Beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park
For most people the first association regarding Croatia would probably be beaches and blue waters, but chances are you have already heard of Plitvice, or at least you might have seen some pictures of it without knowing. The blue-green, clear waters, flowing down waterfalls as you walk along the boardwalks create the feeling that you are floating on air. B had told me that he had been to Croatia many times throughout his childhood but had never visited the park. I was shocked - Plitvice is the oldest national park in southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. Not to mention that this park is definitely one of the most amazing national parks I have ever been too yet.
One of my best friends was with us and she was excited to see the park too. After reading some brochure information and seeing that the route B and I wanted to hike was about 6 hours long, she decided it would be best to only stay for an hour in the park. Fair enough, she had a broken toe and it was probably not the best idea to walk around for 6 hours uphill.
The park has three entrances; our accommodation was at a guest house near entrance 3. All the guest houses in the area look pretty amazing and we only paid $52 euro ($82 NZD or $69 USD) for 3 people to stay one night (they are more like hotels). To enter the park you pay 180 kuna for 1 day which is roughly $24 euro, $38 NZD or $32 USD. This is worth its money as from the moment you step in and walk to the trail you are confronted with one massive waterfall and lakes with distinctive colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. Apparently the colours are constantly changing because it depends on the quantity of minerals, organisms and the angle that the sunlight hits the water.
After an hour of walking Ash headed back, while B and I continued our way up through the lakes, taking our time enjoying the surreal beauty of our surroundings. After about a third of the way you will reach the biggest lake of the park, which you can cross on a boat that is included in the entrance price (only one way). You can also hire row boats here and go out on the lake on your own. This is ideal if you want some peace and quiet as the tracks during June, July, august are extremely busy. It also material for some serious romance. Once off the boat it was a mad rush to get in front of all the people on the track. You really want to be at the front, there are quite a few ladies with push chairs trying to push their little kids along board walks that are meant to fit only one line of traffic.
We leisurely continued to the top, admiring the view. It’s hard to put into words just how spectacular Plitivice can be, so I will just let the photos do the talking. By the time we reached the top it had only taken us 3 and a half hours of slow walking (not 6 hours like the brochure tells you) so we decided we had done enough exercise and it was ok to have coffee and cake at the café at the top. There is a train here that takes you right back to where you started and this is included in your ticket price also. So back down we went, on a mission to go to the big waterfall at the start of the track. We missed this one because of all the people that were queuing there at 2pm, which is when we entered the park. Now it was 6pm and the park was finally starting to empty itself out (FYI: the park closes at 8pm at night in summer).
To top off an amazing day in the park we headed out for dinner at a local restaurant (after going home and getting changed of course). This meal was delicious, probably the best we had in Croatia so far - all local dishes, fresh cheeses, meats etc. B and I got beef soup, breads and cheeses, a meat platter to share, salad and a wine/beer. Did the exercise in Plitvice count? I guest not, but this was a great way to end our last night in Croatia.