Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of those places that absolutely and totally lives up to it’s hype — it is stunning. Just. stunning. The Croatia Lonely Planet uses a photo of this UNESCO World Heritage listed as one of the main images to promote tourism to Croatia — and that’s saying a lot since Croatia has miles of coastline, other gorgeous waterfalls, and the stunning city of Dubrovnik. Truth be told, the marketing worked though and after reading the Croatia guidebook, I added it to my round the world route mostly so that I could visit Plitvice Lakes.
The bus from Krka National Park dropped us off in the middle of dense and verdant forest — it was a change from the gray and rocky coastline! It shocked my senses to finding myself in the middle of such lush forest environment. The last time I hiked in a forested area was in Nepal a month earlier when my cousin and I trekked in the Annapurna range.
The bus dropped us two kilometers from our guesthouse, but we were saved the hike by our kind guesthouse owner at Villa Jezerka. He zipped up to the curb just as the bus pulled away. We had taken several cramped buses all day, so it was nice to drop our bags and then frolic through the forest for a bit before dinner.
Yes, I said frolic.
With a bit of fresh cool forest air cleaning out our lungs, we all slept like babies. The next morning, we packed healthy snacks for our lunch. It’s easier for us as vegetarians, but also cheaper too. Plitvice is larger than Krka, so we packed a good lunch: hardboiled eggs, bread, cheese, and an apple. We are an adventurous group, so we set out on foot to hike to the entrance to the park. We nearly got had by some scalpers at the entrance. They surrounded my cousin and pushed me and Jenn to the fringes while they tried to pressure her into buying a park ticket. Each one had a sob story and a reason we should buy their ticket.
Helen was overwhelmed — they had isolated her and bombarded her senses with too much information. But Jenn and I shook our heads to her and then grabbed her arm, pulling her from their circle. The only way past was to completely ignoring the scalpers until we were safely ensconced in the ticket office. The ticket lady helped us pick the four- to six-hour loop around the park, which was advertised as mildly strenuous but with beautiful viewpoints.
Like Krka, boardwalks zig-zag through the entire park as a way to minimize the impact of rampant tourism. Also like Krka, tourists fill every inch of the National Park during the summer months. But for good reason. Plitvice Lakes is indescribably pretty. The lakes had distinctly different colors because of the living karst rocks and travertine dams. It was a walk filled with blindly brilliant blues. Azure and turquoise were set off by vivid greens and deep blue-gray waters.
By the end of the hike, we had a strenuous uphill ascent to the top of the park, but the views proved beyond worthwhile. One side of the peak contained a view over the largest waterfall in the park. The other side provided dramatic views of several of the lakes in succession.
The entire day proved worthwhile to make the long journey into the center of Croatia. While it’s far removed from the beaches and coastline many prioritize when visiting Croatia, it’s stunning.
We walked back to our guesthouse in a daze. We made a pit-stop for ice cream and then ate it silently as we processed the brain overload of such blatantly gorgeous scenery.
Our Guesthouse accommodation for Plitvice Lakes National Park : Villa Jezerka, Plitvice Lakes. Great place on a budget and I have only positive things to say. It includes free wifi and it’s walking distance to the park. Plus, the owner will drive you one way!
If you’re traveling to Croatia, consider my free online Croatia Travel guide, filled with my firsthand advice and tips.
Reading: Still reading Out of Africa by Karen Blixen.
Listening to: Deathcab for Cutie
Status: My friend Jenn is leaving the trip to return to Los Angeles. Sad face.