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A Guide to the Slovene Riviera

As one of the best-kept secrets in Slovenia, most travelers aren’t all familiar with the country’s small stretch of coastline, but this guide to the Slovene Riviera will reveal all you need to know to visit. Yes, it’s diminutive in size at less than 30 miles long, but it packs a big punch with sublime nature parks, picturesque beaches, and mouthwatering cuisine. And, it all comes without the big crowds of tourists often found on shores nearby. The historic cities have a unique mix of Slavic roots with Italian and German influences. The architecture includes an enticing blend of Roman, medieval, and Venetian buildings. Koper, Piran, and Izola are the three main towns, all dating back to the medieval era.

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Don’t miss trying the local cuisine whilst in the Slovene Riviera, especially seafood dishes. Look for konobas (local taverns) where you can enjoy fresh, authentic meals.

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Michela

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About the Slovene Riviera

Like almost everything else in Slovenia, the Slovene Riviera is picturesque and charming, with towns featuring a distinct Venetian style that includes traces of Roman and medieval architecture while church towers and their ringing bells rise above it all. It has a noticeably rich and vibrant multiethnic Italian and Slovenian heritage, in fact, both Italian and Slovene are official languages in this coastal region. The food reflects this too, with gnocchi and pasta borrowed from neighboring Italy while the nut-flavored apple pie is from the Balkans and goulash from Austria. Of course, the main draw in this popular seaside tourist destination is its tranquil beaches and practically untouched nature. That includes the country’s largest brackish wetland with over 250 different bird species.

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Where is the Slovene Riviera?

The Slovene Riviera is a short strip of coastline wedged between Croatia and Italy. Part of the Istrian peninsula, this 29-mile shoreline along the Gulf of Trieste by the Adriatic Sea manages to squeeze in a lot. And, it’s only about 65 miles from the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, about an hour and 20-minute drive to the main town of Koper. Some visitors combine it with their trip to Italy or Croatia as there are several other convenient airports in Slovenia’s neighboring countries. The closest major airport is in Trieste, Italy, only 40 miles away while Pula Airport at the southern tip of Istria in Croatia is another option, 62 miles from Koper.

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When to Visit the Slovene Riviera

The tourist season in the Slovene Riviera is generally from May through September, with mid-June through early September, basically summer, the peak time to visit. This is the warmest period of the year with temperatures that can soar into the upper 80s and occasionally higher. While it’s the busiest time to visit, you’re unlikely to find the big crowds that other Mediterranean countries tend to get. It will be ideal for swimming and all types of watersports with the sea in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. For a more tranquil visit with fewer visitors and water warm enough for swimming, visit in late May/early June or the second half of September/early October. The water is usually comfortable through much of October.

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Best Places to Visit on the Slovene Riviera

Piran

Piran is often compared to Venice which lies directly across the Adriatic Sea. Many feel it’s the prettiest town on the Slovene Riviera, with an old port that looks like an open-air museum, colorful medieval buildings, and an enticing square for people-watching. Wandering the cobbled streets, you can get lost in what feels like medieval times, marveling at buildings etched with maritime history. The Venetian-Renaissance Church of St. George, modeled after St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice offers a unique view of the town and the coast, and an even better one by climbing to the top of the bell tower. You’ll see Piran and the beaches surrounding the historical center while the coastlines of Croatia and Italy appear in the distance.

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Koper

The largest city along the Slovene Riviera, Koper is the only Slovenian port and it’s one of the oldest towns in the country with a history dating back to the Middle Bronze Age. During the Venetian Republic, from the 13th through the 18th centuries, it experienced a huge cultural and economic boom with the architecture in town bearing witness to it. Koper also has a bell tower offering a panoramic view – dating to the 15th century, it sits in Tito Square overlooking the narrow streets that fan out from above. You’ll see the frequently mist-enshrouded mountains to the east and the Gulf of Trieste to the west. Other highlights include exploring the Koper Regional Museum and shopping along Shoemaker Street.

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Izola

Izola is just over four miles from Koper. A relaxed, somewhat sleepy town, it offers much of what Piran does but it’s much quieter. It’s known for its friendly locals who provide exceptional hospitality with a smile, its beaches, watersports, and orange wine. At the Korte and Kasler Archaeological Park, one can take in views of the salt pans and experience its rich cultural and natural heritage, including stories from the prehistoric era. In Simonov Zaliv Archaeological Park, there are ruins of a Roman villa while Lighthouse Park is the perfect spot to relax on the beach and soak up the picturesque views. Learn more about Izola’s tumultuous history with a focus on the fishing industry at the House of the Sea.

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Portorož

Located along the southern side of the Piran peninsula, Portorož is the quintessential seaside town with lovely promenades, swaying palm trees, lavish spas, lively casinos, and posh hotels. It’s also one of Slovenia’s oldest spa destinations with monks from the nearby Monastery of St. Lawrence visiting as early as the 13th century to treat rheumatic diseases with the mud and saltwater said to have healing properties. There are also chic beach clubs with several beaches for swimming, while numerous restaurants are nearby, typically serving local delicacies and lots of fresh seafood. Just outside of town at Secovlje Salina Nature Park, enjoy long walks in a tranquil setting with lots of birds and discover how salt is harvested from the sea.

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Strunjan

A charming old saltmaking village, Strunjan is tucked between Piran and Izola along the bay of the same name, known as one of the sunniest in the Adriatic, with over 2,300 hours of sunshine a year. Much of this area is a nature reserve along a roughly 2.5-mile stretch of coast just north of the village. It includes the longest span of unspoiled coastline in the Gulf of Trieste with steep white cliffs rising over 328 feet, along with abundant flora and fauna.  Enjoy the approximately 90-minute walk along the 3.3-mile-long nature trail with 15 different interpretive stations and take advantage of the public beach. It’s consistently awarded the Blue Flag with pristine water for swimming.

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