Rough Draft Itinerary: Istria Peninsula, Croatia
Due to the COVID quarantine, I am creating rough draft, “off the shelf” travel itineraries for when travel resumes normal operations so we do not waste any time getting out and exploring!
Croatia had always be an area of interest since Bourdain’s episode covering the country’s wine and food scene. But what brought my attention to it during this uncertain travel time was that Croatia is actually allowing for visitors from the US as tourists. There are a ton of details – including PCR covid testing within 48 hours (which is quite tricky to accomplish at the moment – the 72 hours window is stressful enough) and travel declaration – but thought it could be a good time to look more closely in the event we are able to safely go.
Like its European neighbors, there is such a variety to Croatia giving travelers ample choices to make the trip that is right for them. Most people associate Croatia for the beautiful coastline and beach life. Since those are the more popular destinations, I turned my attention to the Istria peninsula – land of wine and truffles. And there are still beaches here with a bonus of caves and hiking though national parks. I had no idea all this amazingness could be found here!
Depending on if you are visiting this area exclusively or adding it as a larger itinerary, there are a few ways to get to the Istria Peninsula. If you wanted to focus solely on this region, there is an airport in Pula in the southern part of the peninsula. If you are up for a road trip, you can fly in Zagreb – it is a three hour drive and there are plenty of places to stop along the way. And more famously, there are the cities in the south can you can also create an extended trip with. Also, having a car seems beneficial for getting around this region.
What is there to do?
The main draw for this trip is the richness of the Istria Peninsula and it is easy to spent an entire week just in this area.
- Town hopping – there are tons of small towns that make up this region – Pula, Rovinj, Umag, Motovun to name a few!
- Wine tasting – this region has been referred to as “new Tuscany” so needless to say there are some great gems for wine and reasonably priced. Like most European wine regions, the tastings are more casual and informal – there is not a proper tasting room and the person pouring the wine often is actively working. Some of the wineries allow for appointments to be set up ahead of time or you can also take a structured tour with a guide to see multiple places at once. Here are the ones I have marked to visit:
- Trapan, Matosevic, Roxanich, Cossetto, Kozlovic, Kabola, Fakin, Tomaz, Benvenuti
- Outdoor activities – while I expect to see gorgeous beaches, what I did not expect was to find caves and mountainous areas to explore!
- Pazin Cave – guided tours down into the cave
- Sopot Waterfall – you can drive or walk to this hidden waterfall
- Brijuni National Park – a 15 min ferry ride from Fazana near Pula
- Ucka Mountain – there are several trails that wrap to the top for a panoramic view
Where to eat?
It is hard to have a bad meal – just avoid those tourist spots! Croatia is known for their seafood but do not miss out of those delightful truffles. For the areas on this trip, here are the restaurants I have marked to visit:
- Batelina (Banjole), Wine Vault (Rovinj), Giannino (Rovinj), Tipico Green Garden (Rovinj), Viking (Lim), Konoba Buscina (Umag), Zignate (Livade), Konoba Mondo (Motovun)
Based on the above information and the proximity of each activity, here is how I would structure 5 days in the Istria Peninsula of Croatia, excluding the travel time to get there. Days are interchangeable and are grouped by location in the peninsula so mix and match depending on weather and what you are up for that day.
|Day 0||Evening||Arrive in Istria Peninsula|
Base lodging in Rovinj
|Day 1||Morning||Travel to Kamenjak – park / beach|
|Evening||Ferry to Brijuni National Park|
|Day 2||Morning||Pazin Cave|
|Evening||Olive oil and wine tasting|
|Day 3||Morning||Explore Rovinj|
|Afternoon||Wine tasting Trail from Rovinj to Motovun|
|Day 4||Morning||Ucka Mountain|
|Evening||Stop in Opatija|
|Day 5||Morning||Day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park|
or more time on the coast of Istria Peninsula
|Afternoon||Plitvice Lakes National Park|
If you have been to Croatia, let me know what I missed and what your favorites are!
We had the chance to put this itinerary to the test!