Croatia: Plitvice Lakes – UNESCO's Nature Gem
The water is crystal clear. The color of the lakes depends on the amount of minerals and organisms living in water – from emerald green, sky- to dark-blue. In the lower part of the lake system there are over 20 karst caves. Plitvice Lakes create a world unique place which lures tourists here from all around the world. The are abecame a national park in 1949. In 1979, the region made it to UNESCO world heritage list. There is no need to mention that this amazing land featured as a location in the famou Harald Reinl movie The Treasure of Silver Lake.
Even though the park is open all year round, we still recommend you to visit it off main tourist season (which is from July 1 to August 31). In our own experience, this saves you money and nerves. There are not so many visitors. Moreover, start your sighting early in the morning thanks to which you'll avoid waiting in an endless ticket line. The park is open from 7 am to 7 pm all year round. The price includes a boat transfer and a ride on a tourist train. This makes getting around between the lakes much faster. You can choose from trails which take you from 2 to 8 hours. However, you would better take an entire day for this park to enjoy amazing nature scenery without hustle.
There is a network of narrow sidewalks, bridges and paths between the lakes. When walking on these you can fully enjoy landscape around. However, when somebody in front of you stops to take a picture your walk changes into boring waiting. There are mostly beech trees. Localities which fall under highest level of protection due to occurance of endemites (orchids, lillies etc.) are not accessbile to tourists. Also, it is natural habitat for wild boars, deer and such. However, ther also live bears, wolves, lynxes and so on. Lakes are home to amphibians, crayfish and fish. These are often easy to spot due to crystal clear water.
There are two entrances into the park. At both you need to pay to enter. The north entrance, Rastovaca, is lcoated by the Korana and Plitvica rivers confluence. It is a great place to start your tour. The south entrance, Hladovica, is located next to Milanovac lake. We started off our trek at the first entrance. Here we enjoyed amazing vista over the Great waterfall. The Plitvica river falls here from 76 meters down to the lake valley. All trails go around lakes Kaluderovac, Gavanovac, and Milanovac. All eventually go to the largest of the lakes – Kozjak (83 hectares). Here we experienced a boat ride to the other side of the lake. Several more trails begin here running to other lakes (Grandinske, Galovac and so on).
However, considering the number of visitors, we decided to walk around the entire Kozjak lake. This turned out to be a ncie alternative to consumerist side of tourism. On our walk, we encountered several like-minded tourists. Therefore, we could enjoy this beautiful landscape in peace. Apart from thet we managed to walk partly around Grandine Lake. There are many large and small waterfalls. In my opininon, this is the most beautiful part of the park. To get back to the first waterfall you can take a pathway running at higher altitude. Here you get amazing vistas over cascades in the valley.
All in all, I easily recommend you to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. However, be prepared to feel pity that you are not allowed to swim in such clear water.
Text and photos: Vojtěch Bližňák
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