Zadar/Zagreb: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Get There: From Zadar, it’s an hour bus ride north; from Zagreb it’s about an hour south. Your hostel will more than likely have posters or able to contact a bus for you. Otherwise DIY at the bus station.
Cost: From Zadar bus station its was 80 kuna each way. Hostels advertise around 100 kuna for a shuttle bus. And then an additional 55 kuna – 120 kuna depending on the season to enter the national park. Pick up your jaw. It’s all worth it!
Plitvice National Park is Croatia’s biggest hidden treasure. Google images showed that it resembled a majestical paradise, something Avatar would froth over, and after being there, all I can say is that photos just did not do it justice. It’s a breathtaking natural wonder as you roam for 18 kilometres (optional) around 16 pristine lakes and hundreds of flowing waterfalls.
You almost expect a dragon to swoop over your head or a mermaid to swim up out of the rock pools. All your childhood fantasy dreams will take over your mind as you wander through the luscious green woods. There’s rickety wooden paths and caves that would make the ideal place for a goblin to reside. I had the same sort of butterflies tickling my stomach at Plitivice National Park as I did when I went to Disneyland.
I recommend not going with a tour guide, taking the earliest bus there and the last bus back, packing your own sandwich and going until your legs feel like they are no longer attached to your body. Do it yourself, stop and take as many photos as you like, eat your lunch at the top of a waterfall, rest and create your own adventures. Also take your comfiest hiking-appropriate shoes. Plitvice is understandably incredibly popular and full of tourists doing the popular route (shown on the map given on your ticket), but the park’s beauty is best explored off the beaten track. Hike up to top of the woods and snap the greatest Kodak memory of all time (and without a thousand other tourists in it).
One of the many questions I get asked while trying to put together words to describe this place i, “Can you swim?” There are signs saying you can’t, but there’s obviously no cameras and no park security guards stopping you. But even during the summer the water is so fresh that I couldn’t even force more than a toe into the water. I can just picture an Aussie sitting behind their screen, nodding, “Challenge accepted.” I’d expect nothing less.
Do not leave Croatia without seeing this waterfall wonderland.