strunjan : slovenian riviera

Slovenia has just 47km of coastline on the Adriatic Sea, but it certainly makes the most of it. Three seaside towns – Koper, with its medieval core, Izola, known for its good restaurants, and glorious Piran – are full of important Venetian Gothic architecture, and have clean beaches, boats for rent and rollicking bars. That said, the coast is overbuilt, and jammed with tourists from May to September. If you’re looking for solitude, head for the hinterland to the south or east where ‘Slovenian Istria’ still goes about its daily life.

Lonely Planet is spot on about the Slovenian coastline, especially the bit about “Slovenian Istria”. When we drive to Italy – the big supermarkets in Trieste are as close as the ones here in Istria – we often take the longer coastal route, because it is stunning. It’s also so much easier now that Croatia has joined the Schengen Area, as we now just drive through what used to be the manned border points – this all became a bit more stressy after Brexit, but since 1st Jan, our journeys into Slovenia are a joy. The towns on the Adriatic coast – Portoroz, Piran and Izola, as well as the main port of Koper – are all beautiful. Very Venetian, unsurprisingly, as this area was under Venetain rule for many years. Cobbled streets, cplourful houses, loggias, and salt pans. Yes, that’s right – salt pans, established over a thousand years ago, and still being worked, with a very beautiful salt spa in the heart of the Sečovlje Salt Pans.

We’ve rarely stopped here though, as we’re normally on a mission – supermarket, IKEA, diy store etc. But at the weekend, after days of rain, the sun returned and we decided to stop off at the beach on the edge of the of the Strunjan Landscape Park, unique due its location by the sea. As with lots of “beaches” around the Gulf of Trieste and the northern Adriatic, these areas are normally pebbly or man-made concrete structures. Forget your fine sand. But, and this is a massive *but*, the lack of sand does NOT, in any way, put people off sunbathing. You’ll always see, throughout the season, hardy sunbathers, often lying on the concrete on nothing more than a beach towel. The thought of it makes me shudder!

So, on Saturday, when we decided to make a post-Koper detour to Strunjan, I was delighted to find more comfortable options were available. The car park is almost on the beach, fringed by pine forests and along the very lovely front are two or three bar/restaurants with outside seating. An area with sunbeds is also available, slightly away from the bars. This little bay is just so pretty, surrounded by forested hills, a view of Piran across the bay and lovely villas dotted across the hills. The water was clear and turquoise blue, with morning swimmers and paddle boarders enjoying the warm sunshine. A couple of snazzy, but understated cream and navy blue yachts, were moored up just off the coastline – these always make me want to just sail away…

We’ve had some very awful weather recently, with torrential summer rain and thunderstorms which have been accompanied by fierce lightning. We did manage to squeeze in an hour of hot sunshine at the beach, before the thunder storm clouds rolled in again. By the time we got home, the storm had passed, leaving behind some pretty dramatic cloud formations, wrapped around the pink Palazzo in Oprtalj. Which looks stunning at any time of year and in any kind of weather.

Thankfully, the very dramatic weather seems to have retreated and we are back to normal with our summer weather in Istria – hot, sunny, humid and when a cool breeze drifts by, you are very grateful for it. And with these increasing temperatures, I think we’ll be forcing ourselves to spend quite a bit more time by the Adriatic. Although not on a concrete sunbathing platform…

Published on 13th June 2023