With more than a week in Zagreb, I looked to take a couple of day trips into the surrounding area. The most listed place to visit was by far Plitvice Lakes National Park.
I had some debate about whether it was worth it, as the cost for the day would be approximately $50. That is an entire day’s budget, so the visit had to be worth it. My dear friend, Caroline, has been here and after a quick conversation with her it was definitively decided I should go. So I quickly booked the bus tickets and the park pass for the next day.
Everything I read said to get there early to avoid the crowds, but I wasn’t sure if that was only in the peak summer season or if that was year round, and I was hoping being there just on the edge of summer would work in my advantage. Regardless, I played it safe and book the 6:45am bus. The ride takes about two hours to reach the park.
Upon arrival, I could instantly tell I’d made a great decision. Deep in the Velebit mountains, the air was crisp, clean and refreshing. The park itself has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, and its easy to see why.
The main attractions of the park are a series of lakes that parallel each other, but at slightly, gradually lower elevations. Each lake overflows itself into the next lower lake, creating stunning waterfalls all over the park.
The rock in the area is mainly dolomite and limestone, which are fairly porous, which creates a series of underground rivers and there are many caves in the area.
Immediately upon entering the park you are struck by how blue the water is. The green-blue water is insanely magical. Even after spending the entire day in the park, as I made my way to the exit I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at the rich color of the water.
The morning was spent close to the water, walking around the lakes and taking in many of the waterfalls. There are a number of places where you can cross the lakes via raised paths, in order to get a better look at all the falls.
Wanting some solitude, I hiked up a ridgeline to find an outlook and enjoy the lunch I had packed for the day. It was a perfect way to see the park from a perspective not many think to look for. I spent almost two hours in quiet wonder and peaceful reflection.
For the afternoon, I crisscrossed the park, exploring caves, marveling at waterfalls and generally not getting over how damn blue the water is. The crowds never reallly materialized, and when I did encounter groups, they quickly faded away. I was never far from having entire stretches of the park to myself.
Even after putting down over 30,000 steps and more than 16 miles in the park, I knew I had barely scratched the surface of what this natural wonder has to offer. I can only hope to return in the future and again witness the beauty that is Plitvice.