Early the next morning we arrived in Croatia, another of the former Yugoslav countries. Our good luck with the weather continued; we were greeted with bright sunshine and cool but comfortable temperatures.
Today’s destination was Plitivice Lakes National Park, 130 km north east of Zadar. Our guide, Igor of Croatia Photo Tours, was wonderful and the drive was beautiful.
It can be very windy in this part of Croatia, so much so that they only close the road when the winds reach 140 km/hour! You could feel the wind moving the vehicle but fortunately for us the road remained open.
The Croatian highway system has over 50 tunnels, the longest being almost 6 km long (5,821 m). We didn’t go through that one – it’s farther north, closer to Zagreb. We did, however, drive through the Sveti Rok Tunnel which is the 2nd longest at 5,768 m and goes through the Velebit Mountains.
Eventually we arrived at our destination for the day – Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park was founded in 1949, making it the oldest of Croatia’s national parks; it’s also the largest at just under 300 square km. In 1979 it was designated as a Unesco World Heritage site.
There are 16 cascading lakes at Plitvice. The highest lake is at 636m above sea level and the lowest is at 503, with dozens of waterfalls in between. There is no swimming allowed here and the boats on Lake Kozjak are electric which helps to keep the water pristine.
Our walk began at Entrance #2; we took the boat across the lake and did a loop around several of the upper lakes (there are 12). Then we took the longer boat ride across Lake Kozjak to see the 4 lower lakes and the “Big Waterfall”.
Water flows from Gradinsko Lake into Burgeti Lake
With the moss and flowing water, the falls are magical – you almost expect to see elves and fairies running around.
This is Veliki Prstavac, the 2nd highest waterfall at Plitvice.
The lakes vary in colour depending on the mineral composition, the organisms present and of course, the sunlight. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t as sunny as it was in Zadar, but the sun did make the odd appearance.
There are waterfalls everywhere – even under the stairs!
It’s quite an experience to have the rushing water right under your feet.
Back at the ferry dock we waited for the boat to take us over to Entrance #1 and the path around the lower lakes. The boat ride took about 25 minutes; enough time to eat our lunch that Igor picked up for us!
The landscape of the lower lakes is very different from the upper lakes – they formed in a limestone canyon with soaring cliffs.
The lower lakes are a beautiful turquoise green; simply stunning.
A mallard duck was happily paddling in the crystal clear water…
This was Supljara Cave – there’s a staircase inside and beautiful views over the lake and the Great Cascade. Unfortunately, we were pressed for time so we didn’t go in.
Looking across Novakovica Lake at the walkway going up to entrance #1, and yes, we had to go up there.
Veliki Slap is the highest waterfall at Plitvice. The water flow wasn’t the best when we were there, but it was still pretty.
This was the view from about halfway up that winding path, beautiful.
The natural barriers between the lakes are a mix of travertine deposits, moss, algae and bacteria. They’re constantly shifting and changing. The path below crosses the barrier between Lake Kaluderovac and Lake Gavanovac.
The falls to the left of the path are the Veliki Kascada (Great Cascade) – they would be more spectacular when the water is higher.
You can see how clear the water is – even from that distance you can still see the bottom. Amazing!
It was a very fast paced day, but the Plitvice Lakes were beautiful. Perhaps someday I’ll go back to Croatia, stay close by and spend a few days exploring the park.
I’ll leave you with a few shots of Zadar with the Velebit Mountains in the background…