I will start with the south of Istria and its biggest city – Pula. This destination, which is bound to leave any visitor breathless, is very close to my heart. The 3,000-year-old city will astound you with monuments from the antiquity, such as the Golden Gate, the Temple of Augusts and the monumental Amphitheater. If possible, plan your trip to Pula during the Pula Film Festival and complete your one-day trip with a movie under the stars!
The Višnjan Observatory
If you want something more from the stars than just a setting for a movie, make sure to visit the Višnan Observatory, just a half an hour away from the Cluster. Did you know that thanks to the Observatory telescope, more than 1400 tiny planets and heavenly bodies have been discovered? After looking at the stars, I recommend the pleasure of a leisurely stroll down the picturesque alleys of Višnjan.
In the south center of Istria, on a rocky plateau surrounded by vineyards, pastures and forests, you will find Svetvinčenat, a town named after the Hispanic martyr St. Vincentius. While there, you must visit the Grimani stone castle, the best preserved castle in Istria and the biggest edifice in Svetvinčenat. If you happen to visit the town in July, you will get to experience contemporary dance in a truly beautiful setting full of rich history.
Učka Nature Park
If you’re in the mood for a one-day trip, I recommend the rural landscape of forests and pastures that make up the Učka Nature Park. Although the park is too big to be fully explored in just a day, you can always come back to it due to its ideal location. For your first visit, I recommend the Vojak summit – the highest point of Mt. Učka and of Istria in general. You will also be amazed by the stone tower at the very peak, built way back in 1911, and today among one of the most beautiful observation tower in all of Croatia.
The Postojna Cave
Another site proving that the Cluster is in fact surrounded by fascinating locations worth exploring is the Postojna Cave in Slovenia. It is the ideal one-day trip destination, just an hour away from Buje, or an hour and a half from Novigrad. There is a lot written about the Postojna Cave; for example, an interesting piece of trivia states that it had electric lighting as early as 1884, before Ljubljana in fact. It also boasts the fact of being the cave with the deepest point accessible to tourists in the world.
The Prklog Bay is located south of the town of Rabac on the East coast of Istria. This long but narrow bay is a haven for sail boats, and also a great location for a picnic for all those looking for refuge in the nature. In the warm, summer months the place is perfect for relaxation, a peaceful vacation and swimming. At least for a day.
Under two hours away by car from the Cluster, you will find Fužine – a quiet place in Gorski Kotar surrounded by mountains, age-old forests and lakes. This village is proud to bear the title of the tourist center of Gorski Kotar, which has turned into an obligatory stop for all tourists passing through the area. A stroll along the Bajer Lake and the selection of gastronomic delicacies make it a destination you can’t afford to skip.
Why not? Just a two-hour drive from Umag, Venice will provide you the opportunity to steer through the city channels, to visit St Mark’s Basilica and the gothic Dodge’s Palace, and to admire the famed Venetian Saint Mary of Health Basilica. Get your cameras ready and charge your smartphone batteries, because virtually every shot of this city is going to sweep you off your feet!
They say that Lim Bay is one of the most beautiful parts of the Istrian landscape. The 35-kilometer-long Lim Valley was created a few million years ago when the river that would eventually become Pazinčica passed through there. Make sure to visit Romuald’s Cave, the most famous cave in the bay area, known for its large colony of bats, a protected species in Croatia.
National Park Brijuni
Nature park. An oasis in the middle of the sea. A national park with a rich history. A true Heaven on Earth. Not visiting this place, at least for a day, would truly be mistake for all those who love Istria and its beauties. Just an hour away from the Cluster, the place provides a profound experience, whether you decide to just go for a walk around the Nature Park, visit one of the ruins of antique settlements, see the animals at the local zoo, or admire the tranquility of the place after a nice coffee. An essential destination for a one-day trip!