The Parenzana - Route of Health and Friendship
The former narrow-gauge railway connecting Trieste and Poreč is now a cycling and pedestrian path. As it runs through Izola, this old fishing town is a must-see spot on your itinerary, and a perfect starting point for a bike ride to Koper or Portorož. To find out more about the Parenzana, pop over to Izolana - House of the Sea.
This scenic cycling trail takes you through the town of Izola
The narrow-gauge Parenzana railway has been converted into the Route of Health and Friendship, maintaining its status as an important tourist attraction as well as a bridge between neighbouring countries. The trail has a medium difficulty rating (3/5) and is suitable for mountain biking due to its predominantly woodland and gravel paths. Cyclists are advised to follow the D6 and D8 signposts. The section stretching from Škofije to Portorož is entirely paved and low-difficulty, making it suitable for families with young kids. The lowest elevation point is 2 m above sea level (Koper, Izola, Poreč) and the highest is 310 m (Grožnjan).
The entire trail runs along the following route: Trst – Rabujez – Škofije – Bertoki – Koper – Izola – Strunjan – Portorož – Sečovlje – Markovac – Kaldanija – Buje – Grožnjan – Livade – Motovun – Vižinada – Višnjan – Nova vas – Poreč
From Izola to Koper or Portorož
If you're starting your trip in Izola, follow the D6 signage. You can head towards the departure point of the former railway, following the coastal road to Koper, and take in the stunning view of the sea. Alternatively, you can head in the direction of Poreč and go towards Portorož. This section of the trail takes you through two tunnels, and offers you the chance to marvel at the picturesque Strunjan Valley.
If you are starting your cycling trip from right outside the Izola Tourist Information Centre (TIC), follow the cycling trail through the tree-lined Cankar Alley (Cankarjev drevored) to Ruda, where you can then take the coastal road. The road to Koper is a very easy ride. It is well-maintained and well-lit, with benches to take a rest and a vending machine with snacks or drinks. There are also showers available if you fancy a dip in the sea along the way. From Koper, you can then continue past the Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve, as far as Škofije, and all the way to the Italian side of the border.
Make a short stop at the coastal scenic viewpoint and snap a postcard-worthy photo of Izola!
If you decide to head towards Portorož, you can hop on the Parenzana in Jagodje. Starting from the old town centre, head towards Kajuhova Street, where you take the second exit at the roundabout. The D6 cycle trail starts there and takes you through Jagodje. After about a kilometre, you will start seeing green areas, farmland and groves along the way instead of houses. Take a pit stop at the Parenzana scenic viewpoint for a panoramic view of the city. This is the perfect place for snapping a postcard-worthy photo of Izola! Just past the scenic viewpoint, the trail takes you to the Šalet tunnel, one of the remaining tunnels of the old Parenzana. Along the way, you will be treated to a magnificent view of the Strunjan Valley, which stretches all the way to St. George's Parish Church in Piran. The route then takes you through the Valeta tunnel, which connects Strunjan and Portorož, followed by a bike ride through Portorož, and on to Lucija, via the Sečovlje Salt Pans. In the Sečovlje Salt Pans Landscape Park, you can cross the state border and explore the Croatian part of Istria.
Check out a detailed map of the route and plan your stops.
The Parenzana of the past
The Parenzana, or Porečanka, was operational as a narrow-gauge railway between 1902 and 1935. It ran from Trieste to Poreč, connecting 33 Istrian towns and villages over a distance of 123 km. It had 35 stops, one of which is located in Izola. The train's average speed was only 25 km/h due to the many uphill sections and turns; its highest speed was 31 km/h. The entire journey, including all the stops, took 7 hours.
There were 8 tunnels along the entire route, two of which are located in Slovenia. You can ride through the 244-metre-long Šalet tunnel on your way between Izola and Strunjan, while the Valeta tunnel will take you from Strunjan to Portorož.
The Parenzana was an important gateway between the Istrian countryside and the coastal towns, and as such made an important contribution to the development of Istria's tourism and economy. In addition to passengers, the train carried a wide variety of cargo on a daily basis: salt from Piran and Sečovlje, olive oil, fruit, vegetables, fish and fish products, Istrian stone, lime, wood, flour and wine.
Come by Izolana and get to know the old Parenzana
Did you know that you can find out all about the Parenzana at Izolana - House of the Sea? On the upper floor, you will be greeted by a photo of one of the tunnels, and right next to it is a room dedicated to the Parenzana with an interactive map of the route, including the tunnels, viaducts and stations along the line.
Izolana - House of the Sea is a must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about Izola's fishing heritage and its history. Explore exciting activities for both children and adults, learn about the evolution of Izola from an island to a peninsula through an immersive presentation, and have a look at 35 model boats and a life-sized fishing boat.