Its urban design bears witness to its Andalusi past: steep, narrow streets of whitewashed houses with Arabic roof tiling, particularly in the upper district of the village, where part of a tower from the walls of the mediaeval castle still stands.
Its municipal area is part of Sierra de Las Nieves Natural Park, declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco.
Istan’s origins are to be found with the inhabitants of the old Arboto Fortress.
Records tell us that the village was founded in 1448, when, following an attack on Arboto Fortress by a Christian army led by Saavedra Urdiales, a battle was fought on the banks of the River Verde, the defeated Moslems taking refuge in what is now Istan, which means "higher", where they built another fortress around which the village developed.
This village was subsequently captured by Christian troops on behalf of the Catholic Monarchs.
During the rebellion of the moriscos (Moslem converts to Christianity) in the mid 16th century, its inhabitants played an active part in the uprising led by the brave Melchi, suffering defeat at the hands of Don Luis Ponce de Leon, Duke of Arcos. The moriscos were subsequently expelled and the area, one of the richest in the region thanks to its silk production and vine cultivation, was left practically uninhabited. It was later repopulated by settlers from Murcia who spoke a dialect known as "panocho", from which the term used to refer to the inhabitants of Istan is derived.