I think I couldn’t believe that such a place could exist, with all of those bright colours and the most beautiful landscapes. For goodness sake, the images looked like screenshots from a fantasty/sci-fi film, not unlike Lord of the Rings. Generally, I try not to let expectations run away with me, so I reined in my excitement and prepared to be confronted with something quite different – reality.
Spoiler: I was wrong. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the most beautiful natural spot that I’ve ever been to. Ever.
Normally, I’m all for condensing posts, but this special place deserves the space I’m allocating to it. We did two separate circuits of the park on our visit, and I’ll be showing them to you in two different posts.
The best way to get to the park is either via bus (our choice) or car. The bus from Zagreb stops at both of the park’s two entrances. There are plenty of accommodation choices around the area. We stayed at the lovely Vila Vuk, a guesthouse near the park’s second entrance.
|My ridiculous housemates.|
A little history about the park seems apt. In 1893, a preservation society was formed to protect these lakes and their waterfalls, and the region became a popular tourist attraction until the civil war. It’s said that the civil war actually began in the park, when the Serbs took over the park headquarters in 1991, and the first casualty occurred here as well.
After that grisly bit of history, the park is now more popular than ever and, in remote parts, is home to all sorts of wild animals, including wolves and bears.
That bit of context aside, we bought a two-day ticket to the park, which cost us 180 kunas each and included all shuttle/boat rides within the park. On our first day there, we decided to do the most popular walking route in the park: the lower lakes.
To do this, we caught a boat to P3, the starting point of the route. Boats leave piers fairly regularly, especially during the summer months.
From that point, we followed the signs, which took us to paths made out of wooden platforms. Before we got there, I spotted a very familiar flag, which made me smile broadly.
The route around the Lower Lakes is not particularly strenuous – unless you specifically venture off the path to take on the demarcated tougher paths.
We passed by some of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. The water was so blue and so clear that I could see the fishes within clearly, as well as the remains of fallen trees, being ever-so-slowly reclaimed by the water. Quite rightly, swimming is forbidden in the park, which ensures that this water stays as perfect as it is.
I knew that we were heading for some big waterfalls later on, but the circuit along the lower lakes weaves past some smaller versions, which, in my eyes, were even more beautiful. The water was moving so fast that it looked like glass.
There are black signposts at each new lake or waterfall, telling you the feature’s name as well as its depth/height.
One such sign pointed us off the main path, to a place called Supljara. Being the curious folk that we are, we had to check it out, and discovered that Supljara is, in fact, a cave.
It’s a steep climb up along some rather tall stairs (says the short-legged person), but it’s worth it. The cave doesn’t have a ceiling – just a patch of sky leading you upwards.
And why is this climb worth it? Apart from the cave itself, the very top allows you to get amazing views over the lower lakes. This is the vantage point where some of the most iconic photos of the park have come from, and I walked away with my own version of this.
After ogling these views, we made our way back down to continue along the lower lakes path.
We knew that the path culminated in something rather spectacular – Veliki Slap. Veliki Slap is Croatia’s tallest waterfall, with a drop of 78 metres. We rounded the final corner, and were confronted by this sight.
Perhaps not reaching the monstrous proportions of Victoria Falls, Veliki Slap doesn’t send up thunderous waves of sound, but make no mistake – this waterfall is massive.
We climbed up the vantage point to get a better look. I definitely recommend doing this, as the area right in front of the waterfall can get a bit crowded at times.
After this, it’s another walk upwards to the end of the route, entrance one. This is a gradual climb, and again granted us with some amazing views along the way.
We had a beautiful first afternoon in Plitvice Lakes National Park. After catching the bus from entrance one to entrance two, we had a lovely dinner at the only restaurant in the vicinity of our guesthouse. Just before I went to sleep that night, I remember thinking that, at that moment, I felt like I was truly on holiday. We were in the middle of the Croatian countryside, with only the most amazing scenery to look upon in the company of my favourite people.
I couldn’t wait for our next day in the park.