Hiking in heaven at Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes

When I told my friend that Dave and I would be travelling to Croatia she suggested we visit Plitvice Lakes. I had never heard of it before and aside from being the oldest national park in southeast Europe and the largest in Croatia, the guide book covered it in only a couple of pages.

The lakes became a national park in 1949

The park covers almost 300km² although the walk around the perimeter of the lakes is about 20km. This is a bit much to do in a day so luckily there are boats and a bus to get you around half of it. Tickets cost about €15 for an adult and this includes all the travel around the park.

The scenery is breathtaking and like nothing we’d ever seen

The day we visited the sun was shining and it was a pleasant 30°C. The lakes were a sight to be seen, crystal clear blue and green. You could see all the way to the sandy floors beneath the water and thousands of fish, some as big as small sharks, swam around in schools.

The crystal clear waters make it easy to see all the wildlife living beneath the surface of the waters

Waterfalls fell throughout different corners of the park, splashing into small rock pools. Although we visited in summer, locals told me that it was also a stunning place to visit in winter when the waterfalls freeze and look like glaciers. Of course, an added bonus to visiting at this time of year is that you don’t have to battle against the crowds on the decked paths that lead over the water.

In front of the waterfall that’s named ‘The Slap’ – we thought it was named after the noise made when the water hits the rocks but it actually means ‘large’ in Croatian

Hidden amongst the waterfalls were little caves, the biggest of which we were able to climb into, giving us a spectacular view.

The view from the mouth of the large cave we climbed up into

After eating our packed picnic on a grassy bank down by the waterfront, we hired a row boat and Dave rowed me around the river. He got blisters in the process for his trouble but being the gentleman he is he wouldn’t let me row. (Although secretly I think he just knows what a terrible rower I am so he wouldn’t let me take the oars!)

Rowing on the lakes gave us the freedom to visit parts of the park you can’t get to by foot

We went underneath the waterfalls to feel the droplets on our faces and then rowed into a quiet cove and took a sneaky swim in the fresh water. It is forbidden to swim in the lakes but if you are quiet enough you can get away with it. Appreciating the natural beauty, we left no trace behind us. The water was clean enough to drink so we filled our bottles before drying our bodies out in the sun.

The highest elevation at the park is nearly 1,230m

There’s nothing as satisfying as going for a long hike in paradise, followed by a refreshing swim in aquamarine coloured water that sparkles in the sunshine.

Picture perfect

Check out our video on the lakes here.

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

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