Plitvice National Park – Croatia
Plitvice is a dream. Plitvice is the reason why I booked my ticket to Croatia months ago. This national park was on my bucket list for so long already, that I’m wondering why the hell I didn’t visit it earlier – it’s actually so close to the Netherlands. This week I could finally tick Plitvice off my bucketlist and I could finally visit Plitvice for myself during my stay in the little city of Zadar. One thing I know for sure: this wasn’t the last time I visited Plitvice.
The day starts early and the bus of my tourgroup is waiting for me at the edge of the old town of Zadar. I greet the nine passengers who are already on the bus – my company for the coming hours, a small company. This tour is one of the very few that goes to Plitvice during this time of the year, seeing the small amount of tourists who visit Croatia during the months Oktober to April. To be honest: I had a hard time finding a tour group. It’s about an 1,5 hour drive to Plitvice. During the drive our guide, Marina, tells us about the itinerary for the day, the history of Croatia and Plitvice and about the nature of Plitvice. I am listening while scanning the landscapes we drive through: the first piece of nature I see of Croatia.
After 1,5 hour we arrive in national park Plitvice. It is calm. Next to one group of school children that is just about to leave I see almost no one walking through the park. My guid is telling me that during the period of October to April there is an average of 3.000 visitors per day that walks through Plitvice. In summermonths like Juli and Augustus this number adds up to around 18.000! Even more insane: last years record was a small 26.000 visitors in only one day.. wait, whaat?! I immediately feel happy about the choice I made to visit Croatia outside of summer. I really don’t want to think about visiting Plitvice and walking over the wobbly wooden bridges with around 17.999 other tourists around me. Not to even mention the high temperatures during summer months, which easily gets as high as 40 degrees.
With a boat we cross the biggest lake of Plitvice, after which we arrive in the Upper Lake of the park. A robust piece of nature where you walk several kilometers through a landscape of lakes and small waterfalls. Different from the Lower Lakes, where the river and the waterfalls are surrounded by high cliffs and the waterfalls itself are much higher and much wider.
Before arriving in Plitvice I saw very few of the Upper Lakes, because it mostly are the Lower Lakes that you find back on Google, Pinterest and travelblogs. While the Upper Lakes nearly aren’t as ‘famous’, this piece of Plitvice is clearly worthy of your time. It’s incomparable with the Lower Lakes, where you find yourself back in a completely different part of nature.
For a while we walk over the paths of the Upper Lake. I take a countless number of photos of the hundreds and hundreds of small waterfalls. Our guide tells us stories about the park, gives us the unpronounceable names of the lakes and answers my many questions about life in Croatia and Plitvice. During our walk we spot small ‘wildlife’. I spot a snake – first ever snake I see in wild – and a number of lizards. The chance we are going to see a grizzly bear is small, but with about 300 bears walking through the park I still scan my surroundings for these big animals.
After a walk of about two hours we arrive back at the deck, where another boat brings us further over the lake: heading to the Lower Lakes. I lean back and enjoy the warm sun I feel on my skin. It is the first bit of summer weather I feel this year. Bliss.
When we arrive in Lower Lakes rangers tell us that we are only allowed to walk over the path that is situated high on the cliffs. The other paths, that lie directly next to the waterfalls is closed due to high waters and floods. Unfortunately – but my guide tells us the higher paths are better anyway: this is where all the known ‘postcard photos’ are made. At every view point we cross she yells ‘Here you can take postcard photo!’.
She is not lying. The view is beautiful. Over and over again, when I look down I see new waterfalls. The Lower Lakes are special. The cliffs that surround the river and the lakes are high. It’s a beautiful sight. The waterfalls in this area of the park are different: they are wider, higher and look more romantic – less robust.
I don’t know exactly which part of Plitvice I like better. While they are both part of one national park, the two parts are definitely completely different. It is the difference between the robust nature and a photogenic, romantic part. One thing is sure: I would definitely recommend you to take your time in both the Lower Lakes as the Upper Lakes during your visit. Oh, and if I can recommend one thing more: plan your visit outside of the high season, if you can, or early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to enjoy the landscapes to the fullest!