Brijuni Islands National Park: A Site Made by Angels
The Brijuni Islands National Park is legendary for its breathtaking landscapes. The locals tell of a time when God planned to make a likeliness of Heaven on Earth and shaped Istria. But the devil, struck by jealousy, tore up the bag of unused stones carried by one of God’s angels. The rocks fell down from the skies and scattered all over Istria destroying its similarity to Heaven, and making it the land of contrasts of today. Some angels, however, picked up the surviving pieces of Heaven and with them, they fashioned Brijuni. This delightful allegory is a just indication of what the Brijuni Islands National Park looks and feels like.
A short history of the Brijuni Islands National Park
These islands shaped by angels were always a topic of fascination for foreign powers. They became part of the Austrian Empire in 1815 (later the Austro-Hungarian Empire), but somehow they fell off the radar, becoming deserted islands until Viennese business magnate Paul Kupelwieser bought them in 1893 and transformed them into a luxury destination for the blue-blooded upper class. This process, however, took some doing. The scars of neglect and abandonment condemned the islands to all kinds of diseases, including ruthless malaria. But in 1900, Kupelwieser invited Robert Koch to Veliki Brijun to rid of malaria, and the German microbiologist succeeded. In 1901, Veliki Brijun was malaria-free, and Kupelwieser’s ambitious luxury projects took off. The Vienesse aristocracy favoured the Brijuni Islands as a posh vacation destination until World War I broke the dream.
After World War II, this slice of heaven came back on the radar due to personalities like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti, and Gina Lollobrigida who visited on the islands Yugoslavian communist leader Josip Broz Tito. It was during the Yugoslavian regime in 1983 when the archipelago was declared a national park too.
After 1991, when Croatia gained its independence, some of the luxury hotels on Veliki Brijun reopened, and the Safari Park on the island received two Indian elephants from Indira Gandhi. Today, the Safari Park is one of the top attractions of the Brijuni Islands National Park. This site is now one of the natural treasures of Croatia, and here are the reasons why.
Top reasons to visit the Brijuni Islands National Park
- The landscape here looks just like heaven
- Over 600 indigenous plant species thrive on these islands, creating a habitat of unbelievable characteristics for all kinds of animals
- Many of the plants protected by the park are on the list of endangered species: wild cucumber and marine poppy are two examples
- The fauna of the archipelago is rich too: autochthonous species coexist in harmony with animals brought in from other continents. For instance, chital deer, fallow deer, and mouflons are quite at home with the Istrian oxen and sheep.
- The Brijuni Islands are hatching grounds for many marine organisms.
- Over 200 dinosaur footprints are visible on Veliki Brijun making the archipelago even more interesting for inquisitive minds.
- There’s even an underwater educational trail in Verige Bay featuring both natural and archaeological treasures.
- You can even enjoy guided tours of the most important archaeological sites of the Brijuni to see the Byzantine castrum, the hill-fort from the Bronze Age, the Roman villa, and much more.
- The Brijuni Islands National Park is even interesting for sports. You have golf, tennis and badminton, hikes and walks, cycling, sailing, and so much more.
- Birdwatching in the Brijuni Islands National Park is a thing too.
- The islands are favoured for weddings.
These are just some of the things to do and see in this corner of Croatian heaven. Remember that the paleontological heritage of the islands is a big draw, but come prepared to explore the wilderness and to capture digital memories for your cloud. Although it’s a day-trip from Arena One 99, the Brijuni Islands National Park can keep you busy for days. To reach the sanctuary, take a short drive (some 25 minutes) from Pomer to Fažana, and then the ferry. Mind the seasonal schedules. More information available on the official site of the National Park of Brijuni.