The heart shaped 3600 sq km peninsular called Istria sits below Trieste in Italy and represents Croatian tourism at it’s most developed and diverse. Inland Istria is an area of rare and disarming beauty, sprinkled by medieval hilltop settlements and stone-built villages. On my recent trip to this stunning area to review a Clickstay villa, we were also delighted with a variety of excellent restaurants, wineries and day trip options.
If you’re heading to Istria in Croatia, here are some of my favourite things to do, eat and experience:
DINE AT STARI PODUM
During our stay in the small town of Buje, we fell in love with Stari Podrum. So much that we went twice. From the delectable local delicacies including truffles galore, each meal was an tantalising experience put on for us by Malinka, our waitress.
We did not order or look at the menu, but we were wooed nonetheless by the delicious home cooked meals from this family run restaurant. We enjoyed a beautiful spread of soups, pastas, salads and meats and of course can’t forget the dessert platter. Being mostly vegetarian, I was surprised by how much was on offer for us veggies.
The house red was also something to sing home about. The smooth and rich flavours were the perfect partner for our meals and it soon became a favourite among the group. Make sure you visit during the day as the views onto the overlooking garden are very serene. Book here.
WINE TASTING AT VINA PRELAC
Our second day in the Istria area, we had booked in for wine tasting and lunch overlooking the Vina Prelac winery. Welcomed with open arms by another family run restaurant, we entered the characterful taverna that was perched over their vineyards below.
On arrival, we were greeted by Rino himself, the owner of the restaurant and winery along with his daughter. The next few hours we were taken on a journey through their wine collection, each with its on food pairing.
My favourite of the day was the truffle cheese and homemade pasta which we could have easily smuggled in our bags back to London. The dishes had been carefully crafted by Rino’s wife in the kitchen, and with the combination of the locally sourced ingredients, these meals would have you returning year on year for more.
It was such a special experience to be treated to a gorgeous meal and wine tasting by the owner himself. These are the unique moments I savour when travelling abroad. Visit the Vino Prelac website for more information.
SEAFOOD AT RIBARSKA KOLIBA RESTAURANT AND MARINA
Heading further south towards Pula, Ribaska Koliba (restaurant), rooftop and resort is perched in a quiet Marina in a secluded bay. We were drawn by the lure of fresh seafood and stunning views, and we were delivered just that. This exact restaurant has been operating for over 100 years and is also called “The Taste of the Seas” as it serves up a variety of fresh seafood daily.
With more of a fine dining ambience, we were spoilt with octopus Carpaccio, shrimp risotto and whole fish of the day. We finished off the lunch time dining experience on the rooftop with a cappuccino, watching the sun set over the bay.
We were told by the newly appointed managers that there were plans for some rooftop parties too. Shame we couldn’t stay longer as the views of the sparkling bay below would have been the ideal backdrop for a cocktail or two. You can also stay at Ribaska resort next door which had a gorgeous pool overlooking the marina. For more information, visit the Ribarska website.
DAY TRIP TO BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK
As part of our visit to Northern Croatia, I didn’t want to miss the chance to visit the Brijuni National Park. Brijuni is comprised of 14 islands off the coast of Northern Croatia. From Fazana marina, you can hire a boat or join a cruise to take you over to the islands. Once over there, you have the choice of playing golf, bike riding around the island or swimming in the gorgeously turquoise blue waters.
We went in early May so it was a touch cold to be swimming, however it was still beautiful on the boat ride around the islands. The islands are popular for their scenic beauty and many holidayers visit each year for their annual holiday.
So that wraps up my top things to do when visiting Istria in Northern Croatia. If you missed my travel vlog from this trip, you can watch the highlights below: