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, Zeljko, 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.
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 ME of London on 26/11/2018
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 ensurethat you are suited and happy with your mount. The first stop, mid to late morning, 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. A complimentary Medica (honey-flavoured grappa) will help to enhance the illusions and treasures that this underground little world has to offer. We shall continue the leisurely ride heading closer to the central Istra. Along the way there are some amazing views of the peninsula, especially from a pilgrimage cross near village of Orihi, where we also stop for picnic lunch. Here, on a clear day, sea can be seen both east and west. 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, where we shall have a well-deserved evening meal and accommodation with a possibility to use the swimming pool for the ones that wish to relax in the pool before bed.
This morning after a good night rest and a delicious home made breakfast 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. After a rest, walk trough the ruins of this medieval town and a picnic lunch we continue through fields of the valley that used to be covered with the sea. Riding along the slow and windy roads towards Karojba we can enjoy the nature as we pass the valley and start to climb to Tinjan.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 (5 min drive) a tipical ‘’konoba’’ – tavern for a traditional dinner with high quality truffles picked fromthe Motovun woods. Owner of the Rafo ranch 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.Afer dinner we shall head to your accommodation for the night at Cassa Rossa (or similar) which is approximately 5 min drive from Konoba.
In the morning, breakfast at the hotel 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. Motovun is a monument of history situated on a 277m high hill overlooking Mirna river, Livade and woods rich with truffles. We ride in the foothill of Motovun 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 trough vineyards, fields and small villages. This day is indeed full of beautiful sight seeing points and opportunities to take home unique photographs of the ever changing scenery. As the ride is coming to an end and as we are closer to our destination for the day we reach top of the peak and start our descent to the small village of Kotli famous for the old stone mill on a river. Reaching Kotli and passing a bridge we shall see if we have luck to see a rushing water beneath us or the stony river bed with small falls and characteristic ‘’kotli’’ meaning holes in the stones that water crafted into small pools great for summer enjoyment in natures little Jacuzzis. Water level here is very dependant on the quantity of rain so we can never predict river’s appearance but both experiences are equally interesting.
Horses are going to have their well deserved rest as we drive (5 min drive) to refreshing dinner at a local tavern in Kolinasi, again, made with locally produced ingredients accompanied with vine and famous mistletoe grappa, medica or any other nice grappa with medicinal herbs or fruit of your choosing. You will also have the privilege to taste ‘’kroštule’’, sweet pastry made from an old recipe handed out from generation to generation and sleep in nearby rustically decorated appartments.
After breakfast, we start our journey again. Yesterday we left red Istra and entered gray Istra. Clay is visible in the little streams, surroundings are spotted with dune like forms that give this area mystical appearance. We are close to town Roč with it’s five towers that is situated on the foothills of the mountain, famous for the traditional instrument Triestina, a type of an accordion. Biggest town near us is Buzet whose history is dated from prehistoric times and is also an acropolis type town. Riding, heading to Draguć we shall ride trough a part of the Glagolitic Alley, a 7km long monumental road leading form Roč to Hum that has 10 monuments dedicated to the Glagolitic alphabet. On the end of the path there is Hum – with the title of the smallest city in the world and a rich history dating from 11th century onwards.
Now we are starting to head back to the starting point of our journey but we still have lots of exciting places to ride trough and things to see. On our way to Gračišće we ride past Draguć. This little town, literally in the middle of nowhere, half way from Buzet to Pazin will take your breath away. Known under the nick name of Istrian Hollywod, because of the numerous film projects that were filmed here. Draguć overlooks beautiful valleys, woods, from there you can see lake Butoniga and part of the path that we rode the day before from Motovun tracing Mirna river and on our way to Kotli giving you a different perspective on the riding trail. Here we have to mention that Draguć is not only Hollywood beauty but town of exceptional historical importance with it’s churches, frescos, chapel and a stone houses. Picnic lunch break will give you time to take a breath and admire the untouched nature with a view on the little hamlets, churches and villages on the small peaks in the distance. Off to Gračišće trough beatifull vineyards we shall find a paddock for the horses and head for the wine tasting at the winery Bažon is again one of the great opportunities to taste the high quality products that are made from the grapes of the vineyards we rode trough. wine is also accompanied with home made prosciutto and cheese.
Later we will head to Gračišće for dinner in a tavern and accommodation in beautiful rustically decorated rooms at the centre of this small town. This little town 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. Our suggestion is that you take a stroll trough the town before finallygoing to your accommodation for the night.
Today we head to the white Istra. Once again we have opportunity to witness stunning views before starting our descent heading to Raša valley where we will follow Raša river riding it’s banks to the sea. We shall dismount at the beginning of the descent and walk approximately for one kilometre before we ride again.Off course we will be surrounded with beautiful nature and pass some more historical little towns like Pićan that has architecture from 14th century. We have the opportunity to notice changes in the nature’s flora and fauna as we descend more and more to the Raša valley. When we reach the banks of the river and have picnic we will have nice opportunity to let our horses canter on the soft flatground and take us downstream in the directon of the sea. In this part of the Istra, not only flora is different, also we are in a part that built it’s industry around mines and with a youngest town in Istra. Famous for it’s typical architecture Raša town. Raša 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. Today our stop is at the paddock near the river where we shall leave our horses and take a car (15 min drive) to Hrboki for dinner and accommodation.
On our last riding day, we shall have a leisurely morning ride, and finally reach the sea. The path will take us trough the rich fields of ecologically grown alfalfa crops, small canals full of fish, frogs and wild ducks to the sea shore. Here we shall witness Raša river fusing its power with the sea. We shall ride near the sea and follow the costal lines just to enter the woods to reach the path that will lead us uphill trough narrow passages in the woods. This path was used to be a main road for the villagers to go with their cattle, goats, sheep donkeys to their meadows and access the fresh spring water. It is hard to believe that the thick forest once was a place for pasture and meadow for hay. Steep and, on horseback, inaccessible part of the shore we have to leave behind us to head for the highlight of the day – a beach where we are going to have the opportunity to swim with the horses (weather permitting). Heading up we pass close to Barban, a small town known for the Race of the Ring. This ancient tradition is cherished to this day and it is a great honour to be able to ride the race. Before we finally see the sea again when we reach Hrboki we will stop for a rest and lunch. After lunch, rested, we are back on our mounts heading to the Bay Blaz where, if we are lucky and the weather is nice, can take a swim with our horses. Going back, 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 trough 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 14 st/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.
2019: 21 Apr; 5, 19 May; 2, 9 Jun; 15, 22 Sept; 6, 13 Oct
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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.