Discover the lush green landscapes of Croatia on horseback while staying at a friendly, family-run ranch. With forward-going and well-mannered horses this holiday is a perfect escape for riders looking for a re-vitalising holiday.
Istria is situated in the north-west of Croatia, close to the borders of Italy and Slovenia. The area is renowned for being the largest green oasis in the Northern Adriatic; there are large forests of pine woods along the coasts and surrounding islands, while inland you will find streams flowing through deep valleys, vineyards and olive groves.
This riding holiday is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders who are confident at all paces on horseback. Your guide, Petar, and his enthusiastic and skilled team have years of experience in horse riding and trail guiding. While riding in this unspoilt wilderness you will come across Roman ruins and large flat plateaus, as well as quaint little villages where you will meet the friendly locals. Everything is warm-hearted and laid-back here in the land of history, beauty and vitality.
For groups of 6-7 riders there will be a 10% discount **
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from AF of Huntingdon on 14/10/2016
Arrive at the airport where you will be met and transferred to the farm. You will have time to settle into your room and visit the horses before enjoying your first evening meal and meeting your host family and fellow riders. Meals are freshly made using local ingredients, many of which are produced on the farm, and showcase the best of wholesome Croatian cuisine. If riders have an early arrival time, there is an opportunity to spend some time at leisure in the town of Pula, and then be transferred after lunch (on own) to the farm.
After a traditional breakfast of fresh bread, ham, cheese and home-made preserves, you will go to the stables and meet your horse. Today will be an easy day's riding, giving you the chance to get to know your horse and feel secure in the saddle. During the morning you will ride to the small fascinating caves of Festinsko Kraljevstvo and take a short tour around them. The caves were accidentally discovered in the 1930’s underneath a vineyard and are now open to the public. A 20-minute visit (entrance fee included) in the ‘Kingdom of Feštini’ will help show what forms the foundations of the Istrian Peninsula. A complimentary Medica (honeyflavoured grappa) will help to enhance the illusions and treasures that this underground little world has to offer. After a picnic lunch you will continue the ride by heading south across the Istrian hinterland. Along the way there are some amazing views of the peninsula, especially from a pilgrimage cross near the village of Orihi, from where, on a clear day, there areh breathtaking views of the sea both east and west. Although more and more visitors are drawn to discover the Istrian hinterland, it is still a unique pleasure to meander along the rural back roads. Late afternoon we shall arrive to a horse ranch in the village of Manjadvorci, where we shall have a well-deserved evening meal, before returning home to Karnevali (20min by car).
After breakfast you will return to your rested horses and embark on a ride to the Bay of Blaz, where you can swim with the horses (weather dependent) and enjoy a picnic lunch on the peaceful sea shore. From here you will ride onwards to Barban, a medieval town situated on a windy plateau with a tradition of horse racing. Here our horses will have a shower, before continuing to our overnight accommodations and dinner at the Stefanija agrotourism in the village of Draguzeti.
Today we shall experience new and varied landscapes as we ride eastwards into the heart of the Istrian peninsula. We will ride through the dense Cere Forest, known for its seasonal mushrooms, then through fields and villages with more and more of the peninsula opening up to you - you will be surprised by the variety of terrain, flora and fauna. At the end of the plateau, we will start a 3km descent into the Rasa Valley. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on the bank of the River Rasa, followed by a well deserved easy ride along the soft green river banks, with ample opportunities to gallop, and enjoy the fresh air in the traffic-free surroundings. By late afternoon we will reach the family hamlet of Gologoricki Dol, nestled in a lush ravine, far from the madding crowd. This will be our resting place for the night and this evening we shall enjoy a special meal, traditionally cooked in a ceramic pot (cripnja) under the glowing embers of an open fire. There is also a visit to the family wine cellar to taste home-produced wines. NOTE: accommodations at the farm is in rooms with double beds, and if any rider doesn’t wish to share, there is always an option of returning to Karnevali for overnight (25 minutes).
After breakfast, we ride through stunning views of the sprawling Istrian countryside, surrounded by vineyards. This will be a memorable day of riding across an undulating landscape, dotted with hilltop villages and lonely churches proudly fighting the forces of time. By lunchtime we shall reach the once fortified town of Beram where we will have a typical Istrian lunch in the local tavern and opportunity to visit the local church. In the late afternoon we shall reach Rafo’s ranch, which will offer rest for our horses, and a delicious local dinner for us, including a taste of truffles, typical to this region. This area differs completely from the entire surrounding karst region because of its wildlife and moist soil. The most common tree is the English or Brown Oak and it is under these trees, in the Motovun Forest that the rare and expensive fungus truffle is to be found. It grows underground and trained dogs or pigs are used to sniff out the pungent speciality. For overnight we return home to Karnevali (30 min drive).
This morning we shall take our horses on a homebound trip, traversing the charming countryside, alongside ancient stone walls, with rich red soil adding to the colour and a contrast to the karst rock formations. Country roads will bring us to the village of Tinjan, from where we shall take a forest route down and up the Lim Valley, before reaching our lunch stop at the Horse Club Sokol. After a rest and a picnic lunch we continue through fields and small vineyards. Riding along the slow and windy roads towards Karnevali will be a perfect time to reflect and feel at one with nature.
On our last day we shall have a leisurely morning ride, across the former border area between the Hapsburg and Venetian Empires, to the medieval town of Svetvinčenat. The Grimani Castle dominates the now peaceful town, which once would have been the first defensive point on the Venetian side of the border. It has a charming church which overlooks an elegant square where many events are held, such as a competition for the most beautiful goat! The castle also attracts some of the biggest names in Croatia to come and perform in this otherwise sleepy settlement. After a coffee break, return home along forest trails to the farm for lunch. This will be followed by an afternoon excursion to Rovinj, by car or by van. Rovinj is Istria’s most picturesque coastal town, better known as the St. Tropez of the Adriatic. Its old town has a distinct Venetian architectural influence. You will have a chance to visit the commanding church of St. Euphemia, offering marvellous views of the Rovinj archipelago and the western Istrian coastline. There will be time for exploring the town’s delightfully twisty streets, its attractive harbour, or weather permitting, having a swim in the clear Adriatic Sea.
Departure after breakfast. If riders have a late afternoon or evening flight, they will be transferred midmorning to Pula where they can leave the luggage in a secure storage (at a minimal cost) and enjoy the city until their flight time. Airport shuttle bus is available from the main bus station.
We can arrange transfers from/to Trieste for €250 per car round trip (up to 3 pax) or €350 per van round trip (up to 6 pax).
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses at the farm are specially trained for the trails and are well used to the terrain. They are kept outdoors for most of the year and are resistant to climatic conditions. They are well fed and in perfect condition. There are 8-10 horses available for riding and all are forward-going, safe and of mild temperament. They range from 14.3hh to 16.1hh. Riding pace is of a medium level (there are long periods of walking) and you will ride for an average of 4-7 hours a day. Two guides accompany the riders and both are well acquainted with the local area and trails. There is third party assistance with a vehicle if a situation ever arises when it is required.
The riding programme offered is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders, comfortable at all paces and with experience of riding in the open. A reasonable level of fitness is required to cope with long hours in the saddle and some walking. Riders should be able to mount/dismount unaided, however help is usually available if required. There is a minimum age of 12 for this ride and each child should be accompanied by an adult rider. Experience of riding over steep/rough terrain is not essential but would be an advantage. Riders who wish to participate in feeding, grooming and tacking up their horses are welcome to do so.
The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The programme is based at a small, family-run farm in the village of Karnevali. This is an ideal place to relax and switch off when not on horseback. The farm is built in the traditional Istrian style and has all modern amenities. There are four guestrooms, each with private bathroom facilities. Three rooms have twin beds and one room has three beds. All rooms are in the newly built building and have been completely furnished in 2015 in lovely colours and modern amenities. Views are to the garden or the green valley at the back of the house. They are all non-smoking rooms. Downstairs is a large common living room for guests with a kitchen, living/dining room area and an open fire, for use in cooler temperatures. Beside the building is a covered patio with barbecue where meals can be enjoyed outdoors. There is ample parking if guests arrive by car. A new addition in 2016 will be a swimming pool – perfect ending to those days in the saddle! The food and wine is traditional and locally produced. Many products are grown on the farm or supplied by neighbours. Home-reared chickens provide fresh eggs and there is a myriad of traditional Istrian dishes for guests to taste. The local food is wholesome and consists of thick home-made soups, meat stews and local varieties of pasta. Barbeques are also very popular, weather permitting. Locally made prosciutto and cheese are very common. Local drinks include red and white wine and a variety of strong drinks: grappa, walnut brandy and mistletoe liquor.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
The Istrian climate is overall very mild, the peninsula is surrounded by sea to the east, west and south and thus benefits from the warm Adriatic currents. Average daytime temperatures are generally from 20C in April to 30C in August. April showers can be common. There is little humidity as temperatures rise.
There will be opportunities to charge camera batteries at the farm.
We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your preferences. Due to the variable nature of the climate it is best to be prepared for all events.
• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384. Helmets are available at the stables if you do not have your own
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Fleece - for cooler weather
• Warm layers
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities
• Raincoat - it is always a good idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take insect repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding.
This is a 7 day / 7 night trail ride taking in the natural and cultural highlights of Istria, you will ride somewhere new each day. Groups are kept small to ensure quality of riding and personal attention to each guest.
2017: 22, 29 April; 13, 20 (FULL) May; 3 (FULL), 10, 17 (FULL) June; 9 (FULL), 16, 23 Sept; 8, 15 October.
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Istria has fascinating geology, flora and fauna. In a relatively small area (about 4000 km2) you pass from a rocky coastline through a strip of Mediterranean scrub and woodland and onwards to areas of low-intensity agriculture rich in wild flowers and farmland birds. One of the areas you ride through has rich moist soil which is perfect for truffles to grow in.
The farm is happy to welcome non-riders. Depending on their interests, they can arrange for a rental car or bike hire, or simply enjoy the beautiful countryside by walking and hiking.
Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, is located at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southern Europe, and the Mediterranean. The capital is Zagreb, and perhaps unsurprisingly this is also Croatia's largest city. The country is divided into 20 counties, plus the city of Zagreb. Croatia has an area of 56,594 square kilometres and its climate is a combination of continental and Mediterranean weather systems. Croatia's Adriatic Sea coast contains more than a thousand islands. It has a population 4.28 million, most of whom are Croats, with the most common religious denomination being Roman Catholicism. Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union 1 July 2013.