue Istria and Green Istria.
Blue Istria is home to darling fishing villages perched along the glittering Adriatic Sea, each of them bursting with their own unique Italian flavor.
The peninsula’s bucolic interior is where you’ll find Green Istria, an area that bears a striking resemblance to Tuscany. Green Istria is abundant in vineyards, olive groves, truffle-filled forests, and picturesque hilltop towns.
This 7-day Istria itinerary will cover the best of both regions!
Getting to Istria
If you are traveling to Croatia and Istria is your only destination, the best choice for getting to Istria will be to fly into the Pula Airport. This airport is located in close proximity to the city of Pula, the starting point of this 7-Day Istria Itinerary, and is well-connected to other countries in Europe.
Pula Airport serves a number of well-known airlines including EasyJet, Ryanair, SAS, Lufthansa, Eurowings, British Airways, Swiss, Norwegian, and more.
The next best way to reach Istria from other parts of Croatia is by bus. Bus transportation in Croatia is far superior to the train, and more reliable as well. There are plenty of connections to Istria from other major Croatian cities including Zagreb, Rijeka, and Split. You can find the up-to-date timetables on the Zagreb Bus Terminal website or Flixbus.
Traveling Around Istria
Once you finally arrive to Istria, the absolute best way to explore the peninsula is by hiring a rental car.
It is possible to see Istria by solely relying on buses and public transportation, however, renting a car gives you much more flexibility. After all, road trips are all about having the freedom to stop and explore anything and everything that looks interesting along the way!
Be sure to check out this list of must-have road trip accessories to make sure you have all that you need before embarking on your epic journey.
The Most Incredible 7-Day Istria Itinerary
Days 1-2: Pula
On your first day of this 7-Day Istria Itinerary, take your time to explore the ancient Roman city of Pula.
An absolute must-see site is the famous Pula Arena. This Roman amphitheater was constructed in 27 BC and is one of the best-preserved amphitheaters outside of Italy. It is also the only one in the world to have 4 entirely preserved side towers.
Other historic sites worth checking out are the Temple of Augustus and the Arch of the Sergii. Located near the Temple of Augustus is Art Cafe Cvajner, a unique cafe bar right on Pula’s main square. This cafe provides a lovely view of the temple, perfect for sipping on a cup of coffee while watching the world go by.
On day two of your 7-Day Istria Itinerary, you can choose from two equally fun activities: spending the day at the beach or taking a day trip to Brijuni National Park.
Option 1: Beach Day
If you choose to spend the day at the beach, you’ll want to head to the local market in the morning and stock up on fresh fruit. After doing so, make your way south to the tiny peninsula of Cape Kamenjak.
Only a twenty-minute drive away from Pula lies Cape Kamenjak Nature Park, a little slice of paradise made up of over 30 kilometers of coastline.
This stunning area is surrounded by crystal clear waters, lined with spectacular beaches, and dotted with hidden coves – it was even named one of Croatia’s 10 best beaches by Lonely Planet! This is the place where you will be spending the entire afternoon. Choose from sunbathing, cliff jumping, or simply relaxing at the super chill Safari Bar.
Option 2: Day Trip to Brijuni National Park
The second option is to take a day trip to the nearby Brijuni National Park that can be easily reached via a short boat ride from the village of Fažana.
This beautiful string of Adriatic islands feature untouched nature, rich history, and ancient ruins. The Brijuni Islands were the official residence of former Yugoslavian president, Josip Broz Tito, for three decades.
Thanks to him, the islands are home to a lovely safari park that houses a variety of indigenous, Asian, African, and South American animals that run freely on Veliki Brijun island. At this park, visitors can also observe dinosaur footprints and a 1,600-year-old olive tree that is still used for olive production today.
In addition to enjoying exotic animals and untouched natural beauty, Veliki Brijun and Mali Brijun islands serve as holiday resorts where visitors can go swimming, diving, and sunbathe on the island shores.
On the morning of day three in Istria, you’ll make the scenic drive from Pula to the town of Labin.
Resting on a hilltop above the former fishing village of Rabac, Labin is a beautiful hidden gem teeming with pastel houses and Italian-style piazzas. It’s hard to believe that this captivating labyrinth of cobblestone streets was once the hub of Istria’s coal-mining industry.
Mining was pursued with such intensity that the town itself began to collapse forty years ago! Since then, Labin has been completely repaired and is now a fascinating destination for exploring Venetian palaces and a mix of Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture.
Visitors can even get a taste of Labin’s past at the Town Museum that contains a replica of a former working coal mine.
After wandering around the twisting alleyways of Labin, your Istria itinerary will now take you 5 kilometers south to the small coastal town of Rabac.
Situated on a beautiful cove in Kvarner Bay, Rabac features brilliant pebbled beaches set against a gorgeous mountainous backdrop. This up-and-coming resort town boasts four stunning blue flag beaches: Girandella, Maslinica, Lanterna, and St. Andrea, a local favorite.
In addition to soaking up the Istrian sunshine, visitors can enjoy hiking the Sentona Trail that connects Rabac to Labin. The trail is 5 kilometers long and is relatively easy, leading you through a pine-filled forest, over bridges and past rushing waterfalls.
Day 4: Motovun, Grožnjan, and Buje
On day four of your Istria itinerary, you’ll be taking a mini road trip through Green Istria to visit the medieval hilltop towns of Motovun, Grožnjan, and Buje.
Your first stop of the day is Motovun, a dreamy hilltop village that is often hailed as the most charming town in the region.
Fortified in the 14th century by the Venetians, the Motovun’s medieval walls encompass a pathway that allows you to stroll along the perimeter of the town. From the walkway, you can spot rolling vineyards and the Mirna River, as well as the dense forests that produce Istria’s award-winning truffles.
For those wishing to sample the region’s gourmet gem, head to Konoba Mondo. According to the New York Times, “It is what eating in the Old World should feel like.” Even the great Anthony Bourdain once paid a visit to this Istrian treasure to taste the black diamond of Istria for himself!
The ambiance at Konoba Mondo is spectacular. Imagine sitting on a shaded terrace on a warm summer day with a glass of the most delectable wine in hand while the heavenly scent of truffles fills the air.
A fun activity to consider adding to your itinerary when in Motovun is truffle hunting. The region’s black truffle is hunted all year round, while the famous white truffle is hunted from mid-September to the end of January.
Your next stop after Motovun is the sweet town of Grožnjan, or as the Italians like to call it Grisignana.
Don’t let its size fool you – this tiny hilltop colony is quite the showstopper. Grožnjan is a haven for artists from all over the region. In the 1950s, many artists were attracted to Grožnjan’s medieval appeal and began opening up ateliers in the town’s abandoned buildings.
From that point on, Grožnjan became known as the town of artists.
This is a great place to find local pieces of art and handicrafts that make perfect gifts or souvenirs.
Buje is the final town you’ll visit on day four of your Istria itinerary. Perched on a 222-meter-high cliff, this medieval town offers panoramic views of Istria’s sunkissed hills and vineyards.
One of the best ways to explore this area by simply driving along the roads that surround the town. Buje is famous for being home to the longest wine road in all of Istria, boasting no less than 25 wineries. Be sure to make a stop at one, or a few, to sample the region’s renowned wine varieties including Terrano, Malvazija, and Muškat (Moscato).
End the day by making the 15-minute drive to the coastal town of Umag, where you’ll be spending the evening.
Start your day with a morning coffee and take some time to wander around the laid-back town of Umag. Extremely popular with German tourists, this quaint town may seem small, but it is very well worth exploring.
Some notable sites to see are the ancient town walls featuring a draw bridge that dates back to the 10th century and the 16th-century church of St. Roche famous for its oil-painted ceiling. Also worth checking out are the Town Museum and numerous galleries featuring local pottery and paintings.
Poreč is your second stop on day 5 of your Istria Itinerary.
This seaside town stretches across 37 kilometers of coastline and is incredibly rich in history. The town’s most iconic landmark, whose tower can be spotted from nearly every corner of the city, is the 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
The ancient complex of the basilica is well-worth exploring for a glimpse of its famous gem-studded Byzantine mosaics and stunning views of Poreč from the top of the tower.
After immersing yourself in the town’s history, spend the rest of the afternoon walking along the gorgeous riviera and swimming in the crystal waters of Brulo Beach.
End the day by making the 40-minute drive to Rovinj, were you’ll spend the night.
Day 6-7: Rovinj
Your final stop on this 7-Day Istria Itinerary is perhaps the most enchanting town in all of Croatia: Rovinj.
This delightful former fishing village can be best described as love at first sight.
Rovinj is romantic, historic, and not to mention, incredibly photogenic. The town is small enough to be seen in a single day, yet its tangle of cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways have a way of engulfing visitors for days on end with their irresistable charm.
Spend your first day in Rovinj strolling around the Old Town with no agenda. Let your feet lead the way as you discover hidden piazzas, hidden ateliers, and captivating seaside cafes.
Be sure to stop at Mediterraneo Bar, a unique venue perched on the cliffside of the town, for an afternoon coffee or cocktail.
Other notable sites worth seeing in Rovinj include:
- The Church of St. Euphemia featuring the tallest bell tower in all of Istria at 61 meters high.
- Balbi’s Arch, the former entrance to the town containing the Lion of St. Mark, a symbol of the Venetian Empire that once ruled the town.
- Grisia Street, a street made of cascading steps that are lined with local boutiques and ateliers. This street becomes pretty busy in August during the annual open-air art exhibition.
When in Rovinj, you’ll want to take an evening to visit the nearby town of Bale.
Just a 20-minute drive south of Rovinj lies the sweet town of Bale (or Valle, in Italian).
This historic village is located at 140m above sea level on a hill surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The narrow and cobblestoned streets of the town wind around a 15th-century castle, once owned by the Bembo Family.
Peer around nearly any picturesque corner in this town, and you’ll find ateliers selling beautifully handcrafted wares. You will also stumble upon a shop or two offering locally made olive oil, and you might even score a tasting!
In addition to olive oil, the region of Istria also produces some of the best wine in Croatia! No trip to the Istrian peninsula is complete without sampling the local wine. There are two wineries near Bale that are worth checking out: San Tomasso Winery and Meneghetti Winery.
For more inspiration on what to do in Rovinj, check out these 20 Awesome Things to Do in Rovinj, Croatia.
7-Day Istria Itinerary Summary
Hopefully this Istria Itinerary inspired you to explore this beautiful corner of Croatia! Having been there many times, I think it is definitely deserving of a spot on any Croatia trip.
Have you been to Istria before? Are you planning an Istria itinerary? Let me know in the comments!
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