Plitvice Lakes National Park – Croatia’s Crown Jewel

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe.

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It is also the largest national park in Croatia.

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The Park is a giant chain of sixteen lakes connected by cascading waterfalls.

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Plitvice’s lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains.

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The runoff descends from an altitude of 636 to 503 m over a distance of some eight km, aligned in a south-north direction.

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It is impressive that 16 lakes can help to form hundreds of little waterfalls with a difference of only 150 meters between the highest and lowest lake.

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The highest waterfall is the “Large Waterfall”, Veliki Slap (“Slap” means waterfall in Croatian) at the end of the Lower Lakes.

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There are hundreds of waterfalls to get your pic with besides Veliki though.

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My only knock on the Park is that at times it can feel a bit like “Disneyworld” with hundreds of people walking in front of and behind you.

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Plitvice attracts over 1,000,000 visitors a year and the “Disneyworld” problem is exacerbated by the fact that all the visitors in the park must stay on the narrow plank walkways that lead through the Lake System.

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Then you throw in the fact that everyone and their brother is stopping to take pictures and you have one giant cluster.  So at times it can feel a bit like you are cattle being herded into the Slaughterhouse.

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But these moments are offset by the nice moments you have to yourself.

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Plitvice has a series of “Routes” available to visitors.

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Each route offers a different perspective of the many lakes and some take longer than others.

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Many of the routes are connected or enabled by electric buses or boats to cross waterways.

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We did the popular Route H, which takes 4-6 hours.

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We had stayed in the nearby Hotel Plivitce and were able to get an early enough start to avoid most of the crowds but some backlog is simply inevitable.

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The clarity of the lakes is stunning.  Fish would have a difficult time hiding from airborne predators here, if there were any.

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Water-based life is abundant, from dragonflies to salamanders.

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The views from the cliffs above the lakes made for some of the best pictures I took in Croatia.

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On one of the days we spent in Plitvice we decided to hike the much-less-hiked Corcova Uvala trail, which is a nice hiking contrast compared to the Routes leading by the lakes.

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The 21km Corcova Uvala trail leads though dense forests…

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…. remote fields….

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….and trickling streams.

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The best part about the Corcova Uvala trail?

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Hiking for six hours without seeing another soul, especially after we had spent the previous day engulfed by fellow visitors on the boardwalks that lead through the Lake systems.

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I know that when most people think Croatia, they think of the incredible coastal cities, such as Dubrovnik, bordering the Adriatic.  But in this traveler’s opinion, even with the crowds, Plitvice is the true crown jewel of Croatia.

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