Oh no, while waking up I hear the raindrops falling on our tent… I was truly looking forward to this day. The plan for today was visiting the Plitvice National Park. To see the blue water, meandering through all the lakes with their falls while the sun was shining to bring up all those bright and sparkling colours. Well nothing we can do about the weather maybe the sun will shine in an hour or so let’s get out and explore those waterfalls.😎
We wanted to be at the entrance of the National Park around openings hours, so we could get ahead of the crowd into the National Park. Most of the people visiting the park do this because of the famous waterfall pictures, I think. But the park has a lot more to offer, with wildlife like wolves, bears and lynxes (although we didn’t see them during opening hours). The park is one of the oldest National Parks in the South-East of Europe and the biggest in Croatia.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park
The park received the title National Park just after WWII in 1949. The unique natural phenomena got approved so that there could be strict measures to protect this very unique natural beauty. Even better in 1979 the park got included at the UNESCO World Heritage Register.
Why is this park so famous? It is because of the cascading lakes. At the time we were there the park counted 16 lakes. Those lakes are formed by a few smaller rivers and the underground Karst rivers. All the lakes are connected to each other. They got separated by a natural dam, created from travertine. This is created by the sedimentation of chalk. The shores of the lake are constant relocating, so the shores do change as the surrounding landscape (and the man made wooden walkways). This process of sedimentation does arrange that there will be new barriers. Water still has the simple rule it always follows the path with the least resistance. So when the barrier gets to high, the water searches another route. This has the effect that at other places there will be too much water so barriers build before will break and a waterfall starts again. This process does happen also to everything that falls in the water. There are many trees resting at the bottoms of the lakes that are now petrified.
Talking about these walkways I mentioned before, this is really photographer’s hell. So many people walking over the walkways and because they’re made of wood, they shake a lot. So, it’s a challenge to capture some good pictures with longer shutter times. All of this is spread out across 20.000 hectare of land. Approx. 75% of the land consists of trees, the rest is only the water.
But there is more than trees and water. Although we didn’t see any of them… The wildlife in the National Park is enormous. I mentioned the wolves, bears and lynxes already, but what do you think about the 140 bird species but also something usual as a frog is part of the unique setting here. During the civil war the park was closed. After the war in 1996 the park re-opened the doors again for the public. Two years later there was nothing that could remind you of any damage at all. The years the park was closed during the wildlife did develop further and further.
Ok stop it just stop right here that’s enough theory for now 🤐
We got in the car this early morning and had a short ride to the park. While driving, my girlfriend mentioned she thought she had spotted a bear… So we turned around the car. But in the dusk, it turned out to be a wooden statue created by a chainsaw. First smile from the day check! It can only get better. The parking was still empty, so we got there first. Part 1 of our plan did work yeah! We parked the car at the parking for entrance 1. There are two btw as you can see on the map.
Source: There is a secret behind the map 😇
We thought we could start at the main entrance because of the bad weather and outside high season who would be there!? Think again, it was still crowded!
Our plan for the day was to walk as much as we could, so we could skip the waiting line for the electrical boats and busses. Because we started at this entrance we decided to go first to the highest waterfall from the park, the Veliki Slap. This one falls down 78 meters across a solid rock wall. Not sure if this is the best waterfall from the park. I’ll let you decide that.
Although we started early, even at this time it’s already crowdy at this waterfall. Everyone wants to see this one first I assume 🧐 We noticed here our first wildlife encounter to, there was a small mouse in total panic. Think he was afraid of all the people who ran past him 🐁
From here we followed the pathway to the cave called Šupljara cave. The existence of this cave is caused by the collapse of the bottom of the dolina (or the ceiling of the cave). This cave is the only one in the park open for visiting. Inside you’ll find three halls all connected over a length of aprox 70m. In one of the halls you can find some stalagmites and stalactites. But before we got there I had to try and take some pictures from the waterfalls. Yes I did know on forehand that the walkway would be shaky while people walk at it. I thought it had to be possible to wait for some pauses in between the continuous flow of people. Well that created a lot of waiting time for me. So be aware of that when you plan to visit the park and want to use a tripod, calculate an extra amount of time needed per picture you take.
We continued our walk while following the wooden walkways. I can’t describe how beautiful they build those across the park. Won’t mention all the waterfalls in the park, there are way too many here. We did the largest route in a day (6hrs while you keep on walking but I had to stop for my pictures 😇). There are seven marked routes (A, B, C, E, F, H and K), easy to follow because of the signs everywhere in the park. I hear you thinking how can you get lost while following wooden pathways anyway? It is more that you follow the right route so you can see what you want to see. The positive outcome for today was that I would get all the lovely views and my girlfriend would get the walk.
My favorite spots
During the day we’ve seen many waterfalls, beautiful views over the lakes, beautiful colors, too much to mention them all in one post. But search for the secret and you'll know where to find them.
Area around Boat Station P2
Love this area. We didn’t go on the boats, but we stayed a little bit longer in this part to enjoy it while there were no boats entering. All those babbling streams here with that lushy green and some beautiful pools you can explore. Be aware of the signs (and the rangers)!
Think one of my favorite parts during the walk is the area between Galovac and Gradinsko. The area here is packed with everything you can wish for. Waterfalls, streams, pools, lakes, streams and a boardwalk crossing right through everything.
Everyone knows the postcard or that famous Instagram image from this area. I call it the Instagram view.
Boardwalk to the cave
When you walk here with the cave in your back, you have a nice view where the boardwalk splits in a Y shape. Not spoiling this one, let’s see if you can find this one for yourself!
The pathway along the top of the canyon will give you a great view down onto the boardwalks and how they meander through the lakes.You can get here from the Bus stop or from Entrance 1.
In the end we only regret the views we didn’t see
Despite the weather and way too many people I can only conclude you have to go to this National Park. I think everyone can find here something what he or she will like, the sound of all the soft waterfalls, all the colors, wildlife, nature at its best while humans are everywhere. Pretty weird!
I can close this post with some tips from things I've learned now I've visited the park.
Buy your ticket in advance because you can go in and out the park before and after sunset. The rangers won't mind as long as you have a ticket for the day. You can buy this most of the time at the hotel/campsite.
Bring your own lunch, there are some small food stands where you can buy something. But a lot of people want to and you can spend your time way better than waiting in a line for food. Another plus is that you can stop wherever you want when you found yourself a nice place for a lunch.
While walking the park, try to cross the lakes as many times as possible with the walkways because there you will have the best views. While walking during summer you might think it would be nice to wear flipflops, but I wouldn't advice to wear them. I am a flipflop guy for sure but not here! On the walkways there is also some sort of etiquette because there are no railings most of the time. Just keep right so you won't block the path and bump someone by accident into the water. Same after taking pictures, first look around you before you start moving again. Again this is only etiquette, but lets keep it fun for everyone 😉
Photography gear wise, better to bring a good heavy tripod with you, light travel tripods like the one I had will shake too much. Some of the waterfalls are further away from the walkways, so bring a telezoom to get them close. I didn't had mine because it wasn't fixed yet. If I would come here for a second time I will bring my 80-200 with me for sure 👍
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