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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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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