A heart-shaped peninsula on the northern end of Croatia's Adriatic coastline, Istria is Croatia’s perfectly formed gem. Offering three of Croatia's most attractive coastal towns in Pula, Rovinj and Porec, Istria is rich in culinary treasures, history and culture. Beginning this summer British Airways is celebrating its first full season flying to Pula Airport in Istria, direct from London Heathrow as well as other airlines now operating weekly flights* making it easier for visitors to discover its 445km of pristine coastline, hidden corners, preserved natural surroundings and its three gastronomic pearls; truffles, olive oil and wine.
Treasure troves of antiquity that were once ancient Istrian towns are dotted both inland and on the coastline. Situated furthest South is Pula, once Istria’s main port and today making a name for itself as Istria’s liveliest town. Liberally dotted with ancient monuments, along with its vibrant main square, Pula is proudly home to one of the best-preserved amphitheatres in the Roman world. Built in 1C it is the sixth largest amphitheatre that still remains intact and even plays host to concerts as well as the annual Pula film festival.
Home to perhaps Croatia’s most picturesque coastal destination, Rovinj is lined with Venetian style houses, a harbour sprinkled with fishing boats and the St Euphemia cathedral whilst further North on the coastline in Poreč stands the 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s finest intact examples of Byzantine art.
Travelling higher on the West coast guests will be greeted by the irresistible charm of the quaint Mediterranean fishing town Novigrad. An architectural find, it is home to the earliest Roman crypt in Istria, along with the opportunity to visit the Savudrija lighthouse - the oldest in the Adriatic.
Inland there’s Motovun, situated on a hilltop and certainly worth the climb to be greeted by a charming town square overlooking the truffle rich forests of the Mirna Valley. Another, reputed as the smallest town in the world; Hum is home to just 20 inhabitants, a parish church and a graveyard.
Abundant in nature and home to the unique national park the Brijuni Islands which are the largest group of islands in the Istrian area. A special marine reserve since 1980, Lim Fjord is a legally protected geomorphologic and hydrogeological site making an ideal cycle or walking route. And for seclusion, idyllic beaches and untouched nature there is Kamenjak Natural Heritage Park located at the southern tip of the peninsula.
Gourmet lovers will not be disappointed, with Istria’s ideal ground for growing truffles, Istria is the only place in the world where both black and white fine-quality truffles can be found. A pride of passion throughout Istria, guests can discover this global delicacy and join a local family on a hunting spree deep within the forests before indulging in a culinary truffle feast. Proudly boasting some of the world’s best olive oils, Istria has been awarded the Best Olive Oil Region in the world for the last three years in the prestigious Flos Olei Awards. A tradition so rooted in family history that families still hand pick the olives themselves today.
And oenophiles will rejoice when discovering that the trademark of the Istrian identity is their wine. With over 100 quality wine makers spread throughout this small peninsula, even the locals are spoilt for choice. Reflecting both the diverse climate and soil on which they are grown, these phenomenal wines have a range of native grape varieties, including the most famous; Istrian Malvasia. And in addition to being award winning, wine cellars are usually a family business each with their own unique story rooted in tradition and history they invite their guests to discover.
*With increased flight demand, airlines including Easy Jet, TUI Airways, Jet2.com, Ryanair and Air Lingus are also operating weekly direct flights to this hot new destination.
More information: http://www.istra.hr/en/home