I wonder if we’re the only people in the world who went to Plitvice and weren’t blown away by its beauty. Ching-I, N and I drove there from Zagreb in a rental car full of excitement and anticipation. I had seen the photos online of the crystal-clear, cascading waterfalls, and the still pools of blue water surrounded by cliffs. Well, it seems like everyone else including the entire older Japanese population from Japan heard the same rave reviews because they were all there in what was supposed to be non-peak season.
The three of us made our way through the waterfalls and lakes on the weaving boardwalk, slowly bypassing gray-haired European tourists with their big DSLRs and hordes of Japanese tourists following young ladies waving JTB flags. As a Zagreb local told us, October is Japanese tourist season in Croatia. Believe me, it is.
Don’t get me wrong. The place is beautiful. I was completely mesmerized by the pools of water that are so clear you can see straight down into the soft green plants covering the bottom, schools of fish swimming lazily in water so still it looks like they’re floating in air. Until a loud Croatian family comes along and throws handfuls of pretzels and bread into each water source they pass. Who does that shit?
Maybe we set our expectations too high. We’re spoiled by the national parks in the States, which are gorgeous and massive. Also, the place has been overdeveloped to be easily accessible to everyone (particularly old people), and I prefer places that are so untouched that there is the possibility of getting hopelessly lost and/or spotting wild chamois like we did in the High Tatras.
For those of you visiting, here are some tips.
- Go by car: Buses run through the park, but it’s hard to get around without a car. We found that Auto Europe had the best rates.
- Ticket includes rides: The park entrance ticket (about $20) includes shuttle bus and ferry rides within the park. The shuttle buses rides are unlimited, but it looks like the ferry rides are limited.
- Avoid peak season: We were there in the fall, which was manageable crowd-wise, but we can imagine how crazy it must get in the summer.
- Go early in the day: For the best lighting for photography, go early. By the afternoon when the sun starts to set, you’ll get a lot of backlit shots.
- Bring food: If you plan to spend the day in the park (which you should), consider bringing along lunch and snacks. There are a few cafes/restaurants located around the park, but it’s much more fun to pack lunch and eat outside by the lakes.
For more photos of the park, check out our Flickr album.