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.
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.