Istria is the most Italian region in Croatia—not too long ago, it was actually the most Croatian region in Italy.
It comprises a triangular-shaped peninsula in the far northeastern corner of Croatia and is dotted with absolutely gorgeous coastal towns, inland hilltop villages, olive farms, vineyards, and truffle forests.
We just spent two days and two nights in Istria, as part of our Adriatic road trip, in a rental car and fell head over heels in love with the region. Although we didn’t necessarily see every part of it—and therefore can’t really compare all places—two specific towns stood out in particular.
Visit Istria Croatia
Rovinj, Istria’s Coastal Highlight
The first town that we visited in Istria, and in Croatia for that matter, was Rovinj. Rovinj, a city that is perched atop a peninsular hill in the middle of Istria’s west coast, is without question one of Croatia’s most atmospheric towns. Its streets and alleyways are wonderfully narrow and winding, while its buildings are cheerfully colorful.
The beauty of Rovinj not only lies in its appearance, but also in the fact that it’s possible to explore the town in just a few hours. This makes it a fantastic place for an afternoon trip.
Motovun, Istria’s Inland Attraction
A whole other town in Istria, Croatia, is Motovun. This hilltop town provides a fascinating inland contrast to the coastal splendor of Rovinj. Motovun is situated in the heart of Istria, amid a rolling countryside filled with fields, orchards, wineries and stone villages.
Although Motovun is not the only hilltop town in Istria, it is definitely the most visited one. And rightly so—its setting is nothing less than breathtaking. The approach of the town from the south provides a marvelous panoramic view, while the views from the town itself are possibly even better. Highlights in Motovun are its fortified town walls, the local shops that line the road to the town center on top of the hill, and the St. Stephen’s Church.
If you only have a couple of days to spend, you’re strongly, strongly recommended to focus on these top 2 places to visit in Croatia: Rovinj and Motovun. In case you have more time to spend, consider paying a visit to the city of Pula as well.