Croatia boasts an impressive eight national parks and collectively they account for nearly 8% of the entire country! Quite a statistic. Unsurprisingly then one of these parks is Croatia's most visited tourist attraction so naturally I had to go and check out what all the hype was about...
So I first heard of Plitvice Lakes from my Italian friend Laura, pronounced Lao-ra, whom I met in Serbia and then again in Rome!. I recall being awestruck at the images she showed me but that was a while ago and before I had my time in Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Would these sights still be as impressive to me? Let's find out...
I'm going to cover this post in four sections so feel free to read/view the sections which are better suited to your interest.
1) - My day at Plitvice National Park.
2) - Top tips for those coming here.
3) - What I'd have done differently.
4) - Conclusion.
1) - My day at Plitvice National park:
As I'm finding more and more as I travel, you don't need to go through an agency or hostel to get to the heavily popular tourist places. Buses will take you here (it makes business sense for them to offer transportation after all) and there is direct one at 08:30am from Zadar to Plitvice. Perfect. The bus ride will take around 2 hours and a single journey costs 100 Kuna (£10) or 160 Kuna (£16) return. Entrance to the park is around 110 Kuna (£11).
I didn't have a good start to my day and as regular viewers will know, that hasn't been the case very often on my travels thus far (he says trying to find wood to touch). Surprisingly, pretty much everything has gone rather-swimmingly to-date and that includes countless small everyday details and so when a couple of things don't go to plan, well, I'm happy to tell you about them so you don't all think this travel malarkey is plane sailing as it isn't. In short, I didn't get off at the right bus stop. It transpires that I was meant to get off well before the park to get to my hostel, like 20KM before, but I didn't realise that so me and all my luggage ended up at the park. Thankfully it all worked out well in the end and it proved to be easy to catch a bus to my hostel later in the day and after I had taken on the national park.
I originally envisaged spending two days here but now, having done the park on the first day, I will head straight to Zagreb after a night's rest - especially as I cannot use my park ticket twice! Grrrrr. So due to the bus mix-up I got to the park around 10.30am but it was another hour before I got myself together. Then I had lunch and so it was around 12pm before I set out exploring nature at its finest. Prime tourist time! :-( Contrast that time against the fact that you can enter the park for 7am! This was my original plan for on the second day but it wasn't meant to be. Still I had a productive day and managed to catch a 4.30pm bus back to where I was staying in Korenica. For the national park lovers, take note that you can spend pretty much 12 hours out here on one day if you so wished!!!
Here then are some pictures of my day-out. Advance warning: expect an abundance of waterfalls so we might aswell start with one!
And so let's have a few more!
Let's mix up up the scenery a little before coming back to some more stunning waterfalls:
Yes, a lot of the water really was the colour shown in that last picture and here are some more:
I was chuffed to be able to get the images I did as I was constantly battling annoying tourists that would happily hold up tens of people all so they could take a self-indulgent 'selfie'. Here are your last batch of images so please enjoy:
2) - Top tips for those coming here:
You can store luggage here at the park (which was very fortunate for me!). The price at this writing is 10 Kuna (£1) per PERSON, not per luggage item! With two lots of luggage I was revelling in this price at 50 pence per bag for all day cover. Speaking of which, there isn't really a ticket system so if someone were to innocently mistake your bag for theirs or deliberately take yours, well I can't really see a full blown investigation and insurance arrangement being here for you so be mindful of that.
I exited the bus/coach entrance at site 2 for no other reason than that is where most of the other people had departed. Typically there was a large queue for park tickets (as there would be at bus/coach entrance 1). I'm talking 20+ minutes of standing around. However you don't need to put yourself through this. Simply follow the same steps down to the main park entrance and purchase your ticket much closer to the actual park entrance itself where there was quite literally no queue. I used a little charm to obtain this information and you're getting it for free!
If national parks are really you're thing then you'll either want to do an epicly long single day or two full days. I understand that if you stay over in certain hotels over at the park, you get the second day built into the price so that will be worth looking into. I think prices will be reasonable too and even more so if there are two of you sharing a room. Speaking of which, if you get to the park early enough you can easily accomplish all that you want here and catch the 5pm bus back to your required destination (like I did), even if your destination is as far away as Split or Zagreb. I'm choosing to stay in these parts for a night close to the national park because I have the time at the hostel, Falling Lakes, is brand-spanking new.
Ticks - as in the tiny external parasite, are not nice and I saw one with my own eyes earlier. He says slightly shuddering thinking back...It had semi-buried itself into the leg of a guy I was sharing a dorm with and it had been doing whatever it does all through the night. He says still shuddering...As such, it would be wise to come with some prior knowledge about how to remove them as using metal tweezers isn't preferred as often this would break the bugger in two and you don't want half it remaining on you!
Finally, don't bring swim-wear with you as you can't swim here! Sorry.
3) - What would I do differently?
In an ideal world, I'd have visited here at the end of May/beginning of June which should have resulted in less tourists. However, if you don't mind crowds of people or the struggle to get a good photo opportunity amongst them, by all means come now as July and August will only get busier.
If you were planning on staying for a night, you would have stress-free time if you chose one of the few main hotels up here in the national park itself. Further more, if the prices were acceptable (which they should be) and you get a second day pass, then all-in-all that has to be better than staying in a hostel 20KM away.
A small one but bring your own fluids and of course, your lunch. This I would normally do but I came here unprepared in general and was annoyed when I realised that I was going to have to pay for food here. Still, thankfully I paid a not wholly unreasonable 55 Kunas (£55) for a chicken burger, chips and water but the quality was distinctly average as they were churning out the food on a pretty epic scale.
Put a small amount of research into the national park itself. I didn't realise the park was the size it was and as such, I
didn't really have a plan of where I was going to wander. Now, that's not a problem as such but for people really into this kind of thing, come with a plan of sorts and know what parts of the park are best suited for you and what you want from the day as there are various entrances and numerous routes. Today, even un-organized, I managed a respectable completed circuit of both route E and F but there would be time for another if you so wished.
4) - Conclusion:
All-in-all I am glad I visited here and as you can see from the images, it was worth it - despite how tourist-heavy it was. If I hadn't achieved any decent photos for one reason or another, then I'd have been pissed, but I did so it's all good.
Was it worth the money? In one aspect, yes, and in another, no. Yes, the price was acceptable for the bus ride and entry fee but no when compared to other amazing experiences I've had. Just to name and contrast a couple of them, that boat cruise in Albania and that waterfall experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina were both considerably cheaper and equally as memorable if not more so.