Visiting Brijuni national park, which consist of 14 islands not too far from Pula in Croatian Istria, is a great idea for a weekend getaway or a day trip while travelling in the area, especially in Spring, Summer or early Autumn. Brijuni islands are mostly known for being a famous protocol and summer residence of Tito, a former Yugoslav president and there are many interesting sites left on Veliki Brijun island from this era. You can check out a Safari park, Dinosaur park, Meditteranean garden, many great archaeological and historical sites including churches, walls, villas and more and relax at one of the beaches. There is also a golf course, a few hotels and restaurants and most of all – really beautiful landscape and healthy climate. You can get there by boat from Fažana. Read more about what you can see and do in Brijuni in this new post.
HOW TO REACH BRIJUNI ISLANDS | boat trip from Fažana
Fažana is located just north of Pula (there is a smaller international airport in Pula), you need about 2hrs by car from Ljubljana in Slovenia, from Trieste in Italy, or from Zagreb in Croatia. The largest of the 14 islands are called MALI and VELIKI BRIJUN and VANGA, during your trip from Fažana you get to see the largest, Veliki Brijun.
The boat ride takes around 20min, depending on the sea, you can leave your vehicle on a larger PARKING in Fažana (fees apply). I suggest you buy your TICKETS ONLINE if you are visiting in high season and over a weekend, otherwise you can also get them in the OFFICE OF BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK in the centre of Fažana. Depending on the season, return ticket for a guided 4hr long TOUR TO VELIKI BRIJUN costs around 25€ for adults and 12€ for kids. If you only take the boat tickets and explore on your own it will be a bit cheaper.
HOW OT GET AROUND VLEIKI BRIJUN ISLAND | guided tour or individual trip
If you decide for a guided tour you can stay on the island after the tour has finished and return with the boat anytime you like. During this tour you get to go around the island with one of those tourist trains see some of the most known sites on the island, such as the Safari park, Mediterranean garden, the old olive tree, permanent exhibitions and more. You can also decide to spend the night on the island and & or explore on your own – you can RENT A BICYCLE or a small ELECTRIC CAR, there are around 20km of “roads” waiting for you.
SAFARI PARK | “Tito´s animals” and wonderful landscape
For many visitors, SAFARI PARK, which is a kind of ZOO but with much more space for the animals to wander around outside, is the number one attraction and also the reason they come in the first place. The park was established to become a home for all the animals Tito has gotten as gifts from politicians, world leaders and other important persons from all over the world. Now, Tito is long gone, some animals have passed away but some have stayed. I must say I´m really not a fan of the ZOO´s, at all. But I somehow survived here, since the animals are not in cages and they seem to gave more space.
While walking or cycling around, you can spot (they might even cross your way) ZEBRAS, ELEPHANT, LLAMAS, GOATS, DONKEYS, the famous PARROT KOKI, TURTLES, DEER, PEACOCKS, OSTRICH and other animals. I was most impressed by the landscape itself as I just adore those trees and the whole scene made me feel like I´m out of Europe in a faraway place. Okay maybe the zebras did have to do something with that.
DINOSAUR PARK | dinosaur fotprints and dino statue in real size
Right next to the Safari park you can stop by at another attraction, the so-called DINOSAUR PARK. This might sound like you get to see loads of dino statues as this is the case in parks with similar names, but not here. Here you get to see just one REAL LIFE DINO STATUE with a nest & eggs next to it, but you also get to see REAL DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS – you find them on the rocks at the beach. There are over 200 of them, so far found on 4 Brijuni islands.
MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN | wonderful garden with over 150 different plants and trees
Another beautiful park area on the island, which was established in 2007, on the same spot where now a former forest nursery was situated. There are numerous indigenous and tropical plants (in total over 150 DIFFERENT PLANTS AND TREES) to see and the whole place is of course the nicest when everything is in bloom in Spring and Summer time.
GOLF COURSE | unique golf course with 18 holes
Because Brijuni was such an imortant meeting place for many aristocrats and elite during the previous Century, a GOLF COURSE was a thing which should not be missing for a bit of fun between all those meetings. Nowadays the place is opened for amateurs and professional players and it is a really unique set up since some of the animals are free to walk around. Watch your head while walking close to the course though.
THE OLD OLIVE TREE | one of the oldest olive trees in the Mediterranean
Also on Veliki Brijun island, you can admire ONE OF THE OLDEST OLIVE TREES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. Based on special carbon analysis its age is estimated at around 1600 years. Its impressive canopy measures over 20m in one way and around 8 in the other and the tree still gives around 30kg of olives per year.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES | churches, villas, forts, walls
Even though Veliki Brijun island is only 7m² large you can see lots of interesting historical sites here. For example the following ones: GRADINA (a fort with well preserved circular walls which remind of a labyrinth), ROMAN VILLA in Verige bay (the beginning of construction is supposed to be in the 1.st Century and it included many different buildings around the bay, also a magnificent summer residence), KASTRUM (the largest and most important archaeological site on the islands, located in Dobrika bay), St. MARY´s CHURCH (interesting remains of a Benedictine monastery and basilica) and St. GERMAN CHURCH.
BEACHES | bays and beaches on Veliki Brijun island
Especially in the summer time, it is good to plan in the whole day for this trip and take some time off after all the sightseeing to relax on a beach for a while. There are many beaches on Veliki Brijun and you can find lonely spots. Those who love a sandy beach should head to SALUGA BAY though – there is also a children´s playground, enough shade under the pine trees, a bar and it´s possible to rent a couple of recreational props.
KUĆA ZA BRODICE | interpretacijsko – izobraževalni center
In this BOATHOUSE am INTERORETATION AND EDUCATION CENTER has been opened in the last years. The villa itself was built under the supervision of P. Kupelweiser back in 1900 while the islands were in his possession. Later one this house was also home to the island doctor and his family for over 30 years so a part of exhibition is also dedicated to this era. Otherwise this is a place to learn something new about the HISTORY OF BRIJUNI, UNDERWATER WORLD, FLORE & FAUNA and NATURE CONSERVATION.
PERMANENT EXHIBITIONS | freske, Tito, stuffed animals and more
Everybody who love history and natural science should also take a look at the following permanent exhibitions: ISTRIAN FRESCOES AND GLAGOLITIC INSCRIPTIONS (you can see them in St. German church), MEMORIES OF AN OLD AUSTRIAN (this exhibition is dedicated to Paul Kuperwieser), FOTO EXHIBITION: JOSIP BROZ TITO ON BRIJUNI (legendary photographs of Tito´s visits at Brijuni islands and elsewhere in the world), NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTION (stuffed animals which were once given to Tito as gifts and have passed away on Brijuni).
This trip to Brijuni is a wonderful way to spend a day while in Istria as it is also the only national park in this part of Croatia. If you can, I suggest you visit during the week to avoid the crowds, but even on the weekends the daily visitors seem to get lost all over the island and you can find peaceful corners as well. It is also fun to go with the kids, not also will they probably love seeing the animals and the dinosaur tracks, you can also easily do a nice picnic at the beach, there are playgrounds as well and you can swim if it´s warm enough. I´m surely going to visit again one day.