Croatia has made quite a name for itself lately in the travel world. Not only is it recognizable and enticing to fans of the famous Game of Thrones television show, but it’s a breathtaking country brimming with incredible beaches, remote islands, ancient ruins, stunning national parks and outdoor adventure opportunities, quirky museums and so much more. 

Today, though, we focus on another Croatia highlight: the food and wine. Istria has a reputation among foodies of being one of Europe’s tastiest regions. Let’s find out why. 

Dining in Istria

Enchanting Istria is a heart-shaped peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea in the westernmost region of Croatia. It’s divided into Blue Istria, known for fishing villages and rocky beaches, and Green Istria, known for its medieval cliffside towns, wineries, olive groves and forests rich with truffles - see where we’re going with this? Green Istria is the birthplace of many of the ingredients upon which the regional cuisine is based. In between beach days, exploring historic attractions and cycling along the seaside, gourmands can tuck into fabulous Italian-Istrian (Istria shares a border with Italy) meals in such fascinating coastal towns as Rovinj, Motovun, Groznjan and Bale.

So what should you eat in Istria? Glad you asked. Black truffles are on most menus throughout the year, while white truffles are typically showcased from September through January. Try homemade pasta (fuzi) with a simple cream sauce, white, shaved truffles and cuts of wild asparagus, or the seductive Scampi alla Buzara dish.

Learn to hunt for truffles alongside specially trained truffle-hunting dogs in the hill towns of Groznjan or Buzet. While you’re here, don’t miss autochthonous prosciutto, which is dry cured with local sea salt and spices and then left to air dry in the “Bura,” a northern wind that sweeps through the country during the winter. Along the coast, try crni rizot (black risotto) with squid ink and various fresh seafood. 

Dining in Dalmatia

For our purposes here, we’ll talk about the island of Pag, one of the largest islands in the Adriatic and off the Dalmatian coast.

If you fancy yourself a cheese connoisseur, this is the place for you, where award-winning hard cheese called Paski Sir is produced from a special breed of small sheep who produce a salty milk. The island is also known for its sea salt and lace goods. Move on to Stone, near Dubrovnik, on the tip of the Peljesac Peninsula for some of the best oysters you’ll ever taste.

While you’re here, explore the Mediterranean’s oldest salt pans and walk along the longest fortification wll in Europe. 

Dining in Kvarner 

In Kvarner’s Gorski Kotar mountain region, local specialties include creamy polenta topped with white, chubby porcini mushrooms. The scampi here, from the Gulf of Kvarner, is some of the best in the world, and frog legs are a regional favorite. 

Where’s the Wine? 

Wine-growing is taking off at breakneck speed in Croatia, so there are plenty of vintages to try alongside these decadent dishes. At least 130 native grape varieties grow here and wineries, tastings and tours are ubiquitous. In Istria, try the blond Malvasia and the ruby red Teran. While on the Peljesac Peninsula, try Dingac, Plavac Mali and Postup. Finally, if you make it to Korcula Island, don’t miss Posip and Grk. 

If you’re been hearing about the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits, a Croatia vacation is the perfect place to change your eating habits. Fresh fish, simply prepared, local produce, regional olive oils and delightful wines are the mainstays of the Croatian diet. 

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