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.
The riding program offered is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders, comfortable in all paces and with experience of riding outdoors. A reasonable level of fitness is required. Emphasis is on the natural beauties of the Istrian hinterland, although several cultural/historical points are part of the itinerary.
Your guide Željko and his enthusiastic and skilled team have years of experience in horse riding and trail guiding. The ranch is currently home to around twenty well-kept horses and young stock, mainly Arab crosses, English full-blood crosses, draft crosses, local breeds and Appaloosa. We specialise in small groups of 4-6 riders to ensure quality riding and personal attention to each guest.
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.
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/rolls, ham, cheese and home-made preserves, we will go to the stables where a horse will be selected for you. Today is an easy riding day through open countryside, vineyards and olive groves. The first day’s riding will ensure that 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. After a picnic lunch we shall continue the
leisurely ride heading south. Along the way there are some amazing views of the peninsula, especially from a pilgrimage cross near village of Orihi, from where, 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 Hrboki, 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 (15 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.
Please note that the order of the itinerary may vary subject to local circumstances.
Prices & Terms
This is an 8 day / 7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates.
Departure Dates 2018
September 23. – 30.
Sep 30. – Oct 07.
October14. – 21.
Departure Dates 2019
April 21. – 28.
May 05. – 12.
May 19. – 26.
June 02. – 09.
June 09. – 16.
September 15. – 22.
September 22. – 29.
October 06. – 13.
October 13. – 20.
A single room can be booked for no extra supplement when available.
There is no single supplement, however single rooms are only available at the ranch, so if you are not willing to share you will be driven back to the ranch in Karnevali each night.
Number of days/nights
Please note: There are only single rooms available on the home ranch but you can either share the nights you are away from the ranch or be returned to the home ranch each night.
Price includes return transfer from/to Pula or a local point in the area (on request), 7 nights of accommodation based on shared double/twin room with private facilities, daily breakfast, daily picnic lunch, daily 3 course dinner with 1/2 litre table wine per person, entry fee into the caves, local visits and wine tasting as specified in the description, afternoon excursion to Rovinj by car and five and a half days of horse riding as described.
FOOD & ACCOMMODATION:
The programme is based from the small, family-run farm/ranch in the village of Karnevali. This is an ideal place to switch off and relax when not on horseback. The farm consists of several buildings around a courtyard, built in the traditional Istrian style (stone and red tiled roofs), and has modern amenities.
There are four guestrooms, each with private bathroom facilities. Three rooms have twin beds and one room has a double bed plus a single. All rooms are well kept and furnished in lovely colours, with solid rustic furniture and wooden floors. The bathrooms are spacious with either a large shower or a bathtub. There is central heating for the chilly mornings and evenings in early spring and autumn. Views are to the garden or the green valley at the back of the house. They are all non-smoking rooms. The rooms are in a separate building to the main house and the building has been arranged into a u-shape around a small courtyard. On one side of the building there is a common room for guests with a kitchen, living/dining room 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 is a swimming pool – perfect ending to those days in the saddle!
The food and wine offered is traditional and locally produced to leave a lasting impression of the local countryside. All food served is freshly made using local ingredients – no frozen supplies! 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 ana 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 at the stables – to enjoy the company of the horses in the evening.
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.
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).
Horses & Riding
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 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.
We kindly ask you to fill out the reservation form with requested details to get an offer with a booking option.