Discover the lush green landscapes of north-western Croatia on horseback on this point to point trail. With forward-going and well-mannered horses this holiday is a perfect escape for riders looking for a re-vitalising holiday. Istria, close to the borders of Italy and Slovenia, 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.
Accommodation is in comfortable twin or single rooms with shared bathroom on some nights. This riding holiday is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders who are confident at all paces on horseback.
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 RH of London on 16/09/2019
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. Settle into your accommodations in the small village of Hrboki, which is 25km from Pula.
After a traditional breakfast of fresh bread/rolls, ham, cheese and home-made preserves, we will go to the ranch where a horse will be selected for you. Today is an easy riding day through open countryside. The first day’s riding will ensure that you are suited and happy with your mount. The first stop is picnic lunch near the village Orihi. Lunch is served in a picnic area near the pilgrimage cross from where, on a clear day, sea can be seen both east and west. Next stop will be at the small but fascinating caves of Feštinsko Kraljevstvo, which 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. We shall continue the leisurely ride heading closer to the central Istra. Each season’s colours contribute to an ever-changing landscape. 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 Karnevali prepare the horses for their rest and leave them for the night. Drive back to dinner and accommodation in the village Hrboki.
This morning after a good night rest and a delicious homemade breakfast, we head to prepare the horses for the next exciting day. We shall traverse central Istra - 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 ruins of the ancient town of Dvigrad. Dvigrad is situated in Limska Draga, in a deep valley spreading from Limska Draga Fjord to Pazin. We will ride through a part of Draga so you will get the feeling of the area. The ruins are located at an altitude between 150 and 175 meters above the sea level and it is quite exciting to roam its old paths and enjoy some beautiful views. The town is enclosed with double defence walls within which more than 200 buildings have been preserved. Entering the ruins, we will pass the existing town gate. The other gate, built in the second fortification ring, stands further down the path. Along the big watchtower on the towns south side, the path leads to the third and final gate, behind which town centre lies. The ruins of the medieval town Dvigrad are the important cultural heritage of the Kanfanar municipality. The name ˝Dvigrad˝ (Duo Castra, Due Castelli, Dvegrad) indicates the existence of two parts of the town (Moncastel and Parentin) that have been mentioned since 9th and 10th century as a unique town. Thanks to its remarkable strategic location near water and plenty of fertile ground, this area has been inhabited since the prehistoric period, and by the end of 6th century the first Slavic communities started to settle there. As it happens with mystical ruins a lot of legends and tales are living here… one of the most told is the one about the pirate Henry Morgan and his hidden treasure in Dvigrad.
After a rest, walk through the ruins of this medieval town and a picnic lunch we continue through fields of the valley Draga that used to be covered with the sea. This is usually a nice place to feel a faster pace and a chance for some canters and sometimes even gallop (depending on the condition of the path influenced by weather conditions). Riding along the winding roads we can enjoy the nature as we pass the valley and start to climb in a direction of Karojba .This day we shall finish at the Rafo Ranch near Karojba where the horses are going to spent their night and from where we are going to a tipical ‘’konoba’’ – tavern for a traditional dinner with high quality truffles picked from the Motovun woods. Owner of the Rafo ranch 8 is also a knowledgeable dog trainer for dogs that seek truffles so you are sure that the mushrooms you will have for dinner are locally picked. After dinner we shall head to your accommodation for the night.
In the morning, breakfast at the appartments and drive to the horses at the ranch. Saddling up and heading to explore more of the beautiful Istra. This day will bring us magnificent views of the biggest acropolis type town in Istra – Motovun. The ride to Motovun is an exciting opportunity to also see and ride part of Parenzana the old Istrian railroad that is now out of function. Parenzana was a narrow-gauge railway, operating in the northwestern Istria between 1902 and 1935 and connecting the ports of Trieste and Poreč with villages and towns in the interior of the peninsula. Once a main vessel of economic growth in Istra now interesting touristic attraction that lures hikers, cyclists and riders to travel its narrow winding paths, tunnels and bridges on a quest to see all the diversity one place has to offer. Motovun is a monument of history, an ancient Istrian acropolis situated on a 277m high hill overlooking Mirna river, Livade and woods rich with truffles. It’s current looks date back to middle ages. Top of the hill is represented in Venetian style town square and the longest Istrian staircase with 1052 stairs will lead you there. The name of the village is also of Celtic origin, derived from word Montona, that means "a town in the hills" as the location of the town was also the location od Celtic and Illyrian villages. According to scientific research, this town owes a lot to its position at the crossroads of Earth’s energy meridians, or the so called “Dragon’s lines”. These meridians carry positive life force through the landscape, and in the place where these lines cross, like in Motovun, there is a string source of positive energy, a sort of spiracle of the Earth. Such energy surge has a relaxing and calming effect 10 on people, it increases concentration and spirituality, rests and relaxes develops creativity and tolerance. Maybe that’s the cause for many gatherings and creative assemblies of people from all around the world that take place in Motovun.
We ride in the foothill of Motovun trough vineyards and fields just to come to the Mirna river that leads us upstream to the Butoniga lake. Here we shall have picnic lunch and, after a short rest, start to climb uphill. The path takes us along the lake through the woods and small villages. This day is indeed full of beautiful sight seeing points and opportunities to take home unique photographs of the everchanging scenery. As the ride is coming to an 11 end and as we are closer to our destination for the day, we reach top of the peak with more breath-taking views. Here we can also overview part of the trail we just covered. Reaching the small waterfall and a cave underneath, we find paddocks for our horses. Untack them and prepare them for the night. A short walk to the small cave and waterfall at Grdoselski potok. Water level here is very dependent on the quantity of rain so we can never predict creek’s appearance but both experiences are equally interesting. Drive to the dinner and accommodation.
After breakfast, we start our journey again. This day we like to call a panoramic day. Yesterday we left red Istra and entered grey Istra. From beginning of the day to the end of the day, we promise, you will admire many more magnificent views. It is a chance to rest in the saddle and take some beautiful photos from the saddle. Saddling up our horses and heading to Gracisce..Clay is visible in the little streams, surroundings are spotted with dune like forms that give this area mystical appearance. When we almost reach town of Gracisce more precisely when we reach Peruncevac -a peak named after the highest Slavic god, the path will start to lead us downhill and we start our descend to villages of Slap Sopot. Gracisce - The name comes from more than two thousand years ago from the Galls and in original was Gallignana. The town grew on the land of old Slavic place dedicated to god Perun that was the ruler of the thunder, sky, lightning, storms, rain, law, fertility and oak trees and was considered the highest of gods. Interesting enough this little town, later in the years, got quite a number of churches and chapels and was organised in districts that had it’s own square with a church. The first thing you notice in this town that it is pawed with stone and everywhere you look the main thing you notice is architecture from beautifully crafted stone. Gračišće lays on a bluff overlooking Čepič field that was a former lake, and now a very fertile soil. From here you can see mount Učka, Dolomites and Julian Apls. It is also famous for its wine tasting manifestations when the whole town is open to public wanting to taste various kinds of wine. During these days it is a tradition that on the entrance you receive your glass with which you can enter small cellars and wineries in the city and taste the wine. If time permits, we will take a short tour of Gracisce before or after a ride. 14 When we reach Runki, a village near Sopot waterfall, we leave our horses in the paddock, prepare them for the night and head for dinner and accommodation.
Breakfast and a drive to the horses. Depending on the river (water level) we either go to see Sopot waterfall by foot before saddling up or saddle up and see the waterfall from the horse. Today we head to the white Istra. Once again, we have opportunity to witness stunning scenery but this time in Raša valley where we will follow Raša river riding its banks to the sea. We have the opportunity to notice changes in the nature’s flora and fauna as we are closer to the valley. Halfway to the sea we will have picnic lunch and before and after we will have nice opportunity to let our horses canter and gallop on the soft flat ground and take us downstream in the direction of the sea. In this part of the Istra, not only flora is different, but also history. We are in a part that built its industry around mines and with a youngest town in Istra, famous for its typical architecture, Raša. Raša town is built 1937. in exactly 547 days as part of the Mussolini project of 12 foundational industrial cities. It is built around a mine and architecturally designed to accommodate workers and their families. Now, Raša is a sleeping town that started deteriorating when last mine in Labin was closed. Unlike Raša, Labin, a town on a steep hill over Raša, has its historical parts and gives us two polarities and a mixture of old and new. Reaching last part of today’s adventure, we ride past the seashore and follow the banks all grown into high wild grasses that like mixture of fresh and sea water. We enter the woods, typical for white part of Istra, full of Brsuda, a native oak. The path we ride on is an old road that natives from the villages on the hills used to go to work into the mines or to go for the fresh water from the springs. The road is steep and narrow, and it is hard to imagine that this road was used by carriages pulled by boskarin (typical Istrian cow). Reaching altitude woods became scarcer, wind is hard on flora here. Hrboki are near and after leaving the horses at the ranch there is time to freshen up and head for dinner.
On our last riding day, we shall have a leisurely morning ride to the bay Blaz. The path will take us through the small meadows and paths through woods, small vineyards and olive oil trees. Descent to the bay gives opportunity for some more great views but this time of the sea. Picnic lunch is by the sea. If we are lucky and the weather is nice, we can take a swim with our horses (only in summer months!!!). Coming to the beach we will pass the ruins of the old Mills and springs that flow into the bay. This point was the main source of fresh water for all villages in surroundings. Going back to the ranch, when you notice the rich pines, don’t forget to notice their magnificent smell. After the arrival in the village we will have BBQ dinner in the garden and a chance to go through the experiences from the last days.
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. There are four generations of horses, 17 in total and all were born and raised on the ranch. The horses were bred by careful crossing of high-quality stallions and mares. 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. Riding pace is of medium level (there are long periods of walking but also nice opportunities for long canters).
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 16 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 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is based in a way that riders don’t have to travel far from where the horses are staying so they can enjoy and relax in their rooms or explore surroundings after a long day in the saddle. Accommodation is selected carefully so that all needs are met. Most of the rooms are rustically decorated and have a scense of old times but with the luxury of the modern days. All rooms have private bathrooms with shower.
First and the last two nights accommodation is in apartments in Hrboki. This is an ideal place to switch off and relax when not on horseback. The yard consists of several buildings around a courtyard garden, a traditional style tavern with built in fire place, and a roofed patio dinning place with BBQ amenities built. There are three fully equipped apartments with double bed plus a single. The bathrooms are spacious and have showers. There is heating for chilly mornings and nights in early spring and autumn. Apartments are situated in the centre of the Hrboki village but positioned nicelyso you have a feeling that you are in your own little world with nobody around. Karnevali will also give you an opportunity to take a swim in the pool and unwind after a first day of riding. Rooms are spacious carefully decorated with private bathrooms (with shower or tub). There is a large common living room with built in fire place if the days get cold. All rooms have heating also.
Accommodation in Karojba is in rooms at a newly built small family run hotel surrounded by nature and bird song. All rooms have private bathrooms with showers and possibility of heating.
All rustic experience is awaiting you in Kolinasi, a small hamlet with only few houses where you will also have comfortable rooms with private bathrooms for the night. Gračišće will wait for you with stylishly decorated rooms and a touch of old times in a stone house at a centre of the town. Rooms also have heating and private bathrooms.
The food, wine and grappa offered is traditional and locally produced to leave a lasting impression of the local countryside. All food served is freshly made using local ingredients. Many products are grown on the farm, or supplied by the neighbours. Home-reared chickens provide fresh eggs and there is a myriad of Istrian traditional dishes for guests to taste. Although Istrians are known as big meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans are also catered for.
The local food is wholesome and often consists of home-made thick soups (based on a variety of beans, herbs and potatoes), thin soups, meat stews (wild boar, beef, venison, rabbit, chicken) served with local varieties of pasta. Barbecues are also very popular and weather permitting, an evening is planned with an outdoor bbq dinner.
Of course, like the rest of Croatian coastline, locally made prsut (prosciutto) and cheese are very common. Istrian prsut has special international recognition and is now a regional trademark. Local drinks include red and white wine, and a variety of strong drinks: grappa, walnut brandy, biska (mistletoe liquor), etc.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request. General information: British citizens and EU passport holders do not need a visa to visit Croatia but British citizens must be in possession of a valid passport. The maximum length of stay is 90 days. The address for the British Embassy in Croatia is: Ivana Lučića 4, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia. The phone number is +385 (1) 6009 100.
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.
The power outlets in Croatia are 220V/50Hz. A 2 pronged European plug is required. Mobile phone reception and internet access are available at the farm. Sockets are available for charging phones and cameras.
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 an 8 day / 7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates.
2021: May 2, 16, 23 (FULL); Jun 6; Sept 5, 18, 26 (FULL); Oct 10.
Saturday arrivals available, please enquire.
2022: May 1, 15, 22; Jun 5; Sept 4, 11, 25; Oct 2, 16.
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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.
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.
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.