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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Here's why your holiday to Croatia will be better than everyone else's
Do you know what the Istrian Riviera has to offer?

DO YOU PREFER your holidays to have as much exploration involved as escapism? Are you happiest off the beaten track – but still want to stay comfortable?

Then the Istrian Riviera along Crotia’s coast is the place for you. It’s close enough for a short hop holiday, yet under-explored enough to offer you a different experience to the norm. Pula, the Istrian coast’s largest city, offers you the best of both worlds – culture and the beach.

If you’re looking to book a summer holiday soon, remember that there are plenty of hidden gems to be discovered in Croatia. With our top picks, your holiday is sure to blow everyone else’s out of the (crystal clear blue) water.

History – the Old Town in Rovinj

Rovinj is a city on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, dating back to the settlement of Illyrian tribes before its capture by the Romans. During its long history as one of the most important towns in Istria, three town gates were constructed coupled with two defensive walls. The remains of these structures can still be seen today.

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Most bars and clubs are located in the old town of Rovinj, which gets bustling and lively during the summer months. There’s a direct high speed ferry link between Rovinj and Venice in Italy during this season too.

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Sightseeing – Jama-Grotta Baredine Caves in Porec

The Baredine Caves have been known and explored since ancient times. Surface pottery found in the Caves indicates that humans used to live there centuries ago. The first documented explorations date back to the early 20th century, and in the 70s a further passage was discovered, leading down to vast underground lakes.

Trips to the Caves include visits to an adjacent gallery, exhibitions and fully guided tours for individuals and groups.

Shutterstock The stalactites and stalagmites in the Caves Shutterstock

Cuisine – Plavi Podrum in Volosko

Plavi Podrum has been voted consistently as one of the best restaurants in Istria. Situated right on the port, with moored boats visible from your seat on the outside terrace, fish seems to be an obvious choice here for dinner!

Nature – Kamenjak National Park in Premantura

This beautiful park is situated on the extreme southern point of the Istrian peninsula, and its crystal blue water make it a perfect spot for swimming and snorkelling. There’s a small entrance fee to enter the park, meaning it’s best to visit for the whole day and bring along a picnic to enjoy on the beaches as you explore. Idyllic and unspoilt, with views ideal for an amateur photographer too.

Andreas März Andreas März

Culture – Groznjan Hilltop Artist Village

A seemingly longlost town, tucked away in the hills of Istria, that houses a community of artists and craftspeople. Wear comfortable shoes, as the walk up to the village is unpaved and steep at times – but meeting tiny little Groznjan at the top makes it all worth it.

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The village is medieval, with winding and narrow streets, tightly packed buildings and plenty of old stonework. It feels like a warren of streets at times, all leading off into different directions, containing studios, schools, galleries and workshops crammed happily alongside each other. This well-preserved piece of history is a must-see for art-lovers.

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Architecture – Saint Euphemia’s Basilica in Rovinj

Saint Euphemia’s is a Baroque church located in the historic part of Rovinj (mentioned earlier for its architecture and links to Venice – both historical and by ferry). The church, built in 1736, dominates the town.

Eoghan OLionnain Eoghan OLionnain

Saint Euphemia’s contains just as many historical gems as Rovinj does architectural delights, including Gothic statues, paintings, treasures and works of art. The bell tower is reminiscent of St Mark’s in Venice.

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The Gateway – The Arena in Pula

Pula is the gateway to exploring the Istrian coast, as the location of its well-situated airport. However, Pula is a beautiful city in its own right. Pula Arena, steeped in history, is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and all three architectural orders totally preserved. And, yes, if you’re wondering – it did house gladiator tournaments!

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Want to explore Croatia? It just got easier with Aer Lingus. Their new route flies direct to Pula, the Croatian coast’s largest city – right at the tip of the Istrian peninsula. Don’t miss out on finding a hidden gem.

Google Maps Google Maps

Google Maps Google Maps

Have you ever been to the Istrian Coast of Croatia? Let us know your hidden gems and tips in the comments. Happy holidaying!

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