Croatia Travel Guide To Brijuni National Park
Croatia is home to eight amazing national parks. All of them feature the country’s stunningly natural beauty.
When you visit Croatia, you visit it for its nature, history, art, and culture and the best way to appreciate them is by visiting the national parks.
One of the most phenomenal of these parks is the Brijuni National Park.
While all of these nature parks have amazing sceneries, Brijuni National Park is quite special because it is one of the sites where you can truly get up close with wildlife.
If you are pressed for time and will not be able to visit all 8 parks and have to choose one, this park is definitely for you if you are an animal lover. But there’s so much more to this place.
Brijuni National Park is an entrance to a world that is composed only of incredibly breathtaking sceneries and walking around it will also allow you to learn about the city and the country’s history. It’s a great pairing for the perfect day trip!
The park gained its national park status in 1983.
Location Of Brijuni National Park
The park is located in Brijuni islands which is a collection of 14 islands and islets in Istria, toward the north of the coast of Croatia.
Despite being composed of smaller islands compared to the other parts of Dalmatia, the Brijuni islands are quite worth visiting.
Another great thing about this attraction is that it is very convenient to reach from the main cities.
The archipelago consists of 2 main islands and 12 islets, all of which are covered in pines. They are northwest of Pula across the Fazana channel.
You can only visit the largest island, Veli Brijun, most of the time through an organized tour. The area is covered by meadows, oak and laurel forests, and parks where you can spot many rare plants like wild cucumber.
You can include your visit to Brijuni National Park as part of your day tour from nearby cities like Pula or Rovinj. It will be a fascinating day trip.
However, it is still more advisable to dedicate an entire day for the park if you want to make the most of your visit.
You can also stay at nearby places for the night and visit the park on the next day so you are refreshed and ready for an all-day excursion.
The Big Picture: Brijuni National Park
As mentioned above, there are two larger islands among the 14 and 12 smaller ones. The two largest are Veliki Brijun and Mali Brijun.
Veliki is Croatian for large and the island is about 1,700 acres while Mali is Croatian for small and is just slightly smaller in size than Veliki Brijun.
There is a boat service that runs from Veliki to Mali and you can arrange for either a guided boat excursion or plan your visit on your own.
The island also offers its own accommodation so if you wish to stay for a night or a couple of nights, it will be very convenient since you will be inside the park.
But what can you really see here?
Aside from the spectacular beauty of nature that you will witness at Brijuni National Park, you will also have a chance to go inside the Ulysses Theater which was co-founded by Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija.
You may not be very familiar with the name but you’ve definitely seen his face in films like Harry Potter and Batman Begins among other international and local movies. If you are visiting the islands in the summer, you might be able to catch one of the productions running there.
These islands are also a big part of Croatia’s fascinating history around this area. There are some highly unusual sights for you to see. It will also interest some foreigners to know that the islands have once been the residence of one of Yugoslavia’s presidents, Tito.
If you are not spending a few nights in the park and are only planning to take a day tour, the best way for you to enjoy all the sites is to join a guided tour whether you are traveling on your own or with a group. You will be aboard a tourist train which is a small motorized train that will take you to the most important spots in the park and take you all around Veliki Brijun.
Included in this tourist train ride is the tour around the safari park where you can observe wild animals in their natural habitat. There are plenty of animals to see including zebras and some not so very common ones like llamas.
A lot of these animals were given to the island as presents to the Yugoslavian president.
Other things you will see in the Brijuni National Park include the Roman villa remains from the civilization that has been established there in the first and seconds centuries BC.
History of the Brijuni Islands
Unlike some of the more famous national parks in Croatia such as the Plitvice National Park and Krka National Park that feature majestic waterfalls, Brijuni National Park offers quite a different experience.
Knowing a little bit about its history before you visit would help you appreciate the sites more and prepare you for what you can expect in your tour of the islands.
The archipelago’s history goes back to the Roman times in Croatia, just like many other cities and islands nearby.
This is quite evident because of sights like the ruins of the Roman villas which were said to have been used as summer getaways for the Roman elites during those times.
When the Roman Empire ended its reign, the Brijuni islands were dominated by many other groups until they became part of the Venetian Empire in 1331. Later on, they also became part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire in 1815.
Moving forward to the 20th century, the islands suffered some disastrous phenomena.
For quite a long time, they were plagued by malaria which only stopped in 1893 when the islands were bought by an Austrian industrialist Paul Kupelweiser.
With his help, the islands were freed from the disease.
Kupelweiser then started setting up an upmarket health resort. It was a large facility that includes baths, sports venues, dining places, and even casinos. He also initiated the improvement of the islands’ infrastructure and the resort became quite a famous spot for wealthy Austrians.
However, the site shortly deteriorated after the first Wold War and were then surrendered to Italy. They were bombed by allied forces nearing the end of World War II and many of the buildings have been destroyed.
The Summer Residence of Yugoslavian President Tito
Brijuni islands became part of Yugoslavia following World War II and their president at the time, Tito used the place as his summer residence. He also offered it to other important officials in Yugoslavia during those times. This means that the site was completely inaccessible to the public.
As the years went by, the number of guests who were mostly heads of state that were entertained by Tito in the islands reached almost a hundred. These guests included popular film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and Carlo Ponti among many others.
When he died in 1980, the Brijuni islands was named as a National Park by 1983 then it was opened to the public the following year. They remained as part of Croatia when the country gained its independence in the year 1991.
Exploring the Brijuni National Park
Now that you know a little bit more about these fascinating islands, let us take a more detailed look at its attractions so you will know what to expect and prioritize which ones you want to see.
There are so many things to see and do in Brijuni National Park. You have countless options and it is really up to you how you want to enjoy the park. The park is quite large and you can do various activities aside from excursions like biking, playing sports such as golf and tennis, and many more. Some locals and foreigners also chose the park as their wedding reception.
Walks, Bike Trails, and the Path of Good Vibrations
Walking through the many pathways and trails inside Brijuni National Park is like walking inside a nature story book. Be prepared to be in awe of nature’s beauty at its finest that you will observe among the stretch of beaches and its immensely blue waters surrounded by the complimenting shades of green of the woodlands.
You can take a walk along these paths at your own pace if you do not feel like joining a guided tour. You decide which routes to take and the sites that you want to see. These walks will surely guarantee you a day well spent in nature. If you have brought your pet with you in your trip, be glad because they are allowed inside Brijuni National Park.
The park also has numerous bike trails. You can rent bikes for a fee and explore the park through these trails that will lead you to spots where you can have some deep relaxation and contemplation.
There is a particular path called the Path of Good Vibrations which is a collection of walkways that are designed to enhance the park’s visitors’ experience by highlighting the already beautiful natural scenery. There are five paths that you can take in the Veliki Brijun area and three in Fazana.
Walking along these paths, you will be serenaded by sweet complimentary music as you walk past or sit by the artistic benches and swings. The music could be anything from piano instrumentals to acapella and nature sounds. You can access the Fazana walkways any time you like but the Veliki Brijun paths require booking like other activities on this island along with the entrance fee.
After working your busy feet on the walkways and trails, you can put on your swimsuits and go on a little adventure down in the waters of Brijuni National Park. This will make your visit to the islands extra special and one that is quite unique compared to the other parks in Croatia.
The Brijuni islands is home to some magnificent underwater archeological sites along the coastline. You can go swimming freely on your own or you can take a swimming and diving tour if you are up for it. You do not have to be an experienced diver because you will be guided by a professional.
These underwater tours last about 45 minutes. It starts with a little snorkeling in the sea and you will be equipped with an audio guide to direct you as you swim. Some of the things you will see under the waters are the Roman villas. What’s truly amazing is that many of the park’s most breathtaking sites can only be seen by diving under the waters.
These structures have been submerged by the rising sea levels gradually from the time they have been constructed in the first century. Diving down to these hydro-archeological sites are easier than you might expect so don’t worry if you’ve never done something like this before. You just need to know how to swim.
Aside from the Roman villas, you will also see a wide variety of sea life which makes this an exciting underwater tour for fish lovers!
Some creatures you will spot include not only fish but also sea cucumbers, sea sponges, and many types of crustaceans including the famous crabs.
If you do not own an underwater camera like a GoPro or a waterproof device that can take photos, you can rent one on the site so you can capture this spectacular moment!
This will ensure that you really take home some physical reminders of one of the most amazing memories of your lifetime.
These underwater adventure tours are available from April to October.
Safari Park – Brijuni
Now, we get to what most people who visit Brijuni National Park as the highlight, the Safari Park. It is difficult to determine which one of the sites is the very best but if you love wild animals, this will definitely top your list! But if you are both a water person and an animal lover, you should not skip on either the underwater tour or the safari park.
The tour will be a railway trip around the fields where wild animals move freely as in their natural habitat. This is a refreshing sight to see especially if you’ve been to several zoos before because here, you would not feel the guilt of being a part of keeping wild animals captive.
The place is more like a sanctuary and it is pleasurable to see your favorite animals just doing their thing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and playing as they would in their natural homes. Brijuni’s Safari Park is located on the edge of Veli Brijun toward the north.
The entire area is enclosed in a wide space of 9 hectares but there is plenty of space for the animals to move around without bars or cages.
If this causes concern, don’t worry because you will be safely seated on a protected vehicle that will take you through the fields. But many of the animals are truly harmless.
The safari park is home to numerous exotic plant eaters, the Indian elephant Lanka, among others.
Some of the more unique animals that you will see include the Steppe and the mountain zebras. The original herd of these were gifted by Seku Ture from Guinea in the sixties. There is also the zebu or Indian holy cattle, the first of which was given by Nehru of India in 1959. These species are like dwarf versions of the Indian holy cows.
And of course, you will see other more common animals such as elephants and llamas. If you are traveling with kids, this may be one of the places that they will enjoy the most but it is definitely quite a magnificent sight to behold for adults as well.
Take note that entrance to the safari park is not included in the general entrance fee to the islands of the Brijuni National Park.
Fees may differ depending on the season but adults typically pay 110kn plus 500kn to 700kn for the excursion or the railway tour.
Open Nature Animals
Not enclosed in the park are some rarer species that the park’s authorities intentionally let live in the premises. These rare animals have been in the islands since 1893 like the European hare. There is also the Aksis deer, the fallow deer, and the mouflon which have been imported between 1902 and 1908.
Offsprings of these species can still be seen roaming around the islands to this day and are a big part of the park’s identity.
The archipelago is also home to several bird species like gulls and swallows and is also a seasonal habitat for the northern birds. Brijuni National Park’s biggest lake is overgrown with reed so it’s a great spot for you to see some wild ducks and coots among others.
But the park’s ecosystem is so rich that it is impossible to enumerate all of them. The best way to really learn about it is to see some of these rare animals for yourself on your tour.
It’s always a great idea to incorporate cultural sites in your trip to any foreign land. Aside from the natural parks, Croatia has a rich history and culture and the best way to learn about them is by taking a walk down some of these impressive sites.
Your Brijuni experience is not just limited to underwater adventures and nature walks. The park is filled with historical and culturally rich archeological sties all throughout the islands.
You will see buildings that have stood many periods in Croatia’s history such as the fortified Byzantine castrum. There is also the St. Mary’s Basilica and a fort. In a historical church, you will also find an original mosaic that originated from the Roman villa.
When you pay your ticket for your entry to the main island, it already includes a 3-hour bike rental so you can explore the park cycling through the bike trails. This is completely up to you if you will use the included bike rental but it is a different experience and will give you a unique perspective of the islands.
The cycling paths allow you to experience a picturesque view of lush landscapes and captivating historical sites. What’s great about doing this is that you can go at your own pace, cycling leisurely or athletically. It takes about an hour to complete a bike ride around the trail.
You will start riding from the harbor at Veliki Brijun and bike all the way, allowing yourself to take in the islands’ native wildlife up close before you take a railway tour in the safari park.
There are so many other activities you can do at Brijuni National Park aside from the main attractions being featured. You should definitely take some time to see those main sites but if you have the time, here are some other things you can do with your family or friends while you’re in the islands.
The park’s incredible outdoor space allow visitors to engage in plenty of activities like sports. It is the perfect setting for several outdoor games. If you are just planning your trip to Croatia and thinking about including the Brijuni islands in your places to visit, you may want to pack your golf clubs because you will enjoy playing golf in the islands.
Brijuni National Park features an 18-hole golf course and many golf enthusiasts have said that it is incredibly enjoyable to play there and is unique from other golf courses they have played before.
Tennis and badminton are also popular sport activities. Choose from one of 4 tennis courts and play with your friends or other guests. You can even take some quick tennis lessons. Other games visitors can play in the islands are badminton and bocce.
Some people just take the opportunity to stretch and do their own individual exercises out in the grass fields. If you don’t have space in your bags or car for your sports equipment, you can easily rent some from the park so nothing should stop you from playing your favorite sports in between the most exciting nature adventure of your life.
In case you do not feel like either walking or biking, you can even rent an electric car to go around the different spots in Brijuni National Park! It was originally intended for the golf players so they can easily move around the golf course but now it is available to all guests who want to easily tour the different parts of the islands.
Brijuni National Park Excursions
Since the park is so big and composed of several islands, it is ideal to some guests that they take the guided excursions. Of course, it will depend on your preferences which excursions to take or if you want to go freely and move as you feel like it on your own. But here are a number of options for you to best see everything in Brijuni National Park.
Veli Brijun Excursion
In this excursion, you will ride on a tourist train going to the safari where you can observe wildlife up close in their natural habitat inside the Safari Park. Animals you will see in the park that were not mentioned above include the Somali sheep and the dromedary. The tour also includes a visit to the remains of the Roman villa which has been on the site since the first century BC.
Cycling Heaven on the Brijuni
This package includes the entrance to the main park as well as a 3-hour bike rental so you can tour the Veliki Brijun island on two wheels. You must make arrangements in advance for this excursion.
Brijuni Archeological Pearls
This excursion is a guided tour which will be assisted by a professional, taking you to the most iconic archeological sites in Brijuni National Park. You will get to know the interesting past of the Brijuni islands and its people by looking at the structures that tell stories of various cultural and historical periods.
There is a wide range of history to digest here from prehistoric times through antiquity to the Byzantine and Venetian periods.
Pets in the Brijuni National Park
Pet parents are always looking for places they can visit where they can take their fluffy kids along. If you don’t like leaving your pets behind, Brijuni National Park is definitely for you.
Just be aware of some of the guidelines. Dogs must be on a leash at all times. They are not allowed in the touristic train as well as inside some buildings like museums, shops, and churches. You will also have to have someone look after them for a while if you want to take the safari park tour where indigenous and exotic animals are kept.
How to Get to Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni islands are about 7 kilometers away from Pula. There is only one way to reach the islands and the park and that is by taking a boat ride from Fazana. Boats are frequent and the ride only takes up to 15 minutes to get to the main park. There are boats to and from Fazana and the park daily throughout the year.
If you are traveling by car from other cities, you would have to leave or park your car in one of the parking spaces in Fazana. The parking costs 3kn per hour and 5kn during the summer so consider staying for the night somewhere and leaving your car at the location at no additional cost.
From the Airport
If you are heading straight to Brijuni National Park from another country, the nearest airport is the Pula Airport. From there, you can easily go to different cities and not just the Brijuni islands. The airport has good connections from most places in Europe.
Coming from the airport, you should take the bus transfer to the main station in Pula. From there, ride another local bus going to Fazana where you can ride the boat to Brijuni National Park.
Tickets to Brijuni National Park vary depending on the season and the type of activities you want to do. The main entrance fee only includes access to the main park and does not include other activities such as the underwater tour and the safari park tourist train. Here are the prices for the entrance to the main park.
Peak Season From July to August
Entrance tickets for adults cost 210kn and 105kn for kids age 4 to 14 years old. If you’re visiting the park with a group of a minimum of 25 people, you can get a discounted rate of 170kn per person for adults and 85kn for kids included in the group.
If you want a fully guided tour of the entire Brijuni National Park, the flat rate is 1,000kn. Guests who are staying at the Brijuni Island Hotel get 15% discounts on regular prices.
Ticket Prices on June and September
Entrance tickets for adults cost 200kn and 100kn for kids age 4 to 14 years old. If you’re visiting the park with a group of a minimum of 25 people, you can get a discounted rate of 160kn per person for adults and 80kn for kids included in the group. If you want a fully guided tour of the entire Brijuni National Park, the flat rate is 1,000kn.
Guests who are staying at the Brijuni Island Hotel get 15% discounts on regular prices.
Ticket Prices for March, April, May, and October
Entrance tickets for adults cost 170kn and 85kn for kids age 4 to 14 years old. If you’re visiting the park with a group of a minimum of 25 people, you can get a discounted rate of 150kn per person for adults and 75kn for kids included in the group. If you want a fully guided tour of the entire Brijuni National Park, the flat rate is 1,000kn.
Ticket Prices for January, February, November and December
Entrance tickets for adults cost 125kn and 65kn for kids age 4 to 14 years old. If you’re visiting the park with a group of a minimum of 25 people, you can get a discounted rate of 100kn per person for adults and 50kn for kids included in the group. If you want a fully guided tour of the entire Brijuni National Park, the flat rate is 1,000kn.
It is highly recommended that you book your tour and excursion activities inside the park in advance. Dining at the restaurants near and around the park can be quite expensive so you might want to bring some snacks and drinks with you.
Best Time to Visit Brijuni National Park
As you can see from the entrance fees, prices are lowest during the winter season. You will save a lot but you may not be able to enjoy all the activities and excursions such as the underwater adventure. The animals may not also be very visible.
The park’s peak season is during the summer or from July to August. It is also the most expensive one and the most crowded time. But you will be able to do everything in the best weather condition.
It is up to you to consider which factor is more important but if you want to save some cost and still enjoy the activities, Spring is also a great time to go.