17,000km later and we made it to Plitvice Lakes

The main highlight of this national park is the 16 interconnected lakes that drop down over 8km. It’s been high on our list of places to visit on this trip, and after over a week of sunshine, it was totally overcast when we arrived! It was also bitterly cold at a mere 6 degrees, so in less than 24 hours we’ve ditched the swimwear for wooly hats.

It cost a hefty €15 entry, plus €10 for parking!! It was crazy! The cloud may have come to poop on our day, but luck was on our side with parking; it was free when we visited, I have no idea why and didn’t dare ask. The entry fee included a shuttle bus and boat service which seemed extremely un-environmentally friendly. The bus had three carriages and looked like a giant version of those kids trains at seaside resorts. It probably had the capacity for 150+ people, but we left with just 8!

There were trails leading around all the lakes and boardwalks criss crossing over the lakes ledges with water flowing beneath our feet. We passed a few tour groups, and were outnumbered by Asians 10 to 1, but it wasn’t too busy and we managed to walk on our own for most of the day.

We got the bus to the top lake so we could walk via each one, though the first few were rather unexciting. We soon got to a really pretty area with waterfalls seeming to fall 360 degrees around us. I didn’t expect there to be so many waterfalls; there seemed to be more water than it could handle and new routes were being made with gallons pouring over grassy edges.

It must’ve rained here recently as a few of the trails were closed due to flooding. This included the best area at the final section of the lakes. So we decided to sneak under the barrier and reached the cool mist spraying off ‘Big Waterfall’. This area was teeming with falls and the path really was flooded. Violent rapids gushed over a quarter of the steps but we made it over and across the lakes and didn’t get too wet.

We couldn’t seem to work out where the main viewpoint of the lakes was from, so after lunch back at Pablo I went to the info booth and pointed to the brochure ‘how do we get to this viewpoint?’ He seemed to beat around the bush and said ‘you really want this view?!’ ‘Of course we do! It’s the best view of the park!’ Eventually he told us to follow the road north in our car, cross the river and park up near the top of Big Waterall – we’d been so close before!

Amazingly, there were no signs for this viewpoint until we were 50m from it. It’s the photo all brochures and websites use to advertise the lakes, yet it seems to be kept a secret. Everyone sees that image and decide they want to visit the park, yet maybe only 2% of visitors actually see it from that very viewpoint. It was the best place to get a perspective of the lakes dropping down and the grand finale of the waterfalls.

The lakes didn’t look quite as grand or emerald as in the photos mind you. But there was no denying Plitvice’s beauty.

We even found an abandoned trail that was right on a cliff edge and clearly used to be the way down to the river. The river drastically thinned and looked like a green ribbon draped below the valley. I guess this whole area used to be a popular hiking spot but visitor numbers soared and it’s now the parks best kept secret to preserve the most impressive viewpoints. Which is a shame as I think a lot of people miss out, but I’m super glad we found it

After speaking to a local, we were told that it’s been an awful year for rain; houses have been evacuated due to flooding, the parks been closed on numerous occasions, and the water went from emerald to brown. So we were lucky to even see the park at all. She also gave us a scientific spiel about how the river becomes such a vibrant green colour, but she explained it better than I can, so I’ll just call it Magic.

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