For the love of the lakes…
Croatia entered our bucketlist in 2011. Ankur was browsing the internet and came across pictures of surreal looking lakes and waterfalls. These were pictures of the Plitvice National Park in Croatia – which thus made its way to our list. I wonder what attracted us towards these elegant waterbodies….was it the surreal charm… or the peace and tranquility that we expected… or the fact that the whole world hadn’t been there? Whatever the reason, the Plitvice National Park was one place we had to go – even before the Niagara Falls or the Victoria Falls!
2014 is when we finally made it to Croatia, more specifically, to the Plitvice National Park. Every picture that we had seen till date was of bright skies, blue lakes, silky waterfalls, lush greenery… No one had ever told us that it rains in Plitvice, even in the middle of summers. And when it rains in Plitvice – it pours… it thunders… there is lightening… and there are cold winds… and the Heavens open up! Well, it wasn’t the perfect weather to visit the park, but we were excited to be there – we were going to tick an item off the bucketlist!
After four hours of crazy rains, walking through puddles and wiping our wet faces, the Sun finally shone for two hours. While the lakes continue to look blue and green even when it rains, looking at the water in bright sunlight was like transcending into a space that we had never known. As we dried our wet clothes by standing under the bright Sun, we stood silent and still…it was so pretty and we wanted to soak in the sights…we were there for a short while after all!
Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park is the largest and oldest national park in Croatia. There are sixteen lakes in the park that form waterfalls. Every lake exhibits a different shade of blue… or green… greenish-blue… bluish green… shades of blue and green that you would have never seen in real life! The crystal clear water cascades from one lake to another forming waterfalls which can be as high as 70 meters or as small as a few inches – each one being alluring in a different way. As you stand by the lake, all you can do is gasp and stare …and take in as much of the pristine beauty that you can in the few hours that you are there!
The water is supersaturated with calcium salts. These salts are deposited on the tavertines that separate the lakes and also on any trees that fall into the water. The colours of the lakes are on account of the concentration of salts, algae and microorganisms. The water is clear….I can assure you that you would not have seen cleaner water in any water body till date! You can watch the calcium depositions on the trees that lie ‘sleeping’ at the bed of the lakes. The running water is potable….and we sure did have a drink of water!
Weather – Best time to visit
Summer months from June to August are the best to see the falls. However, as these are high tourist months, the park is extremely crowded. It is best to explore the falls during the shoulder season during the months of May and September.
The winter months cover the national park in snow and ice and the place exhibits a different landscape. Some lakes and sections of the park are closed during winter months. It is advisable to check before planning a trip in the winters.
The three most common cities that most people use as a base to explore Plitvice National Parks are the following:
- Zagreb (~2 hours by road from Plitvice)
- Split (~4 hours by road from Plitvice)
- Zadar (~2 hours by road from Plitvice)
You can stay in any of the above towns and do a day trip to Plitvice National Park. You also have the option of spending the night in Plitvice – there are plenty of apartments and rooms available. You can reach Plitvice from any of the above cities either by bus or by renting a car.
We chose Zadar as our base to explore the park and recommend the same on account of the following reasons:
- Ease of doing other day trips: There are a host of day trips that you can do from Zadar, besides visiting the Plitvice National Park, which include (1) Krka National Park (2) Pag and Nin (3) Kornati Islands
- Easy on the pocket: Accommodation, food and drinks are cheaper in Zadar as compared to Zagreb and Split.
- Attractions in Zadar: Zadar is an old city and has a glorious past. The monuments in Zadar will intrigue you enough to read up a couple of pages on Croatian history. Besides historical monuments, Zadar is one of the two cities in the world that has a ‘sea organ’ – an interesting structure by the sea side.
- Sunsets: Zadar is famous of enchanting sunsets. Every sunset is different ….and Nature paints a different picture every evening.
- Beaches: Zadar is by the sea and is blessed with clear waters of the Adriatic. There are plenty of beaches to choose from….just remember to carry your beach shoes and a book to spend an easy day by the beach.
You may choose to come back to Zadar after the trip Plitvice trip ends or proceed onwards to Zagreb.
Plitvice National Park Tour with Romeo and Juliet
The day trip to Plitvice National Park from Zadar was amongst the few trips that we have done with a tour agency and we are glad that we made the decision. The park occupies an area of ~300 sq km…no way can you cover that much! There are various paths and routes that you can take if you do a self guided tour. However, being in a guided tour ensures that you see the most beautiful falls, enlighten yourself with some geology and science, which will let you appreciate the lakes to a greater extent.
We did the tour with Romeo and Juliet Travel Agency from Zadar. Had it not been for the guided tour, we would have turned around the minute it started pouring. When the weather is bad, it is more than ever that you need a tour guide with you….and in the mountains…the weather can get bad at any point in time! We owe a big thanks to Leonina our guide, who ensured that we got the see the best sights even when the weather played spoilt sport.
Two cents from my end… some tips…
- Day trip with travel agency: Romeo and Juliet charges ~EUR 85 for the day trip. This includes the transport in a spic and span minivan (from your doorstep to the park), picnic lunch, entrance fee to the park (KN 180), two boat tours within the park, a guide who details the history of Croatia and takes you through the best path in the park, as per the weather conditions.
- Transport: Plitvice is well connected by buses from Zadar and Zagreb. A one way ticket costs approximately KN 125. No need to book the bus in advance unless you intend to take the first bus in or last bus out.
- Rain gear: Considering that weather is fickle in the mountains, carry a rain coat or an umbrella. If you do not have one and precipitation is predicted during the day, buy one from the supermarket at the main gate (KN 20 – KN 50 per rain coat). Recommend carrying comfortable walking shoes and an extra pair of flip flops, in case it rains.
- Luggage: There is a luggage room to keep your stuff while you tour the park. If you are with a travel agency, you simply leave everything in the bus and take it easy.
- Food: There are a couple of restaurants in the park. However, recommend having a picnic lunch or at least a couple of energy bars handy as the park is really big and it may take you a while to get to the restaurants.
As always… send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!
Many thanks to Romeo and Juliet Travel Agency for hosting us. They arrange trips to Plitvice, Krka, Kornati and other areas around Zadar. The agency has two centers in the Old Town at Zadar and one on the sea side promenade.
Their contact co-ordinates are as follows:
Romeo and Juliet Travel Agency
Frederica Grisogona 3, Zadar