Beware of expectations. Whilst low expectations can open your eyes to the beauty in the little things presented to you, high expectations can make you ignorant of these beautiful little things that make the big picture that you are expecting work. Whether spending a day in my backyard or Versailles, I try to appreciate all the little things that present themselves to me. This is one of many reasons I enjoy studying meteorology, as it gifts me with the ability to see the beauty of everyday phenomena such as simple clouds formations as well as more complicated weather systems. Unfortunately on my recent trip to Plitviče Lakes National Park in northern Croatia I fell into the trap of having too high expectations. Only Cappadocia and Iceland stood before Plitviče on my “just let me be there already” list for this European adventure, and after Cappadocia lived up to my expectations I expected Plitviče to do the same. There’s no denying the park is a natural gem and worthy of its UNESCO world heritage listing – with the bluest water and most waterfalls I have ever seen in one place – but there was just something missing for me.
I visited the park on a 13-hour day trip from the historic Croatian town of Split. The day began with a 4-hour drive leaving at 7am and arriving to the park by 1130am. We then hiked up through the upper lakes (from Station 2 to 3). Being a group of 26 people (Note: we were promised a group of no more than 15 people when we booked) amongst a number of other tour groups the guides did not keep very good track of us and at the first fork in the road a group of 8 or so of us got segmented off into our own group. Given little direction to where we were meant to be walking we were left stressed and rushing through the talked up first segment of the upper lakes hike until we eventually caught up with the others. From that point on my brother and I stayed just in front of the guide to get away from the crowd and rush, where stopping to take photos felt like too much of a hazard as the pathway was just wooden blocks of assorted shapes and sizes just wide enough for two people at a time nailed together. Going ahead was such a brilliant idea as we found many spots where we were almost alone and able to properly enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. After being informed that we were walking to Station 3, we did not need the guides direction as the path was simple and well signposted so we were not worried about getting separated from the group again. After reaching Station 3 we caught the bus down to Station 1, where we continued the hike along the lower lakes and back up to Station 2. Personally this was my favourite part as it contained many of the waterfalls (including the Big Waterfall with a 30m drop which had me reminiscing back to Yosemite) as well as the bluest water full of assorted fish which had me feeling like I was underwater snorkeling.
How to get there
Although not living up to my admittedly high expectations I still totally recommend a visit to the park if you’re in the neighborhood but preferably don’t go on a tour that adds to the suspense with a 4-hour drive each way as I did. Although if a day trip from Split is your only option I recommend this one which takes you on the 12km hike around the whole upper and lower lakes. Day trips with less driving can also be booked from Zadar and Zagreb. If I had my way I would make my own way to the park (via local bus or car) and stay overnight at the lodge to wake up early for the complete hike and to take advantage of the row boats located at the entrance to the park at Station 2.