While Split, Dubrovnik, and Hvar have rightfully earned their reputation as Croatia’s renowned summer destinations, there is a world of hidden gems waiting to be explored beyond these well-trodden paths. Beyond the popular destinations, there are enchanting towns like Poreč, Hum, and Motovun, nestled in the heart of the Istrian peninsula that we urge you to explore. These captivating destinations, each with its unique charm and rich history, offer an exquisite add-on to your tour along the Croatian coastline. As you plan your cruise along the coastline, and visits to popular destinations, consider extending your journey to include these captivating Istrian towns.
For your first stop, we recommend spending a day or two in Poreč, a small, but popular summer resort town. Poreč is a charming town, situated on the western coast of Istria with lots to offer.
Its old town is a beautiful maze of narrow streets and alleys that are lined with colorful buildings and traditional Istrian architecture that beautifully combines the old and the new and is a must-visit destination. Wander through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, where every corner whisper tales of a bygone era.
One of the must-see attractions in Poreč is the Euphrasian Basilica, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 6th century. The basilica features beautiful mosaics, frescoes, and other works of art that are sure to impress.
For a splash of fun, visit the largest aquapark in Croatia, the aquapark Aquacolors, which offers thrilling water rides and relaxation zones, perfect for a family day out and a bit of fun.
If you’re interested in exploring the local natural beauty, be sure to visit the nearby Baredine Cave which is a stunning cave system that is full of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and its mysterious cave system, home to a secret resident of the underground and the endemic species of these areas.
And don’t forget to stretch your legs after spending a few days on one of our cruises. Go for a stroll along the vibrant waterfront, where the azure Adriatic Sea meets the town’s lively café culture. You can also hop on a boat to explore the nearby island of St. Nikola, with its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.
Poreč’s calendar is dotted with numerous festivals, offering a taste of local customs and traditions. Throughout the year, Poreč hosts several festivals that showcase local culture, so be sure to check the calendar of events when planning your visit.
Most of them happen throughout the summer when you’ll get the chance to listen to some of the world-class musicians and composers perform their best pieces inside the Euphrasian Basilica. Every Wednesday, in the lapidarum of the Museum of Poreč, you can hear the sounds of classical and modern jazz that make these summer evenings romantic.
And for all of you foodies out there, there’re plenty of food and wine festivals happening on various dates during the summer so you can get a real taste of some of Istria’s local cuisine.
The seaside promenade stretches for about 10km, so we suggest renting a bike and going for a ride from Materada, one of the northernmost neighborhoods, to the town of Funtana in the south. During the ride, you’ll be greeted with amazing views of local parks, forests, the old town walls, and the waterfront. You’ll pass by plenty of restaurants and cafes if you decide to try some of the tasty local cuisine.
If you have some free time and want to experience authentic Istria a bit more, there are a couple other hidden gems just a short car ride from Poreč we’d recommend you visit.
For your first stop, we recommend going to Hum, a small town in the central part of Istria.
Hum is recognized as the smallest town in the world with an urban structure. Despite its size, Hum is full of character and history. Enclosed within its ancient town walls, you’ll find two churches, a restaurant, a museum, and a handful of residential buildings. The town gate, a relic of the past, welcomes you to this charming town.
These beautiful attractions can be explored on an entertaining walk through the charming little town, which consists of only two small streets and three rows of houses, each one a testament to the town’s rich history.
One of the highlights of Hum is the baroque church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which features stunning architecture and beautiful frescoes. The town also has a museum that showcases the rich history of the area, from prehistoric times to the present day, offering a glimpse into its past, while the annual festivals bring the town to life with music, dance, and local cuisine.
Throughout the year, Hum hosts several festivals that celebrate its local traditions, including the popular Istrian brandy festival (during which you can try some of Croatia’s best brandy).
Nestled at the outskirts of Hum lies a picturesque viewpoint with a cozy bench, perfect for taking in the panorama.
Another place we wouldn’t want you to miss is Motovun. Motovun is a small village situated atop a hill in the heart of Istria, less than an hour’s ride from Hum. The name is of Celtic origin, coming from the word “Montona”, meaning “city in the mountains”.
Motovun has a rich history that dates back to Roman times, and its historical wall and bell tower are some of the best-preserved fortifications in Istria.
One of the main attractions in Motovun is the Church of St. Stephen, which features beautiful Gothic architecture and stunning frescoes. The Municipal Palace is another must-see attraction, and it is the largest secular building in Istria from that period.
While enjoying what this charming town has to offer, don’t miss the opportunity to walk along the historical wall of the fortress, which offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and forest. This area is well-known in the gourmet world as the center of the local truffle industry, spread across the forests surrounding Motovun, and a truffle-hunting experience is a must for any food lover. If you’re looking for a place for your taste buds to enjoy, then Motovun is the place to be.
The town is renowned for its annual Motovun Film Festival, which transforms it into a vibrant cultural hub every July and attracts film lovers from all over the world.
If you’re a foodie, be sure to try some of the delicious local truffles and olive oils, which are renowned for their quality. Gourmets and wine connoisseurs will feel like they are in seventh heaven, as the old town is full of exquisite and traditional restaurants and wine taverns where you can also taste regional wines from the top winemakers. The region around Motovun is a real truffle paradise so many of these restaurants will serve you with the typical local specialties and truffle dishes.
It comes as no surprise that Motovun leaves a lasting impression when you consider the captivating legend surrounding this city. According to the locals, Motovun is believed to be situated atop an ancient source of energy, nestled at the intersection of the mystical “dragon’s lines” – a phenomenon responsible for ensuring everyone is in a good mood. Even the mighty giants who once roamed the nearby valley of the Mirna River were unable to resist the allure of Motovun’s magic.
If you want to find out what attracted even the giants to Motovun, come for a visit and you’ll surely find out!
The best time to go to Poreč and Istria is late spring to early October. Summer months are the busiest time of the year, so be prepared to encounter lots of tourists everywhere. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, you might want to consider visiting during the quieter season (May-June or September-October).
Have we managed to convince you yet to book your trip to Croatia ASAP? If you’re still second-guessing, take a quick look at what we believe are the real reasons why Croatia should be on your bucket list.