Plitvice Lakes – A hidden wonder at the heart of Europe
There is something other worldly about the remote beauty of Plitvice Lakes.
I don’t mean in an alien, ‘it looks like you might find it on Mars’ kind of way, but so often it is easy to assume that you have to board a 15 hour flight to find something so spectacular.
The wonders of the world are not supposed to be found on your doorstep; or even as close as a two hour flight and a similar period on a coach.
We need to travel to Peru’s lost city of the Incas or the red centre of Australia to see these sights, don’t we?
That statement is palpably wrong of course. I’m sure many travellers could name hundreds of similarly superb areas throughout Europe.
You don’t even need to leave England to find the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, the Lakes District or the dramatic Cornish coastline.
So perhaps that leads us back to that word remote, or at least the perception of it.
Part of the wonder of Plitvice Lakes is that it largely remains a secret; hidden in plain sight in the middle of one of the world’s most industrialised and heavily populated continents.
What you find when you disembark after taking one of the many coaches down from Zagreb – as Michelle and I did – or Split from the opposite direction, is as impressive as anything you could find in the world.
The oldest national park in south-east Europe, Plitvice Lakes is actually a combination of 16 lakes and numerous waterfalls.
The jewel in the crown is the 78 metre tall Veliki Slap.
One of the joys of Plitvice Lakes is that visitors prepared to risk a bit of boot leather can walk the main part of the park in a day.
With plenty of photo opportunities available, this can be done in around five hours meaning the whole experience can be done as a day trip.
Equally, this is not the sort of scenery you get easily bored with and nature lovers could easily spend a week or longer taking in the beauty of the lakes and waterfalls.
The lakes are divided into the upper and lower lakes, joined by ferry and bus routes.
The five kilometre walk around the upper area starts with a succession of smaller waterfalls, each fresh corner bringing another breathtaking view into sight.
The walkways are fairly narrow and the lakes are surrounded by dense forest so there is no wandering off the beaten track.
On busy days I can imagine that large tourist groups hiking along pathways that you are praying would be secluded could get frustrating.
Michelle and I were fortunate that it wasn’t too hectic on the day we went – mainly due to the fact it wouldn’t stop raining.
This was both a blessing and a curse: the cold of the rain made bearable by the extra volume of H2O it gave to the waterfalls.
The lower lakes are larger than their counterparts in the upper area, and it is possible to either walk across the lakes on pedestrian bridges or along wide roads at the top of the cliffs.
Veliki Slap can be accessed either in the former manner which leads to the foot of the waterfall, or by climbing down a number of steep steps that lead down from the main road.
In either case, you are presented with a roaring beast of a waterfall that will leave you staring open-mouthed at the exquisite art that nature can create.
When your daily view encompasses the M1, this is truly another world.