Istria, the bit of Croatia that dangles like a heart pendant into the Adriatic Sea, is one of the most fascinating corners of Europe. Its landscape varies from the limestone plateau descending gently towards the sea with archipelagos and blue bays, across the rolling hills and valleys, to the craggy mountains of Ucka and Cicarija to the north.
Throughout the centuries, Istria was a melting pot to the influences of various cultures. "In Istria, Roman patricians felt like gods…" wrote a Roman chronicler two thousand years ago when Istria was a tiny jewel in the huge mosaic of the Roman Colonial Empire. And not only Romans came here, but Byzantines, Slavs, Celts, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians, French and Italians, among others. Every nation, regardless of the reason for its presence in Istria, and each of those periods has left many imprints and unique treasures in today's Istria. It was here where ancient roads of salt and spices, oil and wine, amber and silk, woods and iron, as well as those of art and science, skill and literacy, democracy and oppression, luxury and poverty, were intersecting.
Sightseeing and day trips
Lim Fjord is a protected landscape and special marine reserve situated between Rovinj and Porec. Its narrow, yet long (11km) inlet represents one of the most beautiful landscapes in Istria with overgrown canyon cliffs rising up to 150m above sea level. Many local agencies offer a trip with a fish picnic (around £15).
Brijuni Islands, with a zoo, gardens and 9-hole golf course, can be seen only with a group tour. Book with Brijuni National Park (00385 52 525 883, www.np-brijuni.hr). Tickets £14 in May; £18 July-August.
Getting there and travelling around
The nearest airport is Pula, which is about a ten-minute drive from the town. Croatia Airlines (020 8563 0022, www.croatiaairlines.hr) flies to Pula from Gatwick and Manchester. Ryanair (0871 2460 000, www.ryanair.com) has daily flights to Trieste and Venice, convenient entry ports for Istria. From there you can take the hydrofoil or hire a car. Thomson (0870 115 0079, www.thomson.co.uk) offer flights to Pula as well.
Most towns in Istria are reachable by a frequent bus service, although transport to the interior runs less often; the practical choice would be to rent a car. If coming from Italy, car hire firms such as Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.co.uk) allow you to take a car to Croatia.