Istria is a small peninsula covering 8,000km2 close to the head of the Adriatic and central Europe and today split roughly 20/80, between Slovenia and Croatia together with a sliver of Italy close to Trieste. Its position at a crossroads in Europe together with its varied geology and climate make it rich in biodiversity terms with mountains to 4,500 feet alongside a mild Mediterranean climate beside the coast.
Its almost 2,000 species of higher plant give Istria almost half the Croatian national total although it occupies less than a fifth Croatia’s surface area. There are also roughly 140 species of butterfly as well as high diversity in other groups. We will be exploring Istria’s habitats from the Mediterranean scrublands on the Kamenjak Peninsula and the wetlands along the River Mirna through to the high meadows and cool forests of Inner Istria.
The birds, mammals and reptiles are also there to be enjoyed and the area around our base is splendid for pre-breakfast birding with seven species of woodpecker as well as Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Swift, Peregrine Falcon and Rock Bunting. Whilst the the main ‘flush’ of butterflies is much later in the year there are the spring species to catch up with including Mazarine Blue, Dingy Skipper, Cleopatra, Nettle-tree Butterfly, Large Tortoiseshell and Southern Festoon. Scops Owls will be calling nightly close to the hotel by the time we arrive.
We should see one or two of the several pairs of Golden Eagles that still nest in Inner Istria, often above towns and villages. Like rural uplands elsewhere in Europe, depopulation and emigration are major issues in Upper (Inner) Istria and forests are spreading across abandoned lands making hunting ever more difficult for the eagles, both Golden and Short-toed.
Please read on for more information and see the ‘Holiday Itinerary’ tab for a more detailed look at what we’ll be doing during our stay. We hope to welcome you on what will surely become a favourite spring holiday in our calendar!
Daily schedule: With breakfast from 7 am, most days we aim to leave the hotel at 9 am, with a picnic lunch bought locally and aiming to return to base around 5.30p.m, allowing a little time at each day to relax before dinner. A couple of early (6 a.m.) walks close to the hotel will be programmed. These of course will be optional but we recommend participation.
Weather: At this time of year, the weather should be sunny and warm with occasional rain and daytime temperatures typically ranging from 15 to 20°C. This said, the weather in Istria varies enormously from place-to-place and a rain-shadow means heavy rain inland in the mountains often corresponds to bright sunshine on the west coast and we will take advantage of this should it prove necessary!
Food and Accommodation: A one-centre holiday, we stay at the San Stefano complex, the modern section of Istarske Toplice between Buzet and Motovun in Istria, in the valley of the river Mirna set amongst stunning limestone cliffs and riverine woodland. All the rooms are en-suite and have hairdryers and Wi-Fi. The hotel, catering for thermal spring visitors, also has a gym, several swimming pools and saunas. In the evening we will eat in a local konoba, or trattoria with drinks included with the meal.