Saturday, June 27, 2015

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia: Magical Waterfall Heaven

Omg. So before I planned this Eastern European excursion, I'd never heard of Plitvice Lakes before. However, Rick Steves recommended it, and anyplace Rick loves, sign me up.

I took an early evening bus out from Zagreb to Plitvice last night - it's crazy because the bus literally just drops you off on the side of the highway.  Plitvice Lakes is a national park, so I had chosen one of the three hotels that are actually situated inside the park: especially handy if you don't have a car.

OK. YOU GUYS. YOU HAVE TO COME HERE. OR LOOK IT UP. LOOK, I'll even do all the work and post a link here for you to click on so you can see how magical this place is. 

What It's All About:
Plitvice Lakes is a series of 16 terraced lakes - and not just small, wimpy lakes. Like, any of these lakes by themselves would be a major tourist attraction - but THERE ARE 16 OF THEM. Not just lakes (which are a gorgeous, clear, Cancun-like, green/blue color), but also waterfalls. Hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls (ok I may be exaggerating - maybe like dozens). DOZENS OF WATERFALLS.

The entire park has a series of winding wooden bridges and forest-paths that let you wander through the lakes.  I loved it because you follow these different winding paths/hiking trails, and sometimes you come across baby waterfalls, and some paths take you up high so you can overlook the falls, and some paths walk directly over the falls. Some areas are full of other people, and some paths are quiet and peaceful and deserted.  It's the kind of place you can take 3 hours to hike, or 8 hours.  

I'll stop talking and just start posting photos of this magical waterfall-land.

Cliffnotes of the Day (photo version):

Seriously, how many waterfalls can you spot in this pic? And to give an idea of scale, you can see
a tiny little footbridge snaking through the middle left of the screen
MILLIONS OF TROUT. Because the water is perfect
The "big waterfall" (I did not name these)

Everywhere you turned there was a waterfall

The lakes are divided into an "upper half" and a "lower half" - in between the two halves, adorable tiny boats will take you across the largest lake to the other half
Riding the boat across from the lower half to the upper half

It was like this rock had too many waterfalls to handle
A trail that took you to the top of a hill overlooking one of the lakes

Is there a more perfect place to eat a pear? (obviously stolen from the hotel breakfast)

Looking down on one of the little wooden footpaths + tiny ant people + waterfalls
Seriously Jurassic Park-esque  

It was, hands-down, one of the most naturally stunning places I've ever been. It was like a labyrinth, where every 2 seconds, you would come across another set of waterfalls. Unlike Iguazu Falls, where there's just one huge section like BAM HERE ARE ALL THESE AMAZING THUNDEROUS WATERFALLS IN ONE PLACE, Plitvice is more like a maze - you can choose any one of tons of trails to hike, and each one has its own set of falls. I got up at 7am to explore the park before the tourist day-trippers all arrived - you know that means it's serious.

Moment of the Day:
I had arrived in Plitvice the night before, intending to check into the hotel and crash (given my 5:30am wake-up that morning to catch the train to Zagreb). However, I had heard that a perk of staying at one of the hotels in the National Park was that you could buy a ticket and they would give you a stamp allowing you to return the next day for free.

I wandered on down to the ticket office with the intention of buying a ticket so I could get it stamped for the next day, in order to avoid the ticket office lines the next morning. However, upon purchasing my ticket, the information lady clearly thought I was trying to go to the park that same day, so she looked at her watch (it was 6PM) and goes "You go to the park now. You have time. Last boat is at 8:30. Follow signs for Trail H", and shooed me on my way.

I didn't explain to her that I'd intended to go to the park the next day - I was thinking that it couldn't hurt to wander the park a little, so I got on the shuttle bus - and that is how I ended up exploring Plitvice on my own for almost 2 hours.  It. Was. Perfect.  It was so close to closing time, that the crowds had left the park for the day and there was nobody there; I was the only one on the 5-car shuttle bus - and the entire time I was wandering the park, I maybe came across 3 other sets of people total.  In high season, the park gets over 13,000 visitors a day (mostly local visitors) - so to be able to wander the park and feel like I had the whole thing to myself was such a treat.

No people also meant I could take as many selfies as my heart desired

These are the tiny wooden footpaths you follow. This should be a cover photo to something #magic

Plitvice at dusk

Is this real life

2 hours later - I was the only one on the boat back!! It was like my own private tour

Meal of the Day:
In the National Park, there are fairly few dining options. My hotel's restaurant was closed for the night (since it wasn't high season), so I had to go to the hotel across the street for dinner. I walked in kind of gross-looking, having just come from my personal 2-hour hike and having been on a train beforehand.  The hotel restaurant was clearly more upscale-ish than I was expecting, as they had white tablecloths, cloth napkins, and waiters in suits.  It was hilarious, me sitting there in this fancy restaurant with yoga pants, a tee-shirt, tennis shoes, looking like a hobo - like a hobo at the Ritz.

Fancy risotto + yogz pants

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • The bus station for Plitvice, as mentioned earlier, is just off the side of the highway. When I was leaving the park to head to Split, I had to watch out for my bus and wave it down from the road.  That was an interesting time.
The Plitvice "bus station"

  • Then, on my 4-hour bus to Split, we had a bunch of rest stops on the way. On one of them, I got off the bus to buy an ice cream (naturally), and went for a little walk around the market to find this rando deer farm tucked behind the center.  

Deer farm??  There was even a rando goat inside 
The Hotel:
In Plitvice, I stayed in the least expensive of the three hotels in the park - Hotel Bellevue.  This hotel, according to reviews, was a pre-Soviet hotel - and not much has changed since. It was wild. Orange walls, carpet, and wood paneling as far as the eye can see.  I kind of liked it - the people there were no nonsense, and I kind of felt like I was living in a theme park. The best.

Bellevue Hotel

Even stranger, my "single" room had 3 beds

Orange hallways

Long story short, I loved Plitvice and it always blows my mind how many places there are like this; places that the locals know about, but that we never know exist.  Also, I would like a smidge of credit for consolidating my 10 million photos of the park into a mildly photo-heavy blog post.



  1. Wow!!! This place is b e a u t i f u l !! Amazing! Thanks for posting the pics for me to indulge in!

    Btw.. I crave for sweets all the time from reading your blogs and seeing pics of ur yummy desserts! Omg so jelly!

    1. Haha, I'm making a conscious effort to cut back on the desserts! Ok that was a lie. But Europe seriously has the best desserts ever! I don't know what a morning would be like without a Euro coffee and a chocolate croissant....


  2. those waterfalls look unreal!! Like somewhere where they would film The Bachelor/Bachelorette!
    Love all the selfies! :D

    1. You know it's picturesque when it's Bachelor/Bachelorette-worthy!! (BTW HOW IS THE SEASON, IS IT SO GOOD!?)

      I am upping my selfie game like whoa! Especially after seeing how strong a showing all the other Asian tourists are putting up.....