You hear them before you see them. Hundreds of waterfalls cascade from various heights in different corners of the impressive Plitvice Lakes National Park in central Croatia. The emerald water shimmer and sparkle even from a far distance, reflecting the sun’s rays like a reflection. Thick beech and fir trees sprout out from the sides of the granite mountains and from the shores of the lakes. Everywhere you go, you see water — flowing gently as clear streams, bursting from porous rocks in the form of plummeting waterfalls, or keeping still and calm in the spearmint blue lake. But what makes the Plitvice Lakes special is not the water but rather the travertine or tufa formation that creates natural barriers around the lakes to form stunning and unique karst hydrography.
Covering an area of approximately 295 square kilometers, this national park is the largest one in Croatia. The phenomenal site was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and has since been highly protected by the government. No swimming is allowed as there are concerns of human activities (such as urination or sunscreen) affecting the pH of the water, which may have a destructive impact on the tufa formation. There are boat trips that run along the lakes (aboard electric boats) and various barbeque food stands but other than that, the forests and lakes are kept in their original, natural conditions.
During our daytrip from Zagreb, we spent over four hours hiking along the many trails that crisscross the waterfalls and only managed to cover just one quarter of the enormous national park. The route took us from high up the karst mountains down to the level of the lakes and in and out of karst caves. Our guide from Chillout Hostel was extremely informative, sharing local legends (one involving the origins of Milka chocolate) and myths that surround the lakes. The Plitvice Lakes are definitely some of the most beautiful natural wonders we’ve seen in the Balkans so far, and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting the region. I’ll let Alberto’s photos do the talking, enjoy the visual feast!
The Plitvice Lakes from above
Water cascading down from moss-covered rocks
Sprinkling water everywhere
A series of waterfall forming the turquoise lakes
Trails that weave through the national park allow visitors to walk on the travertines
Clear spearmint blue water
The trail that fringes the edge of the park
Tiny fish that roam around the shore of the lake
Water pouring out from the porous travertines
Summer is usually the peak period for tourism in Croatia and the trails can get quite crowded
Look how clear the water is
Vertical karst mountain cliffs flank the lakes
Different shades of blue
Gushing water forming mini waterfalls
A bird’s eye view of the lakes
The highest waterfall in the park plunging from 78m high
We’re looking rather happy to here at Plitvice
The daytrip can be booked with Chillout Hostel Zagreb for 250Kunas (€35). It departs from the hostel at 9am and returns around 6pm. The journey there from Zagreb is around two hours each way and there are public buses from Zagreb but they don’t run very frequently and get full very quickly in summer (book in advance if possible).