The mesmerizing turquoise green water captures your soul and plays with your mind like a restless child, leaving you to soak in the astonishing beauty of Croatia's largest national park, and the valuable habitat of many, both animal and herbal, species. Relax and enjoy the rumbling water oozing from the hillside, only to end up in the peaceful crystal clear lake while you walk through clouds of butterflies hearing birds you have never heard before.
Early summer is the perfect vacation time. I was thinking about entering mountainous central Croatia on our way to Plitvice lakes, the oldest and the largest Croatian National Park. Driving along my thoughts escaped to a conversation of their own I have had many times in my head, or at least every time we explore our own country, debating that every place on earth is beautiful in its own way and that almost every country in the world has a gorgeous National Park, or coastline, for that matter, or some other Istria. While I was speaking about Croatia with people from different countries, I came to the realization that they all share one common opinion - Croatia is a land of natural wonders, diversities from top to bottom, and The Plitvice lakes National Park is on top of the list.
We started down a paved trail, the children started asking questions and suddenly a magnificent view of the Large Waterfall caught our breath leaving us in silence. The grandiosity of the Large Waterfall from underneath is just stunning. Its 70m height makes it the biggest waterfall of the park. The mist is refreshing and just needed after the sunbathed walk downhill. Even with thick foliage, the mist can be seen for miles. Sometimes, in the hot summer weather, the Large Waterfall dries up, leaving only the Plitvice stream dripping over the cliffs. Sixteen crystalline spring fed lakes cascade down to this lowest point over series of waterfalls continuously changing shape of depositing tufa.
We walk up the wooden bridges, by the lakes Kaluderovac, Gavanovac and Milanovac, the elevation changes are just so impressive and dramatic.
With fish clinging to the edges of the waterways, I was tempted to put at least my feet in, but I remembered that swimming is strictly forbidden due to safety and nature preservation reasons. Rumbling water seems to call for all the terrestrial habitants, which is quite a crowd here, numbering 321 species of only moths and butterflies. Clouds of butterflies just appear from nowhere in a rainbow of colors, and that longlasting smell of herbs and pines, in more than 1200 plant species, follow us wherever we go. Due to the diversity, presence of endemic, rare, and protected species, the Park is designated as an exceptionally valuable floristic area in the world. The sound of rumbling water almost silences the birds. Birdwatching here is something to consider, from frolicking ducks and the white throated dipper to the fast flying living proofs of the Plitvice bird kingdom numbering 157 species. Talking about the animal kingdom, Plitvice is also the home of bears, wolves, wild boars and deer, as well as many other smaller mammals such as bats! Following the wooden trails, I keep starring around, and it seems that wherever I look, it is breathtaking.
At the lake Kozjak a boat awaits us to quickly transfer us to the other side. Rumbling water from under the trails, as we go along, makes you think you are hovering above, and the oddly attractive land formations seem like clouds moving under you. Along our path, water comes from everywhere, oozing out of the hillside, and trickling down in miniature waterfalls before it spills into the lake.
Upon our water voyage, my entourage became quite tired so we took a little break and continued up the trekking trails towards the lake and waterfall Galovac. The Upper Lakes behold quite a number of small to medium height waterfalls, with the majority cleverly hidden by massive trees and the overhanging foliage, but still, you can hear them crushing all around.
As the afternoon worn on, we felt more and more tired not realizing that we have kilometers behind us, and accomplishing this with children and a baby is quite difficult. Exhausted we finished our walk at the biggest lake of them all - Prokljansko lake, taking the bus shuttle back to our entry and walking another small distance to our car. We took off tired but happy, leaving the river Korana and its Plitvice lakes safe off behind us.
Getting to Plitvice lake in high season might be a little crowded but to get there hassle-free consider going there by the old road Zagreb-Gracac, in which case, coming from the direction of Zagreb, you get off the highway in Karlovac in the direction of the state road D1. This way it will take you approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, while going all the way taking the highway to the exit Otocac, almost three hours. Coming from the direction of the south coast, you can still take the D1 from Gracac (connected with the old road from Zadar) and it will take about 2 hours, or go again to the highway exit Otocac, which takes about three hours from Zadar.
All prices are in Croatian Kuna.
There are other options such as two day tickets, and tour tickets (4 hours), for all information you can give them a call on ENTRANCE
: +385 (0) 53 751 026 or SALES OFFICE
: +385 (0) 53 751 014
OPENING HOURS OF THE PARK
The park is open daily, Sundays and holidays included. There are two entrances to the Park – excitingly titled Entrance 1 for the lower lakes and Entrance 2 for the higher lakes. Entrance 2 (and therefore some of the park) is closed in winter (November to April).
Make sure to wear layers of clothes even in the summer as temperature near the water in shade may vary noticeably. Pets are allowed on leash at all times. Swimming or getting into the water is strictly forbidden and you will be escorted out if caught. During winter, after layers of snow, it is truly magical. Although the access is limited, the part you can see is worth it (reduced pricing applies). Wear snow boots and full gear. Inside the park, there are bars and restaurants. Local buffets and restaurants are available outside from breakfast until dinner, and serving some very traditional food typical for that micro location. Not to be missed. .
For more details, visit their home page on: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/