Istria Motovun

Croatia: Walks in Istria for Orchids and Mediaeval Frescoes

Istria, the small, easily accessible, heart-shaped peninsula at the head of the Adriatic, is divided between Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. Its history encompasses periods of Illyrian, Roman, Venetian and Italian occupation; we concentrate on its Croatian area. This is a true discovery, offering ancient ports and fishing villages along the coast with mediaeval hilltop towns and fresco-filled churches inland. Naturalists will appreciate the region’s diverse habitats, ranging from dry Mediterranean grassland and maquis to karst upland covered by beech and oak forests with species of wild orchids endemic to this area.

Gastronomy features highly in the Istrian lifestyle. Specially created dishes make the best of fresh fish and seafood. Truffles, both black and white, grow in the forests. Croatia’s most innovative wine makers are found in Istria and every farmer makes his or her own sheep’s cheeses, olive oil and pršut, the distinctive local version of prosciutto.

HIGHLIGHTS of our Istria walking tour include: 

  • Frescoes, mosaics and archaeology, found in villages and the smallest town in the world
  • Orchids and wildflowers strewn along our paths as we walk daily (2 - 3.5 hrs) through Mediterranean landscapes
  • Istrian truffles, olive oil and wine, all accompanied or absorbed by a cuisine that is Italianate, yet distinctly Istrian
  • Ancient ports and fishing villages along the Adriatic coast and mediaeval hilltop forts inland

Guests’ comments on this trip:

‘Well organised and very enjoyable. Paced exactly right, walks were long enough to feel sense of achievement but not too long. Nice to have guides with extensive knowledge. Restaurants and hotels were well chosen.’

D included

Meeting at Zagreb airport in the early afternoon, we have a scenic drive (3 hrs) to the southern part of the peninsula and our boutique, seafront 4 star hotel in the village of Fažana, one of the favourite haunts of the former president of Yugoslavia, Josip Tito.

B, L, D included

In Nesactium, the deserted and tourist-free final home of the King of the Histri until its conquest by the Romans in 177 BC, we learn about this local tribe, which gave the peninsula its name. At Cape Kamenjak, the southern-most point of Istria, we wander on the narrow headland, a nature reserve protecting over 20 species of orchids. We explore the area on foot, looking for species such as Pink Butterfly Orchid, Bertoloni’s, Dark or Bumble Bee Ophrys. After lunch of fresh farm produce, a short drive takes us to Pula, Istria’s largest city and a major port, where we visit the 1st century BC Pula Arena, one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world as our private guide leads us through this ancient city.

B, L, D included

Our 2-hour walk this morning follows forest trails above the fertile Lim valley and the sunken 10-kilometre-long estuary. In Rovinj, a Venetian port for centuries, we explore the picturesque busy harbour and the cobbled lanes of the old town leading to the hilltop church of St. Eufemia, a local saint and legend. In complete contrast, in the quiet nearby village of Bale we walk through narrows streets commemorating the turbulent history of this ‘castrum’ once a major source of salt to be transported on the Via Flavia and visit the simple Church of the Holy Spirit with remains of the original 15th century frescoes.

B, L, D included

Moving into the interior of the Istrian peninsula, we follow a woodland path (2.5 hrs) to the Chapel of our Lady of the Rocks, near Beram. The frescoes, dating from 1475, vividly depict the Adoration of the Magi and feature a detailed Danse Macabre. We have lunch in a popular country konoba, perhaps fuži pasta with wild asparagus. We continue to Poreč, built as a Roman fortified fort in 2nd century BC, to visit the fine 6th century Euphrasian Basilica justifiably famous for its Byzantine mosaics. Our ultimate destination is the hilltop town of Motovun, where we stay for 3 nights at a welcoming 3-star hotel set in a reconstructed mediaeval palazzo on a chestnut tree-filled square.

B, L, D included
A morning’s walk (2.5 hrs) on a marvellous ridge across the heart of Istria leads us to the splendidly sited mediaeval village of Draguć. After a rustic lunch nearby, we drive to the village of Oprtalj, where we wander through the historic centre of this almost deserted mediaeval town. Later, we proceed to the start of our walk (1.5 hrs) to the picturesque hilltop village of Grožnjan, well known for its artists and Summer Music School.

B, L, D included
A track following a section of a disused railway brings us in 2.5 hrs to our agroturizam lunch with a view. The frescoes in the Romanesque Church of St. Barnabas in nearby Vižinada are dated to the end of 14th or the beginning of 15th century with traces of earlier art below. Some free time this afternoon allows us to explore Motovun’s mediaeval charms, including the parish church erected to a design by Andrea Palladio, buy presents to take home in the truffle shops or relax in the spa of our hotel. We walk around the Venetian 14th century battlements before a dinner featuring local black truffles.

B, L, D included
We explore the ‘Glagolitic Way’, celebrating this ancient Slavonic script, on our way to the village of Hum, officially the smallest ‘town’ in the world. 21 inhabitants of Hum enjoy a 1,000 year architectural and civic heritage and the church of St. Hieronymous contains remains of 12th century Byzantine frescoes. Leaving Istria behind, we head for the Kvarner Gulf and the village of Lovran. We follow the coastal path for 7 km, leading past the fin-de-siècle villas to Opatija, once the favoured Adriatic resort of European royalty including the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph, and our seafront 4 star hotel.


B included
A morning transfer (2 hrs) to Zagreb airport concludes our holiday.

Trip Price, per person sharing:
£2,488.25 until 4th August 2024
£2,555.50 until 4th November 2024
£2,622.75 until 4th February 2025
£2,690 after 4th February 2025


£500 deposit per person 
£520 double for single supplement

Please note that the double for single room supplement is imposed by the hotels and not by Kudu Travel. If you are willing to share but no other suitable guest books on the trip, we regret that the supplement will be payable.

Price Includes

  • Accommodation for Days 1 through 8, on a twin shared basis
  • Meals (with wine at dinners and restaurant lunches) as listed in the daily notation
  • Land transportation in a private vehicle, as described, except during free periods
  • Entrance and sightseeing fees, except during free periods
  • Gratuities for restaurant and hotel staff (appreciation for tour guides is at your discretion)
Price does not Include

  • Flights to and from Zagreb airport
  • Trip cancellation, medical or other insurance
  • Immunisations, prescriptions or other medical requirements
  • Passport, visa and health documentation
  • Personal expenses (laundry, alcohol besides wine with group lunches and dinners, free time activities, etc.)
  • Transport and transfer of excess baggage

On Kudu trips, you will only need money for postcards, presents to take home, the odd G & T or an irresistible ice cream. Festival and opera tickets, museum and gallery entrances, National Park fees, all meals (with a very few exceptions specified in individual itineraries), wine with lunch and dinner, access to specialist books carried by the guides, gratuities for porters and hotel and restaurant staff, boat rides, train trips, internal flights, wine tastings, 4WDs with drivers, the services of skilled local guides and trackers etc are ALL INCLUDED in the cost of your holiday.

We are confident that, like previous very satisfied guests, you will discover that our tours give you excellent value for money.

  • 3 nights in a small seafront 4-star hotel in Fažana
  • 3 nights in a comfortable 3-star hotel, a reconstructed mediaeval palazzo, in Motovun
  • 1 night in a 4-star hotel in Opatija

Visa and Health Requirements

Visitors from the UK, EU, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand currently require a valid passport, but not a visa, for entry to Croatia. If you are a national of any other country, please check visa regulations with your nearest Embassy of Croatia.

Normally, there are no specific and compulsory health requirements for entry to Croatia. You may also wish to check the advice given to travellers by the Department of Health and the FCO.

It is essential, and a condition of booking, that you protect yourself with a suitable travel insurance policy as soon as you book a trip. We can arrange comprehensive cover for UK residents. Follow this link for a quote for a policy available to UK residents.

Size of Party
This trip will run with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 14 guests.