©rusm/Getty Images

Istria

Continental Croatia meets the Adriatic in Istria (Istra to Croats), the heart-shaped, 3600-sq-km peninsula in the country's northwest. The bucolic interior of rolling hills and fertile plains attracts food- and culture-focused visitors to Istria’s hilltop villages, rural hotels and farmhouse restaurants, while the indented coastline is enormously popular with the sun-and-sea set. Though vast hotel complexes line much of the coast and the rocky beaches are not Croatia’s best, facilities are wide-ranging, the sea is clean and secluded spots are still plentiful.

Istria's madly popular coast gets flooded with central European tourists in summer, but you can still feel alone and undisturbed in the peninsula's interior, even in mid-August. Add acclaimed gastronomy (starring fresh seafood, prime white truffles, wild asparagus, top-rated olive oils and award-winning wines), sprinkle it with historical charm and you have a little slice of heaven.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Istria.

Featured videos

Incredible ruins you've probably never heard of

2:53