What to see
Istria offers a large variety of tourist places, historical sites, cultural heritage and great landscapes. Although many tourists limit their visit to sunbathing on the coastal beaches and a visit to Porec, Pula or Rovinj, we take it that by renting one of our holiday houses, you want more. The relative short distances in Istria, where nearly everything is maximum one hour away, make all that Istria has to offer so easily accessible. This goes from crowded beaches in the West to the rough rocky cliffs in the East; from the typical Venetian coastal towns to the hilltop towns in the interior; from the rich agricultural lands, to large forests and mountains.
Hereunder we can give you some concrete suggestions. In any case, we may advise you to hire a guide so as to make sure you get the best. And to prepare yourself, why not taking a " Virtual walk in the towns of Istria".
If you are looking for an active holiday, remarkable experiences and a rich cultural heritage, then Porec is the place to be. In this former Roman colony, you can enjoy the sights of Romanesque architecture, combined with beautiful Venetian gothic palaces and the Byzantine Euphrasius' basilica from the 6th century. Throughout the summer artists colour the city.
The most romantic coastal town is surely the town of Rovinj. Due to the lack of space on the narrow peninsula, houses were closely built, and are still untouched by modern urbanism. From the seaside a high rocky coast and walls of houses protect Rovinj. Once you enter the Balbu Arch and enter the old town, you will find yourself in a different time. Be sure to take your camera with you.
In Pula you will discover remnants of history that go back 3.000 years. Its history starts with the myth of the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece. It was home to the Histrians, the Romans and the Venetians. Once a central Austrian port, today it is the largest cultural and economic centre of Istria. Start your sightseeing tour on the Forum, the central square of Roman and medieval Pula and wander around the many relics of time. Finally you will arrive at the Roman Amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the world.
But do not limit yourself to these three most well known cities. Other coastal towns such as Umag, Novigrad, Vrsar, Funtana, Labin or Rabac all have to offer their specific character and are embedded in a fantastic pure Mediterranean environment. Or consider a visit to the interior, with medieval towns blooming on the hillocks. They are true small mid-European forts exuding the calmness of the mainland, set in an almost dreamlike mythical landscape.
Both Balini as our house in Oprtalj are located in the middle of this beautiful area.
Here life is still linked to what the land has to offer. Places to see are most certainly Motovun, Oprtalj, Buzet, Hum and Groznjan. Motovun, in the Mirna Valley, is a typical Venetian hilltop town and welcomes visitors nearly all year round. A walk on the interior ancient walls, which serve as promenade, offers a magical Istrian panorama. During the first week of July, the well-known international open-air film festival is organized in Motovun, attracting many thousands of film lovers. In contrast Oprtalj seems to have been forgotten in time. One can dream away of what once was and enjoy a glass of local wine on the town square.
Groznjan is known for its many artists, who virtual took over the town. During the summer a music festival attracts young musicians from all over the world. One can stroll around in this medieval city and visit the many shops that offer locally produced artefacts. Another alternative is to visit Hum, the smallest town in the world.
Pazin is the administrative headquarters of the Istrian county. It is placed at the very centre of the peninsula. The Pazin fortification Kastel is elevated above the Pazincisca river, a spectacular pit, a natural phenomenon. The French writer Jules Verne has even placed part of his novel "Mathias Sandorf" here. From this fortification, Pazin county - feud of - Habsburg - used to be governed. Today the Kastel serves as a home for the Ethnographic Museum of Istria and the Pazin city museum.
When travelling to these towns, do not hesitate to stop in one of the many archaeological sites, charming villages or natural viewpoints on the way. Indeed, behind every turn you may discover something unique. Another alternative is to visit local wine producers, with their Malvasija, Teran, Merlot and Muscat. Another option is to visit one of the many reputable taverns, some with their own wine cellar, where you can taste and compare wines. But wine is not the only product that one should taste. Olive oil, locally produced "proscuit" (or smoked ham), and certainly the truffles, should be on your shopping list.
And if that is not enough, then discover the unspoiled nature that is still all around. On a clear day, just go to the rooftop of Istria, the Ucka, just under 1.400 m high. From there you have a view all over Istria and the Kvarner sea.
And in the evening, look up to the sky and enjoy the most magnificent starry sky one can see anywhere in Europe.