Dalmatia vs. Istria: What's the Better Road Trip Region?

By 27 January 2019

January 27, 2019 - So, you’re planning a road trip through Croatia, but you’re torn on where to go? We’re not surprised, and trust us when we say that you’re not alone. A blessing and a curse, Croatia is a country with almost too many gems - if that’s even possible. Because we know your holidays are sometimes limited and you want to pack in as much as you can while you’re here, we thought we’d bring you the pros and cons (er, just the pros) of road tripping through two of Croatia’s most popular regions - Istria and Dalmatia. 


If you don’t know much about Istria, allow us to enlighten you. Istria is located in the northern part of Croatia and is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic. While it could be considered one of Croatia’s lesser-known regions (depending on who you talk to), it is gaining popularity quickly - and you can thank Anthony Bourdain for his No Reservations Croatia episode back in 2012. 

What makes Istria really special, however, is its charm. From quiet medieval hilltop villages like Motovun, known for its annual summer film festival, to popular tourist destinations like Pula, known for having the only remaining Roman amphitheater with four side towers entirely preserved, Istria has something for every traveler - and it truly is best explored by car (also because public transport is often limited to the pearls of this region). 

Istria is also the culinary king of Croatia. You might know it for its truffles and truffle hunting adventures, or for its Michelin-star restaurants, or maybe for its title as the best olive oil region in the world, and if you didn’t already know, you'd quickly learn that cuisine is king after your first bite.

Istria is a region of diversity, too - it boasts mountains and forests to seaside towns and islands - and rivers even run through it! But there is so, so much more we’ll let you explore yourselves. 

Not to miss towns in Istria:

- Hum: because it is considered the ‘smallest town in the world’

- Rovinj: for its colourful alleyways and art 

- Pula: for its Roman ruins

- Motovun: because it's like Croatia’s Tuscany 

- Labin/Rabac: because this is where the green hills meet the sea

- Anywhere in Central Istria 


We’re pretty sure that if you’ve heard of Croatia, chances are, you’ve heard of Dalmatia. Croatia’s bustling coastal region famous for its islands and UNESCO towns, Dalmatia is the region of Split (and Diocletian’s Palace), Hvar (known for parties and yachts, and definitely yacht parties), Krka (for its waterfalls you can swim in), and Dubrovnik (known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic). 

While a trip through Dalmatia will be much busier than one through Istria, you’ll also have more amenities on hand. Split, for example, is Croatia’s second largest city - and while its Old Town is ancient, its outskirts provide anything you need (like three of the largest shopping malls in the region).

Apart from shopping, Dalmatia has plenty of perks - like island hopping, or canyoning down the Cetina river, or hiking Biokovo mountain. Dalmatia is bursting with museums and history, from the Romans to the breakup of Yugoslavia. Dalmatia’s coastal towns are the pride of every fisher - and the food, like black cuttlefish risotto or classic grilled fish soaked in garlic and olive oil is so simple, yet will be remembered as one of the best meals you’ve ever had. 

Known as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world by CNN Travel, exploring Dalmatia by car should be one of your top bucket list items.

Not to miss towns in Dalmatia:

- The obvious Zadar, Šibenik, Split, Dubrovnik

- Primošten: because its center is located on an island that is connected with the mainland 

- Trogir: because it is a UNESCO paradise

- Omiš: because of pirates, fortresses, and soparnik

- Baćina lakes: because you’ll be mesmerised

- Anywhere in the Neretva Valley for mandarins and frogs

- Ston: because of oysters and the European ‘Great Wall of China’

- Any tiny coastal village along the way

After you’ve decided which region you’d like to explore, you can make your trip even easier by using Croatia’s trusted private transfer service Solo Transfers. A reliable transfer company with friendly and professional drivers that will take you wherever you want to go, your Croatian road trip will be one for the memory books. 

To find out more about Solo Transfers, check out their official website

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page