I’ve always felt very connected with waterfalls. They are a symbol of unleashed creativity, constant movement, an ever-changing and powerful energy. I feel those vibrations flowing within myself. When I use this energy in my daily life, I’m at my very best. And when I surround myself by waterfalls, I feel their power flowing in and through me. They make me feel happy, strong and connected with the forces of life.
During the past five years of my travels I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls. The first ten times they fascinated me. I took the time to look at them, to take their powerful energy in. But when I saw the eleventh or twelfth waterfall, I felt less moved. Not that I stopped loving them, but unless the waterfall was really impressive, it felt more like ‘just another one’. Maybe I just had an overdose of waterfalls. When you see too many similar things, you may fall into the trap of not appreciating it so much anymore. But the waterfalls of Plitvice Jezera National Park take your breath away!
Plitvice Jezera has always been in my top 5 list of places I wanted to visit in Europe. We normally don’t really plan our journey ahead. It’s hard to do that in the way we travel. We kind of know in what direction we’re heading and then we see what comes on our path. Just before we enter a new country, we do some research of places worth visiting. But when we were close with the border of Croatia, I knew straight away where to go: Plitvice (after looking it up numerous times, the name slowly started to stick to my brain instead of calling it ‘that waterfall place’). It was of course the first destination of our journey through Croatia.
We started our visit very early in the morning. So early that we were the only ones in this 297 km2 park. Nobody is allowed to go in before opening hours. But we camped in the park the night before, not knowing we passed the entrance. Assuming that wild camping was probably not allowed (like in most places), we decided to camp in a hidden area, not far from the entrance. In the darkness we couldn’t really see where we were going but after stumbling over rocks and maneuvering in between trees we found a nice spot for the night. The morning after we packed up very early to avoid leaving any traces. In the first morning light we realized we were already in the park. Instead of waiting three more hours to pay the entrance fee, we decided to explore the place (what would you do…). It was a unique feeling, knowing that there are daily thousands of visitors and now we had the whole park to ourselves.
all by ourselves in the park
We started our visit at the first of the two main entrances of the National Park. Straight away we had a panoramic view over a European Niagara Falls, diced and sprinkled over a heavily forested Grand Canyon. Heading down the steep zigzag path we left civilization behind and entered a wonderland of crystalline lakes that tumble into each other via a series of waterfalls and cascades. The board walks took us over and around almost all the waterfalls and gave us some of the most intimate ‘waterfalling’ experiences. We were in heaven! It took about six hours to explore the whole park by foot. Halfway through our path we took one of the park’s free electric boats to cross the biggest lake. At the far side of the lake, more board walks took us to more spectacular nature and falls.
The best time to visit Plitvice is probably during winter or late autumn/ early spring. In summer it is very busy. You can expect to be surrounded by 10,000 other hikers. Sometimes people line up on the board walks. Enjoying silently the beauty of the park with that many people around you can be challenging. Outside the summer season there are a lot fewer visitors and the most quiet time is during winter. The entrance fee during summer is also more expensive. One ticket costs 180KN (€ 24) in summer, 110KN (€ 15) during autumn and fall and 55KN (€ 7) in the winter.
I think we managed to camp in the wild because it was so quiet. I don’t think it would have been possible during the busy summer months. There are many hotels around and plenty of cheap options. You can rent a room in the private home of locals (named sobe) and there are many B&B dotting the countryside. On Hostelworld you get an overview of prices and places.
To get there you can hitchhike like us. If that way of traveling doesn’t appeal to you, you can take one of the many public buses passing by Plitvice. The bus is relatively cheap but keep in mind that you have to pay an extra fee for your luggage (about €1). It’s also cheaper to buy your ticket from the driver.
If there is one destination in Croatia you have to visit, then it’s definitely Plitvice Jezera National Park! It’s a Disneyland of waterfalls and a nature photographer’s wet dream! A visit outside the main tourist season shouldn’t cost you a lot or you could try it our way (hitchhiking, camping and somehow managing to pass the entrance without paying). As I review my photos for this article, I realize that Plitvice Jezera truly brings the beauty of waterfalls to another level!
Would you also like to experience the beauty of the waterfalls? Watch this video!