The sixteen, (often vivid turquoise) lakes, cascading waterfalls, pristine forests , caves and canyons, make Plitvicka National Park one of the prettiest areas we have visited and well deserving of its UNESCO billing. It could not help but remind us of some of our gorgeous national parks at home like Yosemite, yet had its own unique features, like the unbelievable color of the water in some places.
We enjoyed the drive from Trogir to this area and the opportunity to see more of the countryside. There is always a thrill to be on the open road, not knowing what is ahead and everything in sight being virgin territory to our eyes. We are impressed at how unspoiled this country is and it also seems to have a very low population in comparison to the land mass in what we are seeing. Yet, the infrastructure and roads are first class and none have had much traffic on them.
We did not quite mean to, but we ended up climbing straight up into the mountains when we started off. There is a coastal route to the toll road which we thought we would take, but it worked out well this way too and the views of the sea and islands below was stupendous.
Still, it is a little nerve wracking, when we are on an unknown mountain and secondary road and it keeps heading upward and there is no place to turn around. We have maps, but only experience or an experienced traveler can tell you what exactly you are in for. Luckily this one turned out fine, soon leveled out and was a good choice for connecting us to the toll road.
We like the freedom of not knowing, especially in cases like this where it works out well. It gives one the feeling of being an explorer. No matter that many have traveled this road, there was hardly anyone on it this Monday morning, so it felt like we were the first ever to navigate this terrain.
We went through several tunnels, including the longest one we have ever seen. I was not thrilled with that aspect, as it pushed on my claustrophobic button, but I managed better than I would have guessed. I was happy to finally see the light at the end of it and when we were through with the tunnel sections.
Mozart finally fell asleep sitting up, allowing her seat belt to keep her head from doing the bob, so she missed one of the cutest sights we saw. Yes, the nature was lovely, but this was a little different and she would have gotten a kick out of our coincidental peek. We saw a red car on the opposite side of the road, with a dad and a three or four year old boy. In a flash, the boy dropped his little jeans and we saw his cute bare behind and the reason for their stop became obvious.
As we whisked by, DaVinci and I could not help but grin at each other about this universal, “Norman Rockwell” moment of family travel. I wish I had my camera out as it was a picture worth a thousand words and quite adorable.
We also had a funny experience three times with a couple that was hitchhiking. We have not seen much of this, so they caught our eye as we started the toll road to the park and towards Zagreb. We thought about picking them up, but we do not have seat belts for two more, so just gave them an “I’m sorry” shrug. Amusingly, we passed them again just before our arrival, so they beat us to the park! Then, when we left two days later, there they were again, ready to go with their thumbs out, so we waved again, as they were starting to feel like buddies.
The campsite was just eight kilometers away from the entrance to the park, with lovely views and seems particularly nice for tent campers. It is called autocamp Korana and is large with good facilities. There is a bus that picks you up right at the reception and takes you to the park and picks you up, which is handy and cheap (30 kuna). There was not any internet at the campsite and they told us that it is no where in the park, so we were out of contact for a couple of days.
We loved the peacefulness of Plitvicka (Plitvice) park as well as the beauty and we certainly got our exercise there as we trekked the rustic log paths up and down from nine in the morning until almost sunset. It is a well maintained park with trails for all levels of trekking. There were some wonderful bike trails that we would have liked to try out of if we had stayed longer.
It was exciting to be in such unspoiled, gorgeous nature and we really enjoyed exploring these virgin like woods. We happened to meet a lovely couple from Germany while on the trails, named Alfred and Mindy who invited us to stay at their home when we visit their part of Germany. The sweetness and generosity of people we meet on the road, continues to amaze us.
Mozart carried her violin along the trails as we thought this would be a good place to get some video and we found a nice place to do one by the largest waterfall. The beauty though is actually difficult to show in video or pictures. She was dying to swim or fish in the lakes, but it was not allowed. The huge trout that were visible everywhere in these clear and turquoise lakes were astounding.
We had a perfect little picnic lunch at a babbling brook and small waterfall where the cover shot was taken. It is hard to get three people all looking decent at the same time and a fourth person to take the shot, so it turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the trip so far, of the three of us. We just asked a young Austrian man to take the shot as he walked by and I am grateful that we captured that special moment.
The first few hours in the park were idyllic, but suddenly it got crowded with day trip tours. I think they bus in for just a quick tour and they have them in every nationality and language it seems. At one point we had a large Japanese tour going one way fast and a huge French tour zipping by on the other side of us , which really ruined the tranquility of the place. It was maddening, so we got off to some side trails and at another point watched five huge groups go by, one after another, with hand held plaques with a different number on it from one to five.
One French lady plopped down on a bench next to me out of breath and I have no idea how any of them could have enjoyed that pace or gotten anything out of such a visit. It was the only downside to this park. It is the kind of place that really needs to be savored and take time to contemplate, not to mention take pictures of the infinite photo opportunities. The masses barreling thru, yakking away ruined the peaceful atmosphere. Thankfully, we found ways to get around these groups, but we were there in mid-September, so I can not imagine how crowded it gets in the summer high season.
Despite finding ways around the tour groups, we still were impacted when we hit the area where one has to take a ferry boat across a lake. They leave every fifteen minutes, but there were so many people at this point that it was an hour and a half wait to catch the ferry. Mozart and I got to wait in the shade and sit, but poor DaVinci had to wait in the slow moving line in the hot sun.
The good news is we got to meet some more nice people. He happened to be standing by a couple of Americans and their Slovakian friends who were helping them tour. The warm Slovakian’s had two sons that had been exchange students with a family in New Hampshire, so became good friends with this newly retired couple who lived nearby. By happenstance, Mozart and I were sitting right by the woman from New Hampshire in that party, so soon we were all gabbing and Mozart made more “instant friends”.
The next morning, Mozart was outside playing as she loved the big open spaces at the campsite. We were pleasantly surprised to see the little “art installation” that she made with things from nature. We are fans of Andy Goldsworthy, so got a kick out of it and am sure all the beauty here inspired it.
We timed it just right once again, totally by chance, because when we left beautiful Plitvice Park the next day, it started to rain. We would much rather have our travel day be in the rain rather than a tour day. As I saw people slushing around in the rain in the park, I was so grateful that we got to see it all in the sun. The best part was that it finished or headed in the opposite direction before we got to our next location which we also got to see in the sun.