Plitvice Lakes National Park – Croatia’s Crown Jewel

Plitvice Lakes National Park – Croatia’s Crown Jewel

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

IMG_4466

It is also the largest national park in Croatia.

IMG_4242

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

IMG_1652

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

IMG_1714

IMG_1585

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

Plitvice_Lakes_System_Elevation_Map

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.

IMG_1621

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

IMG_1628

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

IMG_4180

IMG_4206

IMG_1512

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.

IMG_4423

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.

IMG_4147

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.

IMG_1555

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

IMG_1588

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

IMG_4144

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

IMG_4145

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

IMG_4435

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

IMG_4237

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.

IMG_1537

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

IMG_1582

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

IMG_4175

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

IMG_4394

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.

IMG_4332

The 21km Corcova Uvala trail leads though dense forests…

IMG_4290

…. remote fields….

IMG_4309

….and trickling streams.

IMG_4363

The best part about the Corcova Uvala trail?

IMG_4384

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.

IMG_4379

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.

IMG_4207

Advertisements
Rovinj – How to spend a perfect day in a Croatian harbor town

Rovinj – How to spend a perfect day in a Croatian harbor town

I did not enjoy Croatia as a country to backpack in except for two places, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Rovinj.  If you are staying in Pula and looking for a good day trip, Rovinj takes the cake.

IMG_4100

It is a smaller, more charming coastal town than Pula and the fresh fish is legit.

IMG_1336

Before

IMG_1338

After

After a tasty lunch fresh from the sea you can rent a bike a take a ride through Park šuma Zlatni.

IMG_4112

Along the edge of the park there are rocky outcrops where you can take a nap or a dip, with or without clothing.

IMG_4113

Before you get too excited about the romantic idea of a nude beach, let me pop that bubble right quick.

Most of the swimmers that elect to forego a swimsuit in favor of their birthday suit are well over the age of 50 and are no longer in top physical condition.

If you can ignore these occasional “mid-50s-flashes” the bike ride is well worth it.

IMG_1372

Rovinj has a very artsy hill winding up its old town on the western peninsula.  The steep, diagonal streets act as a permanent art bazaar, with hundreds of local studios to choose from.

IMG_4103

Its not my thing – I’m not an art guy, nor a souvenir guy – but it might be yours.  Plus, it would be mighty difficult to tote a painting around in a backpack for three months.  If I buy any gifts at all while abroad, it is usually in the city I fly home from.

IMG_4095

At the end of the art hike and at the top of the hill in Rovinj’s old town is Saint Euphemia’s basilica, a baroque church, which you can see in the upper left in the above photo.

At the end of the day while waiting for the bus and watching old men play chess in the central square I realized I would have rather stayed in Rovinj than Pula.  If you’re thinking about making a trip to Croatia I would recommend you do the same.

Pula – A little bit o’ Rome in Croatia

Pula – A little bit o’ Rome in Croatia

Pula is a big town on Croatia’s northwestern coast with Roman architectural influence.

IMG_1246

Pula’s coliseum, or “Arena” as it is called today, is modeled after the one in Rome and though it is not as impressive, it boasts a similar gladiatorial history.

IMG_1240

Rome does not have a “China Town”, though admittedly (and oddly) Pula’s China Town is limited to one store.

IMG_4071

But the white architecture in Pula is far more memorable than its China town.

IMG_1230

The Temple of Augustus in Pula

And this is part of what makes Pula is a wonderful place to just sit and drink a glass of wine or an espresso.

IMG_1235

Under Emperor Vespasian, Pula’s amphitheater (6th largest in the world) was built  to seat 23,000 spectators. Back then it was the site of gladiator fights and other brutal amusements for the masses. Nowadays it satisfies a far less bloody purpose, operating as a venue for summer film and opera festivals.

IMG_1253

We stayed in a lovely hostel in Pula called Riva Hostel where we met two very cool French girls and the standard eclectic cast of “usual suspects” that you always seem to find in hostels.

Pula also has an industrious port.

IMG_1267

And nearby a spot to park your yacht if you are that lucky.

My yacht is the one on the left

My yacht is the one on the left

Maybe someday…

Overall I enjoyed Pula but one of the day trips we took from Pula ended up being more enjoyable.  Stay tuned for the next post!