Brijuni National Park | Exploring Tito’s Private Playground

When you visit Brijuni National Park you will be inevitably walking in the footsteps of Josip Tito, the Yugoslav Communist ruler. Although a controversial leader in this region’s history, most can agree that President Marshal Tito had a keen eye for real estate.

In 1945 after World War II, the Brijuni Islands became part of the former Yugoslavia. Soon later, Tito specifically selected them for his personal state summer residence. Tito was known for his outlandish hobbies and unique interests. His passions turned Brijuni into an exploratory haven for today’s visitors.

Brijuni National Park | Exploring Tito’s Private Playground

Touring the island on a tram allows visitors to cover a lot of ground very quickly.

Many of Croatia’s islands feature historic Old Towns and seaside cafes. On the other hand, Brijuni offers travelers a much more natural experience. Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to reach, making it a much-appreciated stop on our small-ship cruise itinerary. However, if you’re into large cruise ships you should check out the latest last-minute cruise deals to the region.

Upon arrival, we boarded a motorized train that took us to many of the main attractions. Our insider guide will share some highlights and interesting facts surrounding this island of discovery.

Safari Park | Brijuni National Park

One of the most notable attractions in Brijuni is Tito’s safari park. The exotic animals that roam the park were gifts from other world leaders.

The tram slowly navigates through the park offering an unexpected safari experience in Croatia. There are oxen, llamas, zebra, waterbuck, donkeys, sea turtles, and a beloved Asian elephant to enjoy in the National Park.

Zebras are just one of the many exotic animals to be found at Brijuni National Park.

Tito’s Cadillac

It took skilled workers four months of hard work to restore Tito’s 1953 Cadillac Eldorado. Originally, the car was a gift from President Dwight Eisenhower. At the time, this was one of the most luxurious and state-of-the-art automobiles on the road.

Today, the car sits in front of the Tito Museum. It can be rented for a fun, but costly 30-minute joy ride around the island. Unfortunately, guests are not permitted to drive the car. Rather, they are provided with an official driver. Rumor has it that the costly excursion is popular with wealthy Russian tourists.

Tito’s Cadillac! Rumors say that renting the vehicle costs about €700 per hour.

Roman Villa | Brijuni National Park

Along Verige Bay, sits the remnants of an ancient Roman villa. Researchers believe the construction of the multi-building complex began around the 1st century BC. Moreover,  the settlement reached its greatest splendor in the 1st century AD.

When it was built, this Roman villa was beautifully adorned with mosaics, frescos, and precious marble. Promoting archaeological tourism, these Roman Ruins are a part of the Roman Emperor’s Route that stretches through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania.  There are 20 archaeological sites related to the lives of 27 Roman emperors.

2,000 years later, an impressive Roman column still stands.

Dinosaur Footprints | Brijuni National Park

Nearby, there are four sites with over 200 dinosaur footprints on the island. The Brijuni dinosaurs are traced back to the Cretaceous Period from about 145 to 65 million years ago. Hence, Veli Brijuni is considered to have its very own Cretaceous Park. Visitors who are pressed for time can check out the dinosaur footprint on display right in the main Brijuni harbor.

Placing your foot or hand in a 65 million-year-old dinosaur footprint is truly a mind-boggling experience.

Presidential Palace | Brijuni National Park

Tito would spend up to six months of the year on his private islands. He enjoyed gardening, fishing, and enjoying a luxurious lifestyle unimaginable to most Yugoslavians. With a handpicked staff, Tito hosted glitzy banquets and exotic parties out of the watchful eye of most of society.

As a result, about 100 foreign heads of state visited Tito here, including Queen Elizabeth. He often invited his famous friends to visit his palaces such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Sophia Loren.

Touring the grounds aboard the tram.

He would collect them from the boat in his 1950’s Cadillac, and drive them to one of four sprawling villas tucked away in the woods. Today, Croatian Government officials still use the palace for special events and diplomatic functions.

Koki | Brijuni National Park

On Brijuni, Koki is a legend. This beloved cockatoo was a gift from Tito to his granddaughter Aleksandra for her 9th birthday. Today, Koki is the island’s most famous inhabitant.

Celebrities such as John Malkovich and Princess Caroline of Monaco have been photographed with Tito’s feathery friend. Estimated to be around 60, cockatoos like Koki live up to around 100 years old.

1,700-Year-Old Olive Tree

Did you know that Croatia is home to Roman-era olive trees? Consequently, one of the oldest grows in Brijuni National Park. Carbon analysis of the tree trunk dates back to the 4th century making it the oldest in Istria. The 1700-year-old tree continues to bear fruit and can produce about 30 kilograms of olives each season.

Getting There

As a result, Brijuni is quite possibly one of Croatia’s most remarkable destinations. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to walk among the dinosaurs, go on a safari, and view ancient Roman villages. Not to mention, you’ll be following in the footsteps of a prominent political figure. It is truly an impressive place to visit!

One of the easiest, most comfortable ways to reach Brijuni National Park is by cruise ship.  Luckily, the Brijuni Islands were a stop on our recent seven-day cruise aboard the Adriatic Queen.

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