Plitvice Lakes National Park, A Fairytale Land in Croatia
From Sarajevo, we drove north into Croatia.
The farther we got from Sarajevo, the more beautiful the Bosnian countryside became.
It was a lovely drive on a narrow road that meandered through hills and mountains, rivers and small villages.
We saw people chopping wood in preparation for the winter, shepherds herding sheep and busy local markets with colorful fresh produce.
We stopped in the scenic medieval town of Jajce.
At the entrance to the town we saw a beautiful waterfalls, and then we walked into the walled fortress of the city to have a snack.
After enjoying a delicious burek, we then continued our drive.
We arrived at Plitvice Lakes late in the afternoon and checked into our hotel, which is about five kilometers from the park entrance.
The next day we had a good breakfast and headed for the park.
When I looked on the internet for ideas about how to visit the park, there were many suggestions.
The worst suggestion was that you can actually see the park in a 2-3 hour visit.
Initially, I thought that we could stay the night, get up early and walk throughout the park, and then at the end of the day, drive to Zagreb, which is about two hours away.
I am SO happy that we did not follow that plan.
Instead, we took two nights at a hotel near the park, and allowed one whole day for walking in the park.
it took us a total of 25 kilometers to walk the park, which is about eight hours including lunch and 34,000 steps.
It was a magical day.
We were surrounded by natural beauty that is healing and breathtakingly beautiful.
I woke up that morning sneezy and a bit sick, but determined to see this beautiful park.
We walked all day and the more we hiked, the better I felt.
Plitvice Lakes National Park has a chain of 16 terraced lakes.
These azure blue and turquoise lakes overflow into each other by means of hundreds of waterfalls.
At the lower elevations, they extend into a huge limestone canyon.
The Croatian government has created a series of wooden walkways and hiking trails which wind around and across the ponds, creeks, brooks, rivers and forests surrounding the lakes.
It is autumn in October in Croatia, and the park was ablaze with bright reds, oranges, yellows and greens.
There are electric boats that link the 12 upper lakes and 4 lower lakes.
The tallest waterfall is about 78 meters high, but there are literally hundreds of waterfalls, and as you turn a corner in the path, you stand in awe at the sheer beauty of the earth.
Now, after visiting the park, I will share with you what we did, and my recommendations about how to visit the park.
First I’d like to say that this magical place only reveals itself if you have the time to walk all of it, a journey of at least six to eight hours.
Now, everyone will tell you that the biggest hurdle is the massive amount of tourists in the park.
Busloads of people come and most walk the lower lakes by entrance number one.
This is why some hikers start at Station three, on the upper Lakes.
But the lower lakes are gorgeous and you must see them, so walking around large groups blocking the walkways in that small area, is unavoidable.
We even saw a Korean man in a tour group who backed up to make room on the walkway, and ended up falling into the cold lake.
He was unharmed but his expensive camera was soaking wet.
At autumn time, many people avoid the crowds by showing up at four in the afternoon, when the high entrance fees are waived, and the crowds are gone.
The problem with this is that you then only have about two hours of sunlight to enjoy the park, and in many places the light is low and not as magical.
At the entrance of the park, buy a map at the information center.
The map will give you walking route options.
Most tourists walk from entrance one to the boat ramp on the nice wooden boardwalk.
Then they take the electric boat to the other side of the large lake and walk on one of the trails.
Our hotel receptionist recommended that we walk “Route C,” which takes about six hours and includes taking the boat to the other side, walking the trails and taking the shuttle bus at Station 3 back to entrance 1, where we parked our car.
We decided to walk “Route K,” which almost no one chose, so we had the park to ourselves for most of the day.
We started by following the busy line of tourists through the lower waterfalls until the boat ramp.
There we started walking the K route.
At this point, no other tourists took this path.
All the tourists took the boat and we crossed paths with only one couple on this route the whole way.
It was a lovely forest hike with some ups and downs over tree roots, and on narrow paths that overlooked the lakes below.
We walked for hours through the autumn colors, gushing waterfalls and lakes until we reached Station 3.
We stopped at Station 3 with the hope of getting lunch.
We knew that there were a few restaurants in the park, so we brought no lunch and had only one big bottle of water with us for the day.
The restaurant at Station 3 was closed for renovations, so we continued walking towards P2.
It was beautiful and awe inspiring landscape.
I have never walked through a landscape that was so full of waterfalls and lakes.
My mother who visited the lakes many years ago, still raves about how fantastic this park is.
She spoke about pistachio trees overflowing with nuts and beautiful trees against blue lakes.
She was so right… this place is heavenly….
At P2, we took a few minutes’ ride on the ferry across a narrow point in the lake, to P1.
At P1, we ate at their fast food restaurant a cheese sandwich with French fries and an apple strudel.
It was not at all my preferred healthy lunch, but we were quite hungry and we had brought no food with us.
We also replenished our water supply by buying a large bottle of water.
Please remember to bring your own good lunch and water, as well as good walking shoes.
We saw people who did not come with trail shoes who had a hard time or even broke their shoes.
We did not bring hiking poles as we prefer to hike without them, but we did see people who brought hiking poles. It is important NOT to use the hiking poles on the wooden walkways, as they can get stuck between the wood boards.
From P2 we continued on the K route all the way to Entrance 1, where we had parked.
Beyond describing the route we walked, words fail me to describe the magic of this place….
Instead of words, I am adding many more than the usual amount of photos to this post. (My apologies to my email subscribers for the many photos.)
I tried with my tiny camera to capture all the colors, the breathtaking light, the colorful birds, the mushrooms growing on the trees, the chirping insects as they rose into the air against the spray from the waterfalls….
I wish I could record the sound of the leaves under our feet as we walked, the gushing streams, the roaring waterfalls crashing down, the soft hum of the lake’s wave, the wind in the trees, the wetland grass as it swayed in the wind….. it was all so enriching, touching, beautiful, moving…..
Wishing you were here to feel this beauty….