Leaving Bosnia, we drove north, back towards Istria to get to Plitvice National Park. Actually, that is not quite true. Opening the listing for our accommodation in Google Maps, we followed its directions until we arrived at a place we realized could not be correct. This time instead of being just a block or two away, it had taken us to a totally different city (Sinj) about 1.5 hours from our destination. In retrospect, I think what happened is that the booking.com app passed the name of the place to Google Maps, which associated it with another, identically named place in the other town. Which is really stupid – the app should pass the street address to Google Maps. Regardless, I suppose this is my own fault for not zooming out to see a map overview before we began. Still, it made for a very long day of driving.
When we finally got to our apartment it was getting late and we were famished. Luckily there was a good restaurant only 2Km away, since we are in the boonies. We had a lovely meal of fresh local trout with almonds that at least brought a nice end to an otherwise frustrating day.
The next morning, we pulled on our hiking boots and headed off early for the Plitvice National Park entrance. After parking the car and buying our tickets, we walked for a while and then took a bus to the upper lakes where we hiked for a few hours amongst lakes and cascades. This is probably the nicest park we’ve never heard of before we started planning this trip. Located in an area of limestone geology, the area is essentially a series of terraces over a vertical distance of a few hundred meters, and the water flows down level by level. Sometimes in small cascades, and other times in steeper waterfalls.
Much of the hike is done on boardwalks (with no handrails), which is very evocative. The downside is that this was a very popular place so at times we found ourselves dodging lots of other people to try to keep moving. In fairness, it was a Sunday, which if we had thought of it, we probably should have planned to come here on a weekday and avoid the day trippers from Zagreb. Also unfortunate was there was a major marathon being run in the park. Although we were not hampered by runners, there were clearly many visitors who were friends or family members of the runners, as evidenced by their T-Shirts.
To get from the upper lakes area to the lower lakes, you take a boat. Both the boat and buses are included in the park ticket, so that is nice. At the lower lakes is the large waterfall, the tallest in Croatia, and quite impressive.
The park is also home to a wide variety of flowers, insects, fish and birds. I have never seen so many fish (trout and carp) in one place, except at a commercial fish farm. You could have easily reached in and picked one out (if that was allowed). The water is remarkably clear and blue-green in color – the tone is very striking.
As elsewhere in this region, even Plitvice has a dark side – this is where the first shots were fired in the 90s war in Croatia. Even today, you are told not to wander off the trails into remote areas as there many be unexploded ordinance. Just another indications that everywhere we have been in this beautiful region, there is a dark side lurking just around the corner.