Istria County Croatia – Travel Guide

Amphitheater Pula Arena in Croatia
Amphitheater Pula Arena in Croatia - photo by Niels Bosman

In our article on Istria County in Croatia, we’ll introduce you to the peninsula of Istria and Istria County. We’ll guide you to the best places in Istria, for your trip to Croatia. Istria County is a place with lots to offer. From great cities to even greater beaches. We added Istria to our top 10 destinations in Croatia.

Istria is a peninsula on the north-west of Croatia. It’s the largest peninsula of the Adriatic Sea, and actually covers 3 countries: Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. The peninsula Istria is located between the Gulf of Trieste in the north and the Kvarner Gulf in the east.

Most of the peninsula (89%) is part of Croatia, the region of Istria County. Istria County is located in the most western part of Croatia. Next to Croatian, Italian is also an official language here. Over 5% of the people living in Istria County are Italian.

Brijuni National Park in Istria Croatia

One of the national parks of Croatia is located in Istria, Brijuni National Park. The national park Brijuni is a park that exists out of 14 islands. The largest island of the 14, is Briujuni (Otok Veliki Brijun). This island is reachable by ferry from the town Fažana, near Pula.

Map with location of National Park Brijuni
Map with location of National Park Brijuni

The island Veliki Brijun hosts a variety of tourist attractions. In the north of the island, you can find Safari Park Brijuni, where you can see camels, elephants, zebras… Close to the safari park, you have Park Dinosaura where you can see dinosaur footprints. In total over 200 dinosaur footprints have been discovered in Brijuni National Park.

There is also a lot of history to be discovered in this national park. Close to where the ferry stops, in Luka Brioni, you have The Old Olive Tree. This olive tree is about 1600 years old. This makes the olive tree one of the oldest in the Mediterranean region. Every year they still harvest the olives of this tree. Yearly the tree produces about 30 kg of olives, which is used to make olive oil.

Next to that, there are a lot of archeological sites on the island Veliki Brijun. You have St Mary’s Basilica, a church from the Templars in the middle ages. You also have Byzantine Castrum (Kastrum), the remains of a Roman settlement.

If you want to learn more about Brijuni National Park, the archeological discoveries, tickets… check the official park website at np-brijuni.hr.

Cities to visit in Istria County Croatia

Pula

Pula is the largest city of Istria County. The city is located in the south of Istria, next to the sea and near National Park Brijuni (mentioned earlier). Close to Pula, there are a lot of beaches. This makes Pula a popular destination for summer vacations.

Next to the beaches, there are also remains of Roman civilization. Pula Arena, an old amphitheater is one of those. The amphitheater was built between 27 BC and 68 AD and is still in good shape today.

Amphitheater Pula Arena in Croatia
Amphitheater Pula Arena in Croatia – photo by Niels Bosman

Another popular attraction in Pula is the Aquarium Pula. This aquarium is situated in fort Verudela, a 130-year-old fort. 250 fish species can be seen in the aquarium. For more information on the aquarium, check the Aquarium Pula website.

Labin and Rabac

Labin is an old town in Istria that dates back to the time of the Romans. The town grew from a Roman settlement to a town with over 6000 inhabitants. From Labin, you can hike the Sentona’s Trail to Rabac.

Labin old town in Istria County
Labin old town in Istria County

Close to Labin, you have the tourist resort Rabac. Rabac used to be a fishermen village, with no more than 10 houses. But today it’s a popular tourist destination with a lot of hotels, bars, restaurants, and beaches. We visited the Rabac beaches and they’re a great place to relax.

Poreč

Another popular destination for summer tourists is Poreč. The town of Poreč is almost 2000 years old, dating back to prehistoric times. The Euphrasian Basilica, from the 6th century, is the most famous historic building of Poreč. This Roman Catholic basilica is a UNESCO world heritage.

Near Poreč there are a lot of hotels and camping areas close to beaches. The beaches provide easy access to the sea, making them a great destination for families. Poreč has 37 kilometers (23 miles) of shoreline.

Rovinj / Rovigno

Rovinj is a fishing port and another popular tourist destination. Located in the center of Istria, this is a great place to stay when exploring Istria County. The old town of Rovinj is located on a small island in the Adriatic Sea. The narrow streets of the town make it cozy and charming. Rovinj is a bilingual city, where both Italian and Croatian are spoken. In Italian the name of the city is Rovigno.

Rovinj in Istria Croatia
Rovinj in Istria Croatia – photo by Vlado Sestan

Forest Park Zlatni Rt (Park šuma Zlatni Rt) is a great place to escape the busy city. The park is a great place for biking and hiking. Apart from that, you can also go there for a refreshing swim. There is a pebble beach, Lone Bay, with crystal clear water and a beach bar. On the south side of the peninsula, there are some more rocky beaches as well.

Rovinj is, according to us, one of the top 10 destinations in Croatia.

Best Beaches in Istria County Croatia

Koromačno Beach

Koromačno beach is located close to the town Brovinje. The beach is only accessible on foot, so you’ll have to walk for about half an hour. You can park your car in the town of Brovinje and start your hike from there.

Koromačno Beach
Koromačno Beach view from the trail

Koromačno beach is one of our favorite beaches in Istria. The water is shallow and clear. You’ll see a lot of fish in the water. Because of its remote location, Koromačno beach is a calm beach. Even in the tourist season. When we visited Koromačno, we were the only ones on the beach. Check out our visit to Koromačno beach for details on the beach, where to park, and a hiking map.

Duga Luka / Plaža Mali Prtlog Beach

Another beautiful beach is located on the peninsula of Duga Luka (also called Prtlog). The small village is located close to Labin and less than 50 people live here. But there are a lot of holiday homes and villas in the village, so in summer it gets more busy.

Beach Plaža Mali Portluk
Wonderful beach Plaža Mali Portluk

There is a beautiful hiking trail along the peninsula. On this trail, there are numerous small beaches where you can go for a swim. We continued to Plaža Mali Portluk – Prtlog Beach (picture above), and went for a swim there. For itinerary and details check our article on Duga Luka / Plaža Mali Prtlog Beach.

Donji Kamenjak Peninsula

The Donji Kamenjak Peninsula (Lower Kamenjak Peninsula) is located in the southernmost part of Istria. 100 million years ago the peninsula was inhabited by the dinosaurs. Today the remains of those dinosaurs can still be seen in the dinosaur prints that you can find along the shore on the Kamenjak Peninsula.

People jumping from the cliffs at Kamenjak
People jumping from the cliffs at Kamenjak – Photo by Katarzyna Tyl

From Premantura you can hike around the entire peninsula and discover the beaches along the trail. The trail around the complete peninsula takes about 4 hours and is 13 km (8 miles) long. There are really countless beaches along this trail. To name a few: Beach Pinižule, Beach Polje, Beach Plovanije, Njive beach, Beach Radovica, Debeljak Cove, Toreta beach, Uvala Portic… Because of the countless beaches, you’ll find a great place to relax and swim for sure!

Kamenjak is a protected landscape area. Many endangered species live in this area. For example the plant Adder’s-tongue and the flower Woolly Chamomile. For more information on the peninsula, check the official Kamenjak website.

Lanterna Beach Rabac

As mentioned earlier, Rabac is a tourist town in Kvarner Bay. The coastal boardwalk of Rabac takes you along the shores. Next to the shore, you’ll discover a lot of beaches. All of them are beautiful with turquoise and blue water. Nearby, you’ll also find a lot of beach bars.

Lanterna Beach Rabac
Beautiful colors of the water at Lanterna Beach Rabac

Some of the beaches along the shore are from the hotels, so you can’t use all of them if you don’t stay there. But there are plenty of beaches where you can go regardless of where you stay. Our favorite beaches of Rabac are Plaža Girandella and Lanterna Beach. Check our article on Rabac beaches for more details and photos.

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Poster Istria Croatia
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By Steven

Hi there 👋! My name is Steven. I write for our travel blog and focus on the technicalities behind the blog (hosting, SEO…). My focus is to provide useful information I found lacking when preparing our own travels. That’s why I love making maps to enhance the articles. I hope you find what you seek on our website. And if there is something I can help with, make sure to reach out 🙂!

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