Located in the most western part of Croatia, Istria is a peninsula known for its rich cultural heritage, as well as it’s delicious gastro offer that includes world’s best wine, olive oil, and truffles. Last year, Istria was named world’s best olive oil region for the sixth consecutive year, which is one more reason why Istria is an unavoidable place to visit when in Croatia.
Sources: Istria.hr, Pexels, Romulić and Stojčić
We will let you explore the charms of Istria for yourself, but first, we will try to help you how to get to Istria.
How to get to Istria Croatia by car?
Istria is one of the best, if not the best traffic-connected Croatian coastal region. Thanks to its geographical position, it achieves a record number of tourist arrivals and overnight stays every year, and the cities of Poreč and Rovinj are at the very top of Croatian tourist destinations.
The largest number of tourists come to Istria by land, by personal vehicles, from the close countries of Germany, Austria, and Italy. If you’re coming to Istria from those countries, or from that direction, you must pass through Slovenia.
There are four main border crossings with Croatia and Slovenia in Istria. The first ones are Plovanija and Dragonja/Kaštel, from the direction of Koper, marked in red on the photo below.
Screenshot Google Maps
The road to Plovanija goes along the Slovenian shore, and the border crossing Dragonja/Kaštel is on the road E751. After the Croatian border, that road connects with the most famous and most important road in Istria – the so-called Istrian Y, a Y-shaped highway, which connects all parts of Istria.
On the left: Center of Istrian Y in Kanfanar (Romulić and Stojčić) / On the right: the map of Istrian Y (Wikipedia)
That part of the Istrian Y, marked in red on the photo below, goes along the western shore, and it is a highway A9 from the Slovenian border to Pula. It connects Istrian cities of Umag, Novigrad, Poreč, Rovinj, and Pula. However, the highway itself is a little away from these cities, so you will have to turn to state roads to reach them.
A9 highway, a part of Istrian Y, marked in red / Wikipedia
The second two important – and also the busiest – border crossings in Istria are Pasjak and Rupa, marked in blue on the first photo. Although they are located in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, they are a gate to Istria County.
As shown on the photo below, the highway E61 goes to Croatia via the Pasjak crossing border from the direction of Trieste in Italy. If coming from the direction of Ljubljana, you must cross the Rupa crossing border. Highway E61 (in Croatian: highway A7) from both Pasjak and Rupa end in Matulji (marked in red) near Rijeka, where it connects with the second part of Istrian Y – highway A8 that goes to Kanfanar, the center point of Istrian Y.
Screenshot Google Maps
A8 highway, a another part of Istrian Y, marked in blue / Wikipedia
Remember, once you reach Istrian Y, you can reach any part of Istria. Istrian Y is actually a system of two highways, A8 and A9 – learn more about the Istrian Y.
Other Slovenian-Croatian border crossings are Bregana near Zagreb and Macelj near Krapina, from where you can go to Istria via highways E59 and E65.
How to get to Istria by plane?
The only airport in Istria is the one in Pula, while the other close airports are in Friuli Venezia Giulia Airport in Trieste, Marco Polo Airport in Venice, and Treviso Airport in Italy, Jože Pučnik Airport in Ljubljana in Slovenia (also known as Brnik Airport or Fraport Slovenia), Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport and Rijeka Airport in Croatia.
Pula Airport welcomes both charter and scheduled flights. Before many flights were canceled due the pandemic, Pula Airport had a solid tourist traffic. One of the most popular airline in Pula was Ryanair, offering cheap flights to some of the biggest European cities. However, the traffic in Pula Airport dropped by 89.6 percent in 2020, compared to the record 2019.
Pula Airport by Romulić and Stojčić
Airlines operating to Pula Airport in 2021 are Air Serbia, British Airways, Croatia Airlines, EasyJet, Eurowings, Finnair, Jet2.com, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, S7 Airlines, TUI, Volotea, and Wizzair.
In 2021, it will be possible to come to Pula, Istria by flights from Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the UK.
Screenshot Pula Airport
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How to get to Istria by bus?
If you come from neighboring countries, the bus may be a good option to get to Istria. Since northern and western Croatia is well-connected with northern Italy, you can get to Istria by bus from Trieste to Buje, Poreč, Rovinj, Pula, along with other places on the way. The bus from Trieste to the western part of Istria, as well as to Rijeka, operates throughout the year.
There are also bus lines from Venice to Pula by the Pula-based bus company FILS, operating the whole year. Another Pula-based bus company Brioni Pula provides bus services from Padova (with stops in Venice and Trieste) to Vodnjan, Rovinj, Buje, and Pula. All the bus lines from Italy to Croatia can be found here (in Croatian).
Bus routes from Venice, Italy to Pula, Croatia / Buscroatia.com
Istrian bus companies Brioni Pula i FILS also provide bus lines from many Croatian cities, mostly from the capital of Zagreb. If you’re coming from continental Croatia, Istria is the closest seaside region to visit. There are many bus lines, especially during summer. You can find them also on the Flixbus and Arriva bus companies’ webpages.
How to get to Istria by ferry?
Since Croatia has a sea border with Italy, one way to get to Istria from Italy is ferry. There are two ferry providers from Italy to Istria – Adriatic Lines and Venezia Lines.
Adriatic Lines operates from Venice to Istrian cities of Pula, Rovinj, Poreč, and Umag. Catamaran lines from port San Basilio in Venice to Istrian cities last about two and half hours. One-way ticket price is 65 euros (or 500 kunas) for adults and 32.50 euros (250 kunas) for children. The schedule for 2021 is still unavailable.
Adriatic Lines’ catamarans are quite famous, as they are recognizable in Istrian ports. “Prince of Venice,” mostly seen in Poreč port, has an attractive and distinctive design, while “Adriatic Jet” is known for its speed and interesting appearance.
Prince of Venice in Poreč port / Adriatic Lines
During summer, namely from April to October, Venezia Lines have catamaran lines from Venice to Piran, Poreč, Pula, Rovinj, and Umag. Ticket prices range from 59 to 69 euros per person (450 to 520 kunas per person). It takes about three hours and 15-30 minutes to get in one direction, depending on the route. However, the schedule for 2021 has not yet been published.
Ferries from Istria to Italy also allow the transport of pets and bikes.
To find more ferries from Italy to Croatia, check the Istrian Sun webpage.
How to get to Istria by train?
If you decide to come to Istria by train, you can arrive very quickly using the lines from Ljubljana or Zagreb.
The line from Ljubljana can take you to Buzet or Pula every day and it takes four hours. There are no more trains going from Italy to Croatia.
If traveling from the Croatian capital, there are no direct train lines to Istria. However, you can take the train to Rijeka, but then travel by bus from Rijeka to Lupoglav, from where you can continue your train journey through Istria, to Pazin and Pula. The whole journey take four hours. You can book the train tickets on the Croatian Railways webpage.
Six railway stations in Istria are in Pula, Kanfanar (mentioned above as the center of Istrian Y), Vodnjan, Pazin, Buzet, and Lupoglav. Pula and Pazin are the main railway stations in Istria, from where you can quicky come to western Istrian cities of Poreč, Rovinj, and Novigrad.
Fun fact about travelling by train in Istria?
Did you know that Istria is home to the only island on the Adriatic coast connected by train? Its name is Uljanik and is one of the six islands in the Pula bay.
Pula and Uljanik island seen from above / Wikipedia
The name Uljanik, after which the nearby Pula shipyard was also named, comes from olive trees or, in Croatian, “ulike” that grew on it. Of all the olive trees, only one remained in the center of the island, surrounded by the Uljanik shipyard facilities, whose central plants are located on the island.
Interestingly, the industrial track for the shipyard Uljanik that goes from Pula railway station continues over the bridge, all over to the island of Uljanik. The bridge thus connects the island of Uljanik with the coast, making Uljanik the only Croatian island connected to the mainland by rail.
Uljanik shipyard’s main plants on the island of Uljanik / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić
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