If going to Croatia you must check out Plitvice Lakes - a world heritage park of impossibly-coloured lakes criss-crossed by wooden boardwalks. Fed by hundreds of falls and scattered with autumn leaves, the lakes presented a surreal Monet-esque vista.
We spent four hours exploring the park – which is so large it has its own ferries and tourist trains – and that wasn’t long enough. Protected by man for the enjoyment of others, Plitvice was a literally a breath of fresh air on the way to the capital, Zagreb.
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Visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
Plitvice National Park is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most beautiful nature reserves. A UNESCO Heritage Site, it consists of sixteen emerald lakes split between upper and lower levels. The colour of the lakes changes from emerald to turquoise to navy and the difference in the elevation between lakes results in beautiful cascading waterfalls.
Although there are a couple of accommodation options right next to the park, we opted for a cosy cottage 4 kms from the entrance of the park. The Croatian hospitality and a hearty serving of Ćevapčići, a unique grilled-meat dish served with fried flatbread, ensured that we had a good night’s sleep. Make sure you are well rested for the day at Plitvice – there will be lots and lots of walking.
We were spellbound the moment we entered this natural reserve – acres and acres of open land with emerald coloured lakes scattered all over. Walking routes are laid out and vary depending on how easy or difficult you want your day to be. Take it easy and absorb the views – this is one experience you will cherish all your life.
Although the “Large Waterfall” (marked Veliki slap) is hard to miss, a lot of people don’t make the effort of climbing to the view point behind this massive waterfall. Make sure you go to this view point, which in our opinion is one of the best vantage points in the park.
The lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice hit you like you're falling off a cliff. Quite literally. Your first glimpse of this ancient landscape is over a 300 foot cliff down into the green canyon - waterfalls, pools and streams glistening below, probably similar to its look a thousand years ago. Jurassic Park indeed.
Plitvice is more well-known than ever since its 1979 inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage list but that doesn't seem to take away from the bliss of simply walking around here. People are very well behaved and quiet. Obviously smitten too.
Take a full or half day to wander the trails and rustically slatted walkways that lace the park, each bringing you closer to the waterlines, close enough to feel the spray of the waterfalls and to bask in the sound of the rippling of the laketops.
The water here is clear, calcified by eons of Karst Topography and the fish swimming under the surface look as if they weren't in water at all, at one with the ducks gliding over their backs.
Of the two weeks we spent in Croatia, Plitvice was one of our favorite days, even perhaps in my top 10 days traveling ever. It's that wonderful. Very much worth the drive from Zagreb or Dubrovnik through the countryside, in itself a trek through (a more recent) history.
Get a sobe guest room in a town nearby and make Plitvice one of your most affordable and memorable days traveling anywhere. Looking back, "magical" doesn't seem to do it justice for me, more like transcendent.
...ultramarine natural lakes, caves and waterfalls. This nature is knock your head off beautiful. The waters flowing over limestone and chalk is made explorable by a network of walking bridges; and above the waters, weaves walking trails through the surrounding forest. We were the first ones there, at sunrise, and chose to enter the gate at the top of the park and work our way down to avoid batches of tourists who typically take the opposite route. We were perfectly entertained all day.