Plitvice Lakes, Jewel of Croatia
Plitvice Lakes is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It is one of Croatia’s 8 national parks, a series of 16 stunning turquoise lakes strung together by a series of cascading waterfalls. The colors of the water are reminiscent of jewels – aquamarine, blue topaz, emeralds and sapphires.
Plitvice Lakes is the largest of Croatia’s national parks, as well as the oldest, and it’s included in the UNESCO list of World National Heritage sites. There’s an incredible diversity of plants and animals, including 55 species of orchids, 321 species of butterflies, 161 species of birds, 21 species of bats, and even brown bears, although I didn’t see any.
Boardwalks crisscross through the park, leading you from one spectacular scene to another. Be aware there are bumpy and slippery paths, as well as stairs, if you have any kind of mobility issues.
Go early in the morning, when the park first opens, and you will be rewarded with a quieter, more peaceful hike. We had one trail along the shore almost to ourselves. I recommend May, or September, as I’ve heard from the locals and other visitors as well, that June, July and August are crazy busy, and by mid-day even in May it was a bit crowded, but still absolutely worth seeing.
Later in the day it looks more like this…
You can take a boat across one of the lakes for a different view point, and also see the scene from up above. Plan to spend at least one full day here.
You can pack a picnic and find a cool shady spot under the trees, or stop at the park restaurant for a beer and a sandwich with some fries.
You might spot a bit of wildlife if you look closely, including lots of fish and maybe even a snake or two…
…and colorful flowers dot the landscape.
There are big waterfalls, small waterfalls, and waterfalls in between…
…and places of stillness with no waterfalls, but beautiful mirrored reflections.
You are not allowed to swim here, although we did see a couple of young souls breaking the rules and braving the freezing water.
It’s the kind of place you wish you had all to yourself and could stay in for days or even weeks, and you wonder what it would have been like to discover long before boardwalks and busloads of tourists.
It’s one of my favorite places in Croatia, and all of the world, for that matter, and I hope that you, too, can experience it someday!