Where to go? What to see? Where to eat? The choice is BIG!
Istria is really something special. The list of "must see"'s is long enough for a holiday that would last for a year, so you should really think about your preferences 🙂
Wonderful nature and its gifts; beutiful coast; incredible medieval cities and villages so often situated on tops of the hills what gives them such a special touch; love and respect for excellent food equally present in small domestic restaurants ("konoba") or in fancy fine-dining places; bycicle routes; world famous observatory in Visnjan; great film festival in Motovun; unique clams and oysters farm in Limski kanal... and last but not least: warm and kind people.
We will give you a short overview of the places we like, but don't feel obliged to follow. Istria truly is a land of thousand wonders.
Places worth visiting (in no particular order):
Rovinj – 20 mins drive from here, gorgeous, must see, they say that after Dubrovnik it is the most beautiful Croatian coastal town. Very busy in the summer unfortunately. For food we would recommend Kantinon, great modern interpretation of Istrian cooking, nice space, good wine selection, reasonable prices. Puntulina - decent food, amazing setting on the rocks above the sea, especially if you can get a good table at the sunset. For a superb fine food experience you can visit either restaurant Monte, or restaurant Gianinno, both occupying top positions of Croatia’s Best Restaurant list for years already.
Poreč – 20 mins drive from here, is an almost 2,000 years old town, and is set around a harbor protected from the sea by the small island of Sveti Nikola/San Nicola (Saint Nicholas). Its major landmark is the 6th century Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Ever since the 1970s, the coast of Poreč and neighboring Rovinj has been among the most visited tourist destination in Croatia. Poreč is full of tourists and touristy restaurants and fast foods, so be careful – not all are as good as they might seem. Try Dvi Murve, a restaurant place with long tradition.
Pula – 40 mins drive from here, famous Roman amphitheatre is well worth seeing, good farmers and fish market at weekends. Close to Pula in Banjole you can find a small but fantastic restaurant Batelina, the best restaurant in Croatia in 2015, owned by a family of fishermen.
Pazin – 20 mins drive from here, not very crowded with tourists, but still worth seeing. Besides, you can find there two great places to visit if you are in the mood for good food… and good beer! Bunker is well known hangout in Pazin. Cute terrace at the back (go through what looks like kitchen), decent coffee, great selection of beer, including few of the best Croatian craft beers. Try Nova runda or Bura. Interesting gigs! And just a bit out of Pazin iz a small village called Beram, where you will find restauran Vela vrata, with amazing steaks, home-made pasta, truffles, terrace with the view. We often go there and all our guests are very happy with the food. Perfect tiny medieval church with famous frescoes in the same village.
Grožnjan – most beautiful of hilltop towns, nice atmosphere, views, romantic evenings. There is pretty café Kaya with nice interior and lovely terrace with the view at the entrance to town. For having lunch or dinner, there are two excellent choices close to Grožnjan. Stari podrum, Most 52, Merišće, in Momjan (another cute village) for really well executed traditional Istrian fare, and konoba Buščina in Buščina. They serve great fish, amongst other Istrian specialties. Two famous wineries worth visiting if you are around here: Kabola and Kozlović, try their famous Malvazija, a great and fresh Istrian white wine.
Motovun – 20 minutes drive from here, overlooking the Mirna River valley, lies surely the most famous and attractive Istrian medieval town of Motovun-Montona. This captivating hilltop town is one of the characteristic symbols of the Istrian interior. Motovun is the perfect venue for a large number of events, the most significant among them being the International Motovun Film Festival that takes place at the end of July where world-known film artists may be seen. Motovun is also interesting for ballooning lovers.
Oprtalj – across from Motovun, amazing vistas, antique/bric-a-brac market on second Sunday each month. Konoba Dolina, between Livade (Motovun) and Istarske Toplice – we love this place (despite its unassuming appearance) and always escape there from the more touristy Motovun and Livade restaurants, great Istrian homemade food and very fair prices. Recommended if you are around Motovun. If you however prefer haute cuisine but still in typical medieval atmosphere, try restaurant Zigante in Livade, most famous for meals with Istrian black and especially white truffles. Mr Zigante, the owner, holds the Guiness book record for the biggest white truffle found ever.
Dvigrad – abandoned medieval settlement on your way to Rovinj if you don't take the motorway (and you don’t need to :).
Bale – sweet and atmospheric village near Rovinj, restaurant/drinks Kamene priče and few interesting artisan galleries.
Gračišće – nearby little walled town with five churches, beautiful (unfortunately not well maintained) walking track outside (staza Sv. Šimuna), ok konoba Marino too. Koquelicot wines are headquartered there - you can buy the wine at the souvenir shop Gallignana on the main square if the cellar is closed.
Labin – very pretty scenic hilltop town, it has a nice mini theatre, quite a few art galleries and beautiful views onto the sea and to the touristy Rabac. If on that side of Istria, I would recommend perfect little fish restaurant Tu Tamo in Mošćenice - great fish and amazing view over to the island of Cres.
Svetvinčenat – a village with a castle but not on the hill, unusual for Istria. We like it for a coffee – if there is a concert or a play there while you are here – could be a nice evening out.
Kotli – atmospheric place near famous “smallest city in the world” Hum, on river Mirna, deserted, and now being rebuilt, there is a konoba (opened from noon) there for drinks or even lunch.
Draguć - on your way to Hum, perfect tiny village to walk around, sit on the bench at the end of the village overlooking Butoniga lake and feel like you are at the end of the world. If konoba is open, you can have a glass of malvazija (local white wine) underneath huge ladonja trees.
Limski kanal – 15 mins drive from here, if you are a fan of oysters and clams, this is a place to go. A very long and beautiful bay, looking almost like a fyord, where local fishermen are for decades breeding oysters and clams because of very special water mixture. There are a few restaurants there (we normally go to Fjord), and even more important, during mornings you can buy clams and oysters right from the sea, and prepare them at home. On your way to Limski kanal you are passing by Kozlović winery, there is a sing on the road. Go and try their famous Malvazija.
Vrsar – a village with a view. Close to Limski kanal, Vrsar is an interesting village built in the Middle Age on a hill overlooking the Adriatic sea. It grew descending towards the sea, so after you have done the sightseeing and enjoyed the views, you can have a great dinner on the very coast in Restaurant Trošt on Obala M.Tita 1A.
Need good food close to Villa Dubravka?
Danijeli, Konoba Danijeli - if you are not in a mood for cooking, but you neither want to drive a lot, in a nearby village Danijeli (less than 5 mins drive from here, direction Kringa/Pazin) is a place with great typical local, traditional Istrian cuisine, and excellent Istrian wines. Warm homely atmosphere and great service. (according to Trip Advisor – rated 4,5 out of 5). My personal favourite
Guide to Istrian (inland) food specialities
Fuži, pljukanci, njoki – istrian handmade pasta or gnocchi with game/beef/chicken stew, or, of course, truffles
Boškarin - authentic Istrian beef; great steaks but carpaccio too
Istrian maneštra – hearty, stew like bean, corn barley and cured meat soup (plus seasonal ingredients)
Čripnja (don’t even dare to pronounce it) – same as peka in Dalmatia – meat with potatoes and vegetables baked under iron lid covered with hot coals, resulting in lovely flavours and very soft meat, normally veal or lamb
Sausages and sauerkraut (even in the summer!?!)
Pršut - Istrian equivalent to prosciutto or Parma ham, a bit more flavoured. Delicious.
Istrian cheeses – cow, sheep and goat; fresh (skuta, great in desserts) or aged
Wild asparagus in the spring (with anything)
Mushrooms – whatever is in season
Truffles with anything, but perhaps stay away from more touristy areas
Kroštule and fritule (fried pastry) for desert, very nice when fresh
If you want to learn much more about Istria
... than visit www.istria.hr, the official site of the Istria Tourist Office. Just click at the Istra logo on the right!
There you will find a LOT of information, including the peninsula history, facts about people, lists of available activities...