Istria is one of the lesser known regions in Croatia, and very underrated in my opinion. Istria is a wine lover’s paradise as it is a prime wine harvesting region in Croatian. Also specific to the Istrian region is the coveted (and super expensive) truffle. Not to mention the food in Istria is known as some of the best in Europe. Go see for yourself!
Go truffle hunting, wine tasting, admire the medieval hilltop villages, or have a culinary field day with all the amazing food that comes from this region. Istria is incredible and it’s surprising that it hasn’t gotten too touristy…yet.
If you’re planning on exploring the Istria region of Croatia, a car is actually the only way you can do it. Public transport does not go to most of these hilltop towns so your options are limited.
Istria is very small and you can easily explore the best spots in one day.
I have highlighted the perfect 1-day road trip in Istria below:
Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip
First Route: Rovinj to Hum
Journey time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Parking cost: 10 kuna
Hum has been coined the “smallest town in the world” and has recently been recognized officially by the Guinness Book of World Records. The town has a population of 17….SEVENTEEN!
Walking through this town will literally take you about 5-10 minutes, it’s that small. What we saw in this town included a few residences, a tractor trailor, a cute little shed, a little farmhouse, a field with some crops, a single restaurant with great views of the countryside, and a handful of visitors.
As you can tell by the description, there is not much to see; however, I would recommend a stop here as it is very quaint and unique in its own sense. Also, if just for the mere fact that you can say you’ve been to the smallest town in the world…officially.
(Note: when we were there it was not yet “official”)
2nd Route: Hum to Motovun
Journey time: 40 minutes
Parking cost: 20 kuna
Motovun is a medieval hilltop town that rivals the top towns in Tuscany in terms of sheer beauty. Situated on the top of a hill and overlooking the plush Istrian countryside, make sure to grab a glass of the local wine in a cute little restaurant overlooking the land.
Istria is famous for truffle hunting and you will not have a problem findings specialty shops with free truffle tastings. I honestly do not like truffles (they make me gag) so I passed on this. But if it’s you’re forte, make sure to grab a few small bottles for the perfect souvenir to bring back.
Make sure to set aside some time to get lost in the streets and have a mini photo shoot. The town is gorgeous and you’re going to want to take it all in. It wasn’t overcrowded in the least bit and that made it extra enjoyable!
3rd Route: Motovun to Grožnjan
Journey time: 25 minutes
Parking cost: free street parking
Grožnjan might be my favourite town on our Istrian road trip. Also located on a hilltop, it was a lot smaller and quaint than the other towns and had a more local feel.
You could sense the artistic vibe as soon as you entered Grožnjan and it was nice strolling through all the quirky art shops. I wish we would have had more time here, as it was unexpectedly pleasant.
Our next and last stop (kinda) was the city of Umag. As we arrived into the city and attempted to find parking, we weren’t too impressed. The city was more run down and didn’t have much character from what we could see (but hey, we could have been totally wrong and it could have been awesome). We just didn’t get a good vibe from it and made a quick executive decision to head to Novigrad for our final sunset stop. It turned out to be a great choice!
4th Route: Umag to Novigrad
Journey time: 15 minutes
Parking cost: free
In our brief venture in Novigrad, we strolled the main street covered in colourful umbrellas and had an impromptu photo shoot. It was such a lovely street we couldn’t resist.
We then quickly rushed to the waterfront for the sunset and found the cutest little spot called Pepe Bar. There were cushions placed on the rocks and served as the perfect spot to view the sunset.
It was more on the pricy side but the view and ambiance surely made up for it. Try the mojito if you go, it was really delicious!
Last Route: Novigrad to Rovinj
Journey time: 1 hour
Parking cost: free
Where to Base Yourself in Istria
Rovinj without a doubt is the ideal location to base yourself for your Istrian road trip. You can reach all the above-mentioned locations in one hour and 15 minutes max. Also, ROVINJ IS INCREDIBLE and probably my favourite city in Croatia. For reasons why you should visit Rovinj, check out my post What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City
Where to Rent a Car in Istria
About a 10 minute stroll south along the water in Rovinj, you will find a little car rental agency called Vetura. We didn’t make advanced reservations and it wasn’t a problem at all. We reserved the car the afternoon before and it costed 450 kuna (about $69/day) for an automatic last minute rental. It was way more expensive than if you book in advance, so we learned our lesson.
We were pleased with the company and the owner was very relaxed about return times. I would definitely use them again.
To come along on our fun road trip, check out this video that my travel partner Carebear Abroad made of our awesome day! Hint: it may involve getting our car stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Have you been to Istria? What was you favorite hilltop town?
Click photo to PIN for later♥
Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.
It’s the best part of Croatia! My favorite 🙂
Wonderful post about a place I am lately obsessed over. Will be 3 weeks in Slovenia and Croatia in a few months. First visit. One of those weeks I will be in Rovinj with a car rental. Like you, I am so looking forward to exploring the Istrian peninsula! Thanks for the awesome suggestions. I will read your other Istrian posts. Are you hanging out there for a bit right now?
Thanks for the lovely comment! No, unfortunately I’m not there now, I wish! You’re going to have a blast in Rovinj, its such a special place. I have a guide on Rovinj also on my blog if you’re interested on what to do, what to eat, etc! If you have a car for a week, I suggest going to Pula and Brijuni National Park. I visited Pula, but didnt have time for Brijuni as I didnt have time or a car while i was there. I so regret missing it! Have fun!!! 🙂
The more I see of Croatia, the more I want to go there. Thanks for showing off a lesser-known region of the country, I’ll be sure to add it to my eventual itinerary!
YESSSS!!!! Istria is truly special!!
This looks like such a fun day trip! I love the blue shutters and the umbrellas – they’re both adorable!
Thanks! I too loved all the colors. It was super photogenic!!
Ummm you had me at WINE! I’m always on the hunt for underrated wine destinations and this sounds DIVINE! I think road trips in foreign countries are always exciting, too.
Haha great minds think alike. Wine and views…YES PLEASE!!! Istria is divine indeed..just hoping it doesn’t get ruined by tourism any time soon!
It is an absolutely gorgeous atmosphere of hill towns and seaside villages. The pastel-colored seaside towns of Istria could be straight out of Liguria; the rustic hill towns are reminiscent of Umbria 🙂
YES EXACTLY!!!! I actually mentioned in my Rovinj article that it reminds me exactly of Liguria!!! Italy is my favorite country in the world so any place that resembles it in the slightest, I automatically love! And yes, this region reminds me a lot of Umbria!!! <3