From the moment I entered the park, I was mesmerised. Completely entranced. The sun shone down onto the lakes and reflected a shade of bright blue. The colours ranged depending on the depth of water. Dark blue in the centre and light at the lakes edge. We descended down the winding path to reach the boardwalk, which is where I first noticed the fish. The sun would catch their scales and reflect a shine of gold as they slowly swam past in the perfect, clear water.
We continued to walk along the waters edge, marvelling at the glorious waterfalls on our way. I was amazed to find the attraction so quiet. Only the sound of water flowing could be heard amongst the whispers of the tourists. Even the ducks were yet to be disturbed as they floated past, heads resting on their backs. The birds were more lively. I watched them play as we caught a ferry across the still water. I enjoyed choosing one to follow. One tiny bird. It would flap desperately, then spread its wings to soar, before suddenly plummeting towards the lake, its belly just skimming the water.
As I stepped off the ferry, I noticed that I had made a new friend. A butterfly followed me as I continued to walk past more incredible waterfalls. It floated its way through the low hanging willow branches that hung just above the water. This place was glorious!
I think it’s safe to say that Plitvice Lakes provided a wonderful first impression. Incredible! Outstanding! There was just one problem…the tourists!!
Now, I know it’s hypocritical to be frustrated by the number of tourists. I, of course, am one myself, but it was hard to not think how even more magical this place could be if it were just me, myself and I. However these are the joys of life and travel and we must share the beauty of this world. In which case, when visiting Plitvice Lakes we must learn to:
a. Avoid as much of the rush as possible and
b. Learn how to appreciate our surroundings despite the crowds.
So here’s my top two tips on how to achieve these…
Get there early!
And when I say early, I mean early! Depending on the time of year that you visit, the gates usually open at 7am, with crowds beginning to swarm as early as 9am. So, I would recommend arriving between these times. Now, for those coming from Zagreb, that means jumping on the earliest bus available: 5:45am!! But believe me – it’s worth it!! We lined at the gates for less than 10 minutes and avoided all queues for the complimentary ferries and buses. If you’re thinking of visiting Plitvice from Zagreb, you can book your tickets online here.
Getting there early will allow you to enjoy the popular tracks in the morning when the crowds are minimal and take the paths less traveled by in the afternoon when the tour groups begin to arrive.
Breathe. It’s not a race. Remember why you’ve come. It’s easy to get frustrated by the crowds and feel the urge to push through. I’ll admit – I did this a little at first. I would shimmy past those who had stopped to take a photo and then speed walk my way beyond the slow movers, but it quickly occured to me that I wasn’t enjoying myself. I wasn’t taking any of it in. Instead, it felt like a race to the finish line. So I tried a new tactic and instantly found myself enjoying the experience, not to mention feeling 100% more relaxed.
Firstly, take your time! The estimated track times are very generous. We took track C and completed in a solid two hours below the suggested 4-6 hour hike. So always know, there’s no need to rush.
Secondly, I encourage you to try this: Imagine you were to write your own blog on your experience at Plitvice Lakes. Imagine you were going to tell a story and had to completely transport your audience there. How would you describe it? What could you see? Hear? Smell? How many insects and animals did you spot? How would you explain the colour of the water? Observe. Be aware. Take it all in!
I was always someone who rushed through life. I would look to the future and never be present. It’s an issue I’ve always been aware of but had no idea how to address it until I started writing my blog. To write you need to observe. You need to be aware of your surroundings so you can re-tell your stories. You need to be present in the moment. Believe me, since adapting this approach I’ve been a lot happier and satisfied with my travels. So I encourage you, because the crowds will be inevitable, try the above techniques. Breathe, slow down, be aware and enjoy! Because there’s a lot to enjoy about the incredible Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.
At first, I found the planning of our trip to Plitvice a little overwhelming, so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to post below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Enjoy!