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trails and wines of istria, croatia self guided walking holiday

The Natural Adventure Company | Self Guided Walking Holidays in Europe & Walking Tours in Europe

Self Guided Walking Holidays in Europe

Trails and Wines of Istria

Overview for Trails and Wines of Istria

Discover the beautiful green countryside of the Istrian peninsula. Walk through olive groves and vineyards, rivers and forests, scenic villages and medieval towns, on winding hill and mountain trails. The Trails of Istria takes you to the heart of the impressive landscapes of Croatia and offers the chance to experience the delicious flavours of indigenous Istrian delicacies and wines along the route.

The itinerary starts with walks through olive groves and vineyards to Buje – a town full of history and culture. From here you’ll follow the Parenzana, an old Austrian railway line, through tunnels and bridges amongst the Istrian hillsides to Grožnjan (the city of artists), Livade (the truffle centre of the world) with an overnight in Motovun.

The hiking continues along mountain trails with beautiful views of Istrian landscapes onto Buzet. From Buzet, there’s a circular walk to Hum, the smallest town in the world.

To complete the tour, there is a hike to the summit of Učka mountain (the highest peak in Istria, 1,401m) with stunning panoramas of Kvarner bay and the of the Istrian peninsula. Finally, the trail descends back down through the oak and chestnut forests of Učka National Park to Lovran on the Adriatic coast.

Highlights

  • Visit hilltop towns Grožnjan, Motovun, Livade (the truffle capital of the world) and Buzet;
  • Parenzana: hike along the historical railway line which connected Trieste to Poreč until the 1930’s;
  • Visit Hum, the smallest town in the world;
  • Hike to the summit of Učka mountain and Učka National Park;
  • Explore the rich cultural heritage and local culinary delicacies.


Itinerary for Trails and Wines of Istria

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Day 1: Arrival to Buje

Arrival in Istria. Info meeting with The Natural Adventure Company local representative at the hotel reception area. We will provide you with any additional information you may need about your trip, answer the questions you may have, and give you final instructions. Overnight in Buje Area.

Accommodation: Hotel Casa la Parenzana in Volpija or Lovac in Kaldanija.
Meals for the day:
not included.
Walking distance:
none.
Transfer:
Transfer from Buje bus station to hotel included.

Day 2: Portoroz to Kaldanija/Volpija

Short transfer to Portoroz in Slovenia where you start walking following the legendary route of the Parenzana, the former narrow-gauge railway line which penetrates deeply into the Istrian peninsula connecting 33 Istrian cities and towns from Trieste to Poreč (Parenzo in Italian). Being defunct for many decades, in recent years its route was turned into a hiking trail. You will pass by the salt mines of Secovlje, a Slovenian town popular among birdwatchers. Later you will cross the Croatian border and walk on a gentle uphill to the hotel.

Accommodation: Hotel Casa la Parenzana in Volpija or Lovac in Kaldanija.
Meals: breakfast included.
Transfer: 10 minutes transfer to the trailhead
Highlights: Parenzana ex-railway line, Salt mines
Walking distance: Ascent: 250m. Descent: 130m. Distance: 21 km. Time: 4-5 hours.

Day 3: Grožnjan to Motovun

After breakfast, you will be ready to start exploring Istrian villages and hidden paths. After a short, 10 minute transfer, walking continues on the ex-railway Parenzana. Grožnjan will be your starting point. After you see its galleries and viewpoints you can pass through magnificent rolling landscapes and lovely Istrian vineyards. You will pass through several small tunnels and over picturesque old bridges. You can stop at many viewpoints before reaching the village of Livade, the truffle centre of the world. There you can taste and buy some products with truffles. Overnight in Motovun.

Accommodation: Hotel Kaštel 3* or Villa Borgo 3* in Motovun or similar.
Meals: breakfast included.
Transfer: 10 minutes transfer + luggage transfer.
Walking distance: Ascent: 546m. Descent: 609m. Distance: 24 km. Time: 5-6 hours. Alternative shorter walk is available – 16 km, taking 3-4 hours
Highlights: Parenzana ex-railway line, tunnels and bridges, Grožnjan (the city or artists), Livade (the truffle centre of the world), Motovun.

Day 4: Motovun Circular Walk

Today’s hike will start from your hotel descending from the hilltop to the walking trail which guides you through vineyards to the small village Brkač where you can have a traditional Istrian lunch in a local tavern. On Parenzana trail you will head back to Motovun. On the way back, you can stop at a small winery where you can taste local wines.

Accommodation: Hotel Kaštel 3* or Villa Borgo 3* in Motovun or similar.
Meals: breakfast included.
Transfer: none
Walking distance: Ascent: 430m. Descent: 430m. Distance: 12 km. Time: 3-4 hours.
Highlights: Motovun, vineyards, wine cellar

Day 5: Oprtalj to Buzet

After breakfast, a short transfer will be arranged to Oprtalj. This is a picturesque little town located deeply in Istrian peninsula from where the Istrian Mountain Trail begins. The route goes downhill into the forest, passing through Saint Ivan (St John’s) village. Next village is St Lucija, famous for its incredibly beautiful church. Through a few more villages you will get to one of the most famous local viewpoints, overlooking the Mirna river valley. The trail is passing by the Pietrapelosa castle and leads down into the valley. After passing an aqueduct, the path goes up the hill towards the village of Mali Mlun and opens a beautiful view over the town of Buzet. Through a beautiful forest and fields, the trail will get you to Buzet. Overnight in Buzet.

Accommodation: Hotel Vela Vrata 4*, Buzet or similar.
Meals: breakfast included.
Transfer: 15 min transfer to the walking trail + luggage transfer.
Walking distance: Ascent: 622m. Descent: 866m. Distance: 20 km. Time: 4.5 – 5.5 hours. An alternative shorter walk is available at about 13 km, taking 3 hours.
Highlights: Oprtalj, Untouched nature of Istrian backcountry, Mirna river valley view, City of Buzet.

Day 6: Buzet to Hum and back

Today’s trail starts by the river and turns into the forest, passes over a shallow river (or riverbed if it’s dry), followed by some waterfalls and lakes. Nice and not too steep, the trail leads you all the way to Korita, the water springs with natural pools and an old watermill.

The route then continues following the riverbed and passes trough Benčići, an abandoned village where you can see traditional Istrian stone houses. From there you’ll see Hum and its recognisable church tower in the distance. When you get to Hum, take a walk, and you’ll understand why it is the smallest town in the world. In Hum you can have a meal in the local “konoba”, a word from the local dialect that means restaurant. The “konoba” in Hum offers you nothing less but simple and delicious traditional Istrian dishes. The “way of mistletoe” will then lead you all the way back to Buzet. Overnight in Buzet.

Accommodation: Hotel Vela Vrata 4*, Buzet or similar.
Meals: breakfast included.
Transfer: none (optional morning transfer to Hum to shorten the walk by half)
Walking distance: Ascent: 553m. Descent: 560m. Distance: 24 km. Time: 6-7 hours. An alternative shorter walk (with an extra transfer bookable) is available at about 12 km / 8 miles. Time: 3-4 hours.
Highlights: Mirna river canyon, old mill on the river, Kotli (natural pools), Hum – the smallest city in the world.

Day 7: Mount Učka to Lovran

Transfer to Poklon, the saddle between two hills from where the trail begins. It goes on the top of the Učka mountain which is the highest mountain in Istria with an altitude of 1,401m. From the top, the path goes all the way down to sea level in Lovran. The path is shadowed by oak and chestnut forests that give incredible freshness during the hot summer days. The very summit of Učka (Vojak) is worth climbing for the stunning panorama. The panorama of Kvarner bay includes sea and coastal towns, as well as the mountains in the background: Obruc, Snjeznik and Risnjak Western side. This is the moment when most of the Istrian peninsula lies before your eyes. On clear days the view opens towards Venice and the Alps on the north side.

Accommodation: Hotel Park 4* in Lovran or similar.
Meals: breakfast Included.
Transfer: 30 min transfer from Buzet to Poklon (start point) + luggage transfer.
Walking distance: Ascent: 452m. Descent: 1,386m. Distance: 11 km. Time: 4-5 hours.
Highlights: Učka nature park, the highest mountain in Istria (1,401 m). Beautiful 360° view on surrounding Kvarner bay islands and Istrian inland.

Day 8: Departure or Onward Travel

Departure after breakfast.

Meals: breakfast included.
Transfer: not included.
Walking Distance: none.

Hotels for Trails and Wines of Istria

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Accommodation is mainly in small, locally-run, 3-4 star hotels and guesthouses, which perfectly reflects the character of the area.

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Sample hotels: Casa la Parenzana,  Villa Borgo 3*Hotel Kaštel

Meals

Breakfasts are generally buffets that take your active program into consideration with a variety of low-fat and high-nutrition choices. Lunches and dinners are generally on your own, but arrangements with accommodation can be made on the spot.

Travel for Trails and Wines of Istria

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The most convenient airports are Pula and Trieste, which have direct local buses to Buje bus station. Transfer from Buje bus station to the first hotel is included in the price. Pula is the regional airport and flights from the UK are available from different airports. Trieste Airport is the closest airport serviced by direct flights from the UK with Ryan Air and Alitalia offering services.

Flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking. 

Arriving in Croatia

Airport Option 1: Pula to Buje – public transport is available from Pula to Porec and then take a taxi to Buje (50 euros). Alternatively, we can arrange a private transfer from Pula to Buje.

Airport Option 2: Trieste to Buje – limited public transport is available, and we recommend pre-booking a private transfer.

Departing from Croatia

Airport Option 1: Lovran to Pula – public transport is available. Alternatively, we can arrange a private transfer from Lovran to Pula airport.

Airport Option 2: Lovran to Trieste – limited public transport is available. We can recommend pre-booking a private transfer.

Transfers to/from Airports

Buses are available from Pula to Buje (approx. 1hr 30m) with local bus companies such as Brioni and FILS. A representative of The Natural Adventure Company will collect you from the bus station and take you to first accommodation if you choose this method.

Private Transfers

They offer a very economical alternative to public transport, in some cases equivalent to the cost of public transportation in the UK. They can be arranged from/to airport to hotel for arrival and departure upon request (please indicate when completing the online booking form). We recommend private transfers if your arrival/departure airport is Trieste.

Please note that only one airport transfer per party is included, though additional transfers can be arranged. It is advisable therefore that all party members arrive on the same flight or at least at a similar time. Night transfer extra charges may be applicable on private transfers in case of late night arrivals.

Baggage Transfers

On walking days, your luggage is transferred to your following night’s accommodation. Luggage transfer is mostly carried out by us, but sometimes we also use the accommodation provider or a local taxi service. Bags should be ready for collection by 09:30 am and will be at your next overnight stop by 3 pm.

Country Info

Croatia is a Central European and Mediterranean country, bordering Slovenia in the west, Hungary to the north, Serbia in the east and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the south. The country also has a long maritime border with Italy in the Adriatic Sea. Croatia has an unusual shape (similar to a croissant), which comes as a result of five centuries of expansion by the Ottoman empire towards Central Europe (although Croatia was never conquered by the Ottomans).

Croatia has an incredible 5,800 km of coastline, 4,100 km of which belong to islands, cliffs and reefs. There are 1,200 islands in the Adriatic, but only about 50 are populated. The largest island is Krk (near Rijeka) which has a land area of 462 sq km, while the country’s other well-known islands include Hvar, Brac, Korcula, and Pag.

The local currency in Croatia is the Croatian Kuna (HKR). The best way to carry money is a combination of cash, cash cards and credit/debit cards. ATMs are available all over Croatia and are the safest and easiest way to access cash. Traveller’s cheques are not widely accepted and attract high rates of commission. Make sure that you change any money that you will need for the day ahead.

Foreign currency can be exchanged in banks, exchange offices, post offices, travel agencies, hotels, camps, marinas. Cheques can be cashed in banks. Please note that bank hours are very different from bank hours in the EU. Most banks are open only in the morning from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and a couple of hours in the afternoon. If you need to change money during the tour, we recommend that you look for a bank in the morning.

Note, Euros are accepted at some larger shops and hotels and generally taxi shuttles. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
EUR 1=~7.50 Kuna
AUD 1=~4.80 Kuna
USD 1=~5.40 Kuna
GBP 1=~9.07 Kuna

Up-to-date travel advice on Croatia is available here.

Trip Info for Trails and Wines of Istria

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Difficulty Grade: Moderate

This trip requires a moderate physical condition. It is moderate with a choice of shorter or longer walks. The terrain varies from paved and cobblestone streets (during village exploration) to single-track trails with loose stones or gravel, rocky paths, ancient ruins, and sets of ancient stone steps. The trails are often exposed to the sun (read more about difficulty grades).

Route Navigation

Some of the walks on this trip are marked but many are not, and you will need to follow the route notes and maps supplied.

You will walk mostly on unpaved roads and hiking trails; some sections may include walking on asphalt.

We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to Go

This trip is available from March until November.

Traditionally April/May/June and September/October have always been the most popular time of year because the weather is better. If you choose to visit during July and August, you should be aware that temperatures may be high and make walking slightly more difficult.

The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your holiday on any date in the season – so please indicate desired starting date when booking.

Weather

The climate in Istria is mild, Mediterranean, where there are warm and dry summers and mild and pleasant winters. The average air temperature during the coldest part of the year is 6ºC, and during the warmest – 30ºC.

What to Bring

Having the correct personal equipment will make your walking holiday more enjoyable and comfortable. We hope that you find the following suggestions useful when considering what to take on your trip. They are based on personal experiences, and we are confident that you may find other solutions working equally well.

  • Walking boots/shoes
  • Suitable clothing including good walking
  • Socks
  • Hat
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Water carrier / bottle
  • Food and snacks
  • Rucksack
  • Guidebook & Maps (supplied)
  • Blister treatment kit
  • First aid kit
  • Cash and credit cards

Included for Trails and Wines of Istria

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  • Info meeting with a TNAC representative
  • 2 x overnight in guesthouse / hotel 3* in Buje
  • 1 x overnight in guesthouse / hotel 3* in Motovun
  • 2 x overnight in guesthouse / hotel 4* in Buzet
  • 1 x overnight in guesthouse / hotel 4*i n Lovran
  • 6 x breakfasts
  • Information package including detailed route description (maps and route notes), a guidebook about Istria, luggage tags and vouchers for hotels.
  • Luggage transport from hotel to hotel
  • Local transfers to start point during walking and transfer from Buje bus station to hotel on Day 1
  • 24/7 assistance by phone

Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements

  • Single room supplement: add 20% to the standard trip price. Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared, a supplement is payable on the standard trip cost

Options & Extras

(please choose when booking)

  • Private airport transfers
  • Half-board option instead of standard B&B accommodation

Excluded

  • Flights and connecting land transfers to first / from last accommodation (transfer from Buje bus station to the first hotel is included in the price)
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks & snacks.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not explicitly mentioned in the program.

Extensions

(please choose when booking)

  • One extra night in Buje before trip start date
Buje was known as the “Sentinel of Istria” for its hilltop site located 10 km inland from the Adriatic Sea. The old town offers astonishing views of the surrounding scenery, dominated by Mediterranean flora, vineyards, and olive groves. The town developed from a Roman and Venetian settlement into a medieval town. Buje was part of the Republic of Venice from 1358 until 1797, and was part of unified Italy from 1918 to 1945. With its narrow streets and a central square, the old town is a fine example of Medieval architecture with strong Venetian Renaissance architecture influence. Accommodation: Hotel Casa la Parenzana 3* or Lovac 3*.
  • One extra night or three nights beach extension in Lovran after trip end date

Lovran is one of the oldest coastal settlements on the eastern shore of the Istrian peninsula. By the early Middle Ages, it was an important urban and shipbuilding centre of northern Adriatic. The region is rich with cultural-historical heritage. A parish church with medieval frescoes and Glagolitic inscriptions, and the 14th-century tower of St George’s Square within the old urban core, as well as rural ambiences and architectural edifices – namely turn-of-the-century villas with surrounding parks, are general points of interest. Beach Kvarner (Civic) is the main beach in Lovran, at the east entrance. It’s made of sand and concrete. Peharovo Beach is located on the west side of Lovran. The beach is pebbly and is located on the promenade.

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