The One with Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Once upon a time I was browsing through Pinterest and I saw this picture:
And then I found out it was in Croatia! Just a couple countries away! No way! So, to say I was excited to see this place in real life, was the understatement of the century.

A little background: Plitvice (PLEET-veet-seh) is one of Europe's most spectacular natural wonders. Imagine Niagara Falls diced and sprinkled over a heavily forested Grand Canyon. There's nothing else like this lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, separated by natural travertine dams and connected by waterfalls. Countless cascades and water that's both strangely clear and full of vibrant colors make this park a misty natural wonderland. Over time, the water has simultaneously carved out, and, with the help of mineral deposits, built up this fluid landscape. Plitvice became Croatia's first national park in 1949 and was a popular destination during the Yugoslav period. On Easter Sunday in 1991 the first shots of Croatia's war with Yugoslavia were fired right here - in fact, the war's first casualty was a park policeman, Josip Jović. The Serbs held Plitvice until 1995. During those years the park saw virtually no tourists and was allowed to grow wild - allowing the ecosystem to recover from the impact of so many visitors. Today the war is a fading memory and the park is again a popular tourist destination with nearly a million visitors each year - though relatively few are from the US. I wonder if they'll shut it down again for a few years after a couple decades of tourism to allow it to "recover" again? The water is so clear because it comes directly from high-mountain runoff, giving it little opportunity to become polluted or muddy and because the water calcified everything it touches it prevents the creation of mud - so the bottoms of the lakes are entirely stone! Also, a different mineral in the water, magnesium carbonate, both gives the water its special color and makes it highly basic, preventing the growth of plant life (such as certain algae) that could cloud the water. The way Plitvice was formed is super scientific, I won't go into it, but it's basically a "right place at the right time" kind of deal - a "perfect storm" of unique geological, climatic, and biological features found in very few places on earth. Plitvice's system of trails and boardwalks makes it possible for visitors to get immersed in the park's beauty. In some places the path leads literally right up the middle of a waterfall. Plitvice is designed for hikers, but the park has a few ways to help connect the best parts like buses and boats. 

When we left Zagreb, it was raining cats and dogs. And it didn't stop the entire drive down. Although the countryside is mighty beautiful with a bit of mist and fog.
 We passed through a town on the way, pretty close to Plitvice Lakes, and the houses were literally built on top of waterfalls and lakes and streams! I wish we had stopped to check it out up close and personal.
It was still raining soooooo hard when we parked the car. But we bundled up and powered through. This was not to be missed!
Fox in front of the Plitvice Lakes National Park (or Nacionalni park Plitvička in Croatian) sign.
We bought our tickets. Then Haylie went all the way back to the car to change her flip flops. Then Chris went all the way back to put the stroller away because it was impossible to lug down the trails. Then Fox had to go all the way back to use the bathroom. All the while it was raining and cold. We walked over to the first viewpoint and this is what we saw. 
While über pretty, imagine what it looks like in sunshine and blue skies! My heart was broken. Plus there were hoards of Chinese tourists trying to get past us and almost knocking us off the trails. We weren't dressed appropriately (it wasn't supposed to be this cold when I checked the weather while packing!). It was just a no go all around.
Chris, being the super dad that he is, wanting to give Jay and Haylie a good vacation that they flew 20 hours to see, and after a super crummy first day, volunteered to stay back with the kids while we went to the Upper Lakes with the "best" waterfalls to look around for a couple hours. We walked to the other entrance and asked what we should do. The lady told us to wait for a bus to take us to the top and walk down. Pretty view of moss and vine-covered trees while waiting for the bus.
A half hour later... the bus arrived. We got on the bus along with a whole bunch of other wet people.
After 10 minutes the bus still wasn't going, so we said screw it, and decided to take a boat out to the lakes.
Mystic lake. I think it's called the Kozjak.

It stopped raining while we were walking down the boat!!!! We could actually see waterfalls!
Once we got off the boat we raced through to be able to take pictures without people being in the photos. The steps went right over waterfalls!
Every turn brought a new wave of waterfalls and beauty.
Some parts of the planks were inches apart and the guardrails were pretty much non-existent. It would have been difficult to lug Fox and Jane around the entire time, so it's probably a good thing Chris and the kids stayed behind, though I would have loved to share this experience with them.
The water really is super clear, you could see every branch and twig of this fallen tree!
It rained off and on throughout our journey, but nothing like when we first arrived at the park.
We kept going to see if there was anything we were missing.
We spied this big waterfall in the distance, decided to make a loop around to see it, and then head back. We figured it would take 10 minutes.
But then, the trails went up and around and we saw the Plitvice Lakes I've been imagining and dreaming about all these months!
Everywhere we looked there were waterfalls!
We walked right over water!
This section is probably my favorite of them all.
Haylie, Jay, and Paige Evans at Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Perhaps a few live videos will help convey how utterly amazing this place is. These are all from different parts of the Upper Lakes,
Waterfalls galore.
Seriously, at one point, everywhere I looked, I could see some kind of waterfall.
Good thing I didn't have to go to the bathroom, the sound of running water would have driven me crazy :)
I can just imagine Fox and Jane jumping right off these planks and right into the water!
How is there this much water to fall?!
Walking over more falls. So cool.
Finally the pathway led us to the big waterfall we had seen from afar.
Some parts of the trails were flooded. Again, this would be hard to maneuver with kids!
Powering through.
It was hardly crowded at all except for around the docks to board the boats. I guess that's one HUGE reason to be thankful for the rain! No one was there!
We started making our way back to the mainland.
We got on the boat without a hitch and reunited with Chris and the kids. They had fun watching shows and exploring outside when the rain stopped.
All-in-all - Plitvice Lakes is pretty much one of the most amazing, unique, crazy-awesome places I've ever been. 10 out of 10!

Next: we headed to SPLIT, CROATIA!


  1. Wow, this is incredible!! I can't even believe that's real life; and those pictures are better than the ones on pinterest ;)

  2. Wow wow wow!! What an incredible place! Gorgeous photos!!!

  3. I will never forget Plitvice lakes! And the pride my Croatian parents had! It was so fun to walk around and see all the falls and the different colored water! :). I am so enjoying your posts!

  4. Jealousy just set in. Wowza! And those houses on the rivers reminded me of Rivendell. :)

  5. Great post! I'm glad you guys got to see some of this incredible place

  6. Thank you once again for the wonderful tour, Paige! Absolutely gorgeous.

  7. Chris, with the pictures, its as if you were there but you don't have to be wet and cold and stand around for the magical bus to appear! Plitvice Lakes, Check!

  8. I'm speechless. Holy canoli that's an amazing place! WAY better than the lobby of the Hotel Utah! Great post and great photos!

  9. So stunning!! I love the little bridges, that let you walk right over the falls!!

  10. Wow, but really, where is all that water coming from?? Crazy!!

  11. UM WOW. This looks like a fairy tale or a dream or I don't even know. This just moved up to the top ten on my places to go list. IN-CRED-I-BLE!! Thanks for sharing!

  12. This is SO neat! Just cruised through your latest traveling posts and am loving them! Thanks for sharing your fantastic adventures.

  13. Those waterfalls are amazing! And those paths are so pretty, flooded or not!


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