Multi-Day Tour | Independent, Locally Hosted, Private

Essential Croatia - Istria (4 days)

Exeter International

Zagreb, Croatia To Novigrad, Croatia

Valid for Departures Now Through: 31 Dec 2019


Day 1
Novigrad, Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia
Nautica None

Arrival in Zagreb – Croatia’s capital and largest city. You will be met by your private driver and guide, who will be waiting for you just outside of Customs, after you pick up your luggage.

The history of Zagreb dates as far back as the 11th century when the Hungarian King Ladislaus founded a diocese here. Gradually, a settlement developed on the neighboring hill. Today, this settlement is Zagreb's Upper Town - one of the best preserved medieval urban centers in Croatia. As a sign of gratitude for offering him a safe haven from the Tatars, King Bela IV offered the town’s citizens autonomy and independent judicial system. According to a legend, Bela left the city a cannon to be fired every day so that it did not rust. Since 1 January 1877 the cannon has been fired from one of the towers every day at noon.

You will transfer through the Istrian Peninsula and to the Adriatic shore where you will arrive in the town of Novigrad, which is picturesquely located on a small peninsula on the Western coast of Istria. Check-in at your hotel for an evening at your leisure.

Day 2
Novigrad, Croatia
Nautica Breakfast

This morning, after meeting your guide and driver, you will start your day of exploring the Istrian Peninsula.  

First, you will transfer south along the cost to the town of Porec. An extremely important town during Roman times, it was later sacked by the Goths, conquered by the Byzantines, and gifted to the Patriarchate of Aquilia by the Franks. During medieval times, it opted for Venetian rule but again faced attack from the Genoese and the Austrians not to mention being inundated by plague and pirates! The tumult of influences has resulted in one of the most beautiful destinations on the Istrian peninsula, splitting at the seams with its fascinating history.

Your guide will take you on a visit to the famous Basilica of Euphrasius. This magnificent church dates back to the 6th Century AD and some of the original mosaics still exist inside its walls. Decorated in Byzantine fashion, all the mosaics are on an exquisite gold background and beautiful Greek marble columns support the walls. The Basilica was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1997.

Later this afternoon, you will continue south to Rovinj, where your guide will take you to visit the Church of St. Euphemia. The Venetian Baroque structure dominated the Old Town center of Rovinj and is dedicated to St. Euphemia, the patron saint of the city.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

Further down along the Adriatic coast, you will reach the historic town of Vodnjan, which has been known for its excellent local wine since Antiquity. Here, you will be treated to a private tasting in the famous Giacometti-Moscarda Winery. The Giacometti-Moscarda family has been producing award winning wine and olive oil for generations.  You will taste home-made grappa with different traditional flavors such as mistletoe or honey, as well as some red and white wine and olive oil, all of these accompanied by home-made proscuitto ham, cheese and olives.

This afternoon, you will reach Pula – a 3000-years-old town located at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Pula became famous under the Romans during the 2nd Century BC, and became an Episcopal seat during the 5th Century. It was sacked by the Ostrogoths but regained power under the Byzantines as a naval port during the 6th and 7th Centuries. It fell into decline until the Austro-Hungarians gained power and established their naval fleet here.  The ancient barracks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still house Croatia’s naval forces.  

You will start your tour at the historic center of the city at its most famous landmark - the Pula amphitheater. One of the largest surviving Roman amphitheaters in the world, it was once the scene of bloody gladiator fights. Today it is Pula’s main cultural outdoor venue and is known for its music and film festivals.

From here you may continue walking along the fragments of the ancient city walls, there were built by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd Centuries and still survive today thanks to the fine craftsmanship of the Roman masons.  Along the way, you will come to The Hercules Gate, one of the only surviving entrances to the Old Town of Pula, with its magnificent example of Roman architecture dating back to the 1st Century.  As you pass under the enormous entrance, pause for a minute directly beneath the graceful arch to look up and see the symbol of the eagle killing the serpent etched into the stone.

You may want to see the Church of St. Francis and the Franciscan monastery which is adjacent to it. The Franciscan monastery in Pula, as in other parts of Croatia, is still in function. It is built in typical fashion, with an open cloister in the center leading off to the small complex of buildings on the sides. The church of St. Francis was also built in the 13th century along with the monastery and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. It’s most impressive feature is the Rose window that adorns the majestic entrance to the church.

At the end of this day, you may decide to stop to taste some local wines at the Matosevic Winery in the small village of Kruncici near Rovinj. Mr. Matosevic, who has a Doctorate in Botanic Sciences from the University of Bologna in Italy, is one of the region’s leading producers of Chardonnay and Malvoisie wines, and the holder of numerous international awards.

Later this evening, you will return to Novigrad and your hotel for an evening at leisure.

Day 3
Novigrad, Croatia
Nautica Breakfast

This morning, after again meeting your guide and driver at 10:00 AM, you will continue with the exploration of Istria. This time, you will have the opportunity to get to know the interior of the peninsula which, with its olive groves and vineyards, is very different from the coast. Riding through the rugged and hilly terrain you will come to the medieval ruins of the town of Motovun, which suddenly springing into view.  Motovun is an excellent example of the ancient townships which once dotted the Istrian peninsula. Your guide will take you on a walking tour of the upper and lower towns of Motovun.  

You will continue your tour of Istria with a visit to Livade, a small village in the Istrian countryside famous for being one of the best-known truffle regions in Europe! White Istrian truffles are among of the most expensive mushrooms in the world, and truffle harvesting is a local tradition in the interior of the Istrian peninsula.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

Today you may enjoy a truffle hunting demonstration, guided by a local expert and a trained dog. Curiously, in the past, pigs were also used for this purpose.

For lunch, we suggest that you enjoy the exceptional cuisine of the Zigante Restaurant, which features truffle specialties. Its owner, Mr. Zigante, has earned his place in the Guinness Book of Records as the person who found the biggest (2.88 lbs) white truffle in the world! The cost of lunch is not included in your trip.

Later today, you may decide to continue your trip to the eastern coast of the peninsula to visit the resort towns of Opatija and Lovran. Lovran is actually one of the oldest coastal settlements in the area and was an important urban and shipbuilding center of the northern Adriatic in the Middle Ages. Following the sudden development of other ports in the vicinity, such as Trieste, Pula, and Rijeka, which became the new and dominant trade centers in the region, Lovran gradually lost its significance. However, in the mid 19th Century, the area again gained prominence as a fashionable resort of the Austro-Hungarian nobility, forming a long tradition of hospitality, which is still strongly felt in the Lovran - Opatija region and forms the backbone of the local economy.

Later this evening, you will return back to Novigrad for an evening at your leisure.

Day 4
Novigrad, Croatia
Nautica Breakfast

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

This morning, after meeting your guide and driver, you will continue your tour of Istria with a short drive (just over an hour) down the Adriatic coast to the town of Fazana, from where you will board a private motorboat which will take you to the Brijuni archipelago and its largest island - Veli (Great) Brijun. You will arrive at the island’s main harbor from where you will embark on a tour of its main sights.

The Brijuni archipelago is made up of 14 islands, some of which have been inhabited since Paleolithic times. In Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the islands were mainly known for their quarries, the stone of which was used to build many of the buildings and bridges in Venice. Later, the Austrians fortified some of the larger islands to support their naval base in Pula. It was not until the 19th century that the islands’ potential for tourism was realized. A Viennese entrepreneur bought the whole archipelago and developed an exclusive resort with hotels, restaurants, a casino, and a marina which became the playground for European and American celebrities and aristocrats. After the Second World War, Josip Broz Tito, the leader of communist Yugoslavia, declared the island a restricted zone and made it his summer residence. It was only after his death that the Brijun Island was opened to visitors as a national park.

On the western coast of the island, you may see the extensive ruins of a Byzantine castle complex as well as those of a Roman villa from the 1st century. You will also see the fenced-off White Villa – a former Venetian residence which was restored in the early 18th century and again in the 1950s to become the summer mansion of Marshal Tito during his reign as the president of the former Yugoslavia.  Tito used this villa to receive various foreign dignitaries and delegations and many formal receptions and important events took place here. Among the island museum’s best exhibits is the ‘Tito on Brijni’ which features a huge collection of photos of the former Yugoslav leader and offers an insight into the life and political career of this still beloved by his former subjects Communist dictator.  

After your tour of Veli Brijun you will return to the mainland where your driver will be waiting to take you back to Novigrad and your hotel.  

Tour Features


Experiences have not been selected at this time


A sample itinerary for FIT touring of the Istria region of Croatia.

About Us

For 25 years, Exeter International has built their reputation for meticulous planning, personalized service and unparalleled destination knowledge through our collaboration with fellow Virtuoso members and clients. We are the best of both worlds between a traditional tour operator and DMC. You have the convenience of working with our passionate team of U.S based travel managers, while your clients experience the best of each country in our sphere of expertise, including top guides, seamless (cross-border) operations and 24-hour support throughout your clients' trip.

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The trademarks VIRTUOSO, the Globe Swirl Logo and SPECIALISTS IN THE ART OF TRAVEL are registered trademarks of Virtuoso, Ltd. Virtuoso, Ltd. has a U.S. copyright registration for the Globe Swirl Logo, ©2000. All rights reserved. Virtuoso CST#2069091-50. California CST# 2069091; TA# 808 - Registered Iowa Travel Agency; Washington UBI # 601 554 183. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.
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Reviews and Recommendations for Exeter International


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Highly recomended

By: KandeeB

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2013

Exeter International was staffed with first class personnel from the drivers to the EXTRAORDINARY guides through out the trip. The vehicles used to transport us were luxurious. The hotels were commensurate with the level of quality expected by the cost and located in the most advantageous sites. Totally organized and stress free experience.
Travel Advisor:  Brigitte Feinberg
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Great high-end travel company

By: Not provided

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2013

Does superb job for demanding high-end travel Customized travel with excellent guides and programs. You pay but you get what you pay for.
Travel Advisor:  Leah Bergner
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Highly recommend

By: Jean

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2013

Exeter was very well organised with very good guides and drivers. Our requests were responded to with professional speed. Some of our hotels could have been better. But we understand that they were the best available. We would have no hesitation using this agency again and recommending them to others.
Travel Advisor:  Nancy Yale
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Pampered Travel

By: KandeeB

Reviewed on: 07 Nov 2013

Exeter provides luxury travel with all the hassles and worries removed. The quality of their drivers and guides is first rate. From the minute you arrive until your final departure you are in excellent hands. The itinerary is well thought out and provides many special visitations not offered to other tourists. I have heartily recommended Exeter to several people without any reservation.
Travel Advisor:  Brigitte Feinberg


By: Jean

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2014

We have used Exeter on a prior trip and were equally happy with them this time. We did have a Russian Visa situation which could have been serious, but was resolved quickly.The guide spoke very good English and was knowledgable in history and art along with the local architecture. The driver was also very safe in a chaotic traffic system.
Travel Advisor:  Nancy Yale

highly recommend

By: BB

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2014

Travel Advisor:  Rochelle Lieberman

Highly recommended

By: Mkt123

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2014

We were connected with local English speaking guides and drivers that gave us an inside view of each country we traveled to. The experience was priceless.
Travel Advisor:  Martha Rhodes

Oustanding Guides

By: J & W

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2014

All of the services provided by Exeter were truly outstanding. The hotel accommodations were excellent. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and well organized. The drivers were prompt and courteous. The suggestions for restaurants and additional things to do and see were very good. The printed booklet of helpful hints and language support was a nice bit of support for travelers who are visiting countries for the first time.
Travel Advisor:  Sara Krutsinger

Across the Russian Far East

By: Judee 544

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2015

Everything was perfectly planned and resulted in a wonderfully exciting trip with all of our interests and needs taken into account. going on such an adventurous and challenging trip, so far away when one is no longer young could have been quite difficult, but instead was nothing but a fabulous experience. Wonderful guides and wonderful experiences on the Trans-Siberian Express and the cities of the Russian Far East, and a lovely hotel at the end in Moscow.
Travel Advisor:  Vivian Rubenstein

Excellent Russian Trip

By: Roger

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2016

Exeter provided all of our guides and support for a 9 day family trip to Russia - very well informed, personable guides and smooth transportation. We were a bit hesitant to go to Russia but highly recommend - the trip of a lifetime !
Travel Advisor:  Tony Huffman
Not Recommended


By: TheGrapevine

Reviewed on: 14 Feb 2017

Take out trip insurance - not going to bash - but you get the idea.....
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1st Class

By: Carlos Gavidia

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2017

From the beginning to the end this organization really surprised me! From getting our travel visas for Moscow to every detail of the tour pick up transfers and tours through the city were perfectly executed
Travel Advisor:  Nancy Yale



Reviewed on: 14 May 2017

Exeter was excellent with tour logistics and great guide. Seamless trip.
Travel Advisor:  Britt Gerber

Great planning and service

By: WWII And Cold War History

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2017

Exeter planned an excellent two week trip for me and my three teenagers. We went to Poland, Germany and Amsterdam. We focused on WWII and Cold War history. The plan was thoughtful and well paced. When I had questions Exeter staff responded promptly. A very good experience.
Travel Advisor:  Josh Friedman

St. Petersburg Tour

By: B Snead

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2017

Our driver and guide could not have been better. Polite and accommodating for the three days we were in St. Petersburg. We saw a lot of attractions, got some behind the scenes tours and were able to access some sights prior to the general public. I would use Exeter again without hesitation!
Travel Advisor:  Deborah Barth


By: Hodges

Reviewed on: 17 Jul 2017

Exceeded all expectation. Super cost effective to compared to Oceania.
Travel Advisor:  Deborah Barth

Germany & Russia

By: Oz

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2017

I strongley reccomend Exeter for shore excursions. Their staff and vehicles were first class, and the value was tremendous. We never felt uncomfortable or worried about being back to the ship on time. True professionals.
Travel Advisor:  Deborah Barth

Great tour

By: mt

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2017

Knowledgable, efficient and friendly tour operators!

Baltic Cruise

By: Roger

Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2017

Fantastic tour service. Their guides and drivers were outstanding. Guides all had an excellent knowledge of the city and the history. We are very pleased that Ralph recommended Exeter. When comparing notes with others that had used the tours supplied by the ship, we learned that we had seen and accomplished much more than they had. Our guides were able to make special arrangements that others could not. Will always use Exeter when it is available
Travel Advisor:  Ralph Iantosca

Great tour

By: Ann

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2017

Everything was wonderful. Very nice guide and well informed about the places we visited.

Exeter International

By: Goodwitch

Reviewed on: 02 Oct 2017

All guides were great and expedited airport service was fantastic
Travel Advisor:  Joanne Smith

St Petersburg

By: Swan

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2017

Absolutely fabulous
Travel Advisor:  Sherrie Coffey

Custom Guided Tour

By: JJ

Reviewed on: 18 Dec 2017

The tour guides and drivers were outstanding plus. They were very personable, always early, and their local knowledge was excellent. All of them were eager to please and all adapted to the changing crowd situation caused by weather, national holiday, or political meeting.
Travel Advisor:  Eleanor Hardy

Well run independent travel to Russia

By: Susan and Murray Morrison

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2018

From getting visas for us to planning a private visit to Russia for us, Exeter International was top notch. No detail was overlooked. The guides that Exeter provided were outstanding, spoke fluent English, had a good grasp of Russian history and were willing to accommodate our every interest. The guides were truly experts about their cities: museums, palaces, and surroundings. In addition, the guides were friendly and helpful. Exeter ran a well organized, well thought-out tour of Russia for the two of us.
Travel Advisor:  Nancy Yale

Family time and fun

By: Jane

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2018

My experience with Exeter was positive. The drivers were on time and very courteous. There was water in the cars for us. They had information to offer as we drove to destinations. They were accommodating to our schedules and were very helpful if we had questions. We missed walking around the interior of a famous church due to the day the tour was scheduled. There were services going on and we could not enter. Another tour was partly taken up by a long walking tour to get to a castle. I would have rather spent time inside the castle. We had to exit with the guide and missed a lot of interesting things. Too bad we were not allowed to stay inside on our own to see more.
Travel Advisor:  Stephanie Miller Murphy

less common places tour

By: ssunsfanatic

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2018

good tour to less visited places in Bergen. We had been to the more common tourist sites.
Travel Advisor:  Leah Bergner

Central Europe

By: Tour of Central Europe and QM2 to NYC

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2018

Vienna, Prague, Krakow, Berlin, Hamburg. Wonderful hotels, wonderful guides, wonderful restaurants. Not one single mistake or hiccup. Exeter does an outstanding job.
Travel Advisor:  Brigitte Feinberg

St. Petersburg

By: SandStar

Reviewed on: 06 Aug 2018

We had a wonderful trip. Hotel was excellent. They were able to accommodate our special requests and schedule. We highly recommend the local guide, Anya, who was extremely knowledgeable about local and Russian history.
Travel Advisor:  Linda Zelisko

Exeter tour guides

By: smcknight

Reviewed on: 06 Aug 2018

We had basically positive experiences both days we toured with Exeter guides. The first day there was a little too much emphasis placed on taking us to "gift shops" and expecting us to buy tourist trinkets. The heat and the crowds may have been easier to bare if we had gone to the Hermitage in the early morning instead of wasting 45-50 minutes in a trinket shop. The second guide was very professional and led us seamlessly through Catherine's palace and the palaces on the canal in St. Petersburg.
Travel Advisor:  Joanne Meyer

Every detail was perfect!

By: Beth

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2018

Exeter was a joy to work with. Our drivers and tour guides were helpful, friendly, and very knowledgeable. I traveled with my 13-year-old daughter, and our tours were uniquely tailored to interest her. I had heard horror stories about obtaining Russian visas. Not for us! Exeter took care of everything, and quickly. I loved the custom packet that they sent me in advance of the trip. It listed our itinerary in detail, helpful phone numbers, restaurant recommendations, and travel tips that were specific for our destinations. I would enthusiastically recommend Exeter for travel planning.
Travel Advisor:  Andre Koester

St. Petersburg tour

By: Rocky Mountain Flier

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2018

Becky recommended Exeter International for my party of four. We all agreed after two full days of touring with our guide and driver that we would not have wanted to see St. Petersburg any other way. Our guide was excellent and very informed and we liked the driver too. We were able to avoid the long lines and were admitted to areas of the palaces that other visitors would never have the opportunity to see. We invited her to join us for lunch on both days whereby we learned even more about St. Petersburg.
Travel Advisor:  Becky Sullivan

Exeter/Norwegian Tour

By: Lien

Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2018

Exeter (Jody Ricottone) coordinated my recent sole tour of Norway. This involved guides in three cities, hotels in those cities and in two fjordside locations, trains and ferry, rental car and other transfer arrangements. I was very pleased with everything, including that Jody paid close attention to what I wanted and was responsive to my requests. Her recommendations and examples of somewhat similar sole tours really assisted me in my planning. The entire trip went off without a scheduling hitch, and introduced me, as I had wished, to Norwegian sites and experiences I never would have seen or had without Jody's good work.
Travel Advisor:  Wanda Worsley

Russia St. Petersburg

By: Jay Johnson

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2018

The guide and driver were both wonderful and full of knowledge and professionalism. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone. They also had great suggestions for lunch venues, during our stay in and about St. Petersburg.
Travel Advisor:  Jay Johnson

Russia Private Tour

By: Susan

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2018

We engaged Exeter to provide a private tour in St Petersburg, Russia. Exeter was outstanding!! We had a guide, Anya Smirnova, and driver for 3 days and it was a fabulous experience. Anya spoke perfect English and was able to relate the sites we saw to Russian history and culture in a fascinating manner. We asked her many, many questions that she readily answered. Her knowledge was extensive. We had special entry to the exhibits, bypassing the long normal entry lines. We had the flexibility to see what was of interest to us, and the ability to visit sites that the ship tours did not include. For lunch we stopped at wonderful restaurants that served authentic Russian food at reasonable prices, which was far better food than on the ship. The day at Peterhof Palace, with the extravagant fountains and grotto, was especially memorable. Our experience with Exeter was outstanding and I would highly recommend them for future private tours.

Great Tour Group

By: Tommy

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2018

We had a four day touring experience with Exeter in Prague and both my wife and myself could not be happier. Peter, our driver met us for the transfer from our ship to Prague right on time and throughout our tour. He was extremely professional and made sure we were where we needed to be and was always pleasant. We felt very comfortable while being driven. Lucie, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable in all areas that we visited and made sure we got to see everything we were supposed to see and more. She worked things out while we were with her to ensure things went like clockwork and we were not disappointed. I can't say enough how using Exexter made our time in Prague a wonderful experience and I would not hesistate using them again.
Travel Advisor:  Ourisman Travel


By: Sharon

Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2018

The quality of the tours and the guides was great. Some of the guides were exceptional. The tours were informative and we enjoyed them very much.
Travel Advisor:  Joanne Smith

russian guides

By: Toni

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2018

Exeter was all you could ask for. We were always met on time and the guides were terrific.
Travel Advisor:  Jamo Ladd