74 – Plitvice Lakes in Croatia 7.1 miles – 28th July

In short: a bit of a cheat this one as it really is a tourists’ day out but nonetheless a good walk with my husband and two of our teenagers so included for that reason. Extremely hot and good paths everywhere so walking sandals used. Walking from our little hotel we didn’t use the car park; plenty of snack bars, very good clean and fully equipped toilets, great cafe in the centre of the park. 2 hrs 40 mins walking in total; short bus ride; boat trip + 20 mins pitstop (plus sunbathing rest!)

Our summer holiday this year is in Croatia – a gorgeous country that we have visited many times. This year we are ringing the changes somewhat by stopping for a couple of nights in Zagreb and then visiting the UNESCO world heritage site at Plitvice Lakes. Unfortunately the downside of being a very well known beauty spot is that the place is mobbed with coach loads of tourists every day – in order to avoid the worst of this we have been advised to visit the big waterfall (one of the highlights) in the morning – the majority of the coaches arriving at around midday.

We are staying at the Plitvice Miric Inn – a small family run hotel a couple of kilometres from one of the park entrances – and a pleasant walk through woodland to arrive there.

Leaving our hotel we turn left onto a lane running away from the main road and between holiday rental properties and B&Bs – a definite alpine theme to the architecture which is quite attractive. After 5 minutes or so the lane veers left to the main road and we cross here – very carefully as observance of pedestrian crossings is a bit random in this country!

We continue straight on – still in largely touristy country (albeit low key) – past a small ski centre where we turn right. After another 5 minutes we come to the entrance into woods on our right, helpfully signposted for the Plitvice Lakes.

We follow this path downhill through woodland to a road where we turn left before picking the path up again a few yards further on on our right.

We pass a car park on our left and continue on our path through one last woodland section before joining a main path/access road to the park itself with a couple of hotels on our right.

This path brings us to the park entrance – we already bought our tickets yesterday when we visited the upper lakes so we head for the bus stop which will take us to the start of the walk we have chosen to do, leading to the big waterfall.

Alighting from the bus there is a snack bar where we purchase bottles of water and make use of the outstandingly clean public toilets (we in the UK could definitely learn a lesson in cleanliness from the Croats) and start out on our route (B according to the maps here).

The views are outstanding – really hard to describe – its a glorious day and I can only apologise as my photos definitely don’t do justice to this beautiful park.

The path initially runs straight and then starts to descend a steep slope in zig zag fashion – affording marvellous views as it descends to the level of the lakes below.

It also gives us some idea of the numbers of people here as we can see them ahead on the walkways across and around the lakes…

We also get our first view of the huge waterfall that we are heading to see…

The colours of the waters are generated by the geological phenomena of the types of rock in the area – and they positively glow in shades of blue, green and turquoise – all set off by the dark green background of the surrounding trees and the dramatic scenery of the mountains.

Finally we are at lake level and we take the walkway path across the first lake to the far side.

From here we wend our way slowly to the waterfall – this is probably the busiest part of our walk in terms of tourists.

There are waterfalls and cascades everywhere – and for me, a real sense of peace and wonder despite the crowds. We arrive at the waterfall just as a large coach party is leaving and so have a great view of the fall itself.

I even manage to persuade the teenagers to pose in front of it!!

From here we retrace our steps to the walkway across the lake where we continue straight on along the same side of the lake – our ultimate destination is the departure point for boats across the largest of the lakes.

After a while we cross to the shady side of the lake – we are basically in a procession of people walking this way – but by and large at a reasonable pace so not too painful even for the impatient ones amongst us!!

Eventually we reach the boat departure point – St 1 on the maps – and here we join the queue to board one of the boats departing every 20-30 minutes.

After a wait of about 20 minutes we board a boat and set off for the 15 minute journey across the lake – a functional but nonetheless lovely ride.

After a brief stop on the opposite bank from our destination we reach the midpoint of the lakes complex and alight. Here there is a super efficient fast food style cafe with a limited but tasty and cheap menu so we all enjoy a pitstop of burgers, chips and a cold drink.

Our party splits in two at this point with my husband and one son heading back to our hotel whilst the elder of the two and I stay by the bank of the lake to sunbathe and enjoy the surroundings before heading back.

To leave the park we have to climb a steep slope and/or steps to just before the exit gate at which point we continue to climb a path across the grassy slopes up to the lane we came in on. Here we turn right to retrace our steps through the woods, past the car park, through more woods, left along the road, right through woods again until we finally emerge on the road past various accommodation blocks and out to the main road. Here we cross and take the road opposite, bearing right past B&Bs and small apartment blocks to arrive back at our hotel about half an hour late.

A truly exhilarating walk in a stunning part of the world – highly recommended albeit a large dose of patience is required to deal with the crowds of tourists.


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