From our home base in Zadar we made a day trip into the mountains to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful places in the world we have ever been. My photos won’t do it justice, it can’t be properly described, you can’t imagine it, you just have to see it for yourself and have the OMG moments we did! If you’ve seen the Lord of Rings trilogy and thought Rivendale would be an incredible place if only it existed for real, well it does! In Plitvice (pronounced PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes National Park. There is no place like this lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, woven together by intricate waterfalls and miles of planked walkways, you’ll be certain you’ve arrived in Rivendale! At the bottom of this post is a video of these incredible falls come to life!
If you happen to be in the area of Zagreb or Zadar then you must put this on top of your list of things to see and do. It’s a pleasant drive into the mountains from Zadar, you can find it in your GPS or just follow the signs to Zagreb and you’ll see signs leading to the park. There are also buses that go to Plitvice from either Zagreb’s or Zadar’s central bus stations or you can take arranged tours available in either city. For more detailed info you can find it here on the parks website.
Plitvice is very accessible for all abilities with routes that take you from a few hours up to eight, if you have the time and ability plan to arrive early and do the full eight hours. If you love nature, the variance and unending beauty of this park will keep you mesmerized and vitalized for the whole hike.
The park is accessible year-round with two entrances, the Jezerce Entrance 2 is the first you’ll pass from Zadar or the second from Zagreb. It takes you to the higher lakes and is normally closed in the winter months from November to April. Our recommendation would be to start at Entrance 1 at the lower lakes, it’s the next entrance reached from Zadar and the one our GPS took us too. Entrance 1 takes you down into the canyon and leads you through the waterfalls as you ascend toward the upper lakes and thus gives you the forward views at most of the falls. Right away you’ll be wowed by the largest fall in the park but don’t let this fool you into thinking you’ve seen the main event already, the show has just begun.
A series of well developed paths and bridges will take you through, over and around the most amazing series of falls, lakes, fairy pools, ponds, forests and marshlands. This amazing beauty is constantly changing and being produced by a phenomenon of ongoing biodynamic processes. Tufa formations are made from the porous travertine and calcium carbonate that constantly builds its barriers and the sills that form the waterfalls.
The park is also connected by electric boats that will ferry you across the lakes depending on the route you take which can be decided from the route maps at each entrance and along the paths. As well there is an electric train that connects entrance 1 to entrance 2 so you can walk one way and take the train back. We decided on route D, a reasonable hike that took us about 4 hours to complete (plus time for a lazy lunch and coffee break). It is about 8 kms of walking but with the boat and train rides in between it wasn’t difficult. Route D took us from the big falls at Entrance 1, through the most amazing scenery and ended at Entrance 2 where we took the tram back close to our starting point and the end of an amazing day!
We packed a nice picnic and bought a few cappuccinos at one of the rest stops along the way but you don’t have to pack anything in. There are restaurants, coffee huts and good washroom facilities at all of the boat and train stops, similar to what you’ll find at each entrance.
You can also find accommodations if you wish to stay right in the park at a few different hotels and campgrounds or in the nearby town of Jezerce where there are plenty of lovely Chalets, Zimmers and private rooms to book.
I feel obliged to also point out the cons, it’s a bit expensive for a day in the park but for us penny pinchers we felt well worth the value. Each adult entrance fee is about $25 CDN (and includes the boat and train rides), plus a charge for parking (about $8 CDN- this was for about seven hours of parking time) and a few dollars each way for the toll highway. And expect crowds, we were here late April on a cool day and it was busy. I can only imagine the crowds mid summer but I wouldn’t let this keep me from coming back.
If you are planning a trip and have any questions please send us an email or post a question on the blog, we’d be happy to help. Now here is our video below so you can see it come to life! If you want more here is a link to the Photo Gallery.