Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is arguably one of Europe’s most spectacular nature parks. And it’s absolutely unique, for nowhere else in the entire world can you see the kind of landscapes that you will find in Plitvice Lakes National Park.
The oldest national park in southeastern Europe—something that indicates that its importance was realized early on—Plitvice Lakes National Park was also recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
An Intro to Plitvice Lakes National Park
The park’s most famed feature is its 16 lakes that cascade into one another via a series of absolutely gorgeous waterfalls. This large number of terraced lakes is the result of ages of geological movements, the presence of underground karst rivers and a type of stone very typical for the region. This very particular stone, made up of specific minerals, is also responsible for the unbelievable clarity of the lakes’ water.
The water is so clear that you are able to peer down into lakes to depths of several meters. Fish can be spotted everywhere along the shorelines, enjoying the warmer shallow water. Other wildlife in the national park—although much less frequently seen—includes wild boar, brown bears, wolves, deer, lynx, eagles, lizards and snakes. As a matter of fact, Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the last remaining regions in Europe with a large number of both brown bears and wolves. However, because they are shy and live deep in the surrounding forests, you will never see them.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park can be done in less than a full day. There are several loop walks, of various lengths, that can take you to, around, over and past the waterfalls and lakes. Hiking all around the Lower Lakes and the Upper Lakes—there are two main areas—and a trip on the free ferry that connects the two areas doesn’t take longer than five hours.
Make sure to spend the night before your visit in one of the many nearby guesthouses. That way, you will be able to head out early in the morning and beat the crowds that are brought in by dozens of tour buses around mid-morning. I suggest going there right after the park opens, at 7 am. When arriving at the park—entrance 1 is the best one—around 7 am, you will definitely be there at the quietest time of the day and will be finished shortly past noon, allowing for other activities in the afternoon, or simply hanging out at the guesthouse.