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Magic of Istria

Overview

Located in the north-west of Croatia, this friendly, family-run riding establishment is the ideal place from which to experience the charming Istrian countryside on horseback. Istria is a large peninsula shared by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy and is considered the largest green oasis in the Northern…

Highlights

  • Welcoming Croatian hospitality
  • Well trained trail horses
  • Small groups of riders
  • Impressive landscapes offering varied riding terrain
  • Traditional comfortable accommodation

Essential Facts

  • 2 itineraries available
  • Max 6 riders per group
  • Average of 5 - 6 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 85kg / 187 lbs / 13 stone 5lbs

Description

Located in the north-west of Croatia, this friendly, family-run riding establishment is the ideal place from which to experience the charming Istrian countryside on horseback. Istria is a large peninsula shared by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy and is considered the largest green oasis in the Northern Adriatic. The region features a wonderland of impressive landscapes which offer varied riding terrain and the locals are known for being warm-hearted and welcoming, so you can expect to see many smiling faces! This is a beautiful land rich in history, dotted with Roman ruins, picturesque villages and hill-top towns, whilst the mild Mediterranean climate means warm, dry summers and mild, pleasant winters. The emphasis here is on exploring the area's natural beauties but cultural and historical points of interest are incorporated into the rides.

Your guides, Zeljko & Vanja, are experienced local horse-people with a herd of around fifteen horses to offer guests. The horses are a mixture of breeds and are specifically trained for the trails.

The ranch specialises in catering to small groups in order to ensure a quality riding experience and personal attention to each guest. During the rides you will journey across lush meadows and plateaus, exploring vineyards, olive groves and hidden valleys. The Istrian coast is veiled in enchanting pine woods whilst clear streams meander their way through mountain peaks to the crystal waters of the Adriatic Sea. It's no wonder that the Italians call Istria 'Terra Magica'.

If you're looking to ride in unspoilt, quiet countryside and enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, this destination could be the one for you. The accommodation is extremely comfortable and you will be well fed, enjoying the typical food and wine of the region. Far and Ride staff have been and sampled the incredible hospitality, not to mention the riding (of course!), and it comes highly recommended. We can also arrange self-catering accommodation if you wish to continue your holiday in this magical area!

Horses & Riding

Tack

English and Trail saddles. Saddle bags provided.

Horses

Arab crosses, English full blood crosses, draft crosses, local breeds and Appaloosa.

Riding

There are 2 itineraries:

  • 100 Miles of Istria is a trail ride
  • Istrian Short Break (4 Nights) is a based ride

Ages

18+ years

Health

Fit, healthy and able to withstand long hours in the saddle.

Weight

85kg / 187 lbs / 13 stone 5lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

Food plays an important part in Istrian culture and you can rest assured that you will be well-fed with wholesome, tasty ingredients. Meals here are traditionally made and created using local produce so as to leave you with a lasting impression of the region's countryside. The food is fresh and many products are grown on the farm or provided by the neighbours, such as fresh eggs. Despite Istrians being keen meat eaters, vegetarians can be taken care of for with prior notice. 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. Locally made prsut (proscuitto) and cheese are very common. Local drinks include red and white wine and a variety of strong drinks, grappa, walnut brandy and biska (mistletoe liquor).

The meals are generally as follows:
Breakfast: fresh bread/rolls, ham, cheese, jam, eggs on request, seasonal fruit, tea and coffee.
Lunch: generally a picnic lunch of fresh sandwiches or perhaps a light snack in a local tavern, with water and homemade iced tea included.
Dinner: usually a hearty affair consisting of local specialties - the BBQ and the truffle dinner are particularly good! Some table wine is included.

Accommodation

Accommodation varies during the week but most rooms are decorated in a traditional, rustic style but with more modern conveniences. All rooms have private bathrooms with showers and can be heated if necessary.

The first and last two nights are spent in apartments in Hrboki - there are three fully equipped apartments with double beds, plus a single. The rooms are spacious and heated. There is a courtyard garden, traditional style tavern with fireplace and a roofed patio dining area with BBQ facilities. The apartments are in the centre of Hrboki village but feel quite remote.

When in Karnevali you will stay in carefully decorated rooms with private bathrooms (with shower or bathtub). There is a swimming pool and a large living room with fireplace. Bedrooms are heated. Accommodation in Karojba is in rooms in a new, small, family-run hotel surrounded by nature. All rooms have private bathrooms with showers and can be heated. Kolinasi offers a rustic experience and you will sleep in a small hamlet with only a few houses. These are comfortable rooms with private bathrooms. Grasisce has more stylish rooms but with a touch of old times - you stay in a stone house in the centre of town. Rooms also have heating and private bathrooms.

Itineraries

100 Miles of Istria Standard accommodation.

Istrian Short Break (4 Nights) Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

This beautiful area offers an idyllic setting for hiking and biking around the local area. If relaxation is your preference then you can take it easy around the farm or take part in farm activities (depending on the season).
If you are interested in hunting (game or birds) then excursions can be arranged and you can maybe even catch your own dinner, depending on the season.

Travel

We highly recommend flights to Pula where airport transfers are included.

If you are flying to Trieste we would like to encourage guests to hire a car and we will provide direction assistance. Trieste airport transfers can be arranged at an additional cost, payable locally.

Testimonials

Jillian, Feb. 18, 2020

Had a lovely time and was very well looked after fro start to finish. Lovely accommodation, great horse, brilliant hospitality and fabulous food.


Debbie, Oct. 30, 2019

Lots of laughs & great scenery. Lovely food, really like that a lot of it was local and home cooked.


Martin W., May 14, 2019

Exactly as described on website and as described by Holly. Excellent forward going but responsive horses, beautiful countryside, very welcoming and knowledgeable guide, delicious food and excellent accommodation. Favourite memory - cantering along the side of the river, riding through wild flower meadows and forests. Beautiful mountain scenery and villages. Guide - a very personable, knowledgeable person who couldn't do enough for us. Always checking if everything was as good as could be. Great sense of humour. Very high standard of accommodation - plenty of home grown food and home made wine. Rooms were all clean and comfortable.


Freya & Francesca, Jan. 25, 2019

Very relaxed with an excellent variety of terrain and scenery as well as lots of opportunities for long canters and gallops. The horses were very enthusiastic and responsive yet brilliantly sure-footed and lovely natured. All accommodation was excellent, the majority of the food was good with exception of a couple of meals. Very happy with the horses who were all a pleasure although some of the tack, especially the saddles were quite aged and would benefit from upgrading. Vanja was very friendly and welcoming. Zeljko was quieter but a good guide none the less.


Rebecca C., May 17, 2016

Absolutely superb. Lovely horses, excellent food and beautiful surroundings.


Debra L., Dec. 3, 2014

I found the holiday to be a total and utter joy: it was my first taste of a real riding holiday and I am hooked! Overall I would describe the holiday as hot, scenic, fun, varied and the best holiday I have had in my life so far.


Mirren K., Dec. 3, 2014

This was an excellent first riding holiday - lovely place, people and horses.


Christine W., Oct. 27, 2014

I LOVED IT! Very well organised from start to finish. Fantastic trail and lovely horses - the ride description of forward-going but safe is a perfect way to describe these beautiful and sensitive horses. Totally fell in love. The trail itself was very varied terrain but more importantly in the full five days of the trail I reckon 10 cars passed us the whole time. Quiet and safe roads, tracks and open grassland - a perfect destination for a city girl! Excellent accommodation and the food was very tasty and plentiful. Slept like a log which for me isn't normal! All of the horses were very well trained, alert and yes, forward-going. I rode Andalucia and I still can't look at her photo without my bottom lip twitching! I hope that the staff never lose their genuine enjoyment of running the trails. This is not just a business, it is personal and they get so much from those around them, as we did from them.


Hilary T., Sept. 15, 2011

We all had a fantastic time, really enjoyed the riding week. We have been going on these riding breaks for several years now, and think we can honestly say this was the best so far. Accommodation was excellent, food was delicious, and riding and horses were wonderful. I think what we enjoyed most, and what made it different from other holidays we have had is partly the family run business, all worked really hard to make our holiday a success, and also the riding really showed us that area of Croatia, including visiting historical sites and lovely hilltop towns. We are seriously considering going back next year!!


Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1 - Arrival:

Riding: No riding.

After arrival at the airport you will be met and transferred to the ranch. You will settle into your accommodations in the small village of Hrboki, approximately 25km from Pula. Dinner is served with the group and you will have a chance to meet your fellow riders and hosts and to hear the riding plan for the week.

Day 2 - Introductory Ride and Cave Visit:

Riding: 4 hours

After a traditional breakfast of fresh bread, ham, cheese and homemade preserves you will head to the ranch where you will be allocated a suitable horse. Today is an easy riding day through open countryside, a chance to check that you are suited to and happy with your mount.

The first stop today is for your picnic lunch near the village of Orihi, served near the pilgrimage cross from where, on a clear day, you can see the sea both east and west. Your next stop is at the small but fascinating caves at Festinsko Kraljevstvo. These were discovered by accident in the 1930's, lying beneath a vineyard, and are now open to the public for viewing. A 20 minute visit (entrance fee included) in this 'Kingdom of Festini' is a chance to see how the foundations of the Istrian Peninsula were formed.

You'll continue your leisurely ride heading further into central Istria with each season's colours contributing to an ever-changing landscape. Although more and more visitors come to explore the Istrian hinterland, it remains a fairly unique pleasure to meander along the rural back roads. By late afternoon you will arrive to a horse ranch in the village of Karnevali where you'll prepare the horses for their rest and leave them for the night. You'll drive back to dinner and accommodation in the village of Hrboki.

Day 3 - Ancient Town of Dvigrad, Nice Canters, Truffle Dinner:

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

This morning after a good rest and a delicious homemade breakfast you will head to prepare the horses for the next exciting day. You will traverse central Istria, exploring its charming countryside along ancient stone walls, the rich red soil adding to the colour and offering contrast to the karst rock formations.

Country roads lead you to the ruins of the ancient town of Dvigrad. Dvigrad is situated in Limska Draga in a deep valley which stretches from the fjord to Pazin. You will ride through part of Draga and will have a chance to get a feeling for the area. The ruins are located at an altitude of around 150 - 175m above sea level and it's exciting to roam these old paths, enjoying some of the beautiful views. The down is enclosed with double defensive walls, within which more than 200 buildings have been preserved. On entering the ruins you will pass the existing town gate, whilst the other gate, build into the second fortification ring, stands further down the path. The path leads to the third and final gate, alongside the big watchtower on the south side of the town, and behind that is where the town centre lies.

The ruins of the medieval town are an important part of the cultural heritage of this municipality, Kanfanar. The name 'Dvigrad' (Duo Castra, Due Castelli, Dvegrad) indicates the existence of two parts within the town (Moncastel and Parentin) which have been mentioned since the 9th and 10th centuries. The area has actually been inhabited since the prehistoric period, due to its remarkable strategic location with water and fertile ground, and was settled upon by Slavic communities late in the 6th century. As it happens with these mystical sorts of places, there are a lot of legends and tales based here. One of the most commonly told is about the pirate Henry Morgan and his hidden treasure!

After a rest you can walk through the ruins of this medieval town and enjoy a picnic lunch. Then it's time to mount up again and ride through the fields of the valley of Draga which was once covered by the sea. This is usually a good place to feel a faster pace with a chance for some canters and sometimes even a good gallop (depending on the ground conditions).

Riding along winding roads you can enjoy the surrounding nature as you pass the valley and start to climb towards Karojba. Today your ride finishes at Rafo Ranch near Karojba where the horses will spend the night. From here it is a short drive to a typical 'konoba' (tavern) for a traditional dinner with high quality truffles picked from the Motovun woods. The owner of Rafo Ranch is a knowledgeable trainer of truffle-hunting dogs so you can rest assured that the mushrooms you eat for dinner have been locally picked. After dinner you will head to your accommodation for the night.

Day 4 - Parenzana, Motovun, Long Canters along Mirna River, Lake Butoniga and a Waterfall:

Riding: 5 hours

After breakfast at the apartments you will be driven to the horses at the ranch. You'll saddle up and head off for the day to explore more of the beautiful Istria region - today brings magnificent views of the biggest acropolis town in the region, Motovun. The ride to Motovun is also an exciting opportunity to see and ride parts of Parezana, the old Istrian railroad which is no longer in use.

Parenzana was a narrow-gauge railway which operated in the northwestern part of Istria between 1902 and 1935, connecting the ports of Trieste and Poreč with villages and towns in the interior of the peninsula. What was once a main source of economic growth for Istria is now an interesting tourist attraction, tempting hikers, cyclists and riders to come and travel its narrow winding paths, tunnels and bridges on a quest to see all the diversity the region has to offer.

Motovun is truly a historical destination, situated on a hill at 277m overlooking the Mirna river, the village of Livade and woods rich with truffles. It maintains its look from the middle ages. The top of the hill is represented by a Venetian-style town square and the longest Istrian staircase - 1052 stairs will lead you there. The name of the village is also of Celtic origin and is derived from the word 'Montona' meaning "a town in the hills", as the location of the town was also the place of Celtic and Illyrian villages.

According to scientific research, this town owes a lot to its position at the crossroads of the Earth's energy meridians or the so-called 'Dragon's Lines'. These meridians carry positive life force throughout the landscape and, on the place where these lines cross (like in Motovun) there is a string of positive energy, a sort of spiracle of the Earth. This energy surge is said to have a relaxing and calming effort on people, increasing concentration and spirituality, resting and relaxing people and developing creativity and tolerance. Maybe that is the reason for the many gatherings and creative assembles of people from all around the world which take place here.

You will ride in the foothills of Motovun, through vineyards and fields, to reach the Mirna river which will lead you to Butoniga lake. This is your picnic spot for today and after a lunch and a short rest you will start to climb uphill.

The path this afternoon leads you through vineyards, fields and small villages. The day is full of beautiful sightseeing points and great photo opportunities. As the day's ride is coming to an end and you are getting closer to your destination, you will reach the top of the peak to enjoy some breathtaking views. From here you can also look back over part of the trail that you have covered so far. You will ride on to reach a small waterfall with a cave underneath, finding your paddocks for the horses nearby. After untacking them and preparing them for the night, it is a short walk back to the cave and waterfall of Grdoselski potok. The water level here is very dependent on rainfall so your hosts can never predict how it will appear, but it's always interesting.

From here you'll be driven on to dinner and your accommodation for the night.

Day 5 - Panoramic Views, Peruncevac, Gračišće, Sopot Waterfall:

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

After breakfast you'll start your journey again - today is a 'panoramic day'. Yesterday you left red Istria and entered grey Istria. From the beginning of the day to the end your hosts promise that you will admire many more magnificent views. It is a chance to sit and take some beautiful photos from the saddle (to add to the selfies some of you likely took the day before whilst galloping!).

After saddling up you will head to Gračišće. The clay which gives the land its colour is visible in the little streams and the surroundings are spotted with dune like forms that give this area its mystical appearance. When you have almost reached the town, or rather almost reached Peruncevac (a peak named after the highest Slavic god), the path will start to head downhill and you will descend to the villages of Slap Sopot.

The name 'Gračišće' originated more than two thousand years ago, coming from the Galls, and originally it was Gallignana. The town was built up on the land of an ancient Slavic place, dedicated to the god Perun, ruler of thunder, sky, lightning, storms, rain, law, fertility and oak trees and considered the highest of the gods. Later on this little town actually grew to have quite a number of churches and chapels, being organised into separate districts which each had their own square and church.

The first thing to notice about the town is that it is paved with stone. Everywhere you look, the main thing you notice is the architecture and beautiful stone craftsmanship. Gračišće lays on a bluff, overlooking Čepič fields, a former lake which now offers very fertile soil. From here you can see mount Učka, the Dolomites and the Julian Alps. This area is famous for its wine-tasting celebrations when the whole town is open to the public wanting to try various kinds of local wine. During those times it is a tradition that at the entrance you receive your glass with which you can enter small cellars and wineries in the city, tasting the wine as you go. If time permits, you will take a short tour of Gračišće.

When you reach Runki, a village near to Sopot waterfall, you will leave your horses in the paddock, prepare them for the night and head for dinner and accommodation.

Day 6 - Galloping, River Rasa to the Sea and the Path to the Finish:

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

After breakfast you'll be driven back to the horses. Depending on the water level of the river you will either go to see Sopot waterfall by food or perhaps from horseback after saddling up. Today you head into white Istria. You can enjoy more scenic views as you descend into Raša valley, where you will follow Raša River and ride along its banks to the sea. You'll notice changes in the nature's flora and fauna as you get closer to the valley.

Halfway to the sea you'll have a picnic lunch, with great opportunities to canter and gallop on soft, flat ground before and after, making your way downstream. This region of Istria built its industry around mining and is home to the youngest Istrian town, Raša, which was built in 1937. It took 547 days to build as part of Mussolini's project to create 12 foundation industrial cities. Whilst it is built around a mine and architecturally designed to accommodate workers and their families, it is now a sleeping town which started to deteriorate when the last mine in Labin was closed. By contrast, Labin itself has many historical parts and offers you a contrast between its old buildings and the new structures of Raša.

On the last part of today's adventure you will read by the seashore, following the banks which have all grown into high wild grasses that like a mixture of fresh and sea water. You'll enter the woods which are typical for the white part of Istria, full of Brsuda which is a native oak. The path you ride on is an old road that natives from the hilltop villages used to use to go to work in the mines or to collect fresh water from the springs. The path is steep and narrow and it's hard to imagine that this road was used by carriages pulled by boskarin, a typical Istrian cow. As you reach a higher altitude the woods become scarcer since the wind here is hard on flora.

Hrboki is nearby and after leaving your horses back at the ranch there is time to freshen up before dinner.

Day 7 - Half Day Riding, Bay of Blaz, Swimming with Horses, Farewell Dinner:

Riding: 4 hours

This is your last riding day. You will take a leisurely morning ride, finally reaching the sea at the bay of Blaz! The path will take you through the small meadows and on paths through woods, small vineyards and olive trees.

Descent into the bay offers more great views, this time of the sea. A picnic lunch is eaten by the water and if you are luck and the weather is nice then you can swim with the horses (only in the warmer months!). On coming to the beach you will pass the ruins of the old mills and springs which flow into the bay - this point was the main source of fresh water for the surrounding villages.

On riding back to the ranch don't forget to notice the magnificent smell of the rich pine trees. On arrival in the village you will have a BBQ dinner in the garden and enjoy a chance to reflect on your experiences from the last days.

Day 8 - Departure:

Riding: No riding.

Breakfast and departure.

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Intermediate - Advanced. Riders should be comfortable riding at all paces with experience of riding in open countryside. Good fitness is required.

Minimum group size 4
Maximum group size 6
Departure windows

May 2, 2021 - May 9, 2021

May 16, 2021 - May 23, 2021

May 23, 2021 - May 30, 2021

June 6, 2021 - June 13, 2021

Sept. 5, 2021 - Sept. 12, 2021

Sept. 18, 2021 - Sept. 25, 2021

Sept. 26, 2021 - Oct. 3, 2021

Oct. 10, 2021 - Oct. 17, 2021

Pricing

2021
Per person, sharing
£925 $1280 €1100
Included 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 and local visits as specified in the description, 6 days riding as described and return transfer from/to Pula or a local point in the area (on request).
Not included Flights, personal travel insurance, Trieste airport transfers, tips, extra drinks or services and personal expenses.

Extras

2021 - Single Supplement £169 $230 €200
Paid to Far and Ride
* Payable by anyone staying in a single room.
2021 - Trieste Airport Transfer (4 or more passengers) €250
Paid locally
Includes travel in both directions.
2021 - Trieste Airport Transfer (up to 3 passengers) €200
Paid locally
Includes travel in both directions.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

Transfer to accommodation. Welcome drink, dinner.

Day 2

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Breakfast. After breakfast head to the ranch to meet the horses. The start of the first day is slow, giving you the chance to get to know your horse. The trail leads you through typical Istrian landscapes, coming to a sight-seeing point where you will stop for a rest and picnic lunch. After lunch you start heading back to the ranch but on a different route - when you arrive back you will untack the horses and have time for a rest and refreshments before dinner.

Day 3

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Breakfast. Head to the ranch to tack up. Today you will have a very exciting day where you ride to Barban - this is a little town with a rich history and what is most interesting is that it has the tradition of the ''Race for the Ring''. The riders that are selected to ride in this tournament have to pass rigorous tests in order to prove they are worthy of being in the game. You will have the chance to see the polygon where the race is held. Here you will also stop and have short picnic lunch after which you will leave your horse and walk to the museum of ''race for the ring'' where you will have the chance to see the history of this game and even try a little virtual race game. Heading back to your horse, you will saddle up and return to the ranch. Dinner and overnight.

Day 4

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Breakfast. Head to the ranch, tack up. It is only fair that one day is used for a ride to the sea! You will ride through more of Istria’s beautiful landscapes just to have the chance to witness breath-taking views of the Bay of Blaz. Arriving at the sea shore you will see ruins of the old mills and an entrance to an old mine. A little further away the horses can take a drink from the spring of natural fresh water. Nearby there are some small fruit orchards and a meadow where you will take a stop to have picnic lunch and rest before we start heading back to the ranch. Dinner and overnight.

Day 5

Riding: No riding.

Breakfast. Transfer to airport or to a hotel, if agreed (additional transfer costs may payable).

Accommodation

Accommodation is in the apartments in Hrboki every night, so this is a stationary riding programme.

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Intermediate - Advanced. Riders should be comfortable riding at all paces with experience of riding in open countryside.

Minimum group size 2
Maximum group size 6
Departure windows

At any time during: Jan. 1, 2021 - May 1, 2021  (Dates are available on request (for 2 or more riders))

Pricing

2021
Per person, sharing
£545 $755 €650
Included 4 nights of accommodation in double/twin room with private facilities, dinner upon arrival (first day), breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner during the riding days (three days), breakfast on departure day, drink with meals (water, juice or wine), tickets to the Barban museum of "Race of the Ring", return transfer from/to Pula airport or a local point in the area (on request).
Not included Flights, personal travel insurance, Trieste airport transfers, tips, extra drinks or services and personal expenses.

Extras

2021 - Single Supplement £169 $230 €200
Paid to Far and Ride
2021 - Trieste Airport Transfer (4 or more passengers) €250
Paid locally
Includes travel in both directions.
2021 - Trieste Airport Transfer (up to 3 passengers) €200
Paid locally
Includes travel in both directions.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.