Fodor's Expert Review Plitvice Lakes National Park

Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera Park (National/State/Provincial) Fodor's Choice

This 8,000-acre park is home to 16 beautiful emerald lakes connected by a series of cascading waterfalls, stretching 8 km (5 miles) through a valley flanked by high, forested hills home to deer, bears, wolves, wild boar, and the Eurasian lynx. Thousands of years of sedimentation of calcium, magnesium carbonate, algae, and moss have yielded the natural barriers between the lakes, and since the process is ongoing, new barriers, curtains, stalactites, channels, and cascades are constantly forming and the existing ones changing. The deposited sedimentation, or tufa, also coats the beds and edges of the lakes, creating their sparkling, azure look.

Today a series of wooden bridges and waterside paths lead through the park. The only downside: because it's so lovely, the trails can get crowded from June through September. That said, there's no litter along the way—a testament to both respectful visitors and a conscientious park staff. There's also no camping, no bushwhacking, no picking... READ MORE

This 8,000-acre park is home to 16 beautiful emerald lakes connected by a series of cascading waterfalls, stretching 8 km (5 miles) through a valley flanked by high, forested hills home to deer, bears, wolves, wild boar, and the Eurasian lynx. Thousands of years of sedimentation of calcium, magnesium carbonate, algae, and moss have yielded the natural barriers between the lakes, and since the process is ongoing, new barriers, curtains, stalactites, channels, and cascades are constantly forming and the existing ones changing. The deposited sedimentation, or tufa, also coats the beds and edges of the lakes, creating their sparkling, azure look.

Today a series of wooden bridges and waterside paths lead through the park. The only downside: because it's so lovely, the trails can get crowded from June through September. That said, there's no litter along the way—a testament to both respectful visitors and a conscientious park staff. There's also no camping, no bushwhacking, no picking plants, and absolutely no swimming. This is a place to look, to spend a day or two, but not to touch. It is, however, well worth the 200 Kn summertime entrance fee, and the lowered fees during the rest of the year. This is not just a summertime, but a year-round spectacle, with blooming flowers in the spring, sunset-colored foliage in the fall, and magical-looking frozen waterfalls in the winter.

The park is right on the main highway (E71) from Zagreb to Split, and it's certainly worth the three-hour trip from the capital. There are three entrances just off the main road about an hour's walk apart, creatively named Entrance 1, Entrance 2, and auxiliary Entrance Flora. The park's pricey hotels are near Entrance 2, the first entrance you'll encounter if arriving by bus from the coast. However, Entrance 1—the first entrance if you arrive from Zagreb—is typically the start of most one-day excursions, if only because it's within a 20-minute walk of Veliki slap, the 256-foot-high waterfall. Hiking the entire loop that winds its way around the lakes takes six to eight hours, but there are other hikes, ranging from two to four hours. All involve a combination of hiking and being ferried across the larger of the park's lakes by national park service boats.

There are cafés near both entrances, but avoid them for anything but coffee, as the sandwiches and strudels don't offer the best value for your money. Instead, buy some of the huge, heavenly strudels sold by locals at nearby stands, where great big blocks of homemade cheese are also on sale. At the boat landing near Entrance 2, you can rent gorgeous wooden rowboats for 50 Kn per hour.

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Park (National/State/Provincial) Flight Centre Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

Plitvicka Jezera, Licko-Senjska  53231, Croatia

053-751–014

www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: July–Sept. 200 Kn; Apr.–June and Oct. 90 Kn; Nov.–Mar. 80 Kn

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