Thanks to an unspoilt shoreline, national parks, and hilltop villages that have avoided the march of tourism, holidays to the Istrian Riviera are as organic as they get.
Throughout history, the Istrian Riviera has been passed between conquering empires like a ping pong ball. All sorts of ancient superpowers have staked a claim on this pie slice-shaped peninsula on Croatia’s Adriatic Sea. And it only takes one look at the place to see why.
For starters, the Istrian Riviera is surrounded by more than 250 kilometres of coastline. In Rovinj, the dinky coves are just the start of the story. The town is next to a seaside forest where you can climb cliffs and swim off the rocks. In Porec, the pebbly beaches sidle up to a town centre full of historical heirlooms. The Euphrasian Basilica, for instance, is a World Heritage Site. In Pula, meanwhile, the beaches fight an enormous Roman amphitheatre for tourists’ attention.
Island hopping in Krk, Cres and Rab
Then you’ve got Istria’s eastern edge, which is a springboard for Croatia’s islands. Head to Rijeka and you can catch a ferry to Krk, Cres and Rab. The yolks of these islands are national parks and rolling mountain ranges, while the whites are beaches and hideaway coves.
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Of all Istria’s seaside towns, Novigrad has kept one of the lowest profiles. As a result, its traditional fishing village character has stuck to it like glue. Fishing boats are still more common than yachts in the harbour, and you’ll still see fishermen mending their nets and restocking their kit on the uncluttered moorings.
Porec, in the middle of the Istrian Riviera, is a pretty city that stretches across a peninsula and looks out onto a cluster of exotic islands. There’s Roman architecture, Venetian houses and a Byzantine Basilica here – not to mention plenty of bars, clubs and discos. In the background, the rolling olive groves and hilltop towns make this the Adriatic version of Tuscany, while the beaches between here and Zelena in the south are all within 30 minutes on a dinky road train.
Pula is nestled beneath 7 hills on the southern tip of Croatia’s Istrian peninsula. Here modern bars, pavement cafés and boutiques sit happily among ancient Roman ruins – the 1st-century amphitheatre and the Temple of Augustus are top sights. As for beach action, the town is set to the side of the horseshoe-shaped Pula Bay, where calm turquoise water is hugged by a rugged terrain.
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