On my first day in Croatia, I got on a bus at 8:45 to go to Plitvice Lakes National Park, the reason why I wanted to come to Zagreb. Plitvice Lakes is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places to hike in the world, and after spending 5 hours hiking there I definitely agree. The iBus that I was on made its first stop about half an hour away from the national park and we had 10 minutes to get a quick glimpse at some gorgeous waterfalls. The country side in Croatia is just beautiful, and this was a perfect example. Cascading waterfalls lined a river valley and stretched on for about half a mile. Built up around the falls are some restaurants and hotels which looked really quaint. We reached the national park about 2 hours after leaving Zagreb and waited for our bus driver to bring us our entrance tickets.
I bought a map with all the trail markings, because I intended to seriously hike in the park. The park is easily accessible to everyone, because it has an electric shuttle bus which can take you from station to station throughout the park, so if you don’t want to hike or you get tired of hiking you can hop on the bus. I hiked first to the Big Waterfall, which is the largest waterfall of the park. You can see the waterfall from a distance as you walk towards it, and when you arrive, you look up and see a torrent of water falling from about 8 to 10 stories high. The Big Waterfall was beautiful, but as I continued my hike I was amazed by how many waterfalls of all sizes and varieties are in the park. Flowing from lake to lake and from rivers into the lakes, the natural falls make you feel as though you are listening to a noise maker set to “waterfall” or “bubbling brook”.
I was taking pictures every couple of minutes as I saw a new gorgeous view of the lakes or another impressive waterfall. The water in the lakes was mostly a really pretty turquoise shade. Right under the surface, you could see both big and small fish swimming. The water was so clear that sometimes you might need to look twice to make sure that the fish were in fact still in the water! Another great sight was trees which had fallen into the waters. You could see them below the surface, their branches now covered with algae and other plants. Seeing Plitvice Lakes made me want to go scuba diving there so that I could get a close up view of what was under water there, but since it is a protected environment, they don’t even allow swimming! I considered jumping in more than once as I made my way through the park sweating more as the sun got higher. In the middle of the park is the largest lake, which is serviced by an electrical boat that takes passengers from one end to another. I caught a short break riding for 10 minutes to the other side of the lake to continue my hike.
The hiking was not strenuous, except for a few steep up and downs which got my heart pumping. I was also stopping to take pictures and admire the views often. Unfortunately, there were a lot of other people out hiking, especically by the shuttle bus stops. Tour guides led large groups of 30 or more through the park, which was frustrating to try to get past there. Obviously I understand that a lot of people want to see the natural beauty of the park, but I really do think they should limit the size of the tour groups. For lunch, I ate a cheeseburger at a station because I was starving. Then I hiked back across the park in time to grab some postcards before getting back on the bus to Zagreb. The bus had AC and was comfy, so I dozed for most of the two hour ride back. I am really happy that I got the chance to go to Plitvice Lakes and I would highly recommend a trip there to anyone who enjoys hiking and the outdoors.