What's the best part about travelling? It is undoubtedly taking the road with no clue of where it is leading to, and be super excited to see the little surprise it holds in for you !! One such memorable trip was to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Europe.
A few years back, I visited the lakes, and it was my first international trip and a mesmerizing wonder that I witnessed. It was not the one that I expected to see on my journey. I was part of a group trip to Europe which was planned for two weeks, and the places were something I had never heard of, just like Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Budapest, Croatia, Austria!!
Probably because Ranbir Kapoor movies were not out back then, and these places were alien to me because Europe and places like Paris or London or Switzerland were to come to mind first.
And that was what people all around me were asking too, and I blurted out Croatia. The itinerary read "Plitvicka Jezera".I knew none back then, but I had to get on a trip so badly, so I looked it up, and the pictures were out of the world, and I headed to Plitvice Lakes.
Plitvice National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Croatia, one of the oldest national parks and famous for its lakes.
The drive to Plitvice itself is very scenic, and the chillness of the mountains is worth feeling. Streams are flowing everywhere, which was a treat to the eyes.
Along the way, I saw a cafe where I wish we could have all stopped and had some fun, but the limitation of being on a bus became a hurdle. There were a couple of restaurants off the road, and it was set up just above the stream, which makes it possible for you to sit at a table close to the stream and sip coffee with water gushing down. Some cafes even had their chairs laid out on the stream of flowing water which was so soothing.
We were driving from Zagreb to Plitvice, and we reached the park in the evening. The plan was to halt for the night and explore the park early the next day. Our stay was within walking distance to the park, that we could hear the distant sound of waterfalls. I was so excited about hearing the sound of the waterfall and was walking over to the edge of the property just in the hope of catching a sight of it.
A group of us decided to freshen up still and take a walk. By the time we gathered, it was all dark, and since it is a national park, there were no lights around. As I walked with my buddy through the darkness, with some creaking crocking sounds from insects and the distant waterfall was going shuuuussshhhhh.
All of a sudden, a flash in front of my eyes distracted me. I was wondering if I was dreaming due to the tiredness of the journey? But then it happened again. For every fraction of a second, the flash kept appearing and disappearing. And then two turned into three and four and five and so many!!
Fireflies!! So many of them.
How magical that moment was! I had never seen a firefly before, and now I was surrounded by fireflies. Pitch darkness and glittering lights around me as though the stars have come down to twinkle around me. Despite the dark, the kid inside of me made me run behind the flies to catch one.
Caught none, they kept disappearing in the dark. The night passed with such memories, and we were to wake up the next day early morning to trek the park.
What is so special about Plitvice Lakes?
Plitvice National park is famous for its lakes, and it flaunts about sixteen lakes formed by water cascading through the hills surrounded by karst formation.
All the lakes are interconnected and are formed as lakes by natural dams. They are also deposited with algae and moss, and bacteria were giving it numerous hues of green. The lake's bed is formed by chalk or limestone that gives it a crystal clear look of water which makes it possible for us to see the fish swim.
These lakes are not small, and they spread across acres, due to which one needs to trek for kilometers to cover all the lakes, and it is incredible to see them all be connected. This means we will be walking with water all along the way.
Geography also says that the lake bed is porous, which means there must be an underwater system of rivers flowing through.
Trek to Plitvice Lakes
The morning sun was peering through the window of my room as I prepared to have breakfast. The trek path is around 13 to 15km. Somewhere in my mind, the thought of 13km was ringing again and again as I am not an active trekker.
The last time I went on one such trek was to Gangotri in the Himalayas. I troubled my friends pretty much to complete the trek. So I juggled between the beauty of the lakes and the 13km trek path.
Scrambled eggs, toast, fruits, cakes, coffee, everything had gone in to give enough energy! The time came, and we were off to the trail as it was at a walkable distance from our hotel.
There are two entrances to the park.
Start at the main entrance, Entrance 1, in that way you will be walking towards looking forward to the waterfalls. Entrance 2, however, is like walking against the crowd and in the opposite direction. You will be walking from big ones to small ones, in the other direction of water flow.
In my opinion, it ain't fun.
It is even possible to buy entrance tickets to the Plitvice lakes national park online.
You can now buy entrance tickets to the Plitvice lakes national park online here - Click here
The lady in charge of the ticket counter explained to us that there are different trails. One for 5km this covers the big lakes, the second for 9km, one exploratory trail which usually students opt for, one into the forest for which you need a guide.
Most of us decided to take the 5km trail and check it out before we venture further.
And 5km sounds easy.
So I was happy to be on that path. The trek path was so meticulously planned, they had trails marked as A, B, C, and they tell you which alphabet to follow based on your ticket, and you have to follow the board! It's That simple.
The path was also elegant. They had few steps cut out of wooden logs, then come to the mud path, then come wooden steps, and then a few carved out steps. With the distant sound of waterfall and eagerness rushing in me to catch the first sight of it, I started walking fast. There comes the first clearing! A viewpoint! From the view, it was just magic. Pure magic!
Different shades of green, blue, turquoise, the waterfalls, and the lakes; it was all a nature's retreat. The initial walk is a descent, so you can spot the trek path down, passing through the lakes from the viewpoint.
The trek path was now going down the hill, so it was not very tough. It might be slippery during rains, but luckily, the day I visited was a bright sunny day. As we approached closer to the lakes, you realize how clear the water is.
You can see a different kind of fishes, the algae, there was a small boat sunk in the river. Everything! Everything under the water you can see with no difficulty!
I was so lost in its beauty. You know what, the pictures cannot do justice to the place! However excellent be the technology or the photographer, what you see is different from the pictures.
In the Croatian language, a waterfall is called Jezera, and lakes are called slap which explains why it is called Plitvicka Jezera, and all the 16 lakes have names that end with a slap, e.g., Veliki Slap
walk along lake Plitvice
Who wouldn't love to walk at the Plitvice lakes !!
The foliage adds more beauty to the colors of the park. It is not just the lakes, but flora and fauna need to be observed as well.
Lots of flowering plants, colorful flowers, and the bees were buzzing around my head, shooing me away from taking pictures of its flowers; thank God they did not sting me.
We reached a refreshing point within a couple of hours, and hey, the trek ended here.
It is also the point where a ferry takes you to the other end of the Plitvicka river. The 5km trek was over even before I could realize it!! I was standing by the shore of the river, sipping some hot chocolate, and the fishes were eagerly looking at me, hoping they would get some share of the hot chocolate.
What a vast water body! Huge, clear one! I wanted more of it. I was seriously considering the idea of walking back the trek path and savor the lakes again!
5km was not enough! I wanted to discover more!
The ferry carried us to the other end of the river, and wow, what an eco-friendly boat!
No sound of the engine, no wobbling, and no disturbance to the water, I wondered
how they even managed this? The fishes might have thought of it as a huge cloud moving above, and the shadow is falling beneath. So cool.
The ferry reached the other end of the lake, and the trail again showed four different directions. I asked a guy in charge where this trail leads, and he mentioned, "This is the longer trek path. You can see around ten more lakes if you follow this path!" What? The more significant part of the park is on this side of the river? I got more to explore.
Some of my buddies and I decided to trek the remaining of the park due to enough time and energy that we had. The wooden logs used as steps are built above the streams. So you are walking above the streams, bend down, and the streams are gushing down under you!
There is no swimming allowed in the Plitvice lakes, so the water is clean and we can fill our water bottles from these streams.
The lengthier trail was more beautiful with small lakes, fishes walking along with you, plants brushing you, and the trail takes you close to a couple of waterfalls, close enough for the waterfall to sprinkle cool water on you.
With all the sweat and sun, that cool sprinkle of water was very much a needed one!
Now we climbed up the hill as this lead to the other exit of the park. The walk up the hill gets tiring, the paths get rugged, but your spirits get refreshed again and again by the surprise that each turn the trail brings you.
Towards the end of the trail, as we walked away from the lakes and waterfalls, we walked through giant trees.
I witnessed different colored leaves, wild mushrooms popping out of their barks, and different sounds of birds.
After a point, we could see the buses moving from the park, and we pushed ourselves towards hoping that the exit is close by, but we kept on pulling and pushing ourselves, and it seemed never-ending.
Finally, the end of the trail came. As I turned back, the path curled down, and I had left behind my footsteps going zig-zag all around the place. I wonder if I was drunk!
I was dripping with sweat, but the happiness of having walked the entire trail and the satisfaction that I managed to cover all the lakes and waterfalls made my day and life happier.
How to reach Plitvice lake national park
There is a good network of Buses from Zagreb to Plitvice. It stops at the gate, and you can get the ticket at the entrance gate. From the entrance gate to the start of the trail, buses from the park are functional. Some people do it as a day trip from Zagreb too as the park is only about 130 or 150 km away from the city. But it is advisable to stay near the park and hit the trail before the crowd gets in.
Few Tips for your visit to Plitvice Lakes national park and Stay close to the park. There are quite a few hotels around the park and so stay there. Start early so that the sun does not drain out your energy.
The Plitvice lake national park opens at 7 am and closes at 8 pm. The ticket counter closes at 5 pm. The color of the lake is played on by the sun so go when the sun is up.Good shoes are a must, or you might slip and fall or hurt your feet. Also, carry a hat, sunglasses, and water.No swimming or littering is allowed in the Plitvice Lakes.
The trails are very easy to follow; signboards guide you, so no worries, even if you venture out by yourself. The ticket also has the map of Plitvice lakes printed on it, so no worries.
Take a good camera with you because it is not just the pretty lakes but the flowers, trees, squirrels, mushrooms, small streams, everything that beckons you.The trek is easy to moderate, so if you can, cover the entire stretch.The park is deserted in many places, so take your time and enjoy the calmness, peace, and tranquility around.
Plitvice lakes national park is open throughout the year. And visiting the park in winter to witness the frozen lakes and snow-covered peaks is also one of the top things to do. I picked up a postcard of Plitvice Lake's winter scenery, and it looked splendid.