Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park is continued from Arrival to Plitvice Lakes National Park
If I had a bucket list, visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia certainly would have been on it. Declared a national park in 1949 (Croatia’s first) and a UNESCO Heritage site in 1979, the crystal clear lakes and streams are connected by a series of stunning waterfalls. To allow enough time to enjoy the park, we booked a three night stay at a nearby guesthouse. Our mid-March arrival resulted in a bit of disappointment as we learned that half of the park – the Upper Lakes – was closed, leaving us two full days to explore the lower lakes.
Arrival to the Plitvice Lakes National Park through Entrance 1 put us within steps of the grandest sight of the park, the Big Waterfall, Veliki Slap. On the opposite side of the canyon from where we were standing, water flowed over the edge in long strings that pooled briefly before tumbling down another set of rocks.
The park is designed to allow guests to get up close and personal. The main path utilized for visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park begins with switchbacks quickly descending to water level. Throughout the park, narrow paths follow the water’s edge past four lower lakes: Kaluderovac, Novakovica Brod, Gavanovac and Milanovac and the waterfalls that connect them. Wooden walkways suspended over gushing water, which often seeps above the planks, transport visitors across the lakes.
The creation of the lakes and waterfalls is due to the natural phenomenon of karst hydrography, which is explained best on the park’s website. While I do find scientific explanations to be interesting, the visual sight was far too distracting to be able to fully comprehend it.
It was quite evident that it was still the winter season, with only a few flowers, budding plants and birds signaling the coming of spring. I had anticipated there being much lusher greenery, but the bare tree limbs and exposed rocks surrounded by intensely colored rushing water added a contrasting element to the scene. Perhaps not the postcard picture that lured us there, the park was also void of the summer crowds, giving us the chance to often feel as if we were the sole visitors.
Since we had two days’ time on our side, we slowly explored the park, stopping to take (way too many) photos, but also to simply enjoy the natural and unique surroundings. Even under a blanket of cloudy skies, we spent the first day oohing and ahhing over the emerald green, gurgling water and the plethora of magnificent, crashing falls.
On our second day visiting Plitvice Lakes, we were energized by the bright blue skies and made our way to the park shortly after opening. We retraced our steps from our first day, appreciating how the lake scenery changed under the sun’s rays.
In addition to the paths that wind through the park at water level, there are also paths with viewpoints that follow the top edge of the canyon on both sides, giving a bird’s eyes view of the waterfalls and lakes below. The western trail crosses the top of Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall), with lookout points on both sides. Moss covered stairs zig zag from the top to the misty base.
In the end, we were pleased with our time spent at the park. Although we are still disappointed that we didn’t get to see the Upper Lakes or the park in full bloom, as it turned out, there were several perks to visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in the late winter. Without the crowds we were able to slow down and thoroughly appreciate the natural splendor.
We want to know: Is visiting Plitvice Lakes on your Croatia itinerary? Have you been before? What season did you visit? Tell us about it in the comments!