Although I’m spending a couple of weeks each summer in Istria, I haven’t visited Brijuni islands before. But, after I’ve taken a day trip to Brijuni Islands this year, I think there won’t be summer without it. Here is a blog post with all the info you need to know before your visit to that gorgeous Croatian archipelago.
How to get to Brijuni Islands
Brijuni Islands are Croatian National Park, and a limited number of ships are allowed to get there each day. Although you’re going to see many smaller touristic boats offering a trip to Brijuni Islands, the truth is they are only sailing around them and are maybe stopping at some of the smaller islands.
If you would like to get to the main, Veli Brijun Island, spend some time on it and have a chance to explore the national park properly, the best thing to do is to get on one of the official Brijuni Islands boats. They are departing from Fažana, a small town located across the channel of Brijuni Islands. You can get your ticket at the local tourist office at the centre of the town (address: Titova riva 2) or online on a link here. Ticket includes two ways boat ride, entrance to the national park and a tour around the Veli Brijun Island (train ride around the island, tour guide, visit to the museum and a walk around the island).
A little bit about Brijuni Islands
What were Brijuni? An island desert… And from a desert, heaven was created!
Karl von Thaler, 1911
This quote from Karl von Thaler describes the history of the archipelago so well. Brijuni Islands is a group of 14 small islands, and it’s one of Croatia’s national parks. The biggest island is called Veli Brijun (‘Large Brijun’ in English), and that’s the one where most of the interesting things are.
The archipelago was populated from the early days. There are remains of two ancient Roman villas there. From the Middle Ages islands were owned by the Republic of Venice. They were using the quarries from the islands and have built many palaces and bridges in Venice with the stone from them. At the beginning of the 19th century, they became a part of the Austrian Empire, like the rest of Croatia.
After the Second World War, Brijuni Islands became a place where Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito had his presidential summer residence. Many politicians and celebrities visited the Brijuni Islands during that time. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Sophia Loren are just among the most famous ones. There is still a Croatian presidential villa on the Veli Brijun Island today.
Being a home to some rare Mediterranean floral species, it’s one of Croatia’s National Parks since 1983. Many local animals from the region of Istria, together with some exotic animals could be found on the islands, too. And while wandering around the island, you’re going to stumble upon many deers and muflons.
How to spend a day on Brijuni Islands
I’ve spent a day on the Brijuni Islands, and it was filled with learning about that beautiful archipelago, exploring its natural beauty together with seeking some of its cultural heritage. However, we also had plenty of time for some swimming and chilling later on at a cosy restaurant there. We’ve taken a boat at 11:30 AM and have left the island at 5:30 PM, so there is plenty to do during your day trip to Brijuni Islands.
*TIP: Check out the boat schedule before your trip on a link here.
# – Train ride around Brijuni Islands
We’ve taken one of the official boats at the centre of Fažana, and after a short 15 minutes long boat ride we’ve arrived at Veli Brijun Island. When we came there, there were tour guides already waiting for us, and we could join the group depending on the language we speak. Our guide welcomed us to the island, and we all together proceed to an electric train that took us on a little ride around the Veli Brijun Island. We listened to explanations and comments about nature, specific species and rare buildings we could see there.
The ride lasted for around an hour, and it was a lovely introduction and a start of our day trip to Brijuni Islands.
*TIP: There is a dinosaur footprint at the pathway leading from the place where the boat is docking to electric trains. There are more than 200 dinosaur footprints on Veli Brijun Island, and you can look for them while there.
# – Safari park at Brijuni Islands
There are many local animals from the region of Istria that could be found on Brijuni Islands. However, since president Tito used to get animals as a present from his political visitors, many of them are still living on the island. During our train ride, we drove through the safari park were many of those exotic animals are living today. We saw some zebras, an elephant, turtle etc.
# – Lunch at Brijuni Islands
After a train ride, we had a quick lunch and a coffee break at a terrace of the Školjka Cafe. They are serving sandwiches, ice-creams and other snacks. However, there is an option to have a bigger lunch at another one of Brijuni’s restaurants. Here is a list of all of them.
# – Visiting museums at Brijuni Islands
After a quick lunch, it was a time to explore some of the history and cultural heritage of Brijuni Islands. We first went to the Gothic Church of St. German. There is a fascinating small exhibition of copies of frescoes, and Glagolitic inscriptions from Istria and Kvarner organised there. As our guide explained to us, the Brijuni Islands are a place where still many diplomatic visits are held. And that small exhibition is an excellent place for visitors to see some of the important cultural heritage of the region in one place.
Two exhibitions we visited then were at the museum located just a short walk away from the St. German Church. At the ground floor, an interesting Natural history collection is displayed, where we learned more about the animals from the archipelago. And on the first floor, there is an exhibition ‘Josip Broz Tito in Brijuni’ with photos of all those important visitors could be seen. It was created in the 1980s’ so it’s also showing the spirit of that time quite well.
*TIP: Famous Tito’s Cadillac, perfectly preserved vintage car from 1953 is parked just outside the museum. However, it’s not a museum exhibit only. It could be rented, and you can take a ride in it around the island.
# – Old olive tree and Mediterranean garden
After the visit to the exhibitions, we went on a short walk to see one of the oldest olive trees in the Mediterranean. By the research done some time ago, we know that olive tree is around 1600 years old.
Just a short walk away from it is another beautiful gem of Brijuni Islands, the Mediterranean garden. It was created in 2007, and it’s home to some 169 floral species. There are QR codes next to them, so you can learn more about the specific plants during your visit.
# – Swimming at Brijuni Islands
Probably my favourite thing at Brijuni Islands was swimming. The sea there is transparently clear. So, after a few hours of exploring the island, we went to one of the beaches and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming. Since there is a limited number of people that can visit the islands every day, it wasn’t busy at all. It reminded me of some childhood holidays, when we would go to the beach, and surrounded by pine trees, would spend the whole day by swimming and relaxing.
Some extra tips for your visit to Brijuni Islands
*Ulysses – Ulysses is a theatre founded in 2001 by the world-famous actor Rade Šerbedžija. Performances are organised there during the summer months. So, if you like the theatre and would like to visit it, check out their shows schedule on a link here.
*Take enough water and small snacks with you – There is no supermarket at Brijuni Islands, so be sure to bring everything you need with you. It could get quite warm there during the summer months, so have plenty of water and some light snacks with you.
*Bring your camera – There are so many beautiful sceneries on Brijuni Islands, it’s a heaven for any photography enthusiasts. From the wild animals strolling around the island, unusual Mediterranean plants to the sea views. There is something for everyone on those photogenic islands.
*Have dinner at Fažana – Boat to Brijuni Islands is departing from Fažana and after your visit, the boat is going to bring you back to that small fishermen town. There are many lovely restaurants there, I’m highly recommending you to have dinner there. We had some seafood at the restaurant called ‘Stara Konoba’ close to the boat docking place and really loved it.
Taking a day trip to Brijuni Islands during your stay in Istria is definitely something I’m highly recommending you to do. Spending some time in beautiful nature and by swimming in a crystal clear sea is a lovely way to beat the crowds. But also explore more of the beautiful Adriatic coast.