Piran - Terra Magica

Aug 8, 2012

When getting to the area of Skocjan Caves Regional Park there are couple of alternatives when it comes to visiting the site. We had a pretty good idea of which one we wanted to go for and sort of kept trying to find the exact one, but I wish we knew then that we should’ve just gotten to the first one we passed by. And here is why: although following the given roadside signs and navigator, we ended up making a huge loop on the surrounding hills and never made it in time. Long story short, as we arrived to the right entry to the underground caves, the last tour of the day had left about 15 minutes ago! You can probably imagine our disappointment as we were advised to come back another time.

So what exactly did we miss out on? In a nutshell: the Skocjan Caves are a rare subterranean cave complex, that’s not only listed and recognized by UNESCO, but also noted as one of the world’s wonders amongst places like Grand Canyons or Australian Coral Reef. In effect, they represent one of the largest underground canyons in the world and offer various geological elements including the gorge of Reka river. Obviously, not to be able to make it here on time was slightly upsetting. But again, that’s all part of travelling and you just need to move on to the next good thing. Besides, there is always another time (although when you have travelled across Europe to be in front of the entrance gates, you’re more likely to be temporarily pissed off than reasonable)!

On the bright side, we accidently wound up driving along one of the famous wine routes of the Karst region- and quite honestly it wasn’t too bad either! Unexpected things are sometimes just as good.

We approached the Adriatic coast around 7pm and got stuck to what seemed to be a long traffic jam, and we could just spot the sea on the horizon. Luckily, the majority of people were heading over to the Croatian border and we got to cruise down to the seaside on an empty road (thank you Croatia!). I must say we were thrilled to be back at the very same coast as we had been the month before, and we were so excited to assimilate the challenger of Croatia– Slovenian Istria (also known as Slovenian Riviera)! The country that possesses only a good 40 km of the coastline. We were going to explore one of the main three towns, Piran, located just at the tip of the Piran peninsula.

Again, traveling in August proved to be a bit of a pain in regards to free space and vacancy, as all the places were packed (and most of the time for campgrounds there is no possibility for booking in advance). The first place we tried to get in was full, and so we ended up driving along the beach strip for a couple of kilometers (via Portoroz). At the end of it we came across to a huge camping site with bunch of free spots. The location was good, as we could walk to the town the next day (there was also a shuttle between Piran and Lucija). That night, we strolled around the beach boulevard Obala that was filled with hotels, shops, restaurants, bars and vacationers. If I’d compare this place with Croatian counterpart, my first observation would be the demographics- lots of domestic people spending holidays here (which makes sense as their coastline isn’t all that long), and perhaps bit less foreign tourists. The second would be the price level, which to our surprise was pretty similar to that in Croatian side. Surely, we felt that Slovenia was slightly cheaper than Croatia, but in the end of the day the gap’s not that significant anymore.

The next day the walk along the beach strip through Portoroz was pretty long, and the hot sun didn’t ease that at all. We weren’t quite sure how we felt about this place so far; it was super crowded, touristy and pretty concrete. For staying at the beach, it probably wouldn't really correspond to our ideal spot. But as we started to see the first glance of Piran, we were totally on board- the red and green 'lighthouses' framing the cutest little port and the medieval town with terracotta rooftops! The town is actually located at the tip of a peninsula and has a Franciscan monastery on a hill just behind the city center. What a gorgeous setting!

The absolute highlights of Piran include the picturesque Tartini square with its colorful buildings, the Venetian style architecture, the tiny little alleys filled with authentic vibe, the beach boulevard with its restaurants (and swimming right along it), and the walk up to the old city walls to get the views down. We really enjoyed this place, and along with Ljubljana, our hearts really melted for these pretty Slovenian towns! 

No doubt, that all these vivid towns in addition to the small rural villages and nature we had seen on the way, had left us with the urge to go back one day to explore more- perhaps to discover the mountainside?

This road trip though, was taking a new direction to Bella Italia and to one of the most fascinating places in Europe – The Cinque Terre.


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Piran (Pirano in Italian)
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Note: Italian is widely spoken in the region, especially in Piran.

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