A One-Day Tour of Istria Croatia by JetSettingFools.com

The Best One-Day Tour Of Istria, Croatia

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Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula dangles off the northwest corner of the country into the Adriatic Sea. Like much of Croatia, the coastline in Istria is the big attraction. However, the interior of the Istrian Peninsula is equally picturesque and has a storied past of its own.

Although we opted to base ourselves in the coastal city of Rovinj during our stay, we planned a One Day Tour of Istria that included both the coast and the interior. Our day was spent experiencing the must-see Istria highlights – and you can follow in our footsteps!


Day Tour Of Istria, Croatia

Boat and Old Town Rovinj, Croatia

The Istrian Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in Croatia. Although it has a gorgeous coastline, it is often overlooked in favor of Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands (like Hvar and Korcula) or intriguing cities like Dubrovnik and Split. Istria, however, is a Croatian destination not to be missed!

One of the best things to do in Istria is to experience the diversity of the region. Visitors could spend days – or even weeks – exploring the peninsula. However, travelers with less time can still see the Best Places in Istria on a Day Tour!


What To See in Istria, Croatia

Boardwalk in Golden Cape Forest Park in Rovinj, Croatia

Seaside towns steeped in history line the western shore, each exuding unique character. While it can be difficult to part with the teal blue waters of the Istrian Riviera, the region has more to offer. Medieval hilltop towns that lie inland and regional delicacies are as much a reason to visit Istria as the translucent waters of the sea. 

When we were deciding what to do in Istria, we knew we wanted to create a tour that covered a range of activities. Rather than just focusing on Istria food or joining an Istria wine tour, we were also intent on seeing historic sights and quaint villages. We created an Istria Itinerary that included the best tastes and towns in Istria!


Istria Map Of Day Trip Destinations

Use this link to Google Maps for a map of Istria, Croatia destinations and driving directions. 

One-Day Tour of Istria, Croatia


One-Day Tour of Istria, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia Laundry hanging to dry

Our full-day Istria tour began early in the morning. We had a private driver shuttle us around the peninsula to our desired places to visit in Istria so that all we had to worry about was enjoying the day!

Allow 8 hours to see all five towns – plus driving time to/from the first/last destination. Our Istria day tour is ideal for anyone already staying in Istria – but is also possible if staying in nearby Pula, Rijeka or even Zagreb (just factor in driving time, which from Zagreb is about 2.5 hours). 


#1 Eat and Hunt for Istrian Truffles

White truffle hunting dogs at Karlic Tartufi in Paladini, Istria, Croatia

The first stop on our tour of Istria was for truffles – the fungus, not the chocolate. Istria Truffles are a regional delicacy. While not everyone is a fan of the pungent, high-priced nuggets, it only takes one whiff of the earthy scent to make me swoon.

Scrambbled Eggs with truffle slices at Karlic Tartufi, Paladini, Istria, Croatia

Our morning mission was to accompany dogs at the Karlic Tartufi Plantation in Paladini on a hunt, but first we had breakfast! Perhaps one of the most indulgent, flavorful breakfasts to ever pass my lips; everything we consumed – cheese, meat, oil and honey – was accented with truffles, culminating in Karlic’s signature dish, scrambled eggs with truffles. It was absolutely heavenly.


Truffle Hunting in Istria, Croatia

Finding truffles while truffle hunting with dogs at Karlic Tartufi in Paladini, Istria, Croatia

On the hunt, with the taste of truffles still on our breath, we tramped through the forest following a guide and two dogs. Sniffing their way around the forest floor, the dogs would start digging and our guide jumped in beside them to secure the findings. Three times during our Istria truffle hunt, the dogs uncovered precious truffles.


#2 Drink Istrian Brandy

Brandy Rakija Tasting Glasses at Aura Distillery in Buzet, Istria, Croatia

Is it ever too early to start drinking on vacation? Well, not in Croatia, and especially appropriate when sampling traditional Istrian brandy! The second stop on our Istria tour was at Aura Distillery in Buzet. The family-run company is intent on producing products ‘just like grandma’ without any preservatives.


Istrian Rakija Tasting and Brandy Distillery Tour

Copper distillery equipment at Aura Distillery in Buzet, Istria, Croatia

Before diving into the brandy tasting, we toured the small distillery where they produce the fruit brandy, called rakija in Croatia. We were guided through Aura’s process of using traditional methods and natural ingredients to produce more than 20 flavors of brandy.

Then it was time to get serious and start sampling their product. From the smooth-not-syrupy Teranino to the herb-infused Sage to the unique Olive and Almond – we tried them nearly all despite the early hour!


#3 Istria Hill Town: Motovun, Croatia

Main Square and historic buildings in Motovun, Istria, Croatia

The third stop on our tour of Istria had us heading for the hills to Motovun. The medieval town, which is perched on a hill like a wedding cake topper, was once protected by walls that included nine gates and seven towers. It has been inhabited by Celtics, Romans and Venetians – and today is home to about 1000 Croatian residents.


Motovun, Istria Things To Do

Rooftop and vineyard views from Motovun, Istria, Croatia

We took a guided tour of Motovun, tracing the remaining city walls and passing through the main square of the upper town that was once surrounded by a moat and drawbridge. While the historic settlement was remarkable, what really wowed us were the phenomenal views. 


#4 Visit Porec, Croatia

Exterior of UNESCO-listed Euphrasian Basilica, Porec, Croatia

After spending the first part of the day in the interior, our tour of Istria moved to the coast to Porec. Like so many of the shoreline Istria towns, Porec resides on a peninsula and, today, the local economy relies mostly on tourism. Swimming in the award-winning clean waters of the lagoons attracts many holidaymakers, but we were more interested in seeing the Euphrasian Basilica.


Istria Attractions: Euphrasian Basilica

Glittering tiled mosaic altar at Euphrasian Basilica in Porec, Istria, Croatia

With part of the Euphrasian Basilica church complex dating to the 4th century, it is the centerpiece of Porec’s history. Ancient tiled mosaics are featured throughout – as part of the floor, walls and exterior – but none are as impressive as the glittering mosaic behind the main altar. The art, most of which is still original, depicts the stories of Mary visiting Elizabeth and Angel Gabriel visiting Mary.


#5 Seaside Fairytale in Rovinj, Croatia

Seaside Table at end of cobblestone lane, Rovinj, Istria, Croatia

We ended our sightseeing tour of Istria in Rovinj, which is where we were staying in Croatia. The charming town protrudes into the Adriatic Sea – and we think it is one of the best places to visit in Istria (if not the entire country)!

Picturesque lane in Old Town Rovinj, Croatia

Cobblestone streets lead up to St. Euphemia Church and the bell tower, which can be seen from afar piercing the sky. Laundry crisscrosses the streets, strung between the pastel painted stone buildings. Much like Motovun, it isn’t the sights that attract visitors to Rovinj. The appeal of Rovinj lies in the car-free lanes, the turquoise sea, the magnificent Rovinj Sunsets, the hidden squares and outdoor cafes for enjoying amazing Croatian Wine.

Sunsets in Rovinj Croatia

After our long day of exploring Istria, we sought out a seaside cafe. We sipped a glass of local Istria wine while watching fishermen prepare their nets and the sun as it sank into the sea. It was the perfect ending to our Istria Day Trip!

Read our complete guide of Things To Do in Rovinj, Croatia.

Things To Do in Rovinj: A Complete Guide to Rovinj, Croatia by JetSettingFools.com


Istria Day Trip Tips

City Gate and outdoor cafe in Motovun, Istria, Croatia

We have a few more tips and pieces of advice to help you plan your perfect Istria vacation in Croatia!

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Planning a Tour of Istria, Croatia

Fruit stand with views in Motovun, Istria, Croatia

We think the above outline is the perfect way to tour Istria. That said, there are more things to see in Istria! It would be impossible to fit all of the Istria sights into one day, but we have a few suggestions for variations of our outlined trip. Visitors can use our following tips for planning an ideal Istria excursion!


Where To Go in Istria: Alternate Destinations

Our trip was tailored to our interests, so it included the places and sights that we most wanted to see. Other Istria towns that are top places to visit are Bale, Hum, Umag, Vrsar and Pula. 

Top Tip: Ambitious travelers could squeeze in one more stop after Rovinj. For example, Pula, which features a 1st century amphitheater and other Roman ruins, is only about a 40-minute drive south of Rovinj. Visitors can use our guide of Things To Do in Pula to navigate to the top sights. 


How To Get Around Istria in a Day

Our outlined Istria Day Trip requires a vehicle. Visitors without a car can either get an Istria Car Rental or hire a driver. Because we prefer not to drive in foreign countries (and because we knew we were going to be drinking alcohol), we opted for a driver over renting a car


Istria Tours

Rather than self-driving (or hiring a driver), visitors can join an organized Istria Tour. There is an Istria Day Tour (read reviews) that is similar to our outline (but misses some key activities, like Truffle Hunting). Other tours include a Private Istria Tour and a Hilltop and Wine Adventure


Where To Stay in Istria, Croatia

Using Airbnb in Rovinj, Croatia View out the wood-shutters

As mentioned, during our visit to Istria we based ourselves in Rovinj. The town is dripping with charm and is only about 45 minutes from the Pula Airport. It is also well-connected to bus routes to other parts of Croatia.

We stayed in an awesome Airbnb Apartment right in the heart of the Rovinj Old Town. However, there are many options when it comes to accommodations. Visitors can check availability and read traveler reviews of Rovinj hotels on Booking.com


Getting to Istria, Croatia

Beautiful sunset in Rovinj, Croatia

Travelers can reach Istria by plane, boat, car or bus.

The Istria Airport is in Pula, but flights are very seasonal. That said, during the summer, the airport is serviced by several carriers from top European destinations, like London, Amsterdam and Munich. Check for the best prices on flights to Istria on SkyScanner.

Boats are also seasonal and most only operate in the peak summer months of July and August. However, they are useful for connections to Italy, Slovenia and some Croatian Islands. 

Bus routes run year-round. Check bus routes ahead of your visit on Bus Croatia (but we recommend verifying the latest information at the station if possible).


Stay Connected in Croatia

When you are on the move and want to stay connected, a wifi hotspot is the way to go. Travelers visiting more than one country – and frequent international travelers – should consider purchasing a mobile hotspot, like GlocalMe. It’s what we use to stay connected during our travels. The device conveniently operates using both SIM cards and online data plans, can connect multiple devices and doubles as a power bank!


Before You Go To Istria, Croatia


Visiting other Top Croatia Destinations? Find our top tips for HvarKorculaDubrovnikSplitZagreb – and many more – on our Croatia Travel Guides Page!


Start planning your trip to Croatia! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel advice? Head over to our Travel Planning Page for tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides Page!


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A Tour of Istria by JetSettingFools.com

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