This trip focuses on the cultural and culinary delights of the Istria region in Croatia, starting with a road trip through the hilly medieval villages of Grožnjan and Motovun. Enjoy a boat trip to the islands of Brijuni National Park, explore the coastal cities of Rovinj, Pula, and Opatija, and discover the untouched scenery of Cres and Lošinj Island. Along the way, you'll explore the region's culinary scene with visits to a regional winery and a local distillery, as well as an eco goat farm, an olive grove, and a wool museum.

Highlights

  • Discover the cobbled streets of Rovinj, Pula, and Opatija
  • Taste olive oil, wine, truffles, cheese, and more in the Istrian countryside
  • Explore the medieval hilltop villages of Grožnjan and Motovun
  • Swim amongst the islands of Brijuni National Park
  • Enjoy the untouched scenery on the islands of Cres and Lošinj

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Zagreb - Explore the city Zagreb
Day 2 Drink Istrian wine and explore the hilly towns of Grožnjan and Motovun Rovinj
Day 3 Explore and cycle the islands of Brijuni National Park Rovinj
Day 4 Visit an olive grove and a goat farm - Explore Pula's Roman ruins Rovinj
Day 5 Discover opulent Opatija - Take the ferry to Cres and Lošinj Islands Lošinj
Day 6 Enjoy the historic towns and clear waters of Lošinj Lošinj
Day 7 Explore the untouched land of Cres and visit a wool museum Lošinj
Day 8 Depart Zagreb  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Zagreb - Explore the city

Red Roofs of Zagreb
Red Roofs of Zagreb

Welcome to Croatia!

You'll start your adventure in the city of Zagreb. Upon arriving at the airport, you'll transfer to your accommodation and enjoy the rest of the day to explore the city at your leisure. 

Zagreb is at once historic and new. It's filled with leafy green parks and gothic/neo-renaissance buildings, as well as modern shopping complexes and endless dining and drinking options. A good way to get to know the city is with a walking tour. Start in Ban Jelačić, the city's main square, and stroll along the streets enjoying 17th-century neo-baroque architecture found at Zagreb's Art Pavilion. You'll pass by the Croatian National Theater and wander through local markets before reaching St. Mark's Square in Zagreb's Upper Town.

Along the way, you can visit one of the many museums and art galleries, like the Homeland War Museum, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, or the popular Museum of Broken Hearts

Zagreb also has a number of beautiful city parks which are great for an afternoon walk. Maksimir is an excellent option, with a variety of restaurants and cafés nearby for a coffee break or dinner.

Day 2: Drink Istrian wine and explore the hilly towns of Grožnjan and Motovun

Ancient Hilltop Town of Motovun
Ancient Hilltop Town of Motovun

In the morning, you'll start your exploration of the heartland of Istria, a region of natural beauty, interesting history, and unspoiled nature. Here you'll find small hilltop villages and bustling coastal towns filled with art galleries, incredible scenery, and delicious gastronomy.

Your first stop is a distillery set in the heart of the Istrian Peninsula, where you'll discover the process of manufacturing some of the finest Croatian liqueurs. Rakija (brandy) is an essential part of local culture all over the Balkans, and in Istria, you can try the famous Teranino wine liqueur.

Next up is a scenic drive to the hilltop city of Grožnjan. You'll explore the narrow streets of this artisanal haven where you can find some 20 galleries and art studios. Known as the "town of artists" both among the locals and the tourists, you can peruse valuable works of art, as well as antique furniture, paintings, pottery, and more. Enjoy lunch while surrounded by the views of Mirna Valley.

You'll then make your way to Motovun, a fairy-tale village situated on the top of the hill overlooking the valley. The town has been an inspiration to poets, creating legends of local giants building Motovun as their stronghold. Stroll along its historic city walls and admire the dense forests surrounding the village. Then discover the town's claim to fame: its truffles. If you're up for an adventure, you can opt to join a truffle hunting experience with local experts and their dogs.

Finish the day with a visit to one of Istria's wineries, which have roots in the Roman occupation of the area dating back more than 2,000 years. The tradition is still very important to the local communities and Istria is home to some of the most prestigious wineries in all of Croatia.

In the evening, you'll arrive in the coastal city of Rovinj. After settling into your accommodation at a boutique hotel in the historic center, you can explore the maze of cobbled streets in search of dinner. You'll find plenty of local seafood restaurants near the port.

Day 3: Explore and cycle through the islands of Brijuni National Park

Colorful Walls of Rovinj's Old Town
Colorful Walls of Rovinj's Old Town

Today you'll enjoy a relaxed morning as you board a ferry to Brijuni National Park, a popular holiday destination for locals and tourists alike, as well as Croatian political leaders. The park consists of 14 islands that feature a mix of natural beauty and cultural and historical heritage. On a guided tour of the largest island, you'll enjoy viewing indigenous plants, including preserved Mediterranean maquis, as well as meadows where deer and mouflons freely graze.

After exploring the natural scenery, you'll board a local train to visit some of the archaeological sites located in the center of the island. You'll first stop will be Verige Bay, which features the remnants of a Roman villa from the 1st century. You'll also visit the ruins of a Byzantine castle and a Catholic church. Your last stop of the day is Safari Park, which is home to many exotic animals that were given to the former president, Tito, from dignitaries around the world.

After your tour, you can rent a bike and cycle across the island at your leisure. Stop to enjoy a swim or lay in the shadow of ancient trees. In the afternoon, you'll return to Rovinj. Its narrow cobblestone streets and colorful facades make a beautiful backdrop to a tasty meal or a refreshing drink. See the local artists and their workshops along the popular Grisia Street which leads to the Church of St Euphemia with incredible views of the Adriatic Sea.

Day 4: Visit an olive grove and a goat farm - Explore Pula's Roman ruins

Pula, Croatia
Pula, Croatia

After breakfast, you'll explore the southern side of the Istrian Peninsula. Your first stop will be the small town of Vodnjan for a visit to one of the premier olive oil manufacturers in the country. Istria is renowned for its olive oils and has been named the best olive growing region in the world. Taste some of its different varietals and enjoy the classics at a local restaurant for lunch.

The next stop is the city of Pula. Despite being the commercial heart of Istria, Pula is an ancient town that invokes classical Greek myths and the travels of the fabled Argonauts. Its strategic location at the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula—and the fact that it's sheltered by a large bay—attracted various rulers throughout the centuries. This created a melting pot of cultures that are still visible in the town today.

Pula's main attraction is the Amphitheater, one of the most well-preserved Roman arenas in the world. As you tour the grounds, you'll hear the stories about fearless gladiators who entertained massive crowds. You can explore the tunnels and corridors where warriors and lions were kept. You'll find more Roman remains scattered all over the city, including the Arch of the Sergii, an ancient Roman arch dating to 1st century BCE. You'll also visit the Temple of Augustus, a Roman temple built in 2 BCE. Finish the tour with a drink on the terrace of Uliks, a café-bar that was once a language school where James Joyce taught.

End your day of exploration with a farm-to-table dinner on a nearby eco goat farm, where you'll enjoy freshly-prepared local delicacies. In the evening, you'll return to your accommodation in Rovinj.

Day 5: Discover opulent Opatija - Take the ferry to Cres and Lošinj Islands

Seaside Walkway Through Opatija
Seaside Walkway Through Opatija

In the morning, you'll leave Istria behind and travel towards the islands of Cres and Lošinj. Along the way, you'll visit Hum, known as "the smallest city in the world“, and the home to many interesting sculptures depicting the old Croatian alphabet, the Glagolitsa. This alphabet originated in the 9th century and was in use up until the 19th century.

Next, you'll visit the town of Opatija. A charming coastal village with a rich history, Opatija has many impressive monuments, well-manicured parks, and luxurious villas that have attracted travelers for more than a century. It's also known for its well-established culinary scene featuring numerous fine-dining restaurants that use local and regional ingredients. You can't miss a decadent lunch on the waterfront.

After exploring Opatija, you'll drive south the port in Brestova, where you'll board a 20-minute ferry to Cres. You'll drive through the island and cross the small bridge that connects it to Lošinj, where you'll stay the night. Your hosts will give you plenty of recommendations on where to find dinner on the islands.

Day 6: Enjoy the historic towns and clear waters of Lošinj

Pastel Buildings of Lošinj
Pastel Buildings of Lošinj

The two islands of Cres and Lošinj are not only connected by a physical bridge, but they also share incredible history. Today you'll spend your time exploring Lošinj, which is famous for its climate, clean water, and wildlife, giving it the nickname "the island of vitality".  

You'll start in the town of Mali Lošinj, where you can visit a museum dedicated to the famous ancient-Greek statue of Apoxyomenos. This masterpiece was discovered lying on the seabed outside Lošinj's port, having traveled across the world before finally finding its home in an old villa on the Lošinj waterfront.

Nearby you'll find the village of Veli Lošinj, a small harbor town that was once home to many sea captains that sailed across the world. Thanks to its bright, pastel-colored houses, many compare it to Burano in Italy. Next, you'll explore the ancient town of Osor. Once the capital of the two joined islands, Osor was an important harbor and crossing point for ships traveling to the eastern Adriatic shores. Nowadays, the town is considered an open-air museum with numerous antiques and statues scattered across its piazzas.

Spend the rest of the day relaxing, enjoying the pristine waters of the island.

Day 7: Explore the untouched land of Cres and visit a wool museum

Clear Waters of Kvarner Gulf on Cres island
Clear Waters of Kvarner Gulf on Cres island

Now that you've properly explored Lošinj, today's attention is left for Croatia's largest island, Cres. Although inhabited since the early Stone Age, Cres is the most sparsely populated island in both the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Sea. Its citizens spend their days on the land, breeding sheep, growing olives, processing medicinal herbs, keeping bees, and farming fish. Only recently has the island embraced tourism.

While meandering Cres, keep an eye out for some of the richest flora and fauna in the country. The island is home to one of the last habitats of a very rare bird, the Eurasian griffon vulture.

You'll eventually make your way to the village of Lubenice, which stands atop a steep hill. Here you can learn about the importance of sheep and visit a specialized wool museum. When in Cres, you can't miss tasting the lamb, a local favorite.

End your tour of the island with a refreshing swim in the old fishermen village of Valun. Then enjoy your final evening in Croatia.

Day 8: Depart Zagreb

Red Roofs of Zagreb
Red Roofs of Zagreb

It's time to say goodbye to Istria. When you're ready, you'll transfer to the airport in Zagreb in time to catch your flight.