Imagine holidaying in a land that has fantastic water bodies, historical revelations, delicious artisanal culinary treats and tons of green trails to feel one with nature. I was already awed by the curvaceous wooden walkway of Plitvice, amidst luscious waterfalls kissing limestone creations. But a quick read up about Croatia told me about 8 national parks, a few nature parks and a couple of reserves with verdant foliage, wildlife and stunning landscapes. So I scribbled in Krka Waterfalls too. And had two days of emerald, teal, aquamarine and even traces of turquoise that sneaked in here and there.
KRKA IS FUN AND PLITVICE BLOWS YOUR MIND
I’ll share my Krka walk-through in terse, as I paid it a visit instead of making it a day journey. I was keen to visit the monastery in the middle of the lake and explore the not so oft visited trails of Krka. But truth be told, I wasn’t driving and couldn’t plan it like I did Plitvice. So I took a group trip from Split, which meant ‘feel the rush and stare wide eyed’. Even that made me realize how much more is there in these national parks beyond what we get to see.
The undulating elegance of almost jungle-like greens, which seemed to rhythmically glide with the waters, caught my eye. This seemed unexplored. Perhaps not accessible to travelers? I surmised that I clearly wasn’t heading there and excitedly gave myself another reason to re-visit Croatia. Krka Waterfalls like Plitvice is in the karst region if you simply look at the topography. Where the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, gypsum and dolomite happens, creating sinkholes and caves & of course barriers (Source: Wikipedia)
OUTCOME: You get waterfalls on beautiful terraces of white, creating lakes that hide moss covered sheets of uneven land.
At Krka you can take the plunge into the waters to cool off or do the trail marked around the park. My experience is captured in a few pictures even as I tried to take in the energy of the place and the rivulets of families ahead of me, who were modulating my pace.
(Skradinski Buk as it’s called, is the longest waterfall in Krka and perhaps the most dramatic)
A little later as the bus drove through the mountains that seemed to border the park, I got an unadulterated view of Visovac Lake. Visovac Monastery almost poised as the centerpiece of this exquisite painting, was founded by the Augustinian monks and completed by the Franciscan monks sometime around the 14th Century. It is said to have many valuable pieces, including some of the oldest books of Aesop’s Fables. You can take a boat at Skradin to get to the tiny island, which again I’ve punched in for the next time. I loved this aerial capture. For all who are familiar with Lake Bled in Slovenia, this one in the region of Dalmatia is just as or even more beautiful.
(Excursion boats can be hired at Skradin to take you to the monastery)
MY NIRVANA MOMENT IN PLITVICE
Have you felt bliss? It’s a terrific feeling you’d agree. Some of us can get there of course with a few glugs of our favorite drink too. I often reach a higher level of it like an elevated sense of being perhaps, when I get close to the mountains. Especially the Himalayas. So I veer towards those gentle yet fierce giants. Plitvice for me seemed like this classically gorgeous creation of nature that you know would be faultless. It was right at the top of my ‘must visit National Park’ in Croatia and I am glad I dedicated a day to this.
TIP: Stay over a night in one of the hotels within the Park or at an accommodation close to the park. If you have a car the latter works just fine.
WHEN RAINS CLEARED THE CROWDS
Imagine walking on wet trails or having to discover Plitvice with a cover of dark clouds. Well I think I had the park almost to myself just because the rains were relentless, atleast until 2.00 PM on the day I reached. I was traveling by bus from Split and was looking forward to settling into my hotel (Jezero). I had totally prepped up for atleast 6-7 hours of walk time. As the rain gods came pouring down I thought the park would be closed but that was not to be. By the early afternoon the showers seemed kinder and armed with a raincoat, my camera and a few bites, I got to the park.
The path from my hotel to Entrance 2 was just 10 mins. And after paying the entrance fee, I started my tiny 5-hour visual shock and awe with a high energy guide who filled me up with the tiniest of details. You have a choice here if you have more hours in hand to start the walk from the payment gate or then take a short train ride. It all depends on where you want to begin the exploration.
ABUNDANCE OF WATER FALLS, WOODEN WALKWAYS AND LIMESTONE
This is a fantasy land for any artist in love with nature. A perfect creation that surprises you with many spectacular drops of gushing water. You hear the sound before you see the waterfall and the soft green moss against the white limestone barriers makes the mélange of colors unforgettable. Look down to take in the rich colors that lie beneath clear waters. The artistry of nature will reveal white rocks, shrubs, even a broken tree which some tiny fish have made home. What’s even more amazing is that you may see a whole new version of green or maybe even blue and golden-red if you are here in autumn.
All of Plitvička Jezera is around 290 sq km and it has a network of 16 lakes that travels from a height of 2000 ft to 1600 ft or so. Over several millennia the topography has carved out slopes and terraces that create the Upper Lakes and Lower Lakes of Plitvice. The cascading waterfalls that form these lakes almost seem to be skipping over some million years old rock erosions only to settle down for some quietude (forming the lakes), before they take their next plunge. It’s like they are in a never-ending roller coaster. Follow the wooden pathways and you won’t get lost. They weave their way all through and look almost one with the forest. As if they sprouted right there with the rest of the fir and beech trees.
When I started my walk I chose to begin from the Upper Lakes and the first view I got was of the Prošćansko Jezero (Lake). There is a legend around it related to a Black River and Black Queen. Ask about it when you get there. Stories and myths make for great journeys no?! It was also a bit of a play for me since the wooden pathways had just no one and I had every urge to do a spot run, but please don’t do that. Walk soaking it all in or perhaps speeden up if you must, but don’t put any pressure on the trail.
I was starting to see the gray sky show traces of blue and quickly hide behind the clouds again. I soon realized that the Upper Lakes was a good place to start as some of the more dazzling displays of colors, water bodies and vegetation was in the Lower Lakes. So by the time I got there, I hoped to have the sky all clear and bright.
Once I reached Lake Kozjak a boat that would take me to the other side appeared in no time. The misty cover on the mountains simply added to the mystique of the entire afternoon that had teased me with small and then sudden large waterfalls…intimate bushes and trees against aqua and then an expanse with a limitless feeling. Since the park had very few travelers, sitting at the restaurant & sipping on my hot chocolate meant watching every tiny detail of the scenic beauty without distractions
When I finally got to the LOWER LAKES I took a deep breath, got my camera ready and slipped into my childlike wonder mode. After all some gorgeous sights were awaiting me.
The lower lakes lead you to Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall) as it’s called. It’s massive and breathtaking and I dare you to take a moisture free picture or even keep your eyes open for 2 minutes without being sprayed playfully by the falls. This entire stretch has a lot more of dramatic looking water bodies. The rich yellow and green of the summers make the waters seem like silver liquid knives gliding down with urgency. Don’t end your walk there but head up further along the route that will finally take you to Entrance 1. This leads you up a trail from where you get the most eye-catching views and the picture perfect iconic Plitvice trail shot. An aerial capture like no other.
My Plitvice experience will continue. Croatia deserves another visit. Where else do you find a land that boldly flaunts so many versions of nature?! And well I still haven’t met the fauna that has made this ecosystem home. I know this is just the beginning of a deep, lasting relationship. I totally dream of an encore.
Here are some tips so you make the most of your trip to Plitvice
» Do stay for atleast one night. There are 3 hotels within the park and other accommodations close to the park. While the hotels are full up often, they give you quick and easy access to the park. And ‘me time’ especially in the early hours when you wish to get to the park before the buses come in. The park opens at 7.00 AM and is open 365 days. Choose from one-day or two-day tickets
HOTELS INSIDE THE PARK: Hotel Plitvice, Hotel Jezero, Hotel Bellevue
» It’s of course best if you are driving into the park as you can reach the hotel without much effort. Since I took the bus I had to get off and walk to Hotel Jezero from Entrance 2. It is a good 15 mins and would suggest you book Hotel Bellevue as it is mighty close, if you don’t have a car.
» Carry a light wrap in the summers & buy the rain cover from the hotel store in case you anticipate showers. A small snack bag with a water bottle is a good idea though traveling light is highly recommended. I would totally endorse it for the veggie lovers.
» Be responsible. Just don’t litter up the place. I did see a plastic bottle near the boat pick up point and I could see the pained expression of the locals. The waters are so clear and look clean too. Keep it that way
» Plan your visit especially your stay and the hiking, cycling or walking trails you want to do. Book your acco well in advance. Entrance tickets to the park can be booked once you are there. You can take a guide who will pretty much explain the nuances of the formations, topography and the myths too. There are many routes to choose from. I took the H Trail from Entrance 2 that lasted about 5 hours. To know it all and do more activities around, check this link of the National Park
MAY YOU HAVE MANY JAW DROP MOMENTS!
(If you enjoyed the pictures here, drop by my Pebblewalks Instagram page and join me as I tell you many visual stories from my travels to the heartland of nature)