If you take a look at a map.. you can see why part of the huge attraction for us to locate Lipizzaner Lodge where we are, is to be just 30 mins from the Mediterranean coast.. you have the entire Slovenian, north Italian and Istrian (NW Croatia) Adriatic coastline at your fingertips!
You can even wait until after breakfast to decide which country you will sip your cappucino in today.. or will it be Slovenian Sladoled, Italian Gelato, or whatever they call ice cream in Croatia!!
We really like that.. and it is true, each country does the Mediterranean a different way!
Slovenia has a small, relaxed, but beautiful "Mediterranean feel" coastline, but you also have your pick of the "tutti frutti" North Italian and the island lined Croatian Istria coastlines to spend your day by the sea!
The water is warm, clear, calm and quite salty, so easy to float around in.
You can reach the Slovenian seaside in just 30 minutes and the biggest mistake you can make is to think the Slovenian coast is just Piran.. there are lots of other little seaside towns and villages and each one is completely different to another.
If you go back to that map you will also see that although the coast line is quite short, the Mediterranean hinterland is huge and often completely ignored by the guide books and expert internet tipsters.. another big mistake!
Piran, (45 mins), is probably the one Slovenian seaside town you have heard about and it really is just as beautiful as they say.
This little Venetian seaside diamond is crammed into a tiny peninsular, so feels like an island.. it has rows of Venetian style houses tightly packed into narrow alley ways spilling out into beautiful little secret market squares.. all exits from this old town pop out onto a long rocky sea promenade, all overlooked by a church that would not look out of place in Venice itself.
We recommend you explore the narrow streets first. You will find little shops, cafes & restaurants. Our favourite restaurants are hidden here in the back streets, but we totally understand that for your one day in Piran, you might want to eat by the sea..
Then maybe walk up to visit the church for an incredible coastal vista and make your way back down to the seafront for even more restaurants with excellent seafood and delicious ice cream opportunities.
Piran is sophisticated, relaxed and so beautiful that you don't really have a choice on your first trip to Green Slovenia.. you just have to see it!
Parking is a huge problem for Piran, especially in the summer school holiday, as only locals may park on the peninsular car park and there is a big, but Italian style car park with very tight spaces on the edge of the town for everyone else.
We have a few secret tips to help our guests out with this, but there is also a back door to Piran that is good to know about and another great place to have a secret swim!
Here is something fun we noticed in the old towns of Piran and Izola.. Not one door is the same! They all seem to be hand made and many are Mediterranean works of art, so we challenge you to find 2 doors the same in one of the tight little side streets!
Just a 3km walk from Piran along the coast is Portorož, (45 mins from the Lodge too), which is a very different seaside town.
Portoroz is a more glitzy, modern seaside resort with lots shopping, sandy beaches, big hotels and casinos. There is lots of stuff here for kids lining the coast, with private beaches and swimming pools, play parks and pretty much all you need for a fun day out at the seaside.
We come here often in the quieter periods and there is a really great choice of restaurants and cafes here.. one of our favourite things to do is to park easily and do that coastal walk from Portoroz to Piran.. a day of contrast with the sea at your side the whole day!
Just past Portoroz and before the Croatian border, there are huge salt fields with a museum that you can visit to see how hard the salt families worked making sea salt pyramids for the likes of Jamie Oliver to recommend nowadays!
Izola.. our personal favourite place by the sea!
For a more relaxing, quieter day by the seaside, with easy parking, great swimming and a fab choice of restaurants, we highly recommend Izola.. (35 mins from the Lodge)..
"Izola" means island and in Roman times it really was an island, but the sea was filled in to make it the pretty peninsula resort it is now.. the island area is smaller than Piran, but the town is much bigger, with generally more space to relax.
Just like in Piran, you can stroll along the narrow Venetian streets of the old town, relax in cafes along the promenade and visit lovely restaurants and a very special railway & yacht museum. There are also some great swimming places here along the stone beach in particular.
We recall a very lovely Spanish family who popped down to Izola just for a summer evening to have a meal and swim in the sea at sunset.. they told us how much they loved it, so we will never forget them and Spanish people know a lot about a good coastline!
If you went to Piran and Izola three times each, we think you would switch your favourite, like we did, from Piran to Izola.. everything is so much simpler and easier and still very beautiful in Izola.. but it's just that Piran is so incredibly picture perfect.. so for the first day trip visit, we still often tip Piran to our guests!
Do look out for the stone lions carved into the side of the Venetain style churches along the Slovenian coastline and check if the book they are holding is open or closed! If the book is open, the town accepted Venetain rule without a scrap.. if the book is closed, then there was a fight first!
The biggest town on the coast is Koper, (30 mins from the Lodge) and Slovenia's main port, but it also has a lovely old town and lots of shops.
It took us a few years to realise that Koper too was an island in the old days.. You could have knocked us down with a feather when a friend showed us where the old town wall was and we realised that all the new buildings, the basketball area and out of town shopping malls were built on an area that reclaimed from the sea and used to be used for farming sea salt!
It was only then that we took "the old island area" or Old town of Koper seriously as a seaside destination and we properly discovered the restaurants, cafes and promenade!
There is an old market place and a Venetian central square with huge bell tower that could be described as a mini St Mark's square, if you had sun glasses on and it was dark.. but it really is lovely..
A little down the coast from Koper, Italian direction, is a nature preserve for birds that has been left to grow wild and this is where you can start the coastal cycle path along the Adriatic.
It is also well worth taking a drive towards Italy and Ankaran, where we have found 2 hotel & camping complexes right by the sea, where, for a small fee, a family can go for another day out swimming by the sea or in pools, relaxing and using the hotel's facilities.
Other Fab Places to swim along the Slovenian Coast..
We did a couple of articles to help you find some other great places along the coast where Slovenians go to swim!
Perhaps the best place to have a dip is the long stretch of coast at Strunjan, where there is a car park and terrific views over to Piran.. the swimming is really good here and you could along the coast or up the cliff to get even better views.
For families, there is another lovely spot with a concrete beach and allocated swimming area in the sea with another non salt swimming pool at Zusterna, just on the other side of Koper..
The motorway was extended to Izola here through a tunnel, so the busy old coast road was closed and now is a super extra long promenade by the sea! There is a lovely new long car park here and you could go for a longer walk to Izola or back to old Koper town from here.
There is a hotel with a mini Aqua park across the prom and a little cafe here by the sea, where you can get seaside fast food and which plays really loud music.. (a wierd Slovenian thing.. maybe cos there are so few of them, but Slovenians think it is cool to have really loud music at cafes in parks and by the sea)!!
But if you can put up with that, then this is a really great secret place to go and rent a sombrero and have a nice swim in the salty sea!
the Slovenian Coastal Hinterland..
Stuffed with vineyards making unique Malvazia and Reforsk coastal wines, olive groves and little stone villages, there is a huge Mediterranean hinterland area just waiting for you to explore!
It is absolutley empty of tourists as nobody seems to know anything about it, but we know of great restaurants, a crumbled medieval towers sitting on top of cliff stack, a wonky church tower and a really sensational little fortress church hiding the most phenomenal 500 year old medieval fresco of "the Dance of Death".. an absolute must see..
All of this is squeezed into the Mediterranean hills and groves between a huge long cliff that marks the end of the limestone Karst regions of Green Slovenia and the coast!
You can find out about some of the coastal hinterland secret places here, but rest assure there is a lot to see and explore here too..
You could easily sit in a queue to go over the border into Croatia for 3 hours at peak time OR instead use that time to explore an unknown extra mini region of Green Slovenia instead and take a secret quieter route into Croatian Istria on the country back roads towards the stunning hill top village of Buzet.. there is nothing to stop you doing this apart from not knowing about it.. well now you know!
Wow.. what about all that Slovenian seaside fun then! Speak to some Slovenians and they might well bore you to death in a micro second telling you how Slovenia doesn't even have a coast, it is so small!.. but now you know to take this nonsense with a pinch of Piran salt.. which you also now know comes from Portoroz, not Piran!!!
the Italian and Croatian (Istrian) Adriatic..
Our location is so good you can also easily get a taste of the Croatian or Italian seaside experience for the day too! Incredibly, the Italian seaside is actually closer to Lipizzaner Lodge than the Slovenian one!
Just 30 minutes across the Italian border is Trieste's delightful little fishing village of Muggia, which is great for a seaside stroll and a bite to eat.. Italian style.
There is also a jazz festival here in the autumn and a little further along the Italian coast in the Gulf of Trieste, there is a huge yacht festival each year, called the Barcolana.
Trieste is a fantastic coastal city and we love to come here for a bit of tutti frutti city craziness that is the complete opposite to chilled out Ljubljana.. Lodge guests are lucky to be able to choose between these two cities, depending on your mood!
When you also consider that Venice is just a 2 hour drive then there really is a lot of Italian coastline for you to explore.
If you fancy spending the day by an Italian beach then the little pebbles and flat Adriatic sea of Sistiana are only 40 minutes away and you could also combine this with a walk along the incredible rocky coastal cliff that leads from Duino castello to this bay.
Slightly further afield is Grado, (70 mins), a much bigger and modern Italian holiday resort, with docks for luxury yachts and a long sandy beach, where you really could experience a typical day on an Italian beach, with that rented deckchair, umbrella and waiter service!
We have list as long as an Italian ice cream menu of places to visit along the Italian costa still, especially the river delta where the Soca river meets the sea and changes it's name to the Isonzo!
We also heard about an amazing coastal nature reserve between Trieste and Venice and of course, the Prosecco wine comes from along here too!
Maybe the bigger surprise for some guests is that it is also very easy to have a day out in Croatia and be home in the evening for a nice glass of wine!
We especially love to pop down to Opatija for coffee and croissants.. Opatija (1hour 10 mins from the Lodge), has a fantastic 12km coastline promenade walk, called the "Lungomare" along the rugged Croatian coastline, built by the Austrian Emperor and still majestic.
There is a completely different feel in this part of the world for you to experience and there is a large choice of rocky and pebble coastline to explore.
The bustling regional capital of Rijeka (1 hour 15), offers another mini coastal city experience with a great Fish and Fruit & Veg market and you could drive up into the hills above the city to find a fantastic local fish restaurant on the way home..
There is another wonderful Istrian round trip you could do, calling in to see the 6th biggest Roman ampitheatre in the world at Pula (1 hour 55) with lunch in the old town and maybe call in at the stunning hill top village of Labin on the way home.
We get quite a few cyclists, particularly Dutch and Belgians, visiting Lipizzaner Lodge on their way down from Prague to Porec on their epic cycling adventure. You could easily get to see Porec ( 90 mins from the Lodge) on a driving day out with maybe Umag (70 mins) too, which is just over the Slovenian border.
Go a little inland on the way to Porec or on the way back to the Lodge and the stunning hill top villages of Motovun and Grozjnan are also serious contenders!
We also did a longer trip down to Zidar in Dalmatia last year and explored some of the bits between Rijeka and Zidar and you can read about it in our Istria to Dalmatia article..