The Stunning Cascades of Croatia’s First National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site – Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Images of emerald green lake beds one on top of the other, almost like pancakes with the syrup running down the sides beckoned me, and Plitvice Lakes became number one on my list of things to do when I went to Croatia.  Not only did the pristine and unusual natural phenomenon call my name, but the park also marks the spot where the first shots were fired in the Croatian War of Independence.  That doesn’t happen in my national parks where I come from.

Driving into the area, there really isn’t much of a town to speak of, but there was plenty of accommodation, so we figured we find a place to sleep, and get an early go in the morning.  This turned out to be one of our smarter moves.

Plitvice Lakes

We arrived at the park at 8:30 and hiked down to where the shuttle bus would pick us up.  We were so early and still very chilly that no one was on the bus except park workers.    We decided to follow the D/E path, and when we saw our sign, we hopped off and started hiking.  It began at the top of the layers of the limestone and chalk travertines and the path led us down, down, down.

Plitvice Lakes

This path is supposed to take 2-3 hours.  I think it took us four with all our stops and photo-taking.  For the first few hours, the only other person we saw was a lone Japanese tourist, and we only saw her once.  Being early spring, the green was just starting to pop, and we could easily see through the brush.  The top waterfalls all seemed a bit of a distance away, but as we descended they got closer and closer to the path.  In fact, there were parts of the path where the water was rushing underneath or right beside us.  It was easy to look down and see the fish.  We also saw ducks and a few other birds, but that was about it on the trails.  I’m sure you have to go much deeper in to find the other wildlife.

Plitvice Lakes

Most of the trail there was a wooden walkway through or over the lakes, but there were parts that were just dirt, or in our case, mud.  There was a point that we think the sign said don’t go any further, but we disregarded it and subsequently got some wet feet.  Oh well. It didn’t dampen our spirits, though, since the views were spectacular, and just when we thought it couldn’t get any prettier, it did.

Plitvice Lakes

We didn’t encounter any tourist groups until we were almost to the boat dock.  First there was a Korean group in their high heels and huge sun hats, then a Japanese group was soon behind.  Unfortunately the wooden path is only a few feet wide, and as I said the water is directly underneath, so it felt a little crowded as soon as the tourists began congregating on the walkway.  They weren’t hiking much, just taking a quick look at some of the closer waterfalls, and they were on their way.

Plitvice Lakes

We wanted to take a boat so headed down to the boat dock where we had two choices, one took us directly across, maybe a 5 minute ride where we could take the shuttle back to the entrance of the park, and one took us across the lake on about a 25 minute ride.  We chose this, knowing that we would have about a 40 minute hike back up to the shuttle bus pick up.  It was pretty cold on the boat, and it didn’t take us near any waterfalls, so I have to admit I was a little disillusioned with it.

Plitvice Lakes

To Get there:

Plitvice National Park is one of the most visited tourist sites in the country, so there are many tours you can take for a day trip from places such as Zadar, Split, or Zagreb.  What we did was rent a car and drove ourselves there, which like I said gave us the advantage of getting to the park right when it opened and no one else was around.

Cost:  Look here for up to date info on pricing.

Shuttle Buses: The bus/trolley system takes you to all parts of the park, and the price is included in your park ticket.  It runs every 15 – 20 minutes, so you never have to wait long.

Services: The park is well-maintained.  We saw men working on the wooden planks and shoring up some of the areas that were flooded.  The toilets were located at all the bus stops, the main boat dock, and the park entrance.  They had running water, toilet paper, and were extremely clean.  There were also snack stops and souvenir stands in the same areas.  As you hike, though, there is nothing, so bring water and carry out your trash.

Word of Warning: There may be parts of the park where it is accessible to strollers and wheelchairs, but I really didn’t see much.  The wooden walkway was very deceptive.  The lakes are stacked one on top of the other, so you are hiking up and down all day long.  Here is a photo of what the wooden walkway looks like straight down.  You can’t see that it is stepped, but it is.  I took the second picture of the exact same spot from down low.  Even as you are walking, it’s hard to see.  I stumbled a number of times.

Plitvice Lakes

Accommodation: As we drove to towards the park entrance, there were plenty of B&B or family-run guest houses.  Some included food and some didn’t.  We saw no restaurants at all, except for the one at the park hotel, so we made sure we chose one that offered food.  We were very lucky that our host was a retired chef.  He verbally told us what he could make, stressing the fresh trout option.  He had a friend not too far away with a trout pond, so we had freshly cooked trout for dinner.  It was delicious.  I would recommend the Plitvice House Pox (doesn’t have its own website that I can tell). The rooms were spacious and comfortable with AC and hot water.  We went a little off-season, so we were able to get rooms without reservations, but I would suggest having reservations if you go later in the year.

Plitvice Lakes

 Have you been to Plitvice Lakes?  Which hiking path did you take?  Do you have any other recommendations for visiting?

 

22 Comments

    1. Irene, I think we could have waited one or two weeks to get a little more growth on some of the trees, but I’m pretty sure it’s amazing during all times of the year. Thanks.

  1. I was there last year. It was raining but that did not stop us enjoying ourselves. We managed to run in-between the falls. Some of the group managed to jump in one of the small pools. The park was absolutely stunning. I would recommend it to anybody wishing to visit Croatia.
    Steve recently posted…Photo Essay – CoventryMy Profile

    1. Steve, They let someone jump in? The funniest thing we saw was a guide trying to get a Japanese photographer to stand in the rushing water, prop his camera in the “v” of a tree and take a photo. I giggled for the next ten minutes.

  2. That’s amazing that you only saw one other hiker. Do you get the impression a lot of trails are like that there? When visiting national parks, we’ve often found the well known trails are overrun, but the smaller trails you have all to yourself. Those waterfalls look gorgeous, and the water seems so clear!
    Katie recently posted…Lessons Learned in ThailandMy Profile

    1. Katie, We were on one of the main trails, not a back country one. I’m sure our luck was due to the fact that we started so early and it was quite cold still. When the sun was a little higher and the dew was dry, the tourists were out in force! I’m sure there are some wonderful hiking trails in the back country, and they would be really worthwhile.

    1. Mary, It really was a great day. I think your kids would love it, too. The only problem is it is so popular with tourists, if you go you’ll want to find a time when it’s a bit off-season to really get the most out of it. And aw shucks, thanks!

  3. Hi Corinne, what a lovely post! I think this is the first time Ive seen upclose shots of Plitvice Lakes and its falls and surrounding. Most of the shots that I’ve seen were panoramic shots from above. Must be lovely hiking and boating around it. Definitely would like to visit one day. Love your waterfall shots and the one of your guys. Yum, that fresh trout for dinner sounds divine.
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted…Cool City Break in Cape TownMy Profile

    1. Marisol, The whole experience was great. I think we had good timing. And the hike was great, especially because we virtually had it all to ourselves for such a long time.

  4. Oh my goodness ! This is what I call a perfect natural beauty or beauty at its best. This park is so beautiful, indeed. Thanks for the lovely pictures.

  5. I read this with interest Corinne. We will be there about 10th May. I looked at the hotel you suggested and it looks beautiful and quite affordable too and the fresh trout has my mouth watering already. Would you do anything differently if you were to visit the lakes again. Was the one walk enough do you think? Do you think all the boat trips would be similar, just different lengths?
    jan recently posted…The Rose Valley Cappadocia or a Walk Amongst the Fairy ChimneysMy Profile

    1. Jan, We took a long path and spent a good portion of the day walking. There are other trails, but I’m not sure if they go different places. I think not. The one day was great. I would also go to Krka National Park if I were you. We haven’t made it there yet. Also, as I said, go first thing in the morning; we beat the rush. I would send a message to the guest house when you book that you are interested in having the trout for dinner, since they had to go get it from a friend of theirs. There is only the one boat, not really a boat ride, just a ferry across the lake. Let me know if you have other questions.

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