Istria’s west coast represents the peninsula at its most developed. In itself it’s attractive enough, with fields of rich red soil and pinewoods sloping gently down to the sea, but a succession of purpose-built resorts has all but swallowed up the shoreline. Inland, the coastal strip fades imperceptibly into conifer-studded heathland and fields bounded by dry-stone walls and dotted with kažuni, the characteristic stone huts with conical roofs traditionally used by Istrian shepherds for shelter when overnighting with their flocks. Rovinj is Istria’s best-preserved old Venetian port; farther north, beyond the picturesque hilltop village of Vrsar and the Limski kanal, spreads the large resort of Poreč – package-holiday-land writ large, although it does boast the peninsula’s finest ecclesiastical attraction in the shape of the mosaic-filled Basilica of St Euphrasius.
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Reached by regular bus, NOVIGRAD (Cittanova), 18km north of Poreč, is a pleasant peninsula-bound place centred around a Venetian-style church, although it has lost most of its old buildings apart from a few toothy sections of town wall. Novigrad’s privately run hotels have more character than the packagey accommodation in Poreč, and the atmosphere is more laid-back all round – this is one place on the west coast where you can safely wander the streets without being stampeded to death by herds of ice-cream-wielding promenaders.
For bathing, the stretch of rock-and-concrete beach on the south side of town is outshone by the wonderful stretch of coastline to the north, where the rocky reefs backed by woods are more attractive and less crowded.