36 Hours in Istria: Our Short Guide to Croatia’s Most Visited Region
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Even though my country is getting more and more popular as a touristic destination, lots of people and travelers are still quite unfamiliar with Croatia. If you are one of them, you have probably heard about Dubrovnik where Games of Thrones were filmed, about Plitvice Lakes as a spectacular nature park or maybe Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Did you know that most visited region of Croatia is Istria? Thanks to its location and closeness to Italy and Slovenia as well as numerous attractions, stunning cities, tasty food and beautiful beaches, every year it attracts a big number of visitors. A few months back I wanted to show at least some of it to Jaime and a friend who was visiting, but we had just a bit more than a day, 36 hours to be exact.
Our 36 hours in Istria – Istria on a fast track
Two days after the wedding, we packed our bags, dropped the last guests at the airport and shortly after we were on our way to Istria. We wanted to see as much as possible in an only day and a half. Since I booked a wonderful little apartment in Rovinj, Rovinj was our first destination.
We arrived after it was already dark. It was late October, so tourists were a long time gone. You could see the only a couple of visitors wandering around the streets, but not even close to the number you can experience during the summer season. The weather was still nice and, shortly after we got comfortable in the apartment, we decided to take an evening walk around the old town. We explored its narrow streets and found a nice little restaurant to eat. After getting our bellies full and taking few photos, we returned to the apartment to get a good rest for the following day. Rovinj seemed very promising. It was a great destination to explore next morning!
The next day we were greeted by a wonderful sunny morning. The weather was just wonderful, much better we could ever imagine! In the end, we were exploring the city only in short sleeves, and it was almost November already. We took a walk around the old city again, visited the cathedral and explored city’s little harbor. There were so many things to do in Rovinj and we had the only a couple of hours in the evening and early morning. We discovered lots of little, cute shops with original souvenirs. After unpacking we realized we forgot to bring soap or shower gel and, luckily we ran into a lady who was selling wonderful handmade soaps.
The clock stroke noon and it was time to leave our little nest in Rovinj if we wanted to explore amazing city of Motovun. One hour later, we already saw Motovun from the distance and I found myself screaming “Stop!”. A couple of minutes drive before coming to the city, there were few fantastic photography stops we just needed to take the opportunity of!
Motovun is the most famous small Istrian town. It is an unbelievable attractive medieval city, located on a hilltop. If you are not amazed by the view on the city itself, views from the top will take your breath away. It is overlooking Mirna river valley, vineyards where famous wines Malvasia and Teran are produced and Motovun forest, especially rich in truffles which are often used in Istrian cuisine.
Motovun is also a place known for film festival held in July, when the whole city becomes a stage and surrounding areas turn into camping sites, trying to accommodate tourists from all over the world who are wishing to be a part of this unique experience.
Ok, I think it is quite obvious why I really wanted them to see this city. We were actually considering villas around Motovun as possible wedding location and I wished my brand new husband to understand why I was so into it.
We paid for the daily parking ticket (it was actually only option available, you need to pay before even starting to climb up to the city and costs 20 kunas) and parked as much on the top as we could. Climbing down a steep road led us to the city center. As small as it is, you can walk around the city – and I mean literally around since you can walk right next to the fortification system – in half an hour. You can enjoy different views to Mirna’s valley, admire the Istrian stone architecture and discover various gardens.
If you get tired, you can have a seat in one of the restaurants – cafe bars overlooking the valley. We did just so. We already agreed we are going to have late lunch in Pula, so we ordered just a drink. And a dessert. 🙂 I have never tried truffles before and being in Istria was a perfect opportunity for it! So I ordered a pannacotta with truffles and honey. I am still not sure if I have liked it or not. It was well made, but truffle taste, which I was not used to, was so intensive.
We checked a couple of shops on the way back to the car. Unfortunately, we did not buy any truffles, homemade olive oil or regional wine, but I managed to grab one packing of Istrian traditional pasta – fuži and I am planning to show you what I made from it very soon (check out the post here!)
The day was slowly passing by and we need to get back to the car in order to make it to Pula, our last city on this trip, during the daylight.
The purpose of our visit to Pula was to see Arena, the Roman amphitheater. Neither of them ever visited the one in Rome, so Arena of Pula was a great introduction to Roman’s inheritance. Arena is one of the best-preserved amphitheaters outside Italy and it is also used as a concert venue during the summer. To attend one of the concerts in Arena is definitely on our bucket list!
After paying a visit to Arena, we were already quite hungry so the restaurant hunt was begun. Jaime wanted to eat fish, so he got a bit frustrated with prices of fish. He grumbled how we are on the coast and fish should be much cheaper, but that is what situation is like in Croatia. Finally, we found a restaurant named “Kantina” (engl. canteen). We liked the decor and decided to give it a shot. The food was good, but nothing spectacular. I loved couvert the most – they served us goat cheese with truffles, which was excellent and I liked truffles in this combination much more. Jaime finally got his fish (but super small and still expensive, what made him even more grumpy). For the main dish I decided on fuži, traditional pasta, once again and it was very good.
Our late lunch in Pula turned out to actually be dinner. There was a long trip back to Zagreb in front of us. We were all tired but overwhelmed with emotions and impressions. Stunned by beautiful Istria, we all knew 36 hours was not nearly enough and that we will be back soon.
Did you visit Istria and tried its marvelous food? Which city and activities did you like the most?
Read more about Istria in our other posts:
If you like Istria, you want to check out our Facebook album Discover Croatia – Region of Istria.
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