Istria is beautiful in May

May is the perfect time for a sight-seeing holiday in Istria. Everything’s green, the tourists are few and the weather’s usually warm but not too hot. Possibly my favourite time of the year, it’s a time few people visit – fools! If you’re not tied to school holidays, it’s definitely worth thinking about, as visitors from last year, Angela and Peter, explain.


Angela and Peter like quieter, less-travelled destinations for their holidays, with places to visit and the opportunity for some walking in a natural environment. Tending to stick to Europe, previous destinations have included Northern Spain, the Ardeche in South-East France, Tuscany and Northern Portugal.

They came on holiday in Istria for two weeks in late May 2011 and toured extensively. I caught up with them at the end of their trip.

Places visited
Who are they?


Why Istria?

P:            It started with a book. At home I ride a motorbike and a friend bought me a book of great motorbike rides. In it there was a tour of Slovenia. We’d never thought about coming to this part of the world before and it got us thinking. However, while there were the mountains, we didn’t think there would be enough variety in Slovenia to keep us busy for two weeks. But the area looked great, so we decided to go somewhere in the Balkans.

 A:           I took over at this point and started looking into possible locations – what was there to do and see, what accommodation was available? I very quickly homed in on Croatia as being the obvious destination. It had a varied landscape and there were plenty of places to visit. While the islands looked lovely, I ruled out island-hopping as being too complicated and soon found myself concentrating on Istria. One of the main reasons was the accommodation. We both enjoy cooking and like unique, self-catering places. We definitely don’t like tourist complexes. The Little House in Matulini, near Porec, fitted the bill perfectly: it was outside the main tourist centre, but close enough to get to restaurants and sites.


Has Istria lived up to expectations?

A:            Absolutely. It’s been one of our best holidays ever. Istria’s very interesting – great for relaxing, yet with lots to see. Porec is a bit more touristy than I would like, but the rest of the coast is beautiful and in-land, it’s even better. The landscape’s gorgeous and the hill towns are fantastic.

P:            Being here at the end of May and early June has proved a wonderful time to visit. It wasn’t too hot, there were few other tourists around and the scenery was at its best.


What were your favourites?

A:            Rovinj was magic – totally unspoilt, you could feel the history. Motovun was also a surprise. It’s in all the guide books, so I thought it would be very busy and touristy. It wasn’t. It was absolutely lovely.

P:            In fact, all the hill towns were charming. We went all over Istria and they were all really special.

And I know I keep saying it, but the scenery really is fantastic. In fact, the whole natural environment’s great. I can’t understand why more people don’t come here at the end of May. It’s just so beautiful, there are butterflies and wild flowers everywhere. We drove up to the national park just above Rijeka and the high hill meadows were unbelievable, full of wild flowers. I’ve never seen so many varieties – I’ve not seen anything like that in the UK since I was a kid.


You enjoy walking. Did you manage any in Istria?

A:            We like to mix things up. Our ideal is a bit of sightseeing, followed by a walk close-by and we’ve done that most days.

P:            It wasn’t always easy though. There are great walks out there, but they’re not signposted. They take some finding.


What do you think of the food?

A:            We didn’t eat out as much as we planned. We were so busy during the day that we didn’t have the energy to go out again in the evening!

P:            It was also so peaceful in the garden, we didn’t want to go out. The Little House is one of the best places we’ve ever stayed in and, with such a well-equipped kitchen, we usually succumbed to indolence and stayed home.

A:            Having said that, when we did eat out, everything was excellent. Nothing fancy: simple, good quality, fresh food, very well presented.

Who do you think Istria appeals to?

P:            People like us: couples without small children. It wouldn’t have appealed to our boys when they were young – no theme parks or beaches for sandcastles!

A:           With so many places to visit, it’s great for people who like to get out and about. There’s lots to see and tons of history. And as I said earlier, you can find good walks, if you look.

Would you come back?

A:           Yes! We’d love to come back and rent a bigger place with our sons and their partners. Istria’s been one of our best holidays ever, we’d love to share it with them.


Places visited

  • Weds: Porec – Basilica and museum well worth seeing. Nice sea views along coast path, but a bit built-up for our taste.
  • Thurs: Draguc, Roc and Hum – Tiny hill towns, where it feels like time’s stood still for centuries.
  • Fri: Labin and Rabac – Lots to see in old Labin, Rabac has pleasant walk along the seafront – nice market stalls, cafes etc. Stopped at Gracišce on the way – panaromic view and interesting church with.
  • Sun: Rovinj and Limski canal – Rovinj is a beautiful town with good views, nice shops/markets.
  • Mon: Lovran and  Ucka nature park – Views across sea to Rijeka spectacular.
  • Tues: Pula – Ampitheatre well preserved, worth seeing.
  • Weds: Venice (day trip by ferry from Porec) – Quite a pricey day, but we packed it all in (gondola trip etc.)  Unique, must see – but wouldn’t want to live there!
  • Thurs: Motovun – Stunning views , a pleasant town too not a tourist ripoff – we enjoyed talking to the shopkeepers/craftsmen. Walked to Veli Mlun for views and a feel of the local landscape and wildlife.
  • Sat: Risnjac National Park – Lovely drive there.  Park quiet and very pleasant. 
  • Sun: Brijuni island National Park. Ferry day trip from Porec. (Brijuni better than expecting – excellent English-speaking guide made all the difference). Stopped in Vrsar on way back, great view from top of old town
  • Mon: Grožnjan,  Novigrad and Buje – Enjoyed Grožnjan. Attractive coast at Novigrad.


Who are they?

In their mid-50s, with two grown sons, Angela and Peter live in Wokingham, UK. Peter works in IT and Angela in a local library.

First posted 26th August 2011

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