Exploring the Natural Beauty of Plitvice National Park

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No matter which guidebook or blogs you read about Croatia, you’ll read that you’ve got to visit Plitvice Lakes, a UNESCO protected national park right in the heart of Croatia. And I’m here to tell you that it really is a must visit area – but there’s also a right way to do it and a few things you need to know before you go. 
Plitvice National Park Croatia

We booked a day trip to the park with Viator from our base in Split, which even though it involved a 6am start, we were very excited about! In fact, even though this was only day 2 of the holiday, Andy had said that this is what he was looking forward to the most in Croatia.

As we were staying in Diocletian’s Palace we were picked up just outside the palace (as cars can’t access the palace) before starting our 3 and a half hour trip to the park. As it was a little early I wanted to doze, though the minibus really wasn’t that comfortable, despite being a VIP transfer. Andy was particularly uncomfortable as, being over 6 ft tall, he needed far more leg room that he had: in fact, even at a modest 5 ft 8, I was more squished than I would like and so couldn’t really drift off.

We arrived and were introduced to our fantastic guide and we were ready and raring to go!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We had our first glimpse of the park and I couldn’t wait to get going and see the beautiful lakes: but it was now that we realised the severe limitations of a group tour – you’ve got to wait for everyone at every step.

It was 12pm before we actually started our tour, which we were a little irked by as we had arrived at 11am, but – we were determined to enjoy our day!

You start by taking a short boat trip across one of the lakes to the starting point of the 1.5 mile trip round the upper lakes. Or I suppose you could row like one man seemed to be doing!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We were immediately struck by just how beautiful the area really is; as it’s a UNESCO protected site, you can’t change a thing – if a tree falls you’ve got to leave it exactly where it is, even if it blocks off a pathway.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

The upper lakes have a beautiful deep blue colour – a sharp contrast to the turquoise of the lower lakes.

It really was as awe-inspiring as Pinterest would have you believe!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We happily wandered round the path oggling the beautiful waterfalls and admiring how beautiful this entirely natural place really is.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

The waterfalls really were incredible: as I had seen a lot of incredible photos before our trip I wondered if they would really live up to the image that I had in my head – and well, we weren’t disappointed!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Just look at those colours!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We were soon at the bottom of the largest waterfall in the park: in fact, it’s so large that you can see it from miles away!

So you can imagine how loud it was standing at the bottom of it!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Unfortunately for us, we visited on quite a grey day, so I wasn’t as happy with my photographs, but that’s life isn’t it?

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

At the bottom of the waterfall we watched the water rush away onto the next waterfall, heading down into the lower lakes.

One thing we really struggled with (and I particularly struggled with when trying to take photos) was the crowds: there are about 13,000 people in the park on a given day in high season and it really was too much.
There were people everywhere, all stopping to take photos or waiting to pass groups which meant that it was almost claustrophobic at times. 
I decided not to edit people out of my photos and to show you just how busy it really was.  
Plitvice National Park Croatia
After seeing the main waterfall (the highlight of the upper lakes) we looped round and wandered back to where we started, snapping and admiring all the way. 

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Isn’t it just an incredible sight?

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Do you see what I mean about the trees? When they fall, they’re simply left where they are. It means that over the past decade or so, the pathways round the park have changed quite dramatically as some paths have become blocked and others have had to be made.

I’d love to go back in ten or twenty years and see what it’s like then!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

I think this has to be my favourite waterfall – it’s something about the colours, and the way the water was falling from every direction. I thought it was magical!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia
(See the people creeping in everywhere?)

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Having explored the upper lakes, we made our way to the boat that would take us across to the lower lakes. Again, the downside of so many people meant that we were standing around, waiting about 40/45 minutes in a pack of people waiting to get the boat… Not really how I had pictured our day in this natural paradise.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We arrived and our group had a short 15 minute break: or so we thought – one man decided he would have a whole lunch, so we ended up waiting about half an hour for him… It was more than a little frustrating. As much as our tour was great, I really would recommend a private tour – hanging around for members of our group got very dull by the end of the day, and I often felt guilty if I wanted to hang back and take a photograph as I didn’t want to hold anyone up.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

I’ve never seen water this colour – it was truly breathtaking.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

There are four lower lakes, each a slightly different colour, which made for a wonderful walk. See if you can spot the four distinct colours in these photos!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

By this point the weather was picking up a little so the light was even better, which made for some great photo opps!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We wandered along the path, watching the fish, ducks and other wildlife playing around and constantly marveling at the impressive colours that we were surrounded by.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Soon we were at the bottom of the lakes, which is also the site of the tallest waterfall.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

At an impressive 88m tall it really is a monster of a waterfall!

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We wandered back up the path, climbing back up to to the exit, taking in the last glimpses of the park and taking our final photos.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

Plitvice National Park Croatia

We clambered back into the minibus, expecting to be on our way home, but we had an unannounced detour to a restaurant, which no one on our tour seemed to want apart from our guides… After a long day I think we were all ready to head back to Split, so it was a little annoying to delay our departure.

It really is a magical place, though I would organise a private tour next time. You’ve got to visit the national park when you go to Croatia – but as I said, there’s a way to do it and a few things you need to know beforehand!

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We paid a media rate for our tour with Viator, but all opinions words and photographs are my own. 

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