ABOUT THE SLOVENIAN RIVIERA
Exploring the coast of Slovenia - Piran, Izola, Koper and beyond
The Slovenian coast (Obala) might be small, but it is full of charm and beauty and you should definitely make the time to explore it. On the coast of Slovenia you'll find delightful old venetian towns with narrow streets and colorful houses, salt pans and marshlands, a lively hinterland with a wonderful choice of wineries, vibrant seaside restaurants and bars, you'll find history, culture, beaches and bloody good food.
In short, coastal Slovenia is well worth your time! Slovenia has 47 kilometres of coastline which stretches from the border with Croatia all the way to the border with Italy on the Adriatic sea. There are three main towns on the Slovenian coast; Piran, Izola and Koper, all dating back to the medieval times. Then there are the newer settlements of Portoroz, Strunjan and Ankaran, and finally the wonderful hinterlands.
Your guide to the coast of Slovenia
This guide will take you from Seca, at the border with Croatia, along the Slovenian coastline all the way past Ankaran, and to the border with Italy, before turning inland to help you explore the hinterlands.
At the border with Croatia, on the Slovenia seaside lies the Secovlje Salina Nature Park. Here you'll find the famous Piran Salt Pans where they still produce the salt in the old traditional way. Make sure to visit Fontanigge, the abandoned part of the salt pans, where you can admire extensive meadows of salt marshlands which are home to countless birds and over 100 abandoned salt pans. We find this to be the most picturesque part of Secovlje. The Nature park is also home the wonderful Lepa Vida spa. An outdoor spa set in the middle of the old salt pans and surrounded by nature, calm and bliss. Here you can enjoy traditional traditional thalassotherapy which leverages the salt pan mud and brine.
Seca is a small village just across the canal from Secovlje Salina Nature Park and a short walk to Portoroz. This tiny peninsula at the end of the Portoroz marina is home to the charming Forma Viva park where you can walk surrounded by nature and statues. Towards the end of the walk you'll find a beautiful cacti arboretum and the Fonda fish farm where you can get fresh Piran sea bass.
Portoroz is the epicentre of hotels and toruists of Coastal Slovenia and a favourite destination for beach holidays. On the central beach in Portoroz you'll find a rare example of artificial sandy beach in Slovenia. The riviera is packed with bars and restaurants and in Portoroz you will find everything you'd expect from a beach resort, including wild parties lasting long into the night. However, as with most resort towns, Portoroz doesn't have much soul or charm.
Piran is relatively small but packed with culture and history. It has a vibrant town centre, great sea food, and a maze of beautiful narrow streets with colourful old houses. There is plenty to see and do in Piran. Piran was part of the Republic of Venice for more than 500 years, which is clearly visible in the town’s architecture. Tartini Square (Tartinijev Trg) is the main square of Piran and the heart of the old town. As you’re standing on Tartini Square, you see a big church and a bell tower rise up above it. This is the Church of Saint George, and walking up the hill to admire the views from the church grounds, or even better, the bell tower, is a must when in Piran.
The old town center of Piran is full of charming little cobblestone streets best explored on foot. We recommend you join this walking tour, or take some time to stroll around and explore its narrow alleyways. Hidden in one of these little alleyways you'll find the Piran Minorite Monastery. Just outside of the old centre of town, and only a short walk uphill from the monastery or church, stand the old medieval town walls of Piran. Climbing up the walls to admire the sunset over Piran is the perfect way to end the day.
Piran also has it's own little town beach at the very tip of the cape, just under the church walls. The Piran beach is concrete slabs to one side and pebbles towards Fiesa. By following the footpath along the coast you'll first reach the Fiesa beach and two fresh water Fiesa lakes. Then you'll be walking past several beaches under the cliff until you reach the Strunjan Nature Park and salt fields. The walk is 4.5 km long and it takes just over an hour to complete.
Strunjan Nature park & Moon Bay
The Strunjan is a place of magic flora and fauna. The Strunjan salt pans were once part of the Piran salt fields. Today they have been turned into a beautiful nature park just behind the Strunjan beach. Book this wonderful tour of Strunjan Nature park to learn more about the salt making process, the flora, fauna and the nature park itself. Stroll through the salt pans and then ascend to the edge of the highest cliff of the eastern Adriatic towards the White Cross. From here the view over the Moon Bay will take your breath away, this might just be the most beautiful beach in Slovenia! When descending to the Moon Bay beach stick to the marked path as some pathways are extremely steep, slippery and dangerous. You can take the same path back up or continue the walk along the coast either back to Strunjan or towards Bele Skale beach and Izola. From the White Cross the walking path continues along the top edge of the cliff back to the Strunjan salt pans. As you descend you'll get glimpses of Piran in the distance through the trees of a small Mediterranean grove at the edge of the cliff.
Izola gets it's name from isola, island in Italian. That's because this town was once an island. The residents of Izola are proud of their fishermen descent and every summer they celebrate with a lively fish festival. The town puts on a display of tacky colorful decorations and the narrow streets come to life. For the fish festival every nook in the wall sells brodet (some kind of fish soup/goulash), kalamari (fried squid) and sardele (fried sardins). Izola is a very lively coastal town even without the festival. Here you'll find art galleries on the narrow streets and a selection of bars and restaurants along the waterfront. We love the charming little marine next to Veliki Trg (the Big Square).
Izola Beaches. Izola has some wonderful beaches. Svetilnik (lighthouse) Beach is a big grassy area at the edge of the old town with a bunch of bars, a pebble beach and a jetty. At the other side of the marina you'll find Simonov Zaliv with its water slides, beach volley and even a small section of sandy beach. From here you can follow the walkway to Pod Belvedere, a small concrete beach and from here on it's a short scramble over the rocky shore to Bele Skale Beach.
Koper is the biggest town on the Slovene coast and it's home to a disproportionally big port. While Koper has a sizable industrial area, do not disregard it just yet! Koper is charming, lively and it might just be our favourite coastal town in Slovenia and we think visiting Koper is a must when on the Slovenian coast. Just like Izola, Koper used to be an island connected to the shore with a bridge. Part of the sea that has been dried out to connect Koper with the mainland is now a salty marshland known as Skocjanski Zatok nature park at the edge of town.
The old town used to be protected by town walls and you can still see parts of these old roman walls today at the back of the town towards the port. The main town gate, Muda is also still preserved. Just behind it you'll find the Da Ponti fountain. Follow Zupanciceva ulica, then turn onto Cevljarska ulica to reach Titov Trg (Tito Square).
Titov Trg is the main square in Koper and here you'll find some of the most significant buildings; Pretorska palaca (Praetorian Palace), Loggia (Loggia palace) and the Cathedral of the Assumption, as well as the bell tower from which you'll get sweeping views over the town, the Gulf of Koper and the hinterlands. Koper has a lively bar scene and plenty of great restaurants. We love the palm tree lined promenade which is perfect for an evening stroll with a delicious gelato in hand. Koper beaches, there is a small beach in the old town but in summer you'll find people sun bathing and swimming along this promenade which extends all the way to Zusterna beach. From Zusterna a coastal walkway and cycle path connects Izola and Koper and in the peak of summer it's filled with beach goers settling for their slice of semi flat rock under the sun.
The beaches of Ankaran On the other side of the port, on the northern shore of the Gulf of Koper lies Ankaran. Here on you'll find kilometres of mostly rocky beaches that stretch all the way to Debeli Rtic, Lazaret and the border with Italy. Just before entering the township of Ankaran you'll find St. Katarina beach which is famous for the Shell Dunes, also known as the bivalve shells cemetery. Along the coast of Ankaran you'll find several concrete beaches and jetties; Ankaran Beach, Valdoltra Beach and Student Beach. Once the township ends, the vineyard and olive orchards begin and the rocky beach turns into a steep cliff. Below the cliff you'll find a hidden naturist beach.Just before the border with Italy lies Debeli Rtic, which literally translates to the fat cape. On one side lies the Debeli Rtic Beach with a wellness and pools and on the other you'll find the Lazaret beach which is our go to beach in the summer days. It is a lot less busy than most other beaches in Slovenia and just a short drive away.
The Karst Edge
The Karst Edge is a geological phenomenon where the Karst plateau steeply drops into the flysch landscape of the Slovenian Istria. This is marked with a breathtaking and seemingly endless limestone cliff. Crni Kal and Osp, under the Karst Edge are just small sleepy villages, but the massive limestone walls behind them are quite a sight.
Stretching for almost 20 kilometres these walls are home to some world class climbing crags with approximately 800 different climbing routes and attract climbers from all walks of life. You can join this climbing tour which includes all gear and the attentive help of climbing instructors who will help you learn and advance no matter your level. On top of the Karst Edge you'll find several walking paths and old fortress ruins, but most of all, you'll get sweeping views over all of Slovenia's coast, stretching down to Croatia, the Trieste gulf and on a clear day you'll even see the alps in the background.
The favourite spot for a picnic with a view are the ruins of the San Sergio fortress just above the Crni Kal village. Socerb castle ; Socerb is best known for Socerb castle (Grad Socerb) also known as Strmec Castle. The castle as a strategic location on a 440 meter high karst wall and offers a beautiful view of the Gulf of Koper and the Gulf of Trieste. Today the castle is very modest and only partially renovated but the views from the property are breathtaking and worth it on its own. While the castle might look like a ruin at first, inside the tall stone walls you'll find a charming restaurant and cellar that serves local wines and delicious food. In the forest nearby you'll find the entrance to the Holy Cave, a 231 metres long and 44 metres deep ice cave with stream flowing through it. Nested near the entrance is the only subterranean church in Slovenia.
Along the Karst Edge you'll find the small village of Hrastovlje which is known for the fortified Holy Trinity Church. While the church dates further back, the walls around the church have been erected in the 16th century as protection from the Turkish attacks. The whole village would hide inside in case of threat. We find the history of the walls very interesting, but this church is actually famous for what's inside - the Gothic frescoes by Johannes de Castua with a very well preserved Dance of Death or Danse Macabre from the 15th century. After visiting the church, grab lunch at Svab restaurant, then it's time to go wine tasting. The next house up from the restaurant you'll the small family run Molle winery. Make sure to try their Malvazija and brinjevec, a spirit made of juniper berries. If you don’t have your own transport you can join this tour that includes a guided tour of the church as well as wine and istrian food tasting.
Wine tasting along the wine road
The area between the Karst Edge and the seaside is also known as Slovenian Istria (Slovenska Istra) and it is famous for its wine, olive oil and cured meats. You can try the typical wines and home made delicious Istrian food in the many cellars along the wine road. The selection of wine cellars is complemented with tourist farms, wine shops, oil mills, local and artisanal craftsmen and local inns. The road will also take you to Osmice. An Osmica is small cellar offering food and the name is derived from the number eight (osem in Slovene) as traditionally they were only allowed to serve wine for 8 days due to ancient regulations. Due to the size of the wine-growing region, the wine road is divided into sections and branches that lead to individual places of interest: from Socerb to Hrastovlje, from Kubed to Gradin via Hrvoje and Pregara, from Škofije to Debeli Rtič, from Dekani through Sveti Anton, Marezige and Truške to Koper. The wine road can be explored by car or turned into a fun cycling adventure through the vineyards. However the hills can get pretty steep so you might prefer to hop onto the wine bus. The favourite stops along the Wine road are the already mentioned Socerb castle, Molle cellar in Hrastovlje, Bordon winery in Dekani and the Wine fountain in Marezige.
Watch the sunset at Marezige wine fountain
In the hilltop village of Marezige you'll find a fabulous viewpoint and the wine fountain where you can pour your own wine and then sip on it while you enjoy a fabulous view over the hinterlands and the Gulf of Koper. Now, let's start by managing expectations. If you're expecting an actual fountain with wine splashing up in the air and then flowing down cascading basins, well, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. In reality this fountain is better described as nicely positioned and decorated coin operated wine taps. With plenty of seating options, a nicely pedicured lawn and wine barrels as tables, the Marezige wine fountain is the perfect summer hang out place and a fabulous location to enjoy the sunset while sampling the local wine. Marezige is a wine village with a beautiful view of the sea. The village is known for different local wine festivals, mainly the Refosco Festival and traditional feast of St Martin – Martinja. You can also take a special, old-timer American bus from Koper to Marezige, which gives a special touch to the visit of the village.