My family and I enjoy taking “off the beaten path” adventures. When most families will choose to visit Disney World, we’ll go explore Acadia National Park. Of course we’re big fans of Disney World; however we’re always looking to explore new and unusual places as well. This explains why we chose to add Croatia and some of the other Balkan nations to our itinerary when planning our trip to Italy this past summer. There’s a good reason for this. It mostly has to do with diversifying our cultural experience and exploring new locations that otherwise wouldn’t occur to us to visit. Our children get to experience different landscapes and learn how others live and how things aren’t always the same as they are back in Texas. We also sometimes stumble upon a hidden gem that no one else knows about – which is the best part! This was the case with Plitvice Lakes National Park, located in northern Croatia.
I discovered this park when searching for things to do and see in Croatia, which I knew very little about. The photos I found online were astounding. Lush waterfalls all over the place. Beautiful curved wooden pathways that seemed to float upon the turquoise lakes. “Is this place for real?” I thought. How come I’ve never heard of this place? If this place was in the United States, it would be as popular as Yellowstone or Yosemite! Perhaps that it was in Croatia, and out in the middle of nowhere was the reason. But this place looked amazing! It immediately solidified my desire to go. I showed Charity the photos and her mouth almost hit the floor. “Let’s go!” she said. It was then set.
Getting to the park
We arrived at the park from the south on our way back from Zadar where we had spent the previous night. We planned to fly home from Venice which is a good location to fly into for those wanting to visit Plitvice Lakes. Ljubljana and Zagreb would be closer major cities to fly into however most US based airlines don’t fly into these cities without a connection. It is a roughly a 4.5-5 hour drive from Venice Marco Polo Airport.
Exploring Plitvice Lakes
Once we arrived we parked our car and made our way to the ticket center and entrance. There are two main entrances to the park. We entered at “Entrance 2” which is the one you’ll want to use to access most of the waterfalls. Upon entering the park we followed the crowd to a small ferry boat which was being used to shuttle visitors to the other side of the lake. We really had no clue where we were going, we were just following the crowd. There are maps available however having never been and not exactly knowing where to go first we just followed along.
We could already see the amazing color of the water and started to get excited with anticipation. It looked just like the pictures!
We took the ferry across and disembarked on the other side of the lake and followed the beginning of one of the many wooden-plank trails. We climbed up hills following the trail through beautiful green foliage. Our boys especially loved the wooden planks – so much that we had to calm our oldest son who was literally giddy with excitement!
After a few turns we reached the first set of waterfalls. The path left the embankment and followed the footprint of the falls in a curved fashion. There were no rails which made the experience that more exhilarating.
The beauty of the falls and the turquoise water was indescribable. It was a surreal environment that all of us were enjoying. It seemed like everyone we came across was too because they all had their cameras out and were smiling.
When we left one section of falls, we entered another. And when we completed that section, we went up some stairs and entered yet another. Each were different and amazing in their own way. At some points the waterfalls were directly beneath our feet! This was really cool. At this point Charity turned to me and said, “wow this place is really nice.” Our oldest son made the request to come back here for his birthday. I laughed and said “Croatia is a long way from home buddy, so Happy Birthday!”.
We never got tired of the journey. When we weren’t in front of stunning waterfalls we were walking alongside one of the many lakes within the park. Occasionally the wooden-plank path would cease and it would become a normal dirt trail, but then it would start up again, and so would the boys excitement level. They really enjoyed it!
Not only were the plants and water beautiful but so were some of the insects we saw along the way!
On the way back to the ferry we passed through a different section of the park which was all wooded, but just as beautiful. The kids were still having a blast. This further reassured us that we made a great decision in coming here.
We arrived back to the dock and re-boarded the ferry to head back to the car after spending a few hours in the park. There were many other paths to explore as the park is very large, however we didn’t have a whole day to spend here unfortunately. There were even canoe rentals which looked like a lot of fun. Next time we go we will definitely plan to spend an entire day here. Below is a photo of the park map I took which shows a bit of the various trails available and how big the park is.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to Plitvice Lakes National Park and are very thankful we decided to go. It is a little bit removed from large cities and the coastal cities where most of the best hotel choices are, however it is definitely worth the drive especially if you enjoy nature and the beauty that entails. For additional information, you can visit the official website or check out this link for some helpful tips for your visit.
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