Curious About Where to Go in Croatia? Behold Paradise, Plitvice National Park
If you think the photo is spectacular, I can assure you that a live viewing of this paradise will take your breath away. Paradise is this earth and I encourage you all to explore and enjoy it!
where? Plitvice National Park, Croatia
how far is Plitvice Park from…Rijeka (Italians call Rijeka Fiume)? 180 km drive, the closest points on the coast being in the Primorje Region. Other cities in the vicinity which make a great coastal base for such a day trip include Selce, Crikvenica, Opatija and Novi. As an example, add 30 min to the trip between Selce and Rijeka. Entering into the Primorje region can be done from several places. Zagreb airport, by train and bus from Venice Airport or just by bus from Trieste, Italy airport, or Ljublana, Slovenia. Once you’ve booked a “home base” guest house, bus tours can be booked or renting a car is a great option. Karlovac is quite a bit closer since it is inland, and Plitvice is 80 km inland from Karlovac. The four beautiful rivers of Karlovac Korana, Kupa, Mreznica, Dobra. The magical, pristine Korana river that runs through Karlovac begins from Plitvice National Park. The distance from Zagreb to Plitvice is on par with Karlovac, both inland cities.
We really enjoyed overnighting in the tiny village of Rastoke, Slunj the day before the 5-6 hour boardwalk light hike around Plitvice Park. Rastoke is super close, is only 20 minutes away from Plitvice national park, if you blink, you might miss the tiny sign near a bridge “Rastoke” to descend on a steep hill to it’s valley. Check out my article about this wondrous village built on waterfalls. Do not miss out on spending at least a half day or overnight in Rastoke, it is heaven. Karlovac is quite a bit closer since it is inland, and Plitvice is away from the coast.
This gives you the advantage of showing up early at the park to hopefully avoid the crowds! Europeans and Asians know to visit this park paradise. It is brand new and undiscovered to most North Americans until now! It is my mission to inform you of all the treasures Croatia has to offer that are off the beaten track.
how far is it from…Split? Split is halfway down the Croatian coastline on the the way to Dalmatia and is 230 km away from Plitvice.
how far is it from Dubrovnik? Dubrovnik is 446 km away on the Dalmatian Coast at the southern tip of Croatia.
Entrance Fee? 110 Kunas (as of August 2012, 6 kunas=$1)+25% tax of 22 kunas
Includes: Walking boardwalk trails with options to take shorter routes, a boat ride across one lake, a shuttle bus that brings you back to your parking lot (remember where you parked!)
the official website of the park is www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr
Why do I need a home base guest house?
At the end of every week, saturday and sunday, tourists are knocking on doors desperate for accomodation to fill the extra day or two gap between guest houses. It is very difficult to get a guesthouse for a day or two since people who have already been through this experience book for one or two weeks solid, whether they stay every night at one guesthouse or not. You can always leave early. North America may not know much about Croatia, but now that Tom Cruise has been on the island of Hvar this summer, and Sharon Stone and many others have visited, it won’t be long now. Pre-book everything you can, then if you do a day trip and want to sleep over, do that too. And do yourself a favor. Don’t try to leave saturday or sunday towards the Italian border town of Trieste. It is jammed and there is one long, winding, highway full of vacationers on the same wavelength as you. When all else fails, knock on doors. There is always a Babushka (slavic grandmother type) somewhere that is in the know about gaps in reservations. This happens when a family books for a week, but leaves a day early to avoid the traffic and sometimes, you luck out.
What route did I take at the park? I followed the boardwalk marked “c” which was the longest and did it at my own pace. A view from the top of the park reveals a gorgeous lake spilling into another gorgeous lake as pictured above. When you see the first sign for path “c” which indicates left, GO RIGHT as a brief detour and go down the steps for the best photo opportunities of this vignette. A little further to your right and another photo opportunity with a massive waterfall. When you do all that, go back to where you turned, and follow route “c” for a full day of scenery. Halfway through the park, before you get on the boat, there is a resting area with food and washrooms. You can refill your water bottles, enjoy the picnic grounds with a pint, and take a break. After eating and resting here an hour, we hopped on the boat where you will need to show your entrance ticket and crossed one of the lakes. The tricky part is that there are not too many official washrooms after this dropoff point. Fortunately, we were dehydrated and in awe of the beauty. But the last stretch is a bit of a challenge. The final destination offers ice cream, washrooms, snacks and some incredible trees rooted in the flowing river and cascading waterfalls. From here you can catch the shuttle bus back to your parking lot.
Is it worth it? In my humble opinion, the entrance fee should be $Priceless! Castles and Coastlines aside, this is a real natural wonder and a UNESCO world heritage site. You can’t afford not to go. It will change your life.
What should I wear? I wore walking on a cloud supportive sandals, mephistos or birkenstocks will work, sport sandals are ideal because I found my feet got hot in running shoes (also good). I did see some people wearing flip flops, but I would never advise those. I have seen sundresses to shorts to capris. I opted for the capris and t-shirt. Check the weather before you go in case you have to add a layer or bring an umbrella.
Tip! Go early because I got stuck once arriving there in the afternoon and some of the waterfalls were in shadow which did not make for the best pictures! You want full on bright sun from morning, mid-afternoon is still good for photos, but after 3pm it will be challenging to find non-shady waterfalls. Still there were other bright spots with green reeds and turquoise waters that saved the photographic day.