Learn about one of Europe's best national parks. Plitviče Lakes has something for everyone. See why this should be your next Ballkan destination.
I've talked about this place before but there really is no limit to which I can recommend Plitviče. It is (in my opinion) the greatest national park in the world. Located in central Croatia close to the border of Bosnia, the park offers hundreds of kilometers of green mountains, gorgeous cliffs, scenic lakes, and most importantly, an uncanny amount of waterfalls.
When entering the park, you'll drive through an immense forest deep in the heart of Balkan region. While the park is mountainous, it is quite tame compared to much of Croatia which is one of the most mountainous countries I've ever been to. From the parking area, It is a quick walk or shuttle to the first paths through the park. You will start at the top of the park where you have a great view of the many lakes that make up the park. Plitviče is made up of sixteen lakes that pour into each continuous lake through waterfalls. Each lake is a different shade of blue or green due to the differing lakebed compositions in each lake. After some scenic views from above the lakes, you can make your way down towards them. Numerous ferries will take you across the most accessible lake in order to reach the many hiking trails of the park.
In addition to the large waterfalls that cascade between the lakes, there are hundreds of more waterfalls that can be seen. There are both huge waterfalls that may give you a sore neck from simply looking to the top, and miniature ones that can vary from day to day. Even from up high, it is obvious just how clear the water is in the park. From dozens of meters up you can see the lake beds and sand. From up close you can see far out and deep into the lakes even though they are varying shades. The park also offers caverns and large rock structures to see and walk through. In addition, there are numerous species that inhabit the lush forests. From unique species of birds, fish, salamanders, and even wolves; there is much to see for any wildlife enthusiast.
While the park is hilly, it is not a difficult hike and can be done by anyone with minimal hiking experience. In addition to the parking area, there is a small cafe deep within the park where you can stop to have lunch or purchase some food or coffee to keep you going during your time there. The best times to visit the park are both early summer, and deep into winter. In early summer (May and early June) the park is cool and bright throughout the day. You can walk for hours without feeling overheated and there are not as many tourists. Additionally, it is best to visit a day where it rained the previous day or two. The overflow of water creates new waterfalls that are not there without heavy precipitation. While you may visit in summer, you won’t need to pack a bathing suit. Swimming in the park and throughout most freshwater lakes/rivers in Croatia is banned. This is due to the pristine condition Croatia's freshwater bodies are in and in order to preserve them, they cannot come in to contact with chemicals that our clothes, skin, and sunscreen may carry. In addition to this, it is important to ensure the quality of Croatia's nature by leaving as little trace as possible by not disturbing wildlife and ensuring all waste is put into trash bins.
Even though the park is known as a summer attraction for hiking, visiting Plitviče Lakes during the winter offers a whole new experience. The mountains are covered in snow due to its terrain and altitude. This gives people the opportunity for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snowshoeing. You will also get another once in a lifetime view during the winter from the numerous waterfalls that have frozen over, creating hundreds of meters of stacked ice that are comparable by very view places on Earth.
No matter when you visit, Plitviče Lakes National Park is a sight to behold. The numerous options for sights and activities are enough to attract any traveler. This park is one of my favorite places I have ever visited in my extensive travel history. It is the perfect way to spend a day in Croatia while experiencing all this amazing country has to offer.