Sečoveljske Soline, or the Sečovlje Salt Pans, are located just south of Portorož on the Slovenian coast, close to the Croatian border at the Dragonja river estuary. This is a poetic landscape steeped in history, where salt has been farmed for over 1000 years. It is also an important wetland bird sanctuary and nature reserve. All in all it is a great place to visit if you are looking for a peaceful and inspiring way to spend an afternoon while in the area.
History of the Sečoveljske Soline
The first recorded mention of the salt pans of Piran (formed of the Sečoveljske Soline and the nearby Strunjanske Soline) is in a document from 804 AD. From 933, salt pans in this area were used to provide salt for the Venetian Republic, of which Slovenian Istria was a part at this time. By 1460, the Piran Salt Pans had become some of the largest and most important in the Republic.
The operation was taken over by the Austrian empire in 1797, after the fall of the Venetian Republic. In 1903, the Austrian Government purchased the smaller salt farming operations at Sečovlje and expanded and consolidated them in order to step up production and gain advantage in a competitive market. In 1918, the Salt Pans were taken over by the Italians as part of the Free Territory of Trieste and reconstructed, improving the quality and quantity of their yield. In 1957 the Salt Pans came under Yugoslavian governance, which saw further reconstruction and increased harvest. In 1960 the operation was obtained by the Piranske Soline company and partially industrialised. The area became a dedicated nature reserve in 1990, the same year that Slovenia gained independence, and in 1992, the reserve was recognised as a wetland of international importance.
The Soline Today
Piranske Soline still produces sea salt in the traditional way, and their salt has I.G.P. (Protected Geographical Indication) status. The Sečoveljske Soline is a functioning salt farm, wetland bird sanctuary and museum of salt farming. It is a 1.3km walk from the car park to the visitor centre, and the views afforded by this walk are expansive and picturesque. Over the centuries, many artists have been drawn to this unique and magical landscape.
It is also possible to cycle around the nature reserve, and those with limited mobility can take an electric vehicle tour during normal operation (at present the options are limited due to covid restrictions.) At the visitor centre you can find out more about the traditional salt-making process, and watch a fascinating video documenting the history of salt production in the area. See the now-abandoned salt-workers’ houses when they were bustling with life at a time when all farming operations were carried out manually. There is also a cafe and a shop where you can buy all manner of products made using Piran Salt.
If you enjoyed this Postcard from Slovenia, you can find more images from the Sečoveljske Soline on Instagram. Stay tuned for further postcards, which I will send as soon as I have something new and exciting to write about!