Plan a Day Trip to Istria or to the Kvarner Bay
Planning multiple day trips into your travels is more suitable for those who prefer to sleep on the same pillow and feel that one town is their home away from home. There are several places within Croatia which function as excellent starting points for full or half-day excursions and also have a charm of their own to get back to when the trip is done. Some such towns include Opatija in western Croatia (with trips to neighboring Istria, Slovenia and Italy), Zadar in northern Dalmatia, Vodice in central Dalmatia and Korčula as a good trampoline for island-hopping and wine tours.
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This unique trip starts at 9 in the morning and introduces you to the very heart of the Istrian peninsula. Far from the ruckus of commercial tourist trails, Inside Istria focuses on Istria as seen by its inhabitants: a beautiful landscape of rolling hills with fertile ground and lush forests. Our first stop will be near the medieval town of Buzet, not far from where the world’s largest truffle was discovered in 1999 by Giancarlo Zigante. And while this discovery certainly put Croatia on the truffle map, the experience of hunting for these scented tubers in the dense hazelnut and oak forests is still an activity reserved for the most astute and adventurous of food-ists. Is there any better way to taste a truffle unearthed before your eyes by a truffle-hunting dog in the forest where it was grown? We will go on a hunt of our own, accompanied by the expert eye of the Karlich family, who have been training dogs and finding truffles around lake Butonigla for generations.
From there we will proceed to the true gems of northern Istria: lunch at Motovun at the NY Times recommended konoba Mondo followed by a walk around this charming medieval hilltop. From there we cross the river Mirna valley to Grožnjan. This town is home to an eclectic range of Croatian artists and musicians whose ateliers and galleries we will take in at leisure, along with the splendid views and the amazing sunset over the gulf of Trieste.
Mediterranean cuisine is well-known for it’s healthy benefits, but it is more than just the ingredients that make this food such a good choice. Spend a day cooking with Ola and Christine in their home in Opatija and you will learn to cook and eat like a Croatian. In Croatia, as in other mediterranean countries, the sourcing, preparation, and partaking of the meal are as equally important as the food itself, which is why they include their guests in the whole process. The day starts at 10am with morning coffee and a visit to the farmer’s market in Rijeka. Depending on what we find in the market, the menu will likely include fresh fish or other sea foods, risotto or pasta and a typical Croatian desert like rožata, fritule or fresh fruit. The secret ingredients, which are certainly no secret, are the fresh garden herbs like rosemary, sage, bay leaves and olive oil that are added according to the traditions of each particular chef, and seek to accent, and not dominate, the fresh ingredients.
Ola, an Opatija native with roots from the island of Pag, and Christine, born in Austria and a resident of Opatija for the last 15 years, are excited to share what they love most about Opatija. Join them for this unique cooking class in their home overlooking the Kvarner Bay for either the whole day (which includes a trip to the market in Rijeka) or just the afternoon. Whichever you decide, come and get to know a side of Croatia that is reserved for folks truly interested in exploring the people and the food behind the culture. Christine and Ola will help you discover that there is pleasure to be found in peeling shrimp or cleaning mussels, not least of which lies in having good company and a glass of wine nearby but also in the realization that eating these delicacies at home is easy as pie!
Castles and Cattle • Eastern Istria
In Rovinj Veritas
Rovinj, the architectural jewel of the Istrian peninsula, is located on the western coast, surrounded by an archipelago of nineteen tiny islands. It is just across the Gulf of Trieste from Venice, which governed and built most of the coastal Istria, including Rovinj, from 13th century until its demise in 1797. The old city center grew on an island just off shore, which was subsequently connected to the mainland in the 18th century. Nowadays, its narrow, shiny limestone alleyways form an intricate pedestrian-only zone, filled with art galleries, restaurants and bars. All alleys lead to the impressive hilltop cathedral – St. Euphemia. Next to the cathedral is a bell tower that provides an astonishing 360 degree view of the city and the islands around it. Spend some time strolling around the town’s colorful streets, mix with the crowd at the open air fruit and fish market, or take a seat at one of the numerous cafés and have an Italian-style cappuccino.
The afternoon is reserved to explore what all inhabitants of the Istrian peninsula, from Roman times to present day, probably enjoyed the most: wine! We will take you to Veralda winery – where you will meet the owner Luciano Visintin. He will show you his wine cellar, grape plants and teach you plenty of interesting facts about the intricate art of wine making and naturally pour you some of his innovative, award-winning wines. We will also enjoy a light homemade dinner, cooked according to old original Istrian recipes. Only best local ingredients are used to create simple, but incredibly tasty dishes, that will give another dimension to the wine tasting.
Only 10 minutes away from Veralda lies the town Momjan – the unofficial headquarters of Istrian wine-making. We will visit the Kabola estate – a strikingly beautiful property that produces renowned wines out of local grape varieties: Malvasia and Teran. After the tour, which includes their unique “Amphora Malvazija” (a label that is made by letting the wine mature in Roman styled amphorae buried beneath the earth), you will be served their vintage wines along with domestic cheese and prosciutto.
The Roman Trail
On this one-day trip we will take the coastal road from Opatija and head to Pula via Labin and finish in Vodnjan. In Labin and take a stroll through the old stone village that is known for living with and for their artists. This small town has a rich cultural heritage that has been dominated by countless civilizations that have all left an indelible mark on the town’s identity today. We will pay a visit to the owner of one of the towns fourteen ateliers and he will give us a rare insider’s perspective on the many influences of art in this rebellious small village.
We will then continue down the winding sea road to one of the oldest cities in Europe, Pula. The city was first founded nearly three thousand years ago and has been continuously populated ever since, with lush Roman ruins to prove its age. Because of its strategic location, the inhabitants have pledged allegiance to nearly every great empire. Once you become aware of this, walking through the streets alone are ancient roman artifacts that sit ignored in parks with grass growing over and the nearby graffiti threatens its existence. Our own professional guide well versed in not only the historic significance of the main sites but also the legends and lore that make visiting such significant historic sites that more interesting and impressive.
Our day in Istria would not be complete without an exploration into at least one of the gastro delights of the region. Vodnjan is the olive oil center for Istria. Here we will get well acquainted with a passionate olive growing family that will introduce us to the nuances of tasting, growing and cooking with extra virgin olive oil before we return back to Opatija on the recently constructed highway.
The Extreme • Water & Air
For those looking to get a kick out of their stay in Croatia we have prepared four enthralling activity options designed to capture natural beauty while pushing the adrenaline into gear.
One day pilot
Lovers of heights, it’s time to get excited. Starting from Krk or Medulin airports, get your hands on the steering wheel of a Cessna 182 and with the help of our experienced flying instructor Goran learn the tricks of the trade while zooming over Kvarner bay islands. Price: 250 € per person
Skydiving tandem jumps
Jumping out of an airplane at 2500 meters and free falling for 20 seconds before opening the parachute is certainly one of the most memorable experiences of a lifetime. Starting from Krk or Medulin airports, our seasoned tandem instructor will give you the view and jump of your life. Price: 250 € per person
A six-hour sailing course with our seasoned skipper Edo that makes the best of the afternoon maestral wind. Learn to navigate a 40 foot boat and see the best of the famed Opatija Riviera on this unique activity that combines fun, adrenaline and the beautiful Adriatic sea. Prices: 1-4 people 350 €, 5-8 people 75 € per person. Included: sail boat, skipper, fuel, mooring, snacks, 2 liters of water per person.
Situated in the beautiful bay of Punat on the island of Krk, the wakeboard center is one of the most visited places on the island. Everybody loves the sun, high speeds and the sea, with wakeboarding combining the three of them into a wonderful experience. Prices: 6-16 people 60 € per person. Includes: transport to and from Punat, unlimited riding 2-6pm.
Kvarner Bay Fishing
Croatia is known as a country of a thousand islands. In fact there are over 1700 islands scattered throughout the northern Adriatic. These islands and the fishing, sailing and sun-bathing they inspire, are the crown jewels of Croatia’s treasures for many visitors. The two largest of these islands are Krk and Cres, both located in the Kvarner bay adjacent to one another. The diverse rocky and occasional sandy outlets on these islands provide a rich and still-unspoiled sea life. And fortunately for us, the channel that divides the islands of Krk and Cres, happens to be one of the best fishing locations in the entire Adriatic. For centuries the local inhabitants on the Kvarner Bay have made their living as fishermen. We invite you to spend the day with us on a fishing trip, where you will experience first-hand a day in the life of a Kvarner fisherman. With the help of a sonar to pinpoint a perfect fishing location, you will maneuver the boat into position and then lower the nets to make your catch. After selecting the best pieces, we’ll grill them for lunch on the ship with olive oil, homemade bread and local wine.
This trip combines a very pleasant boat ride with the actual skill of commercial fishing. The thrill of looking for and catching your own lunch is followed by the afternoon relapse into leisure mode and a hedonistic enjoyment of the clear waters and small villages along the Kvarner Bay.
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