Plitvice Lakes: The Crown Jewel of Croatia2/23/2011
A trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia stimulated my imagination and warmed my heart. I’ve never seen such a well preserved, harmonious natural park. The tranquility and beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Site enhanced my travel experience by providing me the opportunity to bear witness to a stunning Mother Nature creation.
I spent most of my time traveling staring at incredible man-made creations. The world’s finest museums, cathedrals, and castles reside in Europe. However, no human creation compares to the incredible craftsmanship of millions of years of development.
Travelers flock to this waterfall paradise for full immersion of body and soul. Plitvice features numerous waterfalls that help form 16 surrounding lakes. Dense, green forests enclose the turquoise trout-happy lakes creating miles of trails and hiking paths. Truly a spectacular sight to see.
I arrived in Plitvice, Croatia from an hour and a half bus ride from Zagreb. Myself and one other lady were the only two people on the tour. In most instances I’m against guided tours. I enjoy the freedom of exploring on my own without time constraints. In addition, most tours tend to be expensive and robitic.
However, the Plitvice Lakes are incredibly vast and feature numerous trails. In this instance, I highly recommend finding a knowledgeable guide to lead you through the experience. My guide did not disappoint!
Inside Plitvice Lakes
The tour starts in the upper lakes. I’m immediately blown away by the sights and sounds of waterfalls crashing down below. The walk down is slow and methodical. The mid-May spring day highlights the lush vegetation in full bloom.
As the trails descend further we come across small pools of pristine lake water. The lakes of Plitvice feature the freshest, cleanest water I’ve ever seen. Virtually zero pollution and human trash exist at the park. I can hear the sounds of Croatian frogs filling the air with their mating/playing calls all around me.
A Pool at Plitvice Lakes
After about 30 minutes of walking, we reach water level. I can see and hear the majestic water falls splashing furiously into the lakes below. However, I begin to feel more fascinated with the animals living in the water than the water falls themselves. The most playful trout I’ve ever seen appear everywhere. They have absolutely no fear!
My guide informs me that the fish too are protected. Absolutely no fishing of any kind is permitted at Plitvice Lakes. I’m sure they would be fantastic on a dinner plate, but here the fat trout live without human predators.
In addition to trout and frogs, Plitvice is home to bears, deer, otters, wolves, boars and over a hundred species of birds. Luckily the land mammals stay away from the hiking paths during the day.
And the waterfalls….so many of them throughout the park. I can feel the mist as I walk by the various paths through the falls. The bright sun and sparkled water create beautiful rainbows bridging waterfall to waterfall. I’m mesmerized by the sights of this fantasy world.
Plitvice features waterfalls of all sizes, small falls you can reach out and touch, and gargantuan water falls throwing rushing water hundreds of feet off the side of a cliff. I can still see those rainbows forming as the sun blasts its rays at the incredible scene.
Here’s a few of my favorite waterfall pictures:
The tour leads us through narrow passages and exotic trails. We reach a cave. The caves are a completely different realm. Large caverns hide behind the underbrush of the dense forest. Formed from limestone in the mountains, over 50 known caves exist at Plitvice Lakes Park.
This particular cave is full of narrow passages. I’m sure at least one bear claims residency here. I did not proceed farther to find out.
Inside a cave
After such an incredible experience, our 3 person team decides to stop and eat lunch. For the first time I’m able to process everything I’ve witnessed. The lakes, caves, waterfalls, wildlife, and trails add up to one amazing experience. However at this point, we’ve only viewed about 1/10th of the park!
Lunch is finished quickly. We board a ferry to view an area a little bit off the beaten path. The seclusion enables the vegetation to grow a bit over some of the dirt paths. We experience more mesmerizing waterfalls and secluded pools of fresh water. Beauty at Plitvice lakes is the norm, not the exception.
Waterfall and pool of water
Exploration continues for another two hours of bliss. Plitvice is the best national park I’ve visited. I’m blessed to break away from major city sightseeing to visit a natural place full of peace and calm.
I leave with a new feeling of appreciation for what natural world beauty is. Here is a place in the middle of recently war torn Croatia, untouched from human chaos and destruction. The Crown Jewel of Croatia is a fantasy world I’m truly proud to have visited.