Istralandia, a Visit to Croatia's First Aquapark

By 22 July 2016

Istralandia, Croatia's first aquapark opened in 2014. TCN took a tour on July 20, 2016 to find a successful business delivering buckets of fun for all the family.

I am always in admiration of people who try something new in Croatia, a country which stuns with its beauty and shocks with its bureaucracy. Try and introduce a new concept, and the shock is all the larger - just ask the Germans who started the first scheduled seaplane operation in Europe in 2014 with a flight from near Split Airport to Jelsa on Hvar - a mere 14 years after they tried to get started. 

2014 also saw the end of another bureaucratic marathon in Istria with the opening of the first aquapark in Croatia, after a bureaucratic process which had started back in 2007. I met manager Paolo Kovacic during our recent visit and will be publishing the full interview shortly, but for those who have not yet tried Istralandia, recently named one of the top five aquaparks in Europe, the experience is something like this...

Set amid Istrian forest just metres from the motorway for ease of access, Istralandia is also very accessible from the many Istrian resorts in the region, the closest being Novigrad, whose Aminess hotels and campsites supply a large number of visitors. Its 80,000m2 site contains 20 slides over an impressive 1.6km, as well as a range of pools, activities, gourmet and relaxation zones. Open only for the summer months from 10:00 to 19:00 (18:00 in June and September), the first year's projected visitors of 100,000 was quickly surpassed with 130,000 visitors in all, while 2015 saw a major expansion to 180,000, with all the signs that 2016 will be even more successful. 

The most popular ride is Crazy Hills, a six-lane slide in the centre of the park which is the biggest slide of its kind in the Mediterranean at 70 metres, culminating in a refreshing splash at the bottom. With each ride passing quickly and taking six people at at a time, queues move very quickly. Indeed, that was one of the things that impressed me in general during our peak season visit - our first visit on the quieter day of Sunday brought waiting times of no more than five minutes per ride, and we comfortably enjoyed more than 40 rides, with plenty of time for lunch, swimming and general relaxation. Waiting times increase slightly during the week. 

For those looking for adrenaline, there is plenty on offer, and one of the lessons for this correspondent is that his children are a lot braver than him. Parental care necessitated a trip to Top Gun, where people are unceremoniously shot into the air before landing in a deep pool. Not one for the fainthearted, and my first attempt went like this - see below.

The aquapark is very neatly arranged and professionally run, with more than 130 staff ensuring its smooth running and highest standards of safety. There are height restrictions on some of the rides - all are open to those taller than 140cm - and these restrictions are reflected in the price, with children under 1 metre entitled to free entrance.  

Top Gun was nothing compared to the Space Rocket, one of Istralandia's star attractions. Having a fear of heights, just climbing to the top of this fearsome ride was something of a personal challenge, but there was no stopping my 7 year-old, and I watched with slight dread as she entered a capsule and waited for the floor to be removed from beneath her.  

In a mini-second she was gone, a direct descent of 30 metres, before sliding round to the finish - a total adrenaline rush which had her running up the steps for more...  

Enjoy the space rocket experience in the video above. 

And for an all-round overview of many of the rides, this private video gives a great introduction. 

One of the great strengths of Istralandia is that it combines attractions for all the family in a confined space, and walking between rides takes seconds. For the little ones, the Pirate pool was a popular destination, with lots of mini-slides and other fun things to entertain, including at one point a full brass band who appeared from nowhere and started playing in the pool.  

Towering above all on the right of the park was an impressive white construction, with two challenging rides which thankfully tested my daughters' bravery to the limit, and were therefore off-limits to this TCN report. But while our courage may have failed, there were plenty braver than us, and both the Flying Boats and the higher Free Fall (a 96-metre slide) were equally popular.  

Istralandia is an aquapark with plenty of diversity, including many activities away from the water. It was one of my favourite impressions of the visit, the complete family day out, with some lazing on the grass in the sun, others taking part in various tournaments such as beach volleyball, and kids lining up for free face painting. Something for everyone in a well-manicured and immaculately maintained complex which celebrated the nature in which it found itself. With several cafes and fast food restaurants throughout, everything is in place for the ideal family day out.  

The diversity extended to the choice of pools as well. Apart from the kids pools, there were two larger ones attracting different types of bathers. The wave pool and hidromassage pools were both great places to chill and catch one's breath after the thrills of the rides.  

A truly wonderful family day out, with the added bonus that exhausted children are guaranteed to flop into bed straight after dinner and sleep soundly until mid-morning, allowing parents to recover from the thrills of the day. For such a top and comprensive attraction, prices - even at peak season - are more than reasonable, with full-day single entry 180 kuna and a family of four at 530 kuna. Half-day tickets are available, as well as discounts for children smaller than 140 cm.

Enjoy the official promo video below, and more information abotu Istralandia can be found on the official website.