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Croatia & Slovenia - Spring in Istria

Tour Code: HRV03

An 8-day wildlife holiday to Croatian and Slovenian Istria in search of the region's birds, butterflies, flowers and other natural history.

8 days from £1295(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1175 SRS: £150

After a flight to Trieste in Italy, we will drive across the border into Slovenia and from there into Croatia to our base for the week, the San Stefano thermal spa near the medieval city of Buzet. Nesting Alpine Swifts, Blue Rock Thrushes and Black Redstarts are found in limestone cliffs near our accommodation, whilst the adjacent Mediterranean scrub holds Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, Nightingale and Cirl Bunting. During our week we’ll explore a variety of habitats throughout Istria, including sites along the coast, through the river valley and up into the mountains. The wetland reserve at Skocjanski Zatok in Slovenia is especially rich in birdlife and attracts a variety of herons, egrets and passage waders. On one day we’ll venture further north into Slovenia to Lake Cerknica and the Rakov Skocian Gorge to search for birds such as Corncrake, Crossbill and numerous woodpeckers, while on another we’ll look for butterflies and migrant birds on the Premantura Peninsula, the most southerly point on the Istrian Peninsula. We will spend a final day exploring the Cicarija Plateau and Dinaric Alps in search of Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Rock Partridge and Ortolan Bunting, plus wild flowers including Lady Orchids, before it is time to return to Trieste for our flight home.

  • Single-centre tour based in a comfortable hotel in the attractive valley of the River Mirna
  • Golden Oriole, Wryneck & Hawfinch live in the woodlands near our spa hotel
  • Eat at local ‘trattoria’ & try the area’s acclaimed truffles & local wild asparagus!
  • Peregrines nest close to our hotel & other raptors include Short-toed Eagle & Goshawk
  • Tawny Pipits, Bee-eaters, Black-headed Bunting & Olivaceous Warbler, Bay of Piran
  • Look for Garganey, Pygmy Cormorant, Melodious & Great Reed Warblers, Skocjanski Zatok
  • Osiris & Mazarine Blues plus migrant birds, Premantura Peninsula
  • Adriatic Lizard, Monkey & Bee Orchids grow on the golf course near our accommodation
  • Grey-headed, White-backed & Black Woodpeckers, plus Ural Owl possible
  • Led by expert naturalist guides



All included in the price.


A single-centre holiday based at the comfortable San Stefano thermal spa near Buzet. All rooms have private facilities.

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1

Fly Trieste; transfer San Stefano thermal spa.

Day 2/7

Daily programme of natural history excursions from our base at San Stefano.

Day 8

Transfer Trieste and fly London.

Lying just to the south of Trieste in Italy, the triangular peninsula of Istria projects into the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. Split between Croatia and Slovenia, this delightfully unspoilt region of the Mediterranean brims with historical charm and boasts a rich natural history as well as an acclaimed cuisine. During this singlecentre holiday we will be based in the far north of Croatian Istria, from where we will explore the region’s diverse habitats, from the dry Mediterranean grasslands of the Premantura Peninsula to the subalpine meadows and cool Beech woodlands of the Cicarija Mountains and Dinaric Alps. Although Istria covers only 15% of Croatia’s surface area, it is home to nearly 50% of its higher plants! This rich biodiversity extends across the board to its birds, butterflies and other wildlife and, once the region’s interesting archaeology and delicious food are added to the mix, it becomes evident that Istria offers the perfect blend of natural history, landscapes, culture and cuisine for a fascinating and enjoyable week.

We begin our holiday with a flight to the historic city of Trieste in Italy. Next, we continue by road, first across the border into Slovenia and then into Croatia. Our base for the week is the San Stefano thermal spa, a comfortable and modern hotel that is tucked away in the attractive valley of the River Mirna in northern Istria. The nearby medieval city of Buzet is widely known as the ‘City of Truffles’, as the surrounding woodlands not only yield excellent birdlife, such as Golden Oriole, Wryneck and Hawfinch, but are rich in this sought-after delicacy too. During our stay at San Stefano we will dine out each evening at a local ‘trattoria’, where the acclaimed truffles and local wild asparagus are sure to feature on the menu!

We will keep the exact itinerary of our week flexible in order to take account of such factors as the weather and the advice of our local guide. However, our time here will include two full days exploring the immediate surroundings of our hotel on foot. Nesting Alpine Swifts, Blue Rock Thrushes and Black Redstarts are all likely to be seen amongst the towering limestone cliffs, whilst the adjacent Mediterranean scrub holds Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, Nightingale and Cirl Bunting. Peregrines nest on the karst rock face close to our hotel, and a variety of other raptors, including Shorttoed Eagle and Goshawk, may be seen soaring over the plateau above. The botanists amongst the group will not have to go far to enjoy their first orchids, for the nearby golf course is home to Adriatic Lizard, Monkey and Bee Orchids, whilst Erect Clematis and Sword-leaved Helleborine can be found in the woodlands nearby.

During our stay we will also explore Istria’s delightful coastline. The wetland reserve at Škocjanski Zatok in Slovenia is especially rich in birdlife and attracts a variety of herons and egrets, plus Garganey, Pygmy Cormorant, Melodious and Great Reed Warblers and plenty of passage waders if water levels are suitable. Back in Croatia, we will visit a site overlooking the Bay of Piran, where the dry Mediterranean grasslands and scrub hold Tawny Pipits, Bee-eaters, Blackheaded Buntings and the occasional Olivaceous Warbler. Further south still lies the Premantura Peninsula, the most southerly point on the Istrian Peninsula. This is not only a great spot for migrant birds — and butterflies such as Osiris and Mazarine Blues — but also one of the most botanically-rich areas of southern Europe, home to numerous Mediterranean specialities.

On another day we will travel further north into Slovenia to explore Lake Cerknica and the Rakov Škocjan Gorge, both sites of incredible biodiversity. The lake has been designated an ‘Important Bird Area’ and the surrounding damp meadows are not only home to Corncrake and Red-backed Shrike, but filled with orchids, scabious and other wild flowers, together with numerous butterflies and Fire-bellied Salamander.

Weather permitting, we will spend our final day exploring the Cicarija Plateau and Dinaric Alps, an attractive upland region of northern Istria clothed in Beech forest and topped with subalpine meadows. The woodlands on the lower slopes are home to Grey-headed, White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, plus the magnificent Ural Owl, whilst above the tree-line we can look for Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Rock Partridge and Ortolan Bunting. The botany is also fascinating and includes a wide variety of orchids: amongst these are Lady Orchids, some of which can reach half a metre in height! Our stay in the mountains will conclude this new Naturetrek wildlife holiday in Istria … and provide a fitting finale before we must head north once more, back into Slovenia and then Italy, to catch our return flight home. 

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Thu 3rd May 2018 - Thu 10th May 2018



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1175 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Croatia

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Rajan Jolly
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01962 733051

Tour Focus

BirdsWild flowersButterfliesCulture