In the southwestern reaches of Istria, between Rovinj and Vodnjan, the medieval town of Bale is one of Istria’s best-kept secrets. Only 7km from the sea, it boasts a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and ancient town houses that developed around a Gothic-Renaissance castle belonging to the Bembo family.
Limska Draga Fjord
About 10km long, 600m wide and with steep valley walls that rise to a height of 100m, the Limska Draga Fjord (Limski Kanal) is the most dramatic sight in Istria. The inlet was formed when the Istrian coastline sank during the last Ice Age, allowing the sea to rush in and fill the Draga Valley.
Gračišće, 7km southeast of Pazin, is a sleepy medieval town surrounded by rolling hills, and is one of Istria’s well-kept secrets. Its collection of ancient buildings includes the 15th-century Venetian-Gothic Salamon Palace, the Romanesque Church of St Euphemia, and the Church of St Mary from 1425. Most of these buildings are unrestored (although some work is being done).
Crveni Otok & Sveta Katarina
A popular day trip from Rovinj is a boat ride to lovely Crveni Otok (Red Island) 2km from the harbour. Only 1.9km long, the island includes two islets, Sveti Andrija and Maškin, connected by a causeway. In the 19th century, Sveti Andrija became the property of Baron Hütterott, who transformed it into a luxuriantly wooded park.