Croatia's Istrian Peninsula

Inspiring small group journeys.
7 days from $6981
  • Holiday type: Nature Tours, Walking Tours
  • Countries: Croatia
  • Starts (city): Venice, Italy
  • Ends (city): Venice, Italy
  • Group size: 18 maximum
  • Trip style: Deluxe - 5 star
  • Tour code: 361

Coastal walks, vineyard trails & Roman footpaths

The Istrian Peninsula gives us goosebumps. It's that giddy kind of rush you get when you find someplace so authentic that you can't believe it's you standing there. On this triangle of paradise that dips into the Adriatic just east of Venice, the scenery is so insanely perfect that you don't want the walks to end. Think vineyards rolling into olive groves sweeping to the Adriatic. Can't you see yourself, eating an apricot plucked from the orchard of a limestone farmhouse...chatting with a goat herder...sipping the Malvasia before another forkful of truffled gnocchi? Istria is everything we love: unspoiled countryside, seaside towns of near-Venetian beauty, a delightful mix of Croatian and Italian cultures. The Romans called it Terra Magica. Travel experts say it's "like Tuscany 30 years ago." We think Istria is just perfect...the rare kind of destination just about guaranteed to give you the unforgettable thrill of discovery.

AT A GLANCE
Highlights
  • Private, guided exploration of Venice
  • Cruise along the Grand Canal
  • Olive oil tasting
  • Coastal walk to Rovinj
  • Countryside walk Montizel to Groznjan
  • Truffle hunting
  • Explore on foot the private Brijuni Islands
  • Pula amphitheater visit
  • Vineyard walk and wine tasting
  • Welcome by mayor's wife in Moscenice
  • Opatija Riviera walk
  • Visit Krk and Kosljun Islands and walk along ancient city walls
  • Visit a monastery sitting on an island within an island
  • Enjoy an afternoon tasting of local wines, cheeses and prosciutto
Solo Traveller Comments

This tour offers a stimulating blend of easy walking and exposure to local culture and history. Expect an active but casually paced tempo that offers plenty of opportunity to absorb the environment, sightsee and relax. Over a third of guests travel on their own, so you'll fit right in. In your small group (just 10 guests on average and no more than 18), there will typically be a mix of solo travellers, couples, and friends or family members travelling together.

If you are like many people travelling solo and prefer a room to yourself, you'll find the single supplement is reasonable. Of course, at your request, we can invite another solo traveller on the tour to share the accommodation with you.

TOUR DETAILS

DAY 1 - VENICE

You know a tour is going to be amazing if Venice is only the starting point! We meet at our canal-side hotel in this fabled city for an afternoon of exploration on foot and aboard vaporetti (water taxis). If you've never been, you may be surprised at how thoroughly you can experience Venice in only a few hours. Of course, we'll scatter the pigeons on a stroll through the Piazza San Marco and take in the Rialto Bridge and the Doge's Palace. Our local guide also shows us the unknown Venice, where the Venetians outnumber the tourists, before dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Overnight: Venice; Meals: D

DAY 2 - ROVINJ

You'll be able to add Slovenia to the countries you've visited as our morning drive takes us through the narrow corridor of land that connects it to the Adriatic. After crossing into Croatia, we'll stretch our legs on a short walk with coastal views from Brtonigla on the "Olive Oil Road". Friends welcome us to their olive mill and to their home for a tasting. Then we'll lunch in a small village-the first of many chances this week to enjoy the local specialties: white and black truffles. (Here, truffles are so common that you won't pay the outrageous supplements that restaurants back home charge.)

Rovinj is one of the most picture-perfect towns you'll ever see. It completely fills the pearl-shaped tip of a small peninsula; its red-roofed buildings on the verge of spilling into the sea. We approach the best way-on foot along the coast-so you see this amazing sight from its most photogenic angle. Our hotel was a bishop's palace built in the 15th century and perfectly set in the heart of the walled town.

Overnight: Rovinj; Meals: B, D

DAY 3 - GROZNJAN

It would be hard to find a more beautiful path than the one we take this morning. It starts in an agriturismo where our friends Simona and Milka fortify us with a cappuccino. The path has the steady, level grade of a long abandoned railroad. We're about 100 metres above a perfect valley studded with hilltop villages and a procession of vineyards, apricot orchards, and little farmhouses with pastel shutters. When you hear that Istria is like Tuscany 20 or 30 years ago, this is what they're talking about: authentic, lightly travelled, natural beauty like you thought didn't exist in the world anymore. Please be sure your camera battery is at full strength!

Our destination is the walled hilltop village of Groznjan. (That's Grosignana in Italian. All towns here are named in both languages. It sums up perfectly the interesting mix of cultures we encounter all week.) Improbably, Groznjan has a wonderful collection of art galleries. We'll take time here for lunch and to stroll the charming narrow streets. Later, we'll join up with a friend who fill us in on the history of the truffle and, when weather and season permit, we may even get to join a hunt. In this region, special hounds are fed truffles from the time they're pups to help them learn how to sniff out the delicacy.

Overnight: Rovinj; Meals: B, D

DAY 4 - BRIJUNI ISLANDS - PULA

After breakfast, we'll make the short drive to Fazana, our embarkation point for the ride in a wooden naval boat to the Brijuni Islands. These lovely islands held the summer residence of President Tito and were closed to the public for over 40 years. Access is still strictly controlled so the paths are quiet (except for the trademark calls of the abundant peacocks). Our walks with our expert guide include a nature preserve, a Byzantine fortress, and villas that date to Roman times.

Midday, we return to Pula with time to explore the magnificent Roman amphitheater, one of the world's largest and best preserved. The mineral rich Istrian soil is an intense, vivid red and, in addition to its suitability for olives and truffles, it's also an excellent medium for growing grapes. On an afternoon walk we'll visit one of the many local wineries for a tasting of the typical white Malvasia and the deep-ruby Teran made of the Refosk vines that only grow in this type of soil. On the last of our three nights in Rovinj, you have the run of the city to dine in the restaurant of your choice.

Overnight: Rovinj; Meals: B

DAY 5 - MOSCENICE - OPATIJA

Being "bi-coastal" in Istria isn't such a big deal. This morning, for example, we only spend about an hour on the road to reach Moscenice, perched high over the peninsula's east coast. Our friend Kornelia, wife of the 2,000-year-old town's mayor, often greets us before we head off to explore. Along the way, we'll sample grappa, the local "firewater". (Our timing isn't off! Some Istrians, and Italians, enjoy a sip with their morning espresso.)

Walking down from the heights, we reach the seaside village of Moscenicka Draga for lunch and, if you like, a dip in waters clear to a depth of 40 feet. Then we're off for an afternoon walk along the Adriatic, passing incredible villas, palm trees, and the scenic Cres and Krk islands just offshore. The path leads right into Opatija and our luxurious 5-star villa hotel, surrounded by a park and the lungomare where we'll promenade beside the water. You'll love this gorgeous city. It's the undisputed star of the Croatian Riviera with its yacht-studded harbour, grand architecture and fashionable resort attitude.

Overnight: Opatija; Meals: B, D

DAY 6 - KRK AND KOSLJUN ISLANDS

Your language lesson for the day: Krk is pronounced like the captain in Star Trek – but there’s nothing intergalactic about it. Instead, its history dates to the Neolithic age, and it’s been a popular settlement to the Greeks and Romans. In fact, this stretch of the Adriatic has been prized for so long that there was a decisive sea battle between Ceasar and Pompey, as we’ll learn while walking along the historic walls that date to the 10th century.

By now, you’ve noticed how calm the waters are along the Istrian Peninsula. Midday, we’ll ferry to the small island of Kosljun, sitting like a jewel in Puntarska Bay off the coast of Krk. On our wanderings across the island rich with Mediterranean vegetation, we find a crystal clear lake with an island of its own. This island-within-an-island is crowned by a 15th-century Franciscan monastery. Taking advantage of the picturesque setting, we stop for an exploration and a chance to visit with the monks.

A late afternoon ferry returns us to the mainland at Punat. Like us, you’ll be running out of new adjectives for the scenery. But you won’t want to leave it behind…the orchards that hug white farmhouses with their red tile caps, the olive groves, the utter serenity of it all. The good news: a tasting of local wines, cheeses and prosciutto precedes our return to Opatija for our final dinner together.

Overnight: Opatija; Meals: B, D

DAY 7 - VENICE

After breakfast, you'll have some time for last-minute Istrian shopping before we leave Croatia. En route back to Venice, we pause at our friend Roberto's agriturismo just across the Italian border. We'll lunch on the local specialties (probably with his beloved Verdi as background music). On our return to Venice we part company at Piazzale Roma.

Meals: B, L

TERRAIN:

Easy to moderate on good trails and coastal paths. An average of 2 to 3 hours of walking per day, with a mini-van usually in support.

Currently there are no dates available for this tour. Please email us if you would like to be kept informed about new departures.

Inclusions

  • First class accommodation
  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 5 dinners
  • Full-time experienced guide(s) who are with you throughout the trip
  • Support vehicle(s)
  • Admissions to tastings, historic sites and other scheduled events as noted in the detailed daily itinerary
  • Gratuities for hotels, meals and baggage
  • Trip literature
  • All land transportation during the trip, whether by bus or boat
ACCOMMODATION

Villa Milenij, Opatija

A private villa situated on the grounds of 5 star Hotel Milenij offers memorable luxury on the Istrian Peninsula. The villa is situated in the centre of the fashionable town of Opatija, surrounded by St Jacob's Park and the seaside promenade — the famous "lungomare." In addition to luxurious guest rooms decorated in the Luis XV style, the villa has its own private breakfast room and terrace, as well as access to the hotel's amenities including: an indoor-outdoor pool, Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, Jacuzzi, solarium and spa.

Please contact us for details of the other accommodation on this trip.

BOOK NOW / MORE INFO
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 on this tour, or if you have more general questions about tours to this area or this style of tour, send us an email. Of course, you can also call our travel specialists on 02 9449 8598 to book a trip or ask a question.

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