Brijuni National Park Croatia

Back in the good old days of communism when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, the then President, Josef Tito used to spend a lot of time in his compound on Veli Brijuni, one of the islands which now form the Brijuni National Park.

There are 14 islands in all which make up the Brijuni Archipelago in the region of Istria in Croatia. Veli is the largest of the islands, its neighbour Mali is smaller, and a further 12 islands that are much smaller still comprise the rest of the group.

In fact the islands are so small they comprise, in total, just seven square kilometres of land mass. Nevertheless, the islands have been attracting visitors for thousands of years and were a popular holiday destination even in Roman times, as the remains of Roman villas attest.

During the Middle Ages the islands were controlled by the Venetians, who established quarries. Many of the buildings and bridges that you see in Venice these days were built from Brijuni stone.

There is a regular ferry service from the port of Fazana. The trip is quite short, only about 30 minutes, the scenery is quite pretty. These are not tropical islands as they are low and rocky, and scattered with beaches and inlets.

There are a couple of hotels on the island of Veli, and also a golf course. Most of the hotels and holiday homes are located off the islands, in nearby towns as many people head over to the islands for a day trip rather than stay on the islands themselves.

Many of those day visitors book onto a tour which includes a ride on the tourist train, visit to the remains of the Roman villa Rustica in the bay of Verige, and visits to the archaeological museum located in the Citadel building from the 16th century and the Church of St. Germain with permanent exhibition of copies of frescoes and Glagolitic writings from Istra.

Don’t be surprised if you see zebra, elephants and other exotic animals on Veli, as there is a safari park on the island that is stocked with unusual animals that were gifts to Tito.

The islands attract many celebrities, and, during Tito’s time, was visited by many heads of state and dignitaries, however, they tend to visit parts of Veli that are not accessible to the general public.

The islands have attracted people to them for centuries, particularly because the climate on the islands is quite good, and the scenery attractive. If you are visiting Istria, and have the time, a visit to the Brijuni Islands would make for an interesting diversion.

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