by Sacha Bunnik
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in northern Croatia, near the border it shares with Bosnia & Herzegovina. Being one of the largest national parks in Southeast Europe and the oldest, it was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site for its natural beauty. After spending a few wonderful days here exploring, I can see why.
The Plitvice Lakes is a true water wonderland, comprising of 16 interconnecting lakes that cascade down a beautifully wooded and stunning valley. Each lake is naturally dammed and slowly drains into the next by a range of waterfalls, creeks and waterways, making it one of the most scenic and unique places I have ever had the pleasure to visit.
There is a walking path around each lake that interconnects with a range of over water wooden boardwalks giving full access to the best photo spots and sights within the park. Sometimes you’re walking on boardwalks that are only a few centimetres above the rushing water, making it all very exciting.
At other times the mists from the waterfalls cools you off while you walk past, that’s how close you get to the waterfalls. Walking on the boardwalks over the rushing water was the highlight for me as you feel at one with nature. Plitvice Lakes is all about getting up close and personal with nature.
While the lakes and waterfalls are the main attraction of the park, one of the highlights for me was the range of trees that grow on the banks of the lakes. Beech, spruce and fir trees were most common, some growing to massive heights, creating a beautiful green canopy. We visited at the start of May, so everything was bright green, flowering and fresh feeling. Even though the weather was 25 degrees and sunny, we did find areas where the winter snow had not melted yet, making an interesting contrast. As typical Australians Dennis and I had a mini snow ball fight.
Tourists are well catered for at Plitvice Lakes National Park as the Croatian Government has put a lot of thought in to preserving the park and making it an easy place to explore without causing environmental damage. When you arrive at the park, there is a bus that takes you to the highest lake (highest elevation).
I had fears that we would be walking up to the top lake and then all the way down again. This is the main starting point for exploring the park as it allows you to walk down hill past all the other lakes and many waterfalls. This design makes the park accessible to almost anyone as there is little effort required to explore and get the most out of a visit to such a beautiful park (much appreciated by an oversized Australian).
Dennis and I did the whole walk from the top lake to the bottom lake in a little over 2 hours; this included many photo and filming stops (when filming Dennis does lots of takes). My overall opinion is that a trip to Croatia would not be complete without spending some time at the Plitvice Lakes, as it’s such a contrast to the rest of the country with its old walled cities and seaside resorts.
When you have finished exploring the park, make sure you take the time to rest and soak your feet in the icy waters in one of the little streams that come out of the lakes. Trust me on this one, it’s well worth it.