Coastal Karst Cliff Secrets!
Here are 4 amazing secret places for the price of one for you to discover as they are all very close together in a mini region by the Slovenian coast, next to a huge cliff!
Sadly, too many visitors to Green Slovenia might only know about the gorgeous Piran for their coastal experience.. which will be a mighty fine visit.. but there is a lot more to see, not only on the coast, but in the big green bit behind it! The Slovenian riviera (47km long) is quite tiddly like the rest of the country, but the coastal hinterland is massive and packed full of secret places to surprise and delight you.
It is just a half hour drive from the Lodge down to Koper by the sea, but the hinterland is even closer and a great way to get there is to exit the motorway at the Kastelec junction.
Slovenia's huge coastal hinterland is tucked away in the green hills between the warm Mediterranean sea and stretches between the coast and a rather large domineering cliff that can be first found at Kastelec..it is stuffed with vineyards, olive groves, pretty little terracotta villages, ancient churches and castles.
What about these Karst Ciffs then?
This rock edge is actually the end of the Karst, which is a rocky, mainly limestone region covering half of Slovenia and littered with caves, mountains, disappearing lakes and sinkholes.
These final Karst cliffs reach across to the Adriatic and pin the old Slovenian city of Trieste, (now in Italy), next to the sea. (Here above Trieste they are actually the highest sea cliffs in the Mediterranean)! Well then, back in Slovenia the long cliff edge goes from a place called OSP, (which is an excelllent spot for rock climbing by the way)and continues from Kastelec along the top of the hinterland towards the Croatian border.
This is a very popular vista point with our guests, offering one of the best views in Green Slovenia for just a 20 min round trip detour. It doesnt take long to drive up through the little village of Kastelec, (think castle!) and then follow the Grad (castle in Slovenia) signs right up to the top of the hill to find a stone car park and a really stunning castle next to a forest on the edge of the cliff.
Coming from a country where you can just about see France across the channel on a good day, it is quite exciting to be able to see 3 countries at once way down below. From up here you can see the green hills of Croatia (Istria), the Sloveina Riviera and the city of Trieste. It is a really beautiful view and not to be missed.
The castle is very popular for weddings and has been open as a restaurant in the past.. the point is, if it is open in any public capacity when you go there, do pop in and have a look, maybe have a coffee or book a table for bite to eat for the way home.
This was a castle first used by the Venetian empire in their scraps with the Austrian empire! There are also hiking paths down and into the forest and you might want to search for yet another of Slovenia's secret caves.. hidden away just 100 metres in the trees... This is the only cave in Slovenia with a cellar and a chapel.. good combo! And you will need a guide to go in and explore this and maybe Devil's Barbecue cave in the same mini trip.
the leaning Tower of Crni Kal (Black Pond)
Just drive back towards the motorway then go over it to get to Crni Kal following the road signs. Crni Kal means "Black Pond" and probably gets it's name from the little circular ponds that are dotted around up here and so important to the local communities in the Hinterland as they provide valuable water for the animals.
There is a wonky church tower up here to admire with fab views across the hinterland to the sea and you could also use this little village as a starting point for hiking up to the Karst cliff above to find the next treasure on our little list. But don't forget it is Mediterranean hot and steep up here and so bring a hat and water if you might hike.
Crni Kal Tower Fortress
We had no idea this amazing freak of nature existed until we recently saw it on a Slovenian music video and were really shocked to find out such a magical place was here in little old Slovenia and less than 30 mins from the Lodge!
It's a crumbled medieval tower sitting majestically on top of a vertical rock stack perilously connected to the main cliff by a thin bridge about 50 metres high. But it is soooo difficult to find, we almost gave up, but were determined to see it for ourselves and when we finally got here we were not disappointed.
The trick is to head from Crni Kal towards the little village of Crnotice. If you get to the village you have gone too far as there is a little turn off along a stone track just before the village that takes you down to the cliff's edge with a view down over the long motorway flyover bridge.
There is a little car park and you just follow the stone track up the hill a bit (no flip flops, but not so tricky) until you see the tower after a few mins. And wow, what an amazing place.
Crossing the bridge across will be terrifying for some and fun for others, but you leave terra firma for about 10 metres and can look down below over the bridge rail into total thin air until you step across and parachute on top of this amazing rock stack!
The tower is mostly gone, but there is enough left to imagine how magnificent it must have been here as soldiers looked out for impending Turkish raiders or to spot distant warning fires from the network of castles and defended churches in this coastal region.
The view is absolutely fabulous and as we gasped with admiration we heard mysterious voices shouting to each other like devils in the depths from somwhere we couldnt get our senses around.. there was nobody else on the tower?!
The mystery was solved as we peered over the barriers to the cliff opposite and looked down to see 2 climbers edging up the cliff face!
What a find! Above all, it is the rock stack, jutting out next to the dominant cliff, that is the Green Slovenian wonder here, but this place is just so unique, merging history with mystery, architecture with natural beauty. It is also great to be a little bit terrified on holiday and assuming you survive the metal bridge experience, this place is a must see location on the way down to the coast.
We just love this place.. it is the kindaplace you might expect to see Fonzy and Richie Cunningham chillin in with that American diner feel and a coastal view while you munch on Slovenia's best hamburgers and sip a mighty fine milk shake. Viki Burger sits on a long bend on the country road just under Crni Kal with a car park usually stacked up with a few motorbikes.
Did we tell you we love this place already?! We sometimes stop off here on the way back from the coast, or maybe you will just jump off the motorway on the way down for lunch, but Viki's is a completely different eating and relaxing option for your coastal adventures that perhaps you wouldnt expect to find in Slovenia.
So now you know! There is a lot more to the Slovenian coast than meets the eye or the quickly typed Gurgle search on "what to do at the sea in Slovenia"!
But Lodge guests will not be surprised to know that there is even more to do around here than we could even write. You could easily have a half day by the sea and explore these 4 secret places for the rest of the day, but there are so many other options around here that you might have to leave the actual seaside for another daytrip!
Follow the cliff the other way and there are even more pretty villages, another castle and you might also find some of those "black ponds" that give Crni Kal its name.
This is the way to the Croatian border, but there is another route via Viki burger down to the unpronounceable, but unmissable village of Hrastovlje, which has the totally amazing Fortress church with a 500 year old medieval fresco depicting the "dance of death".
Take the Hrastovlje road further to the border and it is not far to a Croatian hill top village called Buzet, which is also well worth a visit!
And the coastal Hinterland is one of Slovenia's 7 unique wine regions, so you could also go on the hunt for tasting local Malvazia or Refosk wine. Or you might prefer to go visit an olive grove farm where they make really high quality olive oil here as well!