After Dubrovnik and Hvar, we made a pretty significant detour. When Rick Steves describes something as “one of Europe’s most spectacular natural wonders,” you assume it will be worth whatever detour it takes to get there. He goes on to paint this picture:
Imagine Niagara Falls diced and sprinkled over a heavily forested Grand Canyon. There’s nothing like this lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, laced together by waterfalls and miles of pleasant plank walks.
Needless to say, my expectations were high, and I’m happy to say that Plitvice Lakes National Park exceeded them all!
We took a 2-hour car ferry from the island of Hvar to Split and then drove 2.5 hours north to the park. We planned to spend the night at a hotel at the entrance to the park. There were no frills (which also meant no air conditioning) at Hotel Jezero, but it was really convenient for getting an early morning start on our hike to beat the tour buses.
Upon arrival, we had few options for dinner – basically, the restaurant in the hotel or another one down the street. Since no one felt strongly about where we ate, the hotel won out for convenience. The laughter started as soon as we saw the restaurant. It looked like a very outdated banquet hall – green patterned carpet, green chairs, bright gold sconces on the walls, and a piano player in the corner playing live music. We were all a little slap happy and a little bit exhausted after so much transit, and when my freshman roommate and I started telling stories, we were literally crying from laughing so hard. Add in a goofy waiter with a lot of cheesy jokes and the pianist playing “We are the Champions” as we finished our meal, and you get a glimpse of our evening. The food was mediocre, but it was one of my favorite meals of the trip. We were apparently entertaining others, too. A lady stopped by on her way out of the restaurant to tell us she wanted to join our table, because it looked like we were having so much fun. (As an aside…she was one of less than 10 Americans we met the whole time we were in Croatia.)
The next morning, we ate breakfast and took off for our hike through the park. We started at the lower lakes and made our way to the upper lakes. I will let the pictures do the talking, but this was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen! We probably spent four hours or so on the hike, and I loved every minute of it. Crayola seriously needs to create a new crayon that depicts the color of the water in some of the lakes. It was stunning and unlike anything I’ve seen before!
[Our first view upon entering the park!]
[The Big Waterfall]
[A sunken ship!]
[We walked on these boardwalks throughout most of the park]
If you find yourself in Croatia, I highly recommend this detour. If your anything like the four of us, your mind will be blown, and you will be in awe!