Istrian Riviera Holidays

A magical setting in the Adriatic

Istrian Riviera holidays promise mist-shrouded hilltops, rugged beaches and extraordinary gastronomy. It’s easy to see why the Romans called this peninsula ‘Terra Magica’ – the magical land. Wedged between Italy, Croatia and Slovenia, the Istrian Riviera offers an enchanting mix of Italian and Balkan influences and represents the Croatian coast at its most bohemian. Inland, artists’ colonies are found in the hilltop towns of Groznjan and Motovun, the latter of which is also the site of a major film festival.

Meanwhile, Pula offers urban bustle and Roman relics – including a perfectly preserved amphitheatre that makes for an otherworldly setting for summer music festivals and concerts. Sun-seekers should make a beeline for the coastal resorts of Rovinj – where a parade of pastel townhouses juts out to sea – and Porec, which has a wealth of architectural treasures, including an 18th-century Roman Basilica.

Unassuming seaside towns like Labin and Rabac, meanwhile, are perfect for those seeking a quieter break. Dining out here is a real treat, as the Istrian Riviera is famed for its olive oil, wine and truffles. The foodie experience wouldn’t be complete without touring its wine routes – a series of sun-dappled vineyards where you can sample fantastic wine at its source. Holidays to the Istrian Riviera promise huge diversity – from sunny seclusion on its dramatic coastline to rural getaways on the billowing plains of its green interior.

Three tips for a top trip

Hire a car

Unless you’re staying in one of the seaside resorts, you’ll definitely want to hire a car to explore the bucolic landscapes and hilltop towns of inland Istria.

Go truffling

Autumn is the time for truffle hunting in Istria. A staple of Istrian cuisine, the magical fungus is celebrated at a series of food festivals near Motovun.

Visit a winery

The Istrian peninsula offers plenty of fabulous wineries along a trail known as the ‘wine roads’. Farms will be delighted to let you sample a vintage or two as you develop your Istrian palate.

Best attractions to see in Istrian Riviera

Pula Amphitheatre

One of the finest surviving examples of Roman architecture in Europe, Pula’s amphitheatre is an impressive sight. In summer, it’s brought to life with a series of music festivals.

Rovinj

An Italianate town of sun-bleached piazzas, meandering cobbled streets and seafood restaurants, a visit to Rovinj tops any list of things to do in the Istrian Riviera.

Motovun

Motovun is one of Istria’s most stunning and best-preserved hilltop settlements. It’s also the site of a major cult film festival, which transforms this quiet town into a party hub for a week every summer.

Your Istrian Riviera questions, answered

The Istrian Riviera is one of the sunniest parts of Croatia, with more than 2,400 hours of sunshine a year and mild winters. Further inland, temperatures tend to drop off.
Olive oil, wine and truffles are all excellent souvenirs of this gastronomically rich country – just make sure to avoid imitations, and buy direct from local producers.
The Istrian Riviera is in northern Croatia, and has a generally cooler climate, though it can still reach 28-30ºC in July. Summer is typically warm and dry and you'll get 10 daily hours of sunshine, with a light breeze that takes the edge off the heat. May and June are good months to go to Istria, when it's not unbearably hot, or September and October. From November through till March the temperatures will drop substantially, with rain and occasional snow. You might time your visit to catch one of the many Istrian festivals, including music, food, sports and film events.
The big hitters are the Pula Film Festival, the Motovun Film Festival and Outlook Festival – but check ahead for local events celebrating everything from folk music to the asparagus harvest.
Istria is known for its 50 or more Blue Flag beaches. You might agree that Sveti Andrae beach in Rabac is the most beautiful, or prefer the forested and historical backdrop of Rovinj. Umag has some natural sandy beaches that are shallow and good for family bathing, while, in Cape Kamenjak nature reserve, you'll find undeveloped beaches and opportunities for cliff diving. In Pula, you can explore sea caves and snorkel, and in Porec you can camp by the beach at Lanterna. Around Rabac, you'll discover small white pebble coves, plus family-friendly beaches, naturist beaches and even a dog beach.
The Istrian Riviera is the most northerly part of Croatia, on a peninsula where the coastline heads south from the Bay of Trieste. It shares borders with Slovenia and is so close to Italy that it used to be Italian. You can cross the Adriatic sea in a couple of hours by fast boat and get to Venice. It was so important to trade that the ancient Greeks colonised it – and the Romans, and the Byzantines, and the Austrians. Shakespeare called it Illyria, as did the ancients, and it was a legendary land of oceans and wild natural beauty.
Istria is probably one of the most interesting places you'll ever visit. It has everything from colossal ancient monuments to UNESCO World Heritage sites and traditional seaside towns. You'll find dramatic scenery, family-friendly beaches and romantic coves along its almost 540 kilometres of coastline. And that's not to mention the food and drinks. Croatia has many faces, but Istria is definitely its Italian face. You'll see this in its architecture, agriculture and way of life. The Istrian Riviera has a truly Mediterranean appeal and you can spend many days exploring.
Istria is a favourite choice of families for its Blue Flag beaches as well as its historic towns and interesting countryside. You'll love its national parks, nature reserves and small islands, not to mention Pula's vast Roman amphitheatre and triumphal arch. You'll find that Istria has set up bike routes all over the peninsula and coordinated them with places to stay, so it's ideal for family cycling holidays. You can go for high rope climbing thrills at Glavani Park, zip-lining at Pazin Cave or horse riding on the beach. For a quieter trip, visit the dinosaur park or Pula aquarium.
There are several ways you could get there, including car, bus, ferry or aeroplane. You can fly from Pula to Split in an hour, but then it'll take you a further three hours to drive to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is certainly worth a visit if you have plenty of time, though it's too far for a day trip. By car, it'll take about 8 hours.