Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park

As I said before the reason I stayed in Zagreb is so that we can visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park and the day has arrived! After a lot of research, there are four ways to get there:

  1. Rent a car and drive there yourself but we weren’t familiar with Croatia so no idea how the road conditions are or how well they are marked
  2. Hire a private transfer/driver but very expensive
  3. Take the bus to get there but the schedule and different companies looked confusing to me
  4. Book a shared transfer/tour

I found the 4th option and the only company that I can book online is Wanderer Travellers the price is 250 Kunas which is less than $40 per person including transportation and a guide but not the park admission. It’s the same price as taking the public bus to get there. I got an email confirmation after I paid via paypal in euros that we’ll be picking up at Mimara Museum at 9 am.

We woke up at 7, get ready and had a delicious breakfast – free for platinum members! The choices were good and plenty of fresh fruits, they even have soy milk!

My plate:

We ate a lot to fill us up for the walk in the park. We walked to the entrance of the museum just before 9 and saw two people there who booked through the hotel for the tour. Then, we saw a big coach tour bus drive in! Pack of tourists got into the bus and the guide came to us and said we are with him. Urg…I thought it should be a mini van like we had to Mostar – a small group; I wasn’t expecting a big tour bus! We got up to the bus and it was almost filled that hubby and I had to sit in separate rows 🙁 We even brought our tripod with us but with a big group like this urggg I don’t think so! The bus started moving and the “tour guide” came and collected cash for the admission price; he said with him has group discount of 100 Kunas and not with him is 110 Kunas…..I was wondering are we with him or not? He said we are with him so 100 Kunas, thankfully I have just over 200 Kunas! I saved the 50 Kuna bill because it has the picture of Dubrovnik as souvenir 🙂 Another of the “I thought it is….but it’s “not” moment, I thought I will buy the ticket when we get there and use my credit card, after that, I had less than 100 Kunas left with me! Note that we went to the park on June 30th where it was considered as the mid-season, whereas from Jul – Aug, the high season, admission jumped to 180 Kunas per person!

After half an hour drive, the bus stopped at a rest stop where we were told use the bathroom and buy food for lunch as the choice inside the park is very limited and cost more. I wasn’t sure if inside vendor would take credit card so I better off get off at the convenient store. I bought  four hot dog buns and a water. When we walked back up to the bus, I asked the girl next to me if she mind to switch seat with my husband so we can sit together, she was nice enough to do that! The bus had like 50 people and all are from different hotels, booked via different company, hotel, operator, etc. After over 2 hours of driving, we finally reached the park! The tour guide went to buy our group tickets and we had time for a bathroom break. The entrance to the park, I believe this is Entrance 1:

Our tickets, will need to show our tickets once again when we get on the boat:

The park is huge, it really can take a day to visit both the upper and lower lakes. The park website is an excellent resource for planning your visit; it has different routes for the amount of time you have from 2 to 8 hours, like the routes marked on the board here!

This was the only thing about having a tour guide was helpful, we wouldn’t need to worry about navigating our way and getting back to the bus on time since it’s huge! We followed the tour guide and walked to the “panoramic train station” to catch the bus up to the upper lakes and walk down. On the way, there were few lookout spots that I think had the best views.

First view of the park, woah!

The emerald water was unbelievable!

Just after a few minutes of walk, we were in the spot where many postcards or images from online were taken. I got my own postcard perfect shot 🙂

Our group was like 50 people (6 of them were not with the group so they went off by themselves) so the small look out spot…each of us had like 10 seconds to snap some photos and move out so others can get their chance. We got there almost noon and I think the best lighting should be just after noon, notice how the lower left corner was still in shadow. I snapped a few more in my 10 seconds:

The angle of the sun light brought out the emerald green but in later afternoon, the water reflected so couldn’t see much of the green, see pictures near the end of the post of the differences. Plitvice Lakes which translated to 16 Lakes, here are 2 of them?

Along the way, we were looking for opening or gap in between trees to have the view of the lakes. Do not get close though since there are no guard rails!

The walking trail was pretty easy, either dirt road or wooden road:

I thought there would be a lot of mosquitoes and bugs so I wore long pants…..wish I wore my shorts! We reached the “train” station…many people were waiting there and the “train” was like one every half an hour, not as frequent as I would think given the number of visitors.

The so call panoramic train:

The whole way up to entrance 2 wasn’t scenic…the view was blocked by trees 🙁 At there, we switched to another “train” to get all the way up. We got off and there was a restroom (pretty clean and has toilet paper), picnic tables, and a cafeteria.

We bought hot dog buns from the rest stop but it turned out to be very hard and not tasty at all unlike the ones we bought from the supermarket in Dubrovnik!!! We had half an hour break for lunch before the real “hike” down the lakes.

I went in to buy another bottle of water and checked out the menu and prices; not outrageously expensive, pretty reasonable!

Next to our table, there was a weird looking tree, its flowers were like cotton candy…

The nonstop, I really mean nonstop, hike starts now!

Thankfully, we were walking down the whole way so it wasn’t bad! I really recommend if you are going by yourself, follow the same route as us, take the train all the way up and walk down the whole way!

Since the group was like 40 people, we tried to walk first so whenever there are good views, we had the prime spot for photos and move on before it get crowded. Spacing were really an issue there, it was not just our group, there were visitors who walked their way up so it was two-way traffic in narrow roads. No way that we were able to set up our tripod….we didn’t have time and we didn’t have enough space to do that! Poor hubby carried that tripod the whole way without even once taken it out!!!

Amazing views we got on the way, it was a little bit overcast so not the optimum lighting condition to bring out the colors!

The water was as clear as it can get!

There were also tons of blue dragon flies and butterflies!

The wooden path but for two way traffic….I wish they set a one-way route like Dubrovnik’s city walls, will definitely get people moving faster and more room to enjoy this wonderful landscape!

Turquoise emerald green!

And countless number of waterfalls because all 16 lakes are connected by those waterfalls…big and small. It was challenging to get the bridal veil effect of the water since we didn’t take with the tripod. As steady as my hands can get…

There are so many beautiful waterfalls that we wish we could take our time, setup our tripod, and get the perfect picture!

Two way traffic on this road…yikes have to keep walking or would hold up everyone on the back!

The paths are mostly in shade so do not worry about hiking it during the summer but still bring plenty of water, no water selling vendor along the way except for those picnic spots where the cafeterias are!!! Keep moving…

Fall and winter should be beautiful as well!

Huge mushrooms (they are like bigger than my head) grow on the tree, they were so weird LOL!

I would expect many swans but none at all just some ducks!

Nonstop marching along….hubby accidentally took this!

OMG those waterfalls! May I have more time please??

Just to show you that we were taking our turn on each spot…

Had no clue how my husband created this photo, he had no clue either!

And more waterfalls, this one was right next to the walking path! The mists were splashing at us…pretty cool on a hot day!

The tour guide said we are pretty lucky because usually at this time of the year, the water level aren’t as high so the waterfalls wouldn’t be as spectacular but this year, they had more rain!

This was how crowded it really was! People from both directions all squeezed in trying to get photos and selfies!

I will never have enough of waterfalls!

 

When the water level is high, I wonder if it’ll flood the wooden walk way?

We had a little break at the boat station while waiting for the next boat since this one would not fit all of us…half an hour wait!

The water is so clear that you can see the bottom and abundant of fishes…….no swimming, bathing, or fishing here! Another boat station across the lake.

Looking like not an issue finding lunch haha!

Our boat was finally here! We got on the boat and departed…looking back at the boat station ohh and they did stamp on our entrance ticket!

The view on the boat ride was nice but it was late in the afternoon so the water reflected the sun light and no emerald green color. It was best to view from the top! The ride was around half an hour long and we got to another picnic area:

We had 15 minutes restroom break there. While we were waiting for the group, we took some photos!

You don’t need much cash inside the park, there’s really nothing to buy besides food and water….only one small souvenir shop and another one at the main entrance!

Last quarter of the way:

The water is so clear and abundant of fishes!

The very last way….stairs to get up back to where we started LOL sorry hubby there are stairs! It was kinda dark in there – no lights, only natural lights!

It was very tiring to walk back up there! Once we got up, I got some shots from the same postcard spot I took when we arrived. See the difference the light makes? The right side area is in shadow!

Thus, I concluded that the best lighting would be just after noon! We did it, from the upper lakes to the lower lakes in 5 hours! That was our day at the amazing national park, we really wished we had more time! By the time we got back to Mimara Musuem, it was already 7 pm time for dinner! The bus wasn’t able to drive into the entrance because there was some government event going on inside the museum so the way was blocked. The tour guide asked us to quickly get off the bus!

We walked straight to Korcula, the seafood restaurant and it was almost full! The inside decor was really nice:

But the food was just average! We ordered the fish soup, it was light and alright.

Our main course, hubby ordered the grilled sea bass and I ordered the seafood spaghetti. We waited like 45 minutes oh yikes and by the time it got to us…the fish was freshly grilled but my spaghetti was not hot at all!

The dinner came to 302 Kunas around $45 dollars, not expensive for seafood but it wasn’t as great as our previous meals we had in Croatia! We walked back to our hotel and had a good rest in our Westin heavenly bed! It was our last night in Croatia 🙁 The next day, we had a filling breakfast once again in the hotel and then checked out. The same driver who picked us at the airport came at exactly 10 am as I requested to pick us up to the airport. I highly recommend ZGTAXI.com, very reliable and only cost 20 euros one way! On the ride to the airport, we had a good chat with the driver. We told him we were very surprised on how all Croatians we met speak fluent English. He said they had to pick a second language in school and he was told by his friends that German grammar is so hard so he picked English instead. The movies they watch are English with Croatian subtitles, the songs they hear in radio are English so they easily pick up at least some English! The 4-5 days we spent in Croatia gave us very good impression of Croatia – friendly people, great food at reasonable prices, and diverse in landscape from beautiful walled city and the sea of Dubrovnik and astonishing national parks. Best of it, it’s not as crowded as other top European destinations and feel much safer, less pickpockets! It’s truly a gem but will be very quickly be discovered so go there before it gets expensive 🙂

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