Look at any of the pictures on the internet, and you would know that that this is a place that’s touristy. Is that a reason to avoid the place you ask?
In most cases, I would agree with you. Usually, I abhor touristy places, and avoid them with a vengeance. But also note that most touristy destinations are that way for a reason – the simple reason being that they are awesome! Yeah, I don’t like the souvenir shops, the crowds, the ugly ill-fitting buildings (in some cases), but if you just look at the destination/sight/monument in isolation, they are pretty awesome. Right? So many such examples right? Well, that’s the topic of a whole different post.
To return to Plitvice Lakes or Plitvice Jezeera, as they call it in Croatia, yes, it’s an extremely popular destination. People from all over the world visit this UNESCO Heritage site; it’s also very popular with local tourists. It of course helps that the Plitvice Lakes National Park is only a 2 hour drive from Zagreb, and that there are several comfortable buses which can ferry you around for a day trip.
I had started very early in the day arriving at Zagreb bus station at 7am. It was summer and the day usually started at 4.45am and so it was no big deal. And this is where I got my first clue that I was going to a really popular place. Till that point, all the buses I had travelled in, were quite empty. This was the first time every single seat in the bus was taken; besides, I could see people from different nationalities, all with their travel books, and maps. I sulked and settled down in my seat.
But it’s tough to sulk for long. As we left the city and moved closer to the mountains, the scenery was awesome. I couldn’t help but marvel again, at how different the landscape was in different regions of Croatia. I had seen the coast, and the alpine regions, but this was again quite different.
But it’s still quite a shock when you see the lakes the first time. At least I had a shock. Well, a pleasant one. You see even when I walked into second entrance of the Park (There are two entrances), I thought this was nice – the mountains, tall green trees, narrow uphill and winding paths, a cool breeze running through the trees – what’s not to like?
But still..you buy your ticket at the office, and you get on the quaint electric trains, and you still have no clue about what’s in store for you. And then you suddenly start the board walks…and you are like …WOW!
The Plitvice Lakes National Park covers roughly around 280 square kilometers, so you would think that you would not be able to be able to see all of it. You would be right…and wrong. As the officials at the park explained to me, they have created paths such that you could see the almost all of the waterfalls and the lakes within a 5 hour walk. How amazing is that?
I really can’t explain how spectacular the place is, so I will let the pictures do the talking.
But I do have to mention that Plitvice Lakes is something I have never ever seen before in my life. So many lakes, so many water falls, so much water – all over the place. Yes, there’s greenery, yes, there are mountains, but the one thing that catches your eye is the water. The water that falls over in small and large waterfalls, the water that gushes out of the millions of springs and then washes into the lakes, the water that takes a beautiful beautiful blue color in the larger lakes, the water with the unreal green that gapes through the beautiful vegetation, the water that looks so clear and pristine as it flows below the board walks.
It’s spectacular, and that’s a understatement.
Before I travelled, I had read a Lonely Planet article where it was mentioned that the landscape of Plitvice Lakes is constantly changing – water falls that were there six months back disappear, and then appear somewhere else; the earth moving and changing shape as it accommodates the water and its whims and fancies. One of the rangers had apparently described it as “It’s like old friends…moving away from your life for a while..but you know that they would be back soon, or that you would meet them again, just in a different setting.” Isn’t that amazing?
I loved it. In spite of the tourists, in spite of the crowds. It was beautiful. A must-see for anybody who loves nature.
How to get there: There are frequent buses from Zagreb. It’s quite possible to do a day trip, with the earliest bus at 7.30am, and the last bus at 5.50pm. Bus Croatia has several buses, but there are also buses with other private operators.
The round trip cost me 130 Croatian Kuna (roughly 17 euros), but there are some other bus companies which are more expensive. It’s also just a 2 hour drive, so renting a car is definitely a good option.
Point of caution:
Make sure that you know the exact bus company, because you are not allowed to interchange your tickets. Also, note that the last bus is around 6 pm, so plan your walk accordingly. When I travelled the bus was late by half hour, and I was terrified! Thankfully, I had a Russian and a Japanese girl with me, and we comforted each other!
Accommodation: There are a few hotels within the park, the prominent ones being the Bellevue Hotel, the Plitvice Hotel, and the Jezero Hotel. There are also quite a few hotels in the vicinity, and I would actually recommend that you stay in the smaller villages close to the national park. The village of Rastoke is quite close to the park, and has quite a few small waterfalls within the village itself.
Park fees – Very reasonable. 110 Kuna (roughly 15 euros) and you have a whole day pass. This includes rides in the electric train, as well as the boat ride.