We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our website, to show you personalized content and targeted ads, to analyze our website traffic, and to understand where our visitors are coming from. By browsing our website, you consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies.


What makes Croatia and Istria so popular?
The location of the Istrian peninsula in Croatia, right next to the Adriatic Sea and close to the Italian border, has left its mark on the region, so that some even call the region a miniature Italy. Olive groves, vineyards, beautiful rolling terrain, idyllic villages and historic towns remind of the neighbors from whom the local Croatians have taken influences, for example in their food.

The beautiful peninsula of Istria is home to numerous small villages and towns, each with its own unique character. The most popular are the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Poreč, historic Pula and picturesque Rovinj. Other travel destinations in Istria include, for example, the spa town of Opatija and the beach resort of Rabac.

The area belonging to Croatia on the Istrian peninsula covers more than 3000 km² and the area has slightly less than 200,000 inhabitants. There is plenty to see in the area and the scenery changes quickly from the rugged rocky beaches of the coast and the shimmering turquoise sea to the walled cities and from the rolling olive groves inland to charming little villages.

  • Sights of Istria
    Porec. One of the most popular destinations on the Istrian peninsula is Porec, whose medieval streets are lined with impressive buildings and churches. The town of Porec is known for the beautiful Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current church building was built in the 5th century on the commission of Bishop Euphrasius. The church was decorated with mosaics, alabaster, marble, mother-of-pearl and stucco, typical of the golden age of Byzantium.

    Pula. Pula is known as a lively university town with many good restaurants, hotels and cultural events. The main attractions of the city are its Roman ruins, especially the magnificent and quite well-preserved amphitheater. The Pula Amphitheater is one of the largest Roman arenas still standing in the world and was built by Emperor Vespasian in the first century. In the 15th century, some of the limestone from the interior of the Pula arena was used to build the town's houses, but the exterior parts are almost completely unchanged. During its heyday, bloody gladiatorial contests and later tournaments were organized in the arena. The auditorium could hold more than 20,000 spectators. Today, Areena hosts concerts in the summer.

    Just like in Roman times, the main square of the city of Pula is the Forum today. On the edge of the square is the tourist office of the city of Pula and the Temple of Augustus, which is the only surviving building of the old Roman forum. The streets of the old town are still paved with Roman-era stones. Sergeus' Arch of Triumph is also one of the well-known landmarks preserved from ancient times in the city. The streets of Old Town have several cozy cafes and restaurants as well as small boutiques.

    In the middle of the city is the 17th-century Venetian fortress, Kastel. The fortress houses the Istrian History Museum and its collections include maritime history, coins, weapons and military equipment, as well as antique maps, postcards and photographs.

    Rovinj. On the small drop-shaped peninsula is the picturesque old town of Rovinj, whose pastel-colored houses and beautiful fishing harbor tell of the Venetian era. Art is a big part of the city's charm, and various galleries, small shops and cafes can be found on almost every corner. Narrow cobblestone alleys lead up to the highest point in the city, where the magnificent 18th-century St. Euphemia Cathedral and its huge bell tower stand out.

    Brijun National Park. Brijuni National Park consists of two large and 14 small islands and archipelagos. The islands open to the public today are the two main islands, Veli Brijun and Mali Brijun. The long-time president of Yugoslavia, Joseph Tito, considered the islands his summer resort, and he invited foreign guests from Sophia Loren to Urho Kekko. Guests often brought the nature-loving host gifts, many of which were animals or plants. In the Veli Brijun island safari park, you can admire the diverse flora and exotic animals of the island's nature reserve. There is a ferry connection to Brijuni from the port of Fažana near Pula.

    The medieval castle of Pazin. Among the castles in the Istrian region, Pazin Castle is the largest and best preserved, and today it functions as a city museum. The oldest castle is from the 12th-13th century and its ruins are next to the medieval castle. The newer part was built in the 15th-17th centuries. The castle is built on top of a steep rock and below it is a protected canyon 100 meters deep and 500 meters long.

    Lim Fjord. Between Rovinj and Porec is the 11 kilometer long Lim fjord. Boat trips to the fjord are organized from Porec and Rovinj, and you can also get there by car or taxi. The scenery is beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of Norway – crystal clear water, deep green forests and mighty cliffs rising 150 meters above sea level. If you're traveling by car, it's worth stopping to eat at one of the restaurants in the area. They are known e.g. From their oysters. (fish, shellfish and oysters are grown mainly in the Lim fjord)

    Opatija. Opatija is known for its 12 km long Lungomare beach promenade, along which there are more magnificent buildings from the 19th century. The charming and stylish city of Opatija is located at the foot of the mighty Ucka mountain. Opatija was known for its pleasant climate as early as the 19th century, and in 1884 a spa hotel was opened there. In Opatija, royalty, artists and those longing for a luxurious vacation have once vacationed in Opatija.
  • Beaches
    In Istria, you don't have to shake the sand from your swimming gear, because you can swim in the crystal clear waters from the pier or the rocks. There are no sandy beaches in the area, but the beaches are mainly small stone or rocky beaches. It is possible to rent sunbeds. The best swimming spots near the center of Porec are Plava Laguna and Zelena Laguna. It's a good idea to wear swimming shoes, as there may be sea urchins and sharp stones stuck to the rocks and concrete piers. On the cape of Porec, behind the old town, there are also good swimming piers.

    Sveti Nikola is a small island, off the port of Porec. A castle was built on the island in 1886, and today it serves as a hotel. The beach below the castle is one of the best swimming spots in Porec. You can get to Sveti Nikola by boat from the port of Porec.

    There are also several swimming spots on the other side of Porec. Pical beach is about a 10-minute walk from the center (the sea is on your left), and further on is Materada beach. 

    The largest shopping centers in Istria are located in Pula. The newest and biggest is Max City. In addition to this, on the other side of the city is the City Mall. In shopping malls, a wide selection of local and international stores; clothes, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics and much more.

    In Porec, most of the shops and small boutiques are in the old town. There are also small boutiques and shops in the old towns of Pula and Rovinj.

    Local wines can be bought at Vinoteka wine shops. In these shops, you can also buy other Istrian specialties, such as honey, olive oil, truffles and homemade pasta, etc. However, you can find the best local wines directly from the inland wineries. Wines and olive oil are also sold in grocery stores.

    Porec's nightlife is focused on cafes and bars and a few discos. Some hotels may have live music in the evenings. You can find the most atmospheric bars in Old Town. Trg Marafor square has several café-bars, where the Istrians themselves hang out.

    The cities of Istria are small, so distances within the city can be easily walked. If necessary, you can rely on a reliable and fairly inexpensive taxi ride. You can order a taxi from, for example, a hotel or a restaurant, and taxis use taxi meters. The taxi station in Porec is located directly next to the bus station.

    Larger cities and some tourist destinations can be easily reached by bus, Porec bus station is located behind Hotel Porec. There are several bus routes to Pula and Rovinj per day. Tickets are bought directly on the bus.

    A good and comfortable way to get to know Istria and its surroundings is to rent a car. The roads are in good condition and well marked, and the traffic is quite moderate.

    Popular destinations
    Grožnjan. At the top of the hill is the tiny "artist's village" of Grožnjan. The village has several artists' galleries and small boutiques, as well as various delicatessens. There are truffle pastes and other truffle delicacies, olive oils, honey and other local products.

    Motuvun is known as the "truffle capital" of Istria. A valuable delicacy that grows in the forests of the surrounding hills, which is searched for with the help of dogs. In Istria, truffle is mixed with almost anything (even beer), but at its best, the strongly flavored treat is in pasta.

    Bale is a medieval town 8 km southeast of Rovinj. Bale is built on top of a hill, like many other towns in Istria. Although Bale is at a crossroads, it has been spared centuries of destruction without damage. The narrow streets and houses of this town were protected by the castle walls, which date from the 15th century. Bale's old town is a protected site.

    Hum, the smallest town in the world is located about 65 km from Porec, near Luboglav and Roć. The town of Hum has about twenty residents, a hotel, a restaurant and three souvenir shops. Their specialty is mistletoe liqueur and truffle. The city has St. Jerome's church with its bell tower, stone-paved square, two narrow streets and old houses; how everything has been accommodated within the strong walls.

    Fažana is a small ancient fishing village that has grown with tourism without losing its charm. Around the city there are many traces of Roman settlement and the ceramics industry, e.g. an old pottery kiln. There is a busy ship and boat traffic from Fažana to the Brijun island group off the city.

    Umag is located in the northwest corner of Istria, opposite Venice, and here their influence is quite evident. Even in ancient times, this historic old town was popular with the Roman nobles and already at that time they had summer residences here. Remains of the city walls and gate have been partially preserved from the 9th century. The town's church is from the 16th century and has frescoes on the ceiling worth seeing. Today, this rather lively tourist and sports city is best known for tennis. The annual Croatia Open Umag ATP tennis tournament is played here, where the world's best compete against each other.

    The medieval town of Buje was known as the watchman of Istria and is built on a gentle hill. The city has a colorful and step-by-step history ever since prehistoric times. Illyrians, Goths, Celts, Lombards, Romans, Venetians and many others have passed through here. Once upon a time, the city was protected by strong walls, but now only their remains remain. City Church, St. Servula, was built in the 16th century. A lot of wine is cultivated around the city and it is worth visiting the local wine shops, because here you will not be disappointed in the quality of the wines.

    Good to know
    Airlines: Several different airlines fly from Finland to Cyprus. At Aventours, we fly to the destination with Enter Air company planes.
    Airport: Pula Airport.
    Distance to vacation destinations from Pula airport: to destinations in the Porec region about 60 km and the driving time is about 1 hour.
    Flight time: about 3 hours
    Language: The official language throughout the country is Croatian, but in the Istrian region Italian is the second official language. The local population also speaks English and German well.
    Time difference: -1 hour less than in Finland. The time zone is UTC +2.
    Population: 4.2 million inhabitants
    Passport: A Finnish citizen needs a valid passport or chipped identity card as a travel document to Croatia.
    Currency: Euro
    Tipping: Tips are usually given to e.g. waiters and hotel cleaners. In restaurants, a suitable amount is approx. 5-10% of the total amount of the bill. However, tipping is always voluntary
    Electricity: voltage 220 – 230V. In general, the sockets are the same as in Finland.
    Tap water: Tap water in Croatia is safe to drink. For those with sensitive stomachs, we recommend bottled water as drinking water. Brushing teeth and cooking are safe with tap water.

    Three tips for those vacationing in Istria
    1. Nothing beats an authentic local Istrian souvenir like a bottle of rakija, olive oil, local wine or truffle delicacies. Rakija, the local aperitif, is distilled all over the Balkans, but with slight regional differences. In Istria, rakija is made with honey and mistletoe. The latter is called Biska, and it has a sweet taste and a yellowish-brown color.

    Truffles thrive in the humid oak forests in the heart of the Istrian peninsula, and are used to flavor e.g. pasta, omelets and steak dishes. Truffle products are sold in several places around Istria, try e.g. truffle salt or truffle salami.

    Wine and olives have been cultivated in the area for centuries. Local wines and olive oils are of high quality and internationally awarded.

    2. The Zerostrasse underground tunnels criss-cross under the city of Pula and were used as cover during the First World War air raids. Kastel Castle in the center of the city, which was used as a barracks, warehouse and prison during the Austro-Hungarian rule, hides two tunnel warehouses under its slopes. The temperature in the tunnels is 14-18 degrees all year round. The width of the corridor is 3–6 meters and the height is 2.5 meters. The tunnels below the castle alone could hold about 6,000 people, while all of Pula's underground tunnels had a capacity of over 50,000 people, which is almost as large as the city's population. One part of the tunnel is used today to organize various cultural and social events, from exhibitions to parties. Tickets for the tunnels can be purchased at Carrarina 3a, Pula.

    3. Take a sea trip to the beautiful Lim fjord, located between Rovinj and Porec. The fjord is 11 kilometers long and the scenery is beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of Norway – crystal clear water, deep green forests and mighty cliffs that rise 150 meters above sea level. There are stalactite caves in the fjord and it is said that pirates used to hide their prey there. Today, fish and shellfish are grown in the fjord, and the area is especially known for its oysters. You can take a boat trip from Porec and Rovinj.