Off to the Lakes: Croatia Day 4

From Split I had planned to head to another one of Croatia’s most famous places. Now, before I picked up some local guide books, I’d never heard of it. But it turns out it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and pretty famous place in the country. Pictures of it made me eager to make it a stop on my trip. Which was how I ended up heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

For those like me who have never heard of it, let me just tell you it’s a beautiful natural area with sixteen lakes that cascade through a limestone canyon. The park provides several trails and boardwalks around the lakes, shuttle service, and boats to get across sections.

Of course, first I had to get to the park, which is inland. So I caught a bus from Split heading in that direction, enjoying the beautiful countryside along the way. The company I used was a smaller Croatian company called Promet Makarska. It was the only time I used their service, which I ended up being very glad of. They made several stops along the way with breaks. Which was nice for using the bathroom or grabbing food if you wanted, but did result in the trip taking longer than I’d expected. And of course, being the off season the park closed at 4, not letting anyone in after 3 PM.

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The only good news was the bus staff were very kind. I knew my hotel was slightly outside of the park in a town called Mukinje. It was a slight walk to the park, meaning if the bus dropped me off in the park, I’d have to walk back to my hotel, and then back to the park again. Which was unlikely to happen in the amount of time I had. But, when I asked the staff if it was possible to stop in Mukinje instead they very kindly agreed and even warned me when my stop came.

I walked to my room for the night which was Eva Luxury Rooms & Apartments. I met with the owner who let me in and then dumped my stuff as quickly as I could, grabbing what I thought I’d need for my time in the park and then took off running hoping to make it to the entrance before 3. It was probably around 2:30 by that time.

To my relief, the walk was mostly downhill, so I was able to go quickly and arrived in time to show my two day ticket I’d already purchased and get in the gate.

The weather was perfect. Sunny and clear. I was so unbelievably happy that I’d made it in time to spend a short time enjoying the natural beauty of the park.

I took one of the boats over to the far shore and began to work my way around the lower lakes. The lower ones have some of the more impressive parts, including the Veliki Slap (Great Waterfall), the biggest in the park.

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As someone whose last two trips had been to Colombia and Costa Rica, I wasn’t too sure how impressive the Veliki Slap might be. It’s definitely not the biggest waterfall I’d seen, but was still very beautiful and actually larger than I think I’d anticipated. The lakes themselves were crystalline, the canyon that housed them impressive. My only regret was that as it was early spring, most of the trees were still bare. I definitely hope to go back some day when things are more lush.

Having finished the trail, I caught a park shuttle from Entrance 1 back to Entrance 2, which was closer to my hotel. I then hiked back to my room and had a relaxing rest of the afternoon, doing some laundry and having some coffee.

Unfortunately options for dinner were extremely limited. Without a car I was forced to rely on what was nearby. The town I was in was puny, and while the park itself has a few restaurants, many were closed for the season, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to hike through the dark woods anyways.

So I settled on going to Bistro Vučnica one of the parks restaurants that was actually located in my town, and was supposed to be a little more budget than some of the other options.

I had pizza, which was at least filling and enjoyed a local lemon radler (beer with sparkling lemonade… it’s actually one of my favorite types of drinks). Though it was probably my most mediocre meal of the trip, I knew that that was part of the experience, and I was at the park to enjoy the nature rather than the culture like some of the other places I’d chosen.

From the restaurant I headed back for some good sleep, exhausted from all my hiking. I was excited for another day ahead enjoying the beauty of Croatia’s natural wonders.