Uncut: Istria, Croatia
As is always the case when I write feature stories, sections are trimmed and cut for space. This was the case with my coverage of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula.Travelers headed to Croatia should definitely add this northern peninsula to their itinerary. Below, I’ve included a handful destination highlights:
Why Now: While Croatia is already a popular destination amoung travelers—especially Europeans—it’s Istrian peninsula is still blissfully under the radar. Its draws are similar to Italy, from its wineries to its olive groves to its truffle-filled forests.
Getting Around: While renting a car will give you the most flexibility, fees (from about $25 a day) can add up, especially when you factor in Croatia’s high gas prices (about $7 a gallon). Instead, city hop on one of Croatia’s modern, air-conditioned bus services, suggests John Wachunas of adventure travel startup Embark.org. In Istria, you can ride from small medieval cities Rovinj and Pula for $6 on well-paved roads.
See add Do: Think of Istria as Croatia’s breadbasket, dotted with medieval hilltop towns. Here, divide your time between Pula, anchored by a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, and Rovinj, a Venetian-influenced harbor city, and their surrounding areas. From Rovinj, head 50 minutes north to sample wines at vineyards such as Kozlović Winery, known for it regional Malvazija grapes; if you like red, don’t miss the mineral-rich Teran (tastings are complimentary). Ten miles south of Pula, visit Kamenjak National Park (car entrance fee, $6), full of hidden beach coves.
Eat and Drink: Walk along Rovinj’s winding cobblestoned streets to get to Male Madlene (lunch, $35), located in the chef’s living room, where she serves beautiful small plates such as prawns with pine nuts. Save dining dollars when you make the 10-minute drive out of town to Masera, where dishes such as fresh turbot with leeks ($9) are standouts, says Goran Zgrablic, founder of EatIstria.com. Zgrablic’s private cooking classes, which start at $135 are also worth the splurge.
Stay: Beds at the charming Pula Hostel, located on a small bay beach just a mile from the city center, go for $21 a night. If you’re looking for more upscale digs, opt for the modern Hotel Lone (October rates from $260) in Rovinj. Its 248 minimalist rooms have sweeping views of Zlatni Rt park forest; third-floor units, with private pool access, are the best ones to book.