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Plitvice Parking and Suggested Walking Route

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Could anyone please suggest the best place to park to see the Plitvice Lakes - should we start from Carpark 1 or 2? Or somewhere else? Also is the parking safe or do vehicles get broken into much?

And, if we only have half a day which route would be the best for walking? We are both fairly fit. We intend to start the second the park opens to try and avoid the crowds!

Thanks for your help.

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    "if we only have half a day which route would be the best for walking?" -- IMO, the lower area. I believe you will find a sign at each entrance with recommendations for walks of 2, 4, 6, and 8 hours. There will probably also be park rangers at each entrance who can recommend a walking route that meets your needs.

    Are you certain that you can only manage a half day? I ask because one of the things that makes this park so very special is that the lakes differ from each other in all sorts of ways, and IME, the ONLY way to see that is to go fairly far into the park on one single visit of 6 or more hours.

    Sorry, but I can't help with the parking questions....

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    Our hike took about 4 1/2 hours as I recollect, and we saw a lot. We stayed at a nearby hotel, so I don't know about parking. Here is my report.

    "After breakfast, we rambled (there’s lots of rambling in national parks, as you can see) on a paved path about five minutes from the hotel to the actual entrance to the park, where we bought our tickets and waited for the shuttle to transport us to the Donja Jezera (Lower Lakes). I had read in Rick Steves’ book that it was best to start at the Lower Lakes, and although, as I have stated, I don’t follow his restaurant and hotel advice often, his tips on visiting tourist sites have, for the most part, been right on the mark. He didn’t fail us this time, either.

    After a short tram ride, we began our hike, and the first views of Plitvice were breathtaking, to say the least. We overlooked a panorama of waterfalls and lakes, not to mention a hell of a lot of tourists walking on the boardwalks that wind through, around and over the lakes and falls.

    After a short downhill hike, we saw the signs for Velicki Slap (not a Croatian wrestler, but meaning Big Waterfall), and we took the ten to fifteen minute detour to take pictures and experience the thunderous, cascading water.

    The Velicki Slap is the tallest waterfall in Croatia. The numerous lakes are lined with wooden boardwalks with a twofold purpose: one to keep you on the path and away from any unexploded landmines (the first person killed in the war was a forest ranger at Plitvice) and also to preserve the delicate ecological balance of the park. As we walked along the wooden path along the lakes, it didn’t take long for Mary to go into her different rendition of the Drifters’ song “Under the Boardwalk” called "On The Boardwalk." By the way, Mary is the only one in our group who not only can carry a tune, but who actually knows ALL the lyrics.

    The Plitvice boardwalk system really is something to behold and something they would never allow in the litigious United States, since there were no rails to keep uncoordinated tourists from falling in. The lakes are incredibly pristine; so pristine that you are not even allowed to touch the water for fear of ruining the ecological balance (so you had better not fall in buddy!). Water in the turquoise lakes was so clear that the school of fish glistening in the afternoon sun were smiling (probably because they knew that they would not be dinner for any of the tourists).

    At each and every turn, a new, incomparable vista awaited us with another series of waterfalls tumbling down into the gorgeous lakes. The more we walked, the more people we saw, but thankfully most were going the other way having started at the Upper Lakes, so thank you Mr. Steves for your recommendation.

    I don’t have a clue how long it would normally take to navigate the Lower Lakes, because every minute or so one of us stopped to take another in a seemingly never-ending series of photographs. After going through the countless pictures we snapped, Kim and I agreed that even our best photographs could not capture the astonishing beauty that is Plitvice National Park.

    When our walk through the Lower Lakes ended, we arrived at a lake that had picnic tables and a place to get some refreshments, including barbecue items that smelled tantalizing. We grabbed some water, and soon found ourselves transported by boat about twenty minutes across Jezero Kozjak (so beautiful that I didn’t even make a Telly Savalas joke) to the Gornja Jazera (Upper Lakes) region of the park.

    The tranquility and serenity here is indescribable, and even though we were only half way through our journey at this amazing park, we all commented that Plitvice might be the most fantastic national park we had ever visited.

    If possible, the Upper Lakes are even more beautiful than the Lower Lakes. “Unbelievable.” “Incredible.” “Remarkable.” “Stupendous.” You can go through a litany of possible adjectives, and I believe by the end of our hike every superlative known to mankind had been uttered not only by us but also by everyone we encountered on the trails of this wondrous park. Between the Buza Bar and Plitvice National Park, Croatia now had two of the most scenic spots on earth.

    Our hike continued past where most tourists call it a day, and we were rewarded with even greater solitude and even grander views from above. Finally, the lakes and waterfalls became less and less prevalent, but by this time we were in “breathtaking scenery overload” mode.

    At the end of the trail there was a sign explaining how the park was formed. Centuries ago there was a forested valley with a river running through it (actually, looking at a recent picture of Robert Redford, he might have been there). Over time, limestone was formed which broke off and caused the river to dam up and form the beautiful lakes and waterfalls that compose Plitivice. The unspoiled, white limestone lakes, submerged trees and schools of fish (not only are they happy fish, but educated, too) only add to the exceptional beauty. "


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