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Set on Slovenia's Adriatic coast, romantic Piran is known for its Venetian-style architecture and cobblestoned harbour, where sailing boats rock to gentle waves. Its name likely comes from the Greek word for fire (pyr), after a red stone common to the area – but it's a moniker just as appropriate to the town's orange terracotta roofs, or blazing tangerine sunsets. Tall cypress trees and olive groves dot the hills around, and on a hot summer's day, you can dive straight from the town's waterfront into its crisp blue sea.
Hostels in Piran tend to be small and friendly, with a homely feel. You can stay in modern dorms 3 minutes' walk from the beach, chic rooms in the historic centre or rustic accommodation on a hillside above the town. While facilities tend to be simple, a Piran hostel often has extras such as individual reading lights, lockers to keep your luggage secure or a washing machine for guests to use. Some Piran hostels offer scooter rentals and activities such as rafting or canyoning.
The heart of Piran is its Old Town. This neighbourhood is home to Venetian Gothic buildings painted in pastel colours, pavement cafés in pretty Tartini Square and long promenades along the waterfront. Other areas to explore include Portorož, a slightly more modern town with casinos, sandy Portorož Beach and thermal baths, and the pristine hills of Strunjan Nature Park. Piran is set in one of Slovenia's top wine-producing regions, Primorska, so it's worth exploring vineyards nearby.
Sights in Piran include the imposing Church of St George, which is set on a hill at the top of town – you can climb its bell tower for sweeping views out over the medieval town and shimmering Adriatic. Piran's sturdy defensive walls date back to the 7th century and also offer scenic viewpoints. For music fans, fresco-covered Tartini House, in the main square, was the birthplace of famous violinist Giuseppe Tartini. At Sečovlje Salina Nature Park, you can see some of the last traditional saltpans in the Mediterranean, and even harvest some salt yourself.
Portorož international Airport is a 30-minute bus ride away. Its flights are infrequent, however, so it's probably easier to fly into Trieste Airport and take a shuttle bus to Piran (1 hour) or train and ferry (2.5 hours total, changing in central Trieste). You can also catch a ferry from Venice port (a 30-minute journey), or ride a bus from Ljubljana (2.5 hours). Piran is small enough to explore on foot, and buses run to nearby towns.