Brijuni Island – The Secret Paradise of Croatia
January 1, 1970
Lonely beaches, coral reefs, free living animals and untouched nature.
That’s what a lot of prospect promote. And when you get there the place is fuelled up with tourists. You discover the “lonely beach” to be covered with towels half naked bodies where you either have to fight for a free space to lay down or you’re just really lucky. The untouched nature comes up to a small Botanic garden including playgrounds for children and a vita parkour for the oversized majority of tourists who will try it once and then call themselves “active”. And the so called “free living animals” are just a few birds sitting in the tree since all the rabbits and deer that have been living there once have already been chased away.
Unfortunately that’s what a lot of tourist locations look like nowadays.
That’s why I want to take you with me now. To a place where the beauty of nature, free and happy living animals and real silence do still exist.
We discovered this place by accident during our vacation in Croatia, when we made a daytrip to an place called Brijuni Island. Surprised and overwhelmed by its purity and prettiness, we decided to come back one year later for another full week in order to discover its secret and hidden treasures.
How do you get there?
Depending on the season there’s a 15-minutes-ferry going up to 14 times a day from Fazana to Brijuni Island and the other way round. Fazana is a cute little town located on the West coast of Croatia. If you stay in one of the Hotels in Brijuni, you’ve got the possibility to leave your car in a guarded parking place nearby the harbour. The next airport is placed in a city called Pula, which is further east and just a 20 minutes car ride from Fazana. Alternative – depending on your attitude and money – I can tell that hitchhiking would be a good option to travel Croatia as well, since we’ve seen a lot of people doing that and all of them just looked happy and excited.
What exactly makes this island so special?
Brijuni is not an ordinary tourist location. In fact, it’s a national park including 14 former Italian islands that host a various number of local animals. Centuries ago, when this land still belonged to the Yugoslavian head of state Tito, a lot of international guests used to visit and bring exotic animals as presents. Some of these animals – including Indian oxen, zebras and elephants – can still be seen there today. Therefore, Tito created a safari-park on the biggest island which is known as Veli Brijuni – or simply Brijuni. Right after his death in 1980, the Brijuni Veli and its 13 sister-islands have been declared as a national park.
But enough about the historical facts. What about the local inhabitants – the animals – that still own the island?
After we had rented some bikes, we went for a ride to the safari park on the island where Emus, lamas and buffaloes welcomed us warmly. Exercising a bit of patience, we even got to pet the beautiful zebras that had eventually come towards the fence in order to see if we had any treats for them. Well unfortunately we hadn’t but we picked some fresh grass which was fine for them as well. Feeding the zebras we suddenly heard a loud noise from the other side of the park.
Following this sound we found the elephant lady “Lanka” who unfortunately occupies a compound for herself since her fellow “Sony” has died just a few years ago. Opposite “Lanka” we could watch a sea turtle swimming in her pool. As the staff members had found her injured, she was brought here and coddled up and will be released back into the ocean soon before another turtle in need will take her place.
Another part of the safari-area holds an ethnological park that hosts typical animals from local farms of the Croatian province Istria. Donkeys, goats and the local sheep – with the funny name “Pramenka” – will be happy to see you and get some attention or even strokes.
We left the safari-park and went on a ride through the forests of Brijuni Island, when we came across another reservation called “Saline”. A sign explained that this area provides extra space for rare local and migratory birds to nest and breed. Entering is only allowed with a special tour guide in order to not to disturb the animals.
Should we book a tour for this reservation? We decided not to and leave the breeding birds alone. Why? There were so many animals around us already.
On the hills and loans, the deer were browsing for lunch, taking their fawns for a walk around the island. Precious peacock families were jumping through the trees and over the roads to bring their little peachicks to the seaside where they would experience the cold wet for the first time.
Standing still you could approach rabbits that where having dinner on open fields but watch out – as soon they recognize how close you actually came, they would run dipsy-doodling to the next bush to be never seen again. And if you look closely, you might even see some rams hiding in between the rocks in the forest.
One of my favourite things to do there? Going for a run. In the morning accompanied by rabbits and peacocks, in the evening by sheep, deer and sometimes even bats that would flit above your head.
If you’re afraid of rats looking for leftover food, you shouldn’t go for a midnight-walk by the way. Even though they’re more scared of you, than you are of them – just saying.
What else is there to do?
- To be able to fully explore the island you should definitely rent a bike. It helped us a lot and it’s a way cheaper option than getting one of the caddies and segways, which you can rent as well. There’s a huge golf course set up on some of the fields and the tennis court looked like a lot of fun as well – unfortunately I’m bad at Tennis so I decided to skip this part and not make a fool of myself for change.
- All around the island you will find beautiful bays and coral reefs that are perfect for snorkelling, swimming or just getting some tan. The variety of different kinds of fish is incredible. Jump into the water and you will be surrounded by swarms of these dazzling animals. There’s definitely as much to explore inside the water as there is outside, as for example the educational underwater trail, so I highly recommend diving in the crystal clear and blue sea.
- Another exciting thing about this island is its age. It is so old that you can actually find visible footprints of dinosaurs enclosed in cliffs and rocks that can be found all along the seaside. There’s even an extra area provided for discovering those seldom treasures of the past. It is located just on the other side of the safari park but take care – there might be still a T-Rex strolling around.
- Since Brijuni once belonged to Italy, it still holds a lot of old Byzantine ruins, from single houses up to theatres and small villages. All these are remains of former times and there’s no security fence holding you back from climbing through it and exploring it in every possible way.
- And then there is the Mediterranean Garden. It’s by far my favourite place on this awesome island. In between the beautiful trees and flowers that are planted all over, you can sit down on benches under a small wooden shelter and enjoy the peaceful silence around you. It’s the perfect place to relax, read a book and just recover yourself from the chaotic world outside.
- In the evenings we often took the ferry to Fazana. Walking around the pier you will see a lot of ice cream and crepes stores and even more tourists. In the end of the harbour there’s a local market, set up for visitors and if you follow one of the small streets into the city, you’ll find some cosy beautiful restaurants that are perfect for having an authentic Croatian dinner. A few times a week in the evenings the locals set up some kind of show in order to entertain the tourists, as for example traditional dances or Croatian folk music.
You might wonder if the peace and quietness of Brijuni doesn’t get overrun by all the tourists that want to share in its beauty. No worries – it definitely doesn’t!
In fact, all the day-trip-tourists stay with their tour guides along a specific route and around the harbour. Since Brijuni itself only runs two hotels that are nearby two manmade swimming areas, even most of the long-time residents stay close to this area. It’s just easier to take your children for a swim at the prepared beaches than somewhere in the natural finished bays. That’s why – as soon as you bike about three minutes into the other direction – you’ll find yourself surrounded by Mother Nature, able to fully enjoy your adventure.
If you’re tired of overcrowded beaches and the chaos of noisy tourist places, the perfect place for you to go is Brijuni Island. Give yourself a chance to take a rest in between flora and fauna and don’t forget – if you get there next time – send me a picture and tell me about your experiences on this dream island.
How did you like my post about the secret paradise of Croatia? You’ve got any questions left? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment just down below or drop me a message on my colourful Contact page. I’d love to receive some feedback and look forward to reading from you!