Holidays to the Istrian Riviera throw together city-topped peninsulas and old world villages, and finish everything off with a massive beach-speckled coastline.
The Istrian Riviera
The Istrian Riviera marks the most northerly point of the Croatian coast. It’s a wedge-shaped peninsula, so there are loads of pine-backed beaches and rugged coves to go around. History-wise, everyone from the Romans to the Venetians marched through this neck of the woods, loading towns with amphitheatres and terracotta-topped old towns along the way. And if you peer across the Adriatic Sea, you’ll see where they came from – Italy is just across the water.
Beaches and coves
A 250-kilometre-long coastline hems the Istrian Riviera. The beaches around here are typically Croatian, so expect a mash-up of tiny pebble coves and rugged bathing platforms. One of the star cities, Porec, has around 20 petite beaches under its belt. All of them are crowned with a Blue Flag and some inch up right to the city’s historical treasures. It’s the same story in places like Rovinj and Pula, where UNESCO-listed icons sit alongside postcard-pretty beaches.
To see the Istrian Riviera in a nutshell, make tracks for Porec. The old town has got it all – a working harbour, Roman relics and hole-in-the-wall wine bars. As for the houses, they’ve got Venetian good looks and tumble down the streets in a jumble of terracotta roofs and keyhole windows. But it’s not all about the history books. The marina has a smart collection of super yachts, and the coastline south of Porec serves up luxury beach resorts.
The islands – Krk, Cres and Rab
Ferries kick off from the eastern side of the Istrian Riviera, which overlooks Kvarna Bay. They have a trio of islands in their viewfinders – Krk is the biggest one, Cres is the wild one, and Rab has a main town stuffed with Medieval buildings. Porec, meanwhile, has a daily service to Italy that gets you to Venice in 3 hours.
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Porec touches down right in the middle of the Istrian Riviera, easing out along a wriggling coastline of pebble beaches and thick forests. It’s the old town that’s the show-stealer, though. Bundled into a pretty peninsula, it’s stacked with Venetian houses, Roman ruins, and Byzantine churches – as well as a big dollop of boutiques, bars and clubs. Boats potter between the marina and the islands just offshore. And if you’ve got your sights set further afield, ferries make a beeline to Italy.
Pula is nestled beneath 7 hills on the southern tip of Croatia’s Istrian peninsula. Here modern bars, pavement cafés and boutiques sit happily among ancient Roman ruins – the 1st-century amphitheatre and the Temple of Augustus are top sights. As for beach action, the town is set to the side of the horseshoe-shaped Pula Bay, where calm turquoise water is hugged by a rugged terrain.
Of all Istria’s seaside towns, Novigrad has kept one of the lowest profiles. As a result, its traditional fishing village character has stuck to it like glue. Fishing boats are still more common than yachts in the harbour, and you’ll still see fishermen mending their nets and restocking their kit on the uncluttered moorings.
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