As well as offering an attractive seafront, towns such as Pula are also packed with historic sites for those interested in immersing themselves in Croatia’s colourful past. Pula Arena is an impressive Roman amphitheatre and the only one to have four side towers still intact.
There’s also the well-preserved Temple of Augustus and Arch of the Sergii to check out, making Pula a hit with sightseers. Rovinj and its immaculate old quarter is also day-trip material, packed with old-world charm – a labyrinth of lanes leads to the baroque Church of St Euphemia. Built in 1736, its interior is surprisingly cavernous with the old bell tower providing expansive views of Rovinj, and even the Alps on clear days.
Truffles and more
Many are surprised to learn that the Istrian Riviera has become synonymous with excellent cuisine. It is fast becoming a foodie’s destination of choice, with many dishes flavoured by the rare and aromatic black and white truffles which are found in the oak woods of the Mirna Valley.
Humble pasta and steak dishes are transported to a whole new level with a sprinkling of this gastronomic luxury – truffles with fuzi, a handmade Istrian pasta, is one to try. Black risotto is another speciality to look out for – this delicious dish made from cuttlefish, onion, garlic, red wine, cuttlefish ink and rice is packed with flavour.
Aside from providing plenty of beaches for sandcastle-building fun, holidays to Croatia offer a selection of family-friendly options for days out. Istralandia Aquapark is a perennial favourite and is packed with splash parks, exhilarating slides and pools offering plenty of water-based fun for children of all ages. For young children, the Medieval Theme Park in Rapanji provides plenty of entertainment, with a wooden fortress, sword fighting and plenty of other activities. Budding astronomers may wish to check out the fascinating Pula Observatory for an intriguing and educational few hours.
There is so much to see in Istria, with the landscape dotted with cascading waterfalls, dense forests and rolling hills. Nature Park Ucka features a network of walking trails which reveal breathtaking vistas where you may, if you’re lucky, spot a rare Golden eagle or see a Tommasini bellflower in all its glory.
There are also several intriguing underground cave systems in Croatia, with Cave Baredine in Porec a popular day trip. With a network of caverns packed with eerily beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations and underground lakes, a trip here will live long in the memory. And an Istrian Riviera holiday is not complete with some time spent exploring the glassy lakes and mountains of Plitvice National Park.
The Istrian Riviera is the perfect springboard from which to explore Croatia’s beautiful islands. From Rijek,a travellers can catch a ferry to Krk, Cres and Rab. Krk is one of the largest islands and boasts a 5th-century Cathedral, attractive old town and the impressive Frankopan Castle. Cres also offers an array of historic sights such as Arsan Palace and a Venetian tower. It’s also a hit with hikers, with trails running through the Tramuntana Forest.
If you’ve never considered Croatia, it could be time to add the Istrian Riviera to your holiday wish list. Offering an enticing mix of gastronomy, beach life and natural beauty, this great all-rounder will provide plenty of scope for both active and leisurely pursuits.