Croatia was Husband’s pick. It was never top of my travel wish list, I struggled to locate it on a map, but when he mooted this suggestion I was intrigued. The more I read, the more I wanted to visit and believe me, it did not disappoint. We decided on Istria, picked Rovinj as our base and as soon as we got there, were in total agreement this was the most perfect spot.
It was a few years ago when we visited – Son was nearly three, so he didn’t much care about where we spent our summer break. His only requirement was a beach. Croatia more than fulfilled this brief. There was not much golden sand, but with 1,000 miles of coast plus 1,185 islands there was no shortage of watery fun. Undoubtedly Croatia has one of Europe’s most spectacular coastlines. The mountains tumble into the clear, island splattered sea and it is the perfect choice for a sunny family holiday.
The Istrian Peninsula was wonderful for us as first time visitors to the country. It was full of historic towns (mainly on top of hills), traffic free roads, a dramatic and rocky coastline not to mention a laid back Mediterranean lifestyle and the best food ever.
Istria is quite close to the Italian border and only became part of Croatia (then Yugoslavia) at the end of World War 2. We felt it still retained very much its Italian influenced culture and sometimes it felt as if you were in Tuscany.
Our base was Rovinj, a stunningly beautiful old town, perched on a hill overlooking the sea. It could masquerade as Venice’s little sister with its narrow streets and steep stone alleyways leading to the water. There were lovely bars and restaurants, a lively quayside, plenty of history and boat trips galore. Son was in his element, around every corner was access to the sea and plenty of fishing opportunities.
Zlatni Forest Park, just at the edge of Rovinj was a wonderful place full of cycle trails and rocky inlets. Several times we rented bikes and set off exploring spending the whole day lost in the forest.
We ventured out of Rovinj a few times and were truly wowed by the Basilica of Euphrasius in Porec – the wonderfully preserved gold mosiacs and quiet reserved atmosphere make it truly deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status.
The Brijuni Islands, once Tito’s summer retreat and now reached by catamaran (the journey is almost as much fun as the visit to the islands) was another highlight. The museum there was fascinating, we could have browsed for hours.
We even found a rival to the Rome’s mighty Colosseum. In fact the magnificent Roman amphitheatre in Pula is maybe even a little bit better than its bigger and more well known cousin, we loved it there. Pula also had a stunning old town and there was a real sense of history everywhere you turned.
It is hard to pick highlights from our 2 week stay in Istria, everything fitted this list. It is a spectacular place – a lush landscape, an azure coastline, the clearest water I have ever seen and the Italian lilt to the scenery, language and cuisine make it one of the most beautiful places I have been lucky enough to visit.