Plitvice lakes.. join the beautiful queue!
Some of our guests are whizzing around Europe and maybe arrive directly from Plitvice lakes or are leaving for them after breakfast, so we decided to see what all the fuss was about and go visit that part of Croatia!
The comments we had been getting a lot were the lakes were very beautiful, but packed full of people, so difficult to enjoy. We went at the end of September while the weather is still warm, the kids are back at school and we hoped the crowds would be down a bit..
If you drive directly from the Lodge it takes around 3 hours driving, but you need to take into account the border crossing between Slovenia and Croatia, so we decided to stay in one of the little villages just outside the national park.
We are not experts on Croatia and there is plenty of good and bad info out there about Plitvice, so we are just gonna mention a few things that we noticed about our trip, considering we knew pretty much nothing about the lakes beforehand and didn't know what to expect..
So we were prepared enough to arrive the night before, which was a good move so we could go to the park after breakfast. The place we stayed at was basic and designed for one night stayers.. there are lots of little guest houses and cabins scattered around the outskirts of the park. The people were very friendly and we found quite a posh hotel nearby to have some food at in the evening before.. you need to drive everywhere.. we did see some hikers along the side of the road, but it seemed really dangerous and there were no pavements.
So our limited plan was to hit the park after breakfast and try to see as much as poss in a day.. (and this is exactly what we tell our guests NOT to do in Green Slovenia of course, so we are well aware we should have given maybe 2 days to our visit here).. you enter the park on the hour and one of the unexpected highlights actually was the big "Jurassic park-like" bus that takes you to one of the extremes of the park, it was great!
The big thing to know is that even if you take one of these big buses, there is a lot of walking just to get to the bus.. this is not a problem for most people, but if you are not keen or good at walking, then you won't enjoy a visit here!
We love walking and so we started at the top station of the lakes with a plan to walk down. This turned out to be a good plan and if you think about, (as we hadn't before, but got lucky) the water flow is going from the top of the lakes to the bottom, so starting at the top is a great plan!
The lakes are very beautiful indeed and to describe them we would say there are a series of mainly big lakes connected by lots and lots of different waterfalls in all shapes and sizes with a network of wooden and stone paths around the sides and sometimes over the middle of lakes.
The centre bit of the park has a small boat station to take you back to the start and a bigger one to transport you towards the more popular section.
The biggest surprises we noticed..
This place is actually VERY similar in natural beauty to many places we know in Slovenia, but with lots more little waterfalls in one place AND even in September there are lots and lots of people here.
We realised that a lot of the comments we had heard from guests over the years were made by people who had seen almost nothing in Green Slovenia to compare, so actually they didnt have a clue how beautiful Slovenia was, so they were kinda "big upping" these lakes without knowing it!
It is only fair to say here as well, that there must be many other secret places close to the Plitvica lakes that are also very beautiful and quieter, we certainly saw a lot of places like that along the way on the extra day we had saved by not spending 2 days at the lakes, we will do a seperate blog about those!
We soon realised we could get round the most of the park by foot in a day with the big boat ride in the middle.. so we did! So on balance a day is actually enough here.
We went with friends and our plan to meet up later by calling each other on our mobile phones was completely ruined by huge parts of the park having no signal, we tell you not to complain, but for you to be aware!
Maybe we are spoiled in Slovenia with the number and size of waterfalls we have, but we were very disappointed with the "big" waterfall.. we had made it the cherry on top of our cake and left it until the end of our day's walk.. we fought through the crowds.. yes the bit of the park where the "big" falls is very beautiful, so worth seeing, but big this waterfall is not compared to what we have in Slovenia! so we were a little disappointed.
What we liked most:
Yes, the waterfalls are very special and the nature is beautiful here.. it is worth seeing once in your life..
It is well organised inside once you understand the map and how the boat services work..
If you have time, there are some little spots where you can lose yourself, but we were guilty of wanting to rush around like everyone else!
We loved the boardwalks in particular, when not crowded with people.
The boats and buses were great..
The crowds! Most people were very well behaved and marvelling at the beauty of the place.. people understood this is a place you are not gonna hurry around.
What we didn't like:
The crowds.. you can only go as fast as the person in front of you..
The crowds.. when you get different people from all over the world and of different ages, etiquettes and fitness levels together on a narrow wooden plank it can get a bit Pirates of the Caribbean!
The crowds.. look, it can spoil your day.. it would be totally unrealistic to think you would ever have this place to yourself, but it is in your power as to what time of year you come to visit here and we would say completely avoid the summer months and choose a school day at the very fringe of the season.
The food & drink options.. were extortionate and didn't look up to much.. bring sandwiches!
The long boat ride was actually a bit dull.. the walking is the best bit.
It is not accesible for wheelchairs and from what we could see they are not welcome.. we saw one brave man pushing his wife along the narrow boardwalks and we congratulated them for making their point.. apologies if ths is wrong.. but isn't Croatia in Europe and subject to the same public access rules as the rest of the EU?
Was it worth going?
Yes.. just, to see what all the buzz was about, but no way would we go anywhere near here in the summer!
Let's put it this way, we were very relieved to get back to the beauty and tranquility of Green Slovenia!