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Istria sits on the Istrian Peninsula in northern Croatia.
Famous for a lovely Adriatic coastline, blue flag beaches, historic towns and dramatic countryside, the region’s satisfyingly diverse but compact enough to explore easily with kids.
It’s a favourite for family cycling holidays with hundreds of kilometres of safe, well-marked routes.
Lively holiday villages and Riviera resorts sit easily with charming fishing ports, ancient cities and huge swathes of untamed landscape.
Nature reserves, national parks and pretty islands balance conservation with outdoor adventure.
And the friendly, easy-going local atmosphere is just as appealing as short and inexpensive flights to Pula from the UK all year round.
Direct flights from the UK to Pula in Istria take just over two hours.
Istria’s Adriatic coastline has over 40 Blue Flag beaches and three Blue Flag marinas.
Seawater quality assessment on Istria’s 203 beaches runs from May to October every year. Tests are carried out every 15 days.
Istria has over 30 areas of protected natural heritage including Brijuni Islands National Park and Cape Kamenjak, both on the west coast.
Coordinated bike routes and accommodation make Istria one of the best regions in Europe for family cycling holidays.
It takes just over an hour to drive the length of Istria’s west coast and Central Istria is easy to explore on day’s out.
A wide choice of places to stay, coast and countryside, including: innovative Istrian Tourist Villages; resort hotels; self-catering apartments and villas; family campsites and holiday parks.
Unless you arrive via Venice or Trieste, Pula will be your first glimpse of Istria. It’s the region’s capital and home to the only international airport. It’s also another Croatian city with an Ancient Roman legacy, best seen in one of the most magnificent first century amphitheatres in Europe. Not an instant heartbreaker in the style of Split or Dubrovnik, explore a little deeper in Pula and there’s plenty of charm to be found in the medieval old town, classical monuments and lively waterfront district.
Istria’s famous holiday resort has been welcoming visitors for over a century. Despite its popularity, Poreč town has managed to hold on to much of its traditional fishing port character. The skinny alleys, grand facades, cobbled streets and pretty restaurants tucked under colonnades are enchanting on a summer evening. And, overlooking the Adriatic, brightly painted buildings against the monumental backdrop of the Basilica of Euphrasius are an iconic Istrian image.
The historic town of Umag is just over an hour’s drive north of Pula. Its charming historic quarter is a sleepy delight of sun-baked cobbles, tiled roofs, golden stone walls and intriguing churches. By complete contrast, Umag’s equally famous for a sleek marina, sporting reputation (the Croatia Tennis Open’s held here every year in July) and glamorous resort hotels.
Until the late 18th century Rovinj was an island and, although it’s part of the mainland today, still holds on to that sense of exclusivity. The town’s one of the most instantly recognisable in Istria thanks to the impressive tower of Saint Euphamia Cathedral staring out over the Adriatic from its circle of colourful waterfront buildings. Just half an hour from Pula, Rovinj has some of the loveliest beaches on Istria’s west coast.
Medulin may not be the most historic of Istria’s coastal resorts but a friendly, easy-going atmosphere makes it a popular choice for families. If you want heritage, Pula is just 20 minutes drive away, and Cape Kamenjek is another near neighbour for outdoor adventuring.
Caves, coves, beaches, offshore islands and the clear-blue Adriatic, Cape Kamanjek nature park is an easy day out just south of Pula. Take bikes. Cape Kamanjek
Hundreds of safe, level and exciting cycling routes all over Istria are designed for family bike holidays and fun days out. Istra Bike
Voted one of Europe’s top five waterparks in 2016, Istralandia is just 20 minutes from Umag. Istralandia Aquapark
The spectacular caves and gorges at Pazin in Central Istria are made for extreme ziplining and with heights of 100m and speeds up to 50kmph, this is extreme enough for most kids. Pazinska Jama
Spend a few hours as a Rovinj fisherman, get up close to the Ancient Romans, uncover the secrets of medieval Pula. Fun and interactive historical re-enactments kids find irresistibly involving. Istra Inspirit
The enchanting archipelago just 6km off the coast of Pula is Istria’s only National Park. The two largest islands are accessible by boat from the mainland. Brijuni Islands National Park
A family theme park 4km from Poreč, dinosaurs are the focus here for everything from challenging outdoor hikes and fun rides to kids shows and events. Dinopark
Too young to dive or just don’t want to get wet? Semi-submarines sail deep beneath the Adriatic and reveal the underwater mysteries close to Rovinj’s beautiful beaches. Semi-Submarine, Rovinj
Fascinating aquarium with the added bonus of being built into a 19th century Austro-Hungarian fortress complete with moat, tunnels and roof terraces. Pula Aquarium
Cave climbing in Istria’s legendary underground caverns is an amazing experience and beginners are more than welcome. Spaleolit
Istria isn’t a large region and public transport services between resorts and attractions are fairly reliable. Hiring bikes is a fun and easy way to explore along the coast, hunt down hidden beaches and get around nature reserves and parks. All the coastal towns are walkable and, apart from the city tour bus, even Pula is best seen on foot. But if you want to mix coast and countryside and see Central Istria beyond the Adriatic, hiring a car, even for a few days, is a good option.