Think Croatia is just sun, sea and scenery? Think again. Villa Plus, the leading provider of villa holidays, has put together some of the best, lesser-known activities and sites to experience an ‘undiscovered’ Croatia, in its most popular region, Istria.
Whizz through a canyon on a zip wire
Head to the town of Pazin to experience Zip Line Pazin Cave – an adrenalin-filled adventure you won’t forget in a hurry. After two short practice lines, you’ll fly down two long wires (220m and 280m) that run 100m above the canyon below. As you reach heart-racing speeds of up to 50km/h, you’ll take in spectacular views of this beautiful abyss through which Istria’s longest subterranean river flows. You’ll also get a good glimpse of the cliff-perched castle that’s the largest medieval fortress in the region.
Explore one of the world’s best-kept Roman amphitheatres
Pula Arena is one of the most popular attractions in Croatia. This ancient Roman amphitheatre is the 6th largest in the world, as well as one of the best-preserved. Built between 27BC and 68AD, gladiator fights were held within its huge limestone walls, drawing crowds of up to 20,000. Today the arena hosts all sorts of cultural and sporting events, including the annual summer “Spectacvla Antiqva” which recreates gladiatorial contests (but with less blood!). Year-round, insightful exhibitions are also hosted in the arena’s underground chambers, where you can learn about the history of olive oil and wine production, amongst other cultural topics!
Make a splash in the Mediterranean’s biggest wave pool
For the adventure-seekers, Aquapark Istralandia, Croatia’s first water park, opened in 2014. Covering more than 80,000 m2, this aquatic paradise features 20 thrilling slides (including a 27m free-fall drop) and the largest wave pool in the Mediterranean. Those who prefer a little less excitement can relax and unwind in the two-level hydromassage pool, and when you’re done with the water, you’ll find sand volleyball and badminton courts as well as plenty of bars and cafes to entertain the whole family.
Ride a train around an Istrian island
Situated just off Istria’s coast, Brijuni Islands National Park is an extraordinary archipelago of two main islands and 12 smaller islets. The beautiful pine-covered Veliki Brijuni is the largest of them all and home to archaeological sites, landscaped gardens, a safari park and even dinosaur footprints. You can book a day excursion to Veliki Brijuni from Fazana, and after the short boat transfer to the eastern port, why not hop on the tourist train for a sightseeing tour around the island? This really is the day trip of dreams!
Sample some of the best olive oil there is
Croatia has a long tradition of growing and pressing olives for oil. Whilst it may not produce anywhere near as much as Spain, it’s recognised internationally for the quality of its extra virgin oils – particularly those made in Istria. Porec, Agrolaguna, has 65,000 olive trees producing more than 100 tonnes of extra virgin oil a year. Make a visit to see the groves, tour the mill and sample its award-winning oils in the beautiful tasting room. Delicious!