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The heart of inland Istria and its fairytale landscape has inspired stories about giants, vampires and epic adventures. If savouring fine food and wine in beautiful, natural and historical settings sounds better than lying on a beach, then central Istria is the place for you. Or if you want the best of both worlds, the nearest beach is only a 30 minute drive away. There are dozens of quaint little hilltop towns to discover in central Istria, but the main ones are Motovun, Buzet and Pazin. All of them are surrounded by vineyards, farms, olive groves and truffle-laden forests.


Motovun is a charming walled town high on a hill top with views of vineyards, forests and lush landscape as far as the eye can see. Legend says giants fought over this area using the oak tree trunks of Motovun Forest as weapons. Locals claim the forest has the best truffles in the world, including rare white truffles. Go on a guided truffle hunt for a pretty good chance of finding your own piece of fungal treasure. The neighbouring town of Livade has an annual truffle festival and great truffle restaurants. Motovun produces some of the finest Istrian wine and many nearby vineyards offer tastings and tours. The town’s biggest event of the year is the International Motovun Film Festival at the end of July where you can see independent and avant-garde films in open-air cinemas. Musicians from around the world come to nearby Grožnjan to teach music each summer, and students perform daily outdoor concerts. You can explore the picturesque village and see painters and sculptors at work in their studios. There is also a geothermal spa near Motovun, Istarske toplice, where you can bathe in naturally-hot, mineral-rich spring water or have a mud massage.


  • Pula

    Stay in or near to the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Pula to soak in the local history and pure authenticity of the area.

  • Central Istria

    A stunning rural escape, rich in vineyards, fine foods, agritourism and plentiful beaches.

  • Vrsar and Funtana

    These areas offer many gastronomical establishments and some fun outdoor activities to get stuck into.

  • Umag and Novigrad

    With natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage, these locations are attractive with delicious local cuisine.

  • Labin and Robac

    These medieval towns are full of history and offer an array of outdoor activities such as hiking and sea kayaking. 

  • Rovinj

    One of the most beautiful seaside towns in all of Croatia, stay here to experience charm and character.  


Buzet is another lovely hillside town which overlooks Istria’s longest river - the Mirna River. Like Motovun, the forests along the river near Buzet are celebrated for being full of truffles, including the rare white truffle. The town holds a folk festival every September where the world’s largest truffle omelette is made using 2000 eggs and 10kg of truffles (and with truffles up to £1000 per kg, that’s an expensive omelette). Buzet is very well-known for its wine. Many of the grapevines in Buzet have been cultivated for more than 100 years with some of the best Sauvignon, Merlot and Teran grapes grown in the area. There are other pretty towns worth seeing too. Vrh is a tiny village just southeast of Buzet which is known for its delicious sparkling wine. Roč and Hum are protected towns because of their exceptional cultural monuments. Cycle or drive between them to see a memorial to the old Croatian Glagolitic alphabet and culture. You can also see remains of Buzet’s past, with two Venetian-style town gates and the Church of St George, built in the 17th century.


Perched on the edge of a sheer cliff, Pazin is the most central town in Istria and has some lovely historical buildings and natural attractions. You can visit the Pazin Castle, the largest and most well-preserved medieval castle in Istria which overlooks the 130m-deep Pazin River gorge. It was built around the 10th century, rebuilt in the 15th century, and now houses the Museum of Pazin and the Ethnographic Museum of Istria. The Pazin River disappears into the cliffs under the castle into a 100m-deep cave which legend says was created by a giant. You can organise a guided tour into the cave and see the underground lake. The castle, cave and gorge inspired French writer Jules Verne to write his adventure book Mathias Sandorf in 1885. At the end of June each year, you can take part in the Days of Jules Verne festival, ride in a hot air balloon, and see Verne-themed exhibitions, films and theatre. Pazin’s Church of St Nicholas is worth a look inside for its frescoed star-shaped ceiling. It was originally built in 1266 and rebuilt in the 15th and 18th centuries.

  • Pazin town

  • Waterfalls near Pazin


Take one of the varied hiking trails to see great scenery and historical sites. The St Simeon trail near Pazin makes a great day out, passing by medieval towns, churches, a selection of lunch spots, and a waterfall. There are also plenty of bike routes which go through picturesque towns and natural landscapes with the opportunity to stop at vineyards or olive groves for tastings. At Dolina Konja (which means Valley of the Horses), near Buzet, you can go horse riding and take a guided day-trek through the Mirna Valley. For adventurous (and experienced) people, there are some awesome spots near Pazin for free climbing. Other little inland towns to visit are: Draguć, a pretty town often used as a film set; Gračišće, a wine producing area popular for agritourism; Sveti Petar u Šumi, which has a 12th century Benedictine monastery; Sveti Lovreč, one of the most well-preserved medieval fortified towns in Istria; Kringa, where the earliest European vampire was said to be from; and Tinjan, known for its traditional-style food and craftwork.

Food and wine

Buzet has a wonderful selection of restaurants, taverns and agritourism spots to eat at. Motovun has some cute restaurants which serve simple delicious food made from fresh local ingredients. Pazin has a good range of restaurants including pizzerias, taverns and agritourism eateries. There are also countless vineyards and olive groves, where you can do tastings and have a meal. In Motovun you can go grape or asparagus picking and search for truffles in the forest. Various truffle festivals are held all over Istria from July to November. There are also a number of beekeepers in central Istria, whose honey has won numerous national and international awards. Some of the beekeepers offer tastings, and you can also buy beeswax candles, honey-coated nuts and honey liqueurs.


There are no beaches in Central Istria, but if you really want to go to the beach you can drive to the coastal towns of Poreč or Rovinj in 30 or 40 minutes from Pazin.