Pula is a picturesque Croatian city, but when you’ve finished taking in all the amazing ancient architecture, you might want to visit an attraction which is a little further afield. Brijuni Islands are made up of fourteen small islands and were once inhabited by President Tito. The islands became a National Park and were opened to the public in 1983. Tourists are only allowed to visit two of the islands, Veli Brijun and Mali Brijun.
If you decide to visit the islands you will have to book an organised excursion as access to the islands is strictly controlled. From Pula you can take the bus to the village of Fažana where you then take a boat to the islands. You can book your excursion in the official booking office in Fažana and the tour takes around 4 hours. This includes travel to the islands, a guided tour, a tourist train through the ‘safari park’ and some free time to get lunch and buy souvenirs.
When you arrive on the island you’ll find tour guides waiting in a variety of different languages. The order in which you see the sights of Brijuni can vary depending on which group you are with, but all tours will include a visit to the archaeological museum and the Church of St. Germaine. As you walk around you will also see a monument dedicated to Robert Koch. When malaria was present on the islands, Koch discovered the mosquito which caused the disease and managed to eradicate it.
Over the years Brijuni Islands were visited by lots of important people and celebrities. The Islands were President Tito’s summer residence and he enjoyed entertaining there. The Safari Park, which you will visit as part of the tour, is comprised of animals which were given to Tito as gifts by foreign delegates. Today you will see zebras, buffalo and an elephant to name but a few. Tito prized his animals and when they died he had them stuffed. You can still see all the animals in the museum.
The tour also includes a trip to the Mediterranean garden where you’ll find plenty of different species of plants and flowers. As you walk through the groups you might also see the large olive tree. The tree is around 1,700 years old and is said to be the second oldest olive tree in the world.
There are also several archaeological sites which are worth taking a look at. In four locations on Veliki Brijuni Island over 200 dinosaur footprints have been found. In terms of ancient architecture, St Mary’s Church which was built in the 13th Century AD is worth a visit, as are the two ancient Roman villa remains dating from 2nd Century BC. There are also the remains of a Byzantine palace and a hill fort which suggests there was a Bronze Age settlement on the island.
Once you have finished taking in all the sights there’s time to have a bite to eat in the cafe or pick up some souvenirs in the shop. Brijuni Islands are a great day out. The islands are extraordinarily picturesque, with the old trees and beautiful architecture making it easy to see why Tito enjoyed spending so much time there. If you decide to book an excursion, make sure you book it through the official office, as not all boats are allowed to stop on the islands. The price varies depending on what time of the year you visit but you can expect to pay around 200KN for an adult ticket. It’s definitely worth a visit!