Istria Road Trip: A Tour of Croatia’s Culinary Heartland
Explore pretty hilltop and coastal towns on this nine-day Istria road trip, with the emphasis on this Croatian region's outstanding food and wine. Stay in charming Pula, hunt for truffles in Motovun and sample sensational seafood in Rovinj.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Learn how to make classic Istrian dishes in a Croatian cooking class
- Let an expert show you how to search for truffles in Motovun
- Explore the famous Istrian port of Rovinj
- Sample Istria's best wines
- Enjoy some R&R on the beach
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Day 1: Arrive in Istria
Your Istria road trip begins with a direct flight to Pula from London, which takes two-and-a-half-hours. Once you have collected your luggage and your hire car, drive the peaceful 30-minute journey to the charming hilltop town of Bale. Here you will check in to your luxury hotel, world-renowned for its award-winning wines and olive oils. Spend the rest of your day at leisure; kick back and relax, start reading that book you were given for Christmas, or take a gentle swim in the pool.
Day 2: Istrian Cooking Class
Today you will be taught how to cook some local delicacies. First you will be collected from your hotel and taken to the green market in Pula. There you will meet your local guide and select your ingredients for your cooking lesson.
In a cooking studio tucked away in a picturesque olive grove, you will make Istrian pasta fuzi and be taught how to prepare meat under domed peka - the Croatian equivalent of a Moroccan tagine used for slow cooking. Lunch will be complemented with a bottle of local Istrian wine - hence why you are not driving yourself today!
Day 3: Explore the Region
Today is yours to spend at your leisure. Explore Bale on foot, meandering through the idyllic cobbled old town, or relax at your hotel sampling their spectacular selection of wines.
For more R&R, make for the beach not far from your hotel, enjoy a swim in the Adriatic Sea, and on your return to the hotel, treat yourself to a signature massage at the on-site spa. In the evening, admire the sunset as you sip on an exclusive cocktail, created just for the occasion.
Day 4: To the North of Istria
Take breakfast in the garden under the morning sun before checking out of your hotel and driving north to Motovun. This journey will take approximately one hour, but you may wish to stop during your drive to admire the Croatian countryside.
The beautiful medieval town of Motovun sits perched on a hill overlooking the Mirna River valley. Here you will check into your contemporary, eclectic design hotel; each room is individually decorated, with views out across the valley.
Here, wine reverence is taken to another level entirely. This afternoon you will sample five local wines, and may even learn some of the winemaker's secrets.
Day 5: Truffle Hunting in Motovun
Truffles were first discovered in Motovun Forest some 80 years ago. Today (and in season*), you will be taken on a guided truffle hunt, with a local truffle hunting family and their hunting dogs, learning all about these fabulous fungi and the way they are traditionally hunted. On return to the house, you will be given the opportunity to taste cheese, salami, pate and oils, all made with truffles. Your host will also prepare a traditional Istrian fritada (basically frittata), which will - of course - be complemented with local wines.
Day 6: To the Coast and Rovinj
Today you will drive back to the Croatian west coast, to the beautiful fishing port of Rovinj, the journey will take approximately an hour.
After checking into your hotel, you will be met by your guide who will show you around this charming old town. Whimsical cobbled streets and small squares create a labyrinth which leads to the historic hilltop church of St Euphemia. Climb to the top of the church tower to admire spectacular views over the Rovinj Archipelago - 14 islands dotted just off of the mainland.
This being a seafront city, the culinary emphasis is on seafood, and the waters off the Istrian coast are renowned for producing some of the finest shellfish in Europe. We can recommend the best restaurants in which to sample the local produce.
Day 7: Relax on the Beach
Today you have free to spend as you wish. After exploring the town yesterday, why not explore it's surrounding waters today?
Rovinj has a wealth of beaches to relax on, soaking up the sun and paddling in the crystal-clear turquoise waters. Some of the best beaches can be found on some of the islands in the Rovinj Archipelago, easily accessible by water taxis from the mainland shore.
Day 8: Wine Tasting
Today will consist of bread, cheese, home-made sausages and wine - did you expect anything less? Your driver/guide will take you on a scenic tour through the Croatian countryside, where you will stop at no fewer than three local wineries. At each winery your taste buds will be tantalised with a range of wines on offer; you will be given the opportunity to sample at least three wines at each venue.
This evening is yours to spend at your leisure. As the sun sets in the evening, take a seat at the hotel's bar, situated on the second floor boasting picturesque views of Lone Bay and serving an almighty array of delicious gins.
Day 9: Heading Home
Sadly, your Istrian road trip holiday has come to an end. Following an indulgent breakfast, you will drive yourself back to Pula airport, a journey of approximately 40 minutes, depending on local traffic conditions. You will return your rental car back at the airport before checking in for your flight home, which takes just over two hours.
Arran and Charlotte H are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.