The rather tiny Brijuni archipelago consists of two main islands and 12 islets off the coast of Istria, stretching over 736 hectares with a 30 mile long coastline. The beautiful islands are covered by meadows, parks, and forests of oak and laurel. Natural allure is provided by the flora and fauna brought here from various parts of the world.
History and wildlife If you’re in for a history lesson, you should know that after WWII, Brijuni were a summer residence of the late Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia. He would invite high-profile politicians and celebrities to visit and they would, in return, gift him and the park with exotic animals. Luscious wildlife, which includes 680 different local and exotic plants and 150 bird species, is accompanied by a wealth of historical traces ranging from a Neolithic settlement and Illyrian ruins, to monuments dating from the Byzantine period and the Middle Ages, as well as from Austro-Hungarian architecture to a more recent time.
The Islands Veli Brijun is the largest island and you can visit it on boats booked through the National Park Office in Fažana. The tours are guided and provide entry to various sights on the island. Things you should see include the Byzantine castrum and luxurious Roman villa, an ethnographic collection, a collection of frescoes, the Archaeological Museum, and the Natural History exhibit. The Museum contains photos and memorabilia from Tito’s time on the island and can help you to learn about that period of Croatian history. You can only visit Mali Brijun during the summertime Ulysses Theatre season. Every July and August at an open-air stage of Minor Fort (tvrđava Minor), a former Austrian fortress on Mali Brijun island, the Ulysses Theatre has open stage evening performances of classical and modern theatre pieces. Other than dramaturgy, on Mali Brijun you can find cultivated landscapes, parks, meadows, pastures, and many Austro-Hungarian fortifications.
Trip and accommodation If you are looking for accommodation within the park itself, you can choose among two hotels (Hotel Neptun and Hotel Karmen) and tree villas, offering luxury apartments on Veli Brijun, all bookable via the Park’s website. The nearest point to the Park is an Istrian town of Fažana from where you can get a boat ride to Veli Brijun.
You can also book a trip to Brijuni from either Pula, Poreč or Rovinj through dedicated agencies that provide a hassle-free experience. The trips range from a two-hour sightseeing tour to a whole day excursion that includes lunch and visits to both islands. Things to do include sightseeing and visiting the beaches for a nice swim. The wonderfully clear water and the abundance of fish life make for a nice day of snorkeling. Make sure you don’t miss the chance to visit the 1600-year-old olive tree, Tito’s old Cadillac, 13th century St Mary’s Church, Roman ruins, the swamp, and the safari park. On your tour of the island, you might come across rare plants such as wild cucumber and marine poppy or, amazingly, dinosaur footprints. A ‘Jurassic Park’?
The Brijuni dinosaurs come from the Cretaceous period, the last period before their extinction. These footprints serve as a reminder of the long and rich history of these islands. Let yourself go on an adventure, play the archaeologist, and see how many you can discover.
The Brijuni National Park is an extraordinary blend of natural, historical and cultural heritage. The mild climate and favorable geographical conditions, as well as the deep retracted bays and the easily defendable elevated fortifications, have secured a continuum in the human activity on the island from a pre-historic age until the present day. The smells in the air and the luscious wildlife will certainly draw you in and make for an exciting and, at the same time, relaxing vacation.