Slovene coast is, besides my home town Ljubljana and the mountainous area in Kranjska Gora & around, one of my favourite parts of Slovenia. I´ve spend lots of time here during my University times and got to know the coastal places pretty well back then. Surely, things have changed in the last decade, but it is still my happy place and we visit it every time we drive back home from Germany. My absolute favourite spots are Piran and Sečovlje salt pans, but I assure you, there are many more wonderful corners to explore and enjoy – despite the fact the total lenght of the coast is only a bit over 40 kilometres. And no, I did not miss a zero there. There are also lots of beautiful villages and landscapes in the interior of Slovene Istria, but they deserve a separate post (coming up soon). Here I´m presenting the coastal places between Ankaran peninsula (close to the Italian border) and Sečovlje saltpans (close to the border with Croatia).
ANKARAN PENINSULA | Ankaran, Debeli rtič, Sv. Katarina, Sv. Nikolaj, Sv. Jernej, Valdoltra & more
On ANKARAN PENINSULA, this diverse and interesting part close to the Italian border, we find many BEACHES (in Valdoltra, Debeli rtič, Adria resort, Sv. Katarina and Sv. Jernej bay at the Itaian border), NATURAL TREASURES (Debeli rtič nature park, cliff walls, the only salty meadow in Slovenia with an educational path, a forest educational path called Resslov gaj) and lots of OTHER SIGHTS (spa tourism in Valdoltra & Debeli rtič, a Benedictine monastery, tourist complex Adria Ankaran) and much more.
Ankaran peninsula is a great place to visit for everybody who is not only interested in beaches and swimming (to be honest, in my opinion the beaches here are not the nicest on our coast), but also in easy walks and enjoying the nature.
SEASHELL BEACH | interesting seashell beach between Ankaran and Koper
THE ONLY SEASHELL BEACH IN SLOVENIA was formed around 30 years ago at the expense of deepening the bottom of the sea for the purposes of extending the Koper port. The seabed sludge was pumped out and transported to POLJE BAY, between Sv. Katarina and Koper, the rain eventually washed out the mud and only the shells stayed. Today, you can walk around freely and observe 234 TYPES OF SHELLS and over 30 SPECIES OF BIRDS. This place is actually a NATURE RESERVE and picking shells is not permitted so please leave them where they are.
KOPER | wonderful heritage of the former Venetian republic and the largest port in Slovenia
KOPER IS THE LARGEST SLOVENE COASTAL CITY, offering a lot of things to see and do. Many Slovene daily visitors skip visiting it though, but I believe this is a mistake. Sure, it might not be as cute as Piran, but this former island actually has many nice corners and former VENETIAN REPUBLIC heritage. The best is to leave your car at the big parking near Bonifika sports complex, otherwise Koper also has an end train station if coming from Ljubljana for example. From here you can easily explore the town on foot. You shouldn´t miss walking up ČEVLJARSKA STREET to the central TITOV TRG square with a beautiful PRETORIAN PALACE and the LOGGIA PALACE, CHURCH and CITY TOWER. You can also see two more interesting buildings, ARMERIA and FORESTERIA, on PREŠERNOV TRG square there is a nice Da Ponte fountain, also check out BROLO TRG square, the only CITY GATE called MUDA, CARPACCIOV TRG square with a nice renovated former salt warehouse used for events nowadays called TAVERNA, the SEASIDE PROMENADE, other CITY PARKS, MUSEUMS and more.
Koper has also become a popular stop for CRUISE SHIPS, bringing lots of international tourists in the past years. For all the nature lovers there is something in Koper as well – you can take a walk and observe birds in ŠKOCJANSKI ZATOK NATURE RESERVE.
IZOLA | a former island between Koper and Piran, Simon´s bay and Belvedere
The once main coastal road between Koper and Izola is now a wide, 6km long WALKING / CYCLING PATH and it will take you around 1hour of walking between the two cities. The road now takes you through the tunnel to Izola, which is quite a nice place actually. It is smaller and more peaceful, there is a nice MARINA, an ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK in Simon´s bay, IZOLANA MUSEUM, PARENZANA MUSEUM and Besegni degli Ughi, Manzioli and Lovisato PALACES in the city´s centre.
Of course there are also BEACH AREAS IN IZOLA. Probably the most known one is SIMON´S BAY (Simonov zaliv) where the beach is great for kids too, a little further in the direction of Strunjan you can take a swim at BELVEDERE and close to Izola´s centre, there is one beach area at the LIGHTHOUSE close to a larger green park as well.
“BELE SKALE” and STRUNJAN CLIFFS | Strunjan Nature Park, the nicest beaches on the coast and scenik hiking trails
STRUNJAN NATURE PARK includes the whole STRUNJAN PENINSULA and stretches between Simon´s bay in Izola to the Strunjan creek outflow. In this part we can see beautiful WHITE LIMESTONE CLIFFS, STRUNJAN SALTPANS, vineyards, olive tree groves, STJUŽA BAY with its beaches and one of my favourite places to swim on Slovene coast (besides the near by MESEČEV ZALIV bay) called „BELE SKALE“. In translation this name means „white rocks“, it got it after the broken chunks of the cliffs. Because this one is a bit harder to reach it is usually very peaceful and never really crowded. You can also reach it from Belvedere.
One of the most SCENIC EASY HIKING TRAILS around here is located on the top of STRUNJAN CLIFF which is 80m high and 4km long. You can start the hike in Strunjan and check out the interesting cross STRUNJAN KRIŽ along the way. The views from the top of the cliff are wonderful and you can see all the way to Italy if the weather is nice.
STRUNJAN | Strunjan saltpans, Stjuža lagoon, olive treese and cozy beches
I love coming to Strunjan for a swim. Not only is this the starting point for the hike mentioned above, here are also a couple of great BEACHES (Strunjan main beach and beach Salinera on the other side of the bay), PLAYGROUNDS, KRKA REHABILITATION CENTER & HOTEL, VILLA TARTINI and more. In Pinija restaurant they have tasty pizzas and lovely Gin & Tonics.
But the most important part of STRUNJAN NATURE PARK are the 700 year old SALT PANS in the sea lagoon STJUŽA, which are by the way also the northern most and smallest still active salt pans in the Mediterranean. Here, we can see 3 SALINE HOUSES which are protected as ethnological monuments.
PACUG | a peaceful small bay with a known holiday resort for children
Strunjan is also a good point to start a longer walk to Pacug, Fiesa, Piran and further. The path takes you mostly along the sea and it is really scenic. In PACUG there is a smaller bay with a very well known CHILDREN´S HOLIDAY RESORT – even I went there with my primary school many years ago. There is also a CENTER FOR PARAPLEGICS a little bit more up from the coast. If you walk on the top of Pacug bay while heading to or from Fiesa and Strunjan the views are really great.
FIESA | beloved (family) holiday seaside place between Strunjanom and Piranom
FIESA, another beloved FAMILY HOLIDAY RESORTis tucked away between Strunjan and Piran and offers lots of space in the shade and a bay perfect for swimming with the kids. Here there is also a CAMP SITE, PLAYGROUNDS, WALKING PATHS and other activities. It is a nice walk from Piran and it is not too far also.
Besides the beach area, here are also 2 LAKES, which were created artificially due to the excavation of clay for the needs of a former brickyard. The water in the smaller lake is sweet, but the larger lake is connected to the sea water in the bay. Both of them are important habitats for many little organisms and plants.
PIRAN | city walls, Tartini square, churches, museums, squares and beaches
I´m a big fan of the whole coastal area, but if I had to choose my favourite town it would definitely be PIRAN. Here, I´ve spent the most time in the last years and I can´t wait to be back every time I visit my home country. It is true that it can get quite cramped in the high season due to many tourists, but apart from those 2-3 weeks it is very nice and enjoyable. You can reach Piran by walking or cycling FROM PORTOROŽ OR FIESA, but you can of course also come with your car which you can park in one of the 2 GARAGES (from FORNAČE there is also a free bus shuttle service to the center of Piran).For first time visitors I suggest you head up to the CITY WALLS first, to get a feel for the place and see it from above. The view is simply stunning. Afterwards you can descend to the main CHURCH below and walk up the narrow stairs of the CHURCH BELL as well. From here there is the best view on the famous TARTINI SQUARE below. A nice view on Piran town is also from a street called Oljčna pot.
SO, WAHT CAN YOU ALL DO AND SEE IN PIRAN? The center of the action is surely on TARTINI SQUARE so you can start here and check also if there are some events happening while you are visiting. Around the square there are many interesting buildings – VENETIAN HOUSE (the best example of Venetian architecture in Piran, the house used to be red but it´s white now), TOWN HALL, BAROQUE HOUSE and TARTINI STATUE. There are also lots of MUSEUMS and GALLERIES, from Aquarium to Maritime museum and many more. Also, beside the big church I already mentioned, you can visit around 10 smaller churches and a MINORITE MONASTERY. There are lots of RESTAURANTS on the seaside promenade towards the tip of the town, but you will find very good ones in the narrow streets in the town as well. Also check out the local open air market and TRG 1. MAJA square. Piran is not a big town and you can easily walk around in just 1 day, although I do suggest you stay a bit longer if you can.
Out of all the places at the coast I know Piran the best and since it is also the most known seaside town amongst international tourists, especially the last couple of years, I believe it deserves its own post (coming ups soon on the blog). Couldn´t help but posting this collage of pictures taken form day sailing trips along the coast – really hard to decide which views are better, from the sea or from the city walls?
PIRAN BEACHES may not be notorious for for being the nicest ones, but they always do the trick and I love swimming there. There is a smaller pebble stone bay if you are coming from Portorož just before the main bus station and a similar one at the complete other end of the city. In between, at the punta, there is sea access via concrete stairs.
PORTOROŽ | the city of roses with posh hotels, casinos, long sandy beach and more
Portorož or Portorose on Italian (which means “the city of roses” in translation) used to be my first option for a perfect weekend getaway or summer holidays with friends when I was a teenager. Those days are long gone and I actually very rarely visit it nowadays, mostly I cycle by from Piran just to see if there is something new. But, being the most fancy seaside town on our coast it of course has lots to offer and for those seeking more action it is a great place to be. You can stay at or check out the famous PALACE HOTEL, which opened its doors back in 1910, CASINOS, countless RESTAURANTS, BARS and CLUBS. There are also many EVENTS throughout the year. If you are in it for the music, fun, party and socialising this is the place to come to.
BETWEEN PIRAN AND PORTOROŽ there is a nice WALKING PATH, partially also for cyclists – you can use it all the way to Sečovelje Saline Nature Park actually and make some stops on the way. At the big GRAND HOTEL BERNARDIN there is a very nice BEACH AREA with lounging chairs, you can take a look at the lovely St. BERNARDIN CHURCH a little further, SALT WAREHOUSES MAGAZEN GRANDO AND MONFORT (they are turned into an exhibition centre and gallery), VILA MARIA, the already mentioned PALACE HOTEL, a couple of fountains and memorials and more. If you continue on the path pass Portorož you reach LUCIJA (here is also a camp site), Seča and Sečovlje.
FORMA VIVA | an open air sculpture park near Portorož
The expression Forma viva is used to describe an INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE SYMPOSIUM, which is known in 4 different places in Slovenia – in Kostanjevica na Krki (wood), here in Portorož (stone), Ravne na Koroškem (steel) and in Maribor (concrete). Just above Lucija camp site you find yourselves in this great smaller park where you can freely walk around 120 STONE STATUES all year around. There is no entry fee. The statues were made by Slovenian and international artists from all over the world during a period of around 40 years. It´s a nice spot with views on the coast.
FONDA FISH FARM | Piran sea bass & mussels
In SečA near Portorož you can take a GUIEDED TOUR and visit THE ONLY SEA FISH FARM IN SLOVENIA, where in deep clean waters of the Adriatic sea Fonda family breeds PIRAN SEA BASS and MUSSELS. This part of Slovenian sea has the best conditions for marine life and the sustainable sea bass farming here has made it even better for many organisms – today we can find around 30 FISH AND OTHER SPECIES here.
If you would like to visit you need to make a reservation upfront. You can try their famous sea bass in many restaurants and even order it to your doorstep – it can be delivered anywhere in the country, in a special box.
SEČA & SEČOVELJE | saltpans at Sečovelje Salina Nature Park and Museum of salt-making
In SEČOVLJE SALINA NATURE PARK one can walk around around 700 years old saltpans, where even still today, the TRADICIONAL WAY OF SALT-MAKING is taking place. With the process of hand picking the salt an important aspect of cultural Mediterranean heritage of Slovenia is being preserved. The SWAMPS in this area, where special plants called “slanuša“ are growing, are also an unique SALT HABITAT – an important place for bird nesting in Spring time and home to over 300 BIRD SPECIES all through the year.
For daily visitors the most interesting part of the park is around FONTANIGGE, where we can see over 100 DESERTED SALINE HOUSES and visit a great MUSEUM OF SALT-MAKING (opened between April and October) along Giassi channel. Here, you learn about how the salt-making families lived, how to hand-pick the salt from the salt pans and other interesting things about the healing effects of salt and salt products.
Sečovelje Salina nature Park is one of my favourite spots on Slovene coast – it is always more peaceful and calm there, the landscape is stunning and while walking between the salt pans it seems like time stops for a while. The light is especially great on a late summer afternoon or early winter morning.
LEPA VIDA SPA | Thalassotherapy in unique setting between Sečoveljse saltpans
The open air LEPA VIDA SPA, set in an unique landscape between saltpans in SEČOVLJE SALINA NATURE PARK is in my humble opinion simply the MOST BEAUTIFUL SPA IN SLOVENIA. On this amazing location you can treat yourselves with natural ingredients such as sea salt, mud and brine used in THALASSOTHERAPY for improving the visitors overall well-being and enhancing health resilience.
At least once a year we visit this spa with my girl friends and we never leave disappointed. You can choose between DIFFERENT PROGRAMMES and offers from massages to sea salt scrubs, salt-pan mud wraps, bath in brine (mother water) and more. Note that the spa is only opened in the warmer months of the year. Visit their website for more information.
PARENZANA | cycling and walking path on former railway tracks bewteen Italy and Croatia
PARENZANA, also known under the name “Porečanka” and “the Path of health and friendship” in translation, is a beautiful CYCLING AND WALKING PATH which runs on the almost 130km long FORMER RAILWAY BETWEEN TRIESTE (Italy) and POREČ (Croatia). Running partially along the coast, party through the vineyards and olive tree groves in the countryside the path also takes us through a couple of TUNNELS. The 550m long VALETA TUNNEL between Strunjan and Portorož is the most famous one on the Slovenian part of the track. In Izola you can visit the PARENZANA MUSEUM and learn more about this famous path.
THE INTERIOR OF SLOVENE ISTRIA
As I wrote in the beginning of this post, there are loads of great spots in the interior of Slovene Istria. We like to explore these parts as well and love especially the countryside and the culinary experiences there. Posting more about it soon, but here is a picture collage for the first taste of how it looks like.
For more ideas on what you can see and do at the coast check out this great Instagram profile DISIPOMORJU – it is dedicated to all the sea lovers and explorers of hidden spots on Slovene coast and they also offer apartments and a shop in Piran.