North of Pula lies Brijuni, a small archipelago of fourteen islands that became famous as the private retreat of Tito before being accorded National Park status, which opened to tourists in 1983. Visitors are still only allowed on two of the islands, Veli Brijun, the biggest island and main tourist draw, and Mali Brijun, home to an Austrian fortress, and any travel here remains strictly controlled.
Until 1983 the islands were closed to the public as they were the summer residence of President Tito and over the years, around 100 foreign heads of state were received by Tito on the islands. Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida were just some of Tito’s guests.
Veliki Brijun, the largest island, is home to a much-visited safari park where many of the exotic animals were gifts from the likes of Indira Gandhi in 1972. There are almost 700 plant species and about 250 bird species on the islands and the mild Mediterranean climate makes it a pleasant health resort. The traces of dinosaurs, remains of Antiquity and later periods are all present in this area.
The usual short introduction to Brijuni is an organised day-trip (4 hrs) by tourist train that takes visitors through all the different natural beauties; through the safari park, by the Byzantine castrum, Roman residential villa in Verige Bay and many other interesting sights.