What colors will you see when you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park? Comprised of 16 lakes, all interconnected by a series of waterfalls, this natural wonder is known for its distinctive, ever-changing colors, ranging from turquoise to green, gray, and blue.
The lakes lie in a basin of dolomite and limestone, separated by natural dams formed by travertine, a light-colored rock deposited by moss, algae and bacteria. Depending on the quantity of minerals in the water and the angle of sunlight, the colors of the water change constantly.
We chose to visit at the beginning of fall for a chance to see the leaves change colors against this unbelievably unique natural canvas.
The park is set in deep woodlands populated by bears, deer, wolves and many species of rare bird. The journey to the park is not exactly ‘along the way’ if you’re planning to hurry to the coast, but if you’re starting your Croatian getaway in Zagreb, then it’s more than worth the short trek. It’s truly a natural masterpiece.
From Zagreb, take the old road (E71) that connects the Croatian Capital to the the Adriatic Coast (eventually ending in Split). You’ll hit Plitvice about half way to the coast. The journey requires at least one night’s stay so that you can spend a full day (or two) exploring the park. There are a number of accommodation options in the area; campsites, hostels, and some upscale hotels. There are three nicer hotels clustered by Park Entrance #2, as well as a wide selection of private accommodations and boutique hotels in the villages on the way to the park.
Park entrances have maps available with suggested routes indicated by different letters. The hikes range from 2 to 8 hours. We chose the H route. This hike is one of the longest, providing close-up lake views from the lower trails and bridges that criss-cross the water, as well as breathtaking, topical views from the tall cliffs. At the end of our route, we continued on to the K trailhead, which boasts never ending waterfalls as you hike from the upper lakes to the highest viewpoints.
The park was designed beautifully. No yellow paint, hand railings or caution signs to speak of – the natural beauty is well preserved. Wooden paths wind through caves and across the middle of the lower lakes, while beaten trails take you higher and over the cliffs.
No swimming in the park. Don’t even touch the water! The natural purity of these pristine surroundings is necessary to ensure the unique beauty is preserved.