Why I Won’t Go Back to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

I try to stay positive on this blog. Most of my posts are about travel and travel is my happy place. So let’s face it, it isn’t hard to be positive. But, I feel it is necessary to state my true feelings about Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Don’t get me wrong, it is one of the most beautiful parks I have been to.

There are sixteen beautiful lakes and waterfalls everywhere you look.

There is also a definite downside.

Let me explain…

Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia Background

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia. It was founded in 1949 and added to the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1979. The park is located in the karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It extends over 73,000 acres and takes between three and four hours to hike through. Each year, more than one million visitors visit the park. It is located in a remote and poor part of Croatia that is still recovering from the war. Due to its remoteness, it is best to stay in the area for one night when visiting.

On Easter Sunday in 1991, the first shots of Croatia’s war with Yugoslavia were fired in the park. The first casualty of the war was a park policeman. Until 1995, the Serbs controlled the park. Virtually no tourists were allowed to visit which allowed the ecosystem to recover from the impact of so many visitors prior to 1991.

Arriving at the Park

We arrived to Plitvice Lakes National Park in the early afternoon after riding in the coach for a couple of hours. By the time we arrived, the lines at the entrance were already long and the park was really crowded.

We had to choose between two options when visiting the park.

  • We could skip the lower part of the park and walk along the rim with our tour director and look down at the views. This was the less strenuous option and would take a couple of hours to complete.
  • We could do a longer 3.5 hours hike with a park guide. This option would take us down by the waterfalls and lakes. It was much more strenuous.

I chose the second option.

The First Half of the Hike

To be honest, the hiking part wasn’t too bad until the end, when it was straight up a hill for a bit to get to our hotel. Were were warned that was the worst part.

The guides were wrong. That was not the worst part.

We got down to the bottom of the valley on our way to the big waterfalls and the path was a wooden platform two people wide. There were no railings and tons of people going both ways, with some visitors trying to push their way in front of other people. This part of the hike was terrifying for me and it lasted for about an hour and a half.

I could not pay attention to or enjoy the views around me because I wouldn’t let my eyes leave the platform. I am a klutz so I was afraid I would trip and fall if I looked up. If that wasn’t enough, I was always braced, ready to protect myself in case I was pushed, determined that I was not going into the water and if I was going in, I wasn’t going in alone. And in case you’re wondering, yes, people get pushed in. It happens a lot and happened to our guide a few weeks before we were there.

I had my DSLR camera and my phone with me. Right away, I wished I had left my good camera with my luggage on the bus (and would recommend you do it if you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park). I’m a good swimmer so I wasn’t worried about drowning if I fell into the lakes themselves because they were calm with no marine animals that would want to eat me. However, parts of the walk were directly over gushing waterfalls. There is no way I could survive a fall down those rushing waterfalls unscathed. My anxiety was off the charts.

We did make it down to the water falls without. We also made it back out. No one from our group fell in, hallelujah! A lot of patience was required along the way but we did it. The waterfalls were beautiful. The color of the lakes along the way was also amazing,. The color reminded me a lot of the color of the water in the Bahamas – a beautiful bright aqua blue.

The Second Half of the Hike

After an hour and a half or so of hiking and waterfall admiring, we reached the end of the wooden platform path. From there on, we were on real ground. Even though the path was still the same width, it made a huge difference to be on real ground. There were no lakes or waterfalls beneath us, only beside us. The path was gravel but smooth so I wasn’t so worried about tripping. The crowd was still thick but since there was only water on one side and rocks and walls on the other, we could all move over a bit.

I could relax and enjoy the experience a bit. It was much appreciated. The beautiful views continued. We saw some fish in the water along the way. There are a few ferries on one of the upper lakes but they are electric so they don’t pollute the water. As a result, the water was very clear, making it pretty easy to see fish.

The Hotel

I wish I could tell you we stayed in a plush hotel that I loved.

But I can’t.

The biggest problem? I was in a room at the end of the top floor with a sloped roof above me. I knew there might be a problem when I went to change my shirt before dinner and hit my hands on the ceiling when I lifted my arms up.

And then it was time to take a shower. The shower head was way too short for me since the tub bottom added several inches to the floor. So, I took a shower on my knees. I could handle that but then on top of it, there was no shower curtain. No matter how hard I tried to keep the water in the tub, it refused to obey and water went everywhere. At one point, I just stopped and started laughing. The whole situation was so ridiculous. It still makes me laugh today.

Luckily, we only stayed one night in this hotel. My mantra is that I can handle almost anything for one night. I did the best I could to get clean, got dressed and then dried up the bathroom as best I could before heading to bed.

I considered it a funny travel story that makes that hotel unforgettable.

My Conclusion about Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Looking back, I guess I am glad the park was part of our tour and that I was able to visit it. But I wish I had done tour option 1 – the hike around the top. According to those who did it, it was much less stressful.

I can say with certainty that I will not visit the valley area of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia again unless they add railings and crowd control measures. We were there in September, which is a shoulder season for tourism in Croatia so it wasn’t as crowded as it is in July and August. I cannot imagine being there when it was more crowded and really hot on top of that. Where do all of the people go? There is no way anyone enjoys it.

My advice to you if you are going to visit the park is to go first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon after the crowds have dissipated a bit. And definitely try to go in April/ May or September/October when it “isn’t as crowded.” It is beautiful. I cannot dispute that. However, the crowds make it worth consider skipping.

Are you interested in reading more about my trip to Croatia and Slovenia? Check out two of my previous posts here and here.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Big Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
If you look to the middle left of this photo, you can see people walking on the boardwalk along the cliff. It is two people wide with no railings and they’re about to walk over the rushing waterfalls. So scary!
Big Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park
The big waterfalls from the very bottom of the valley shown in the previous photo
Plitvice Lakes National Park waterfalls
Me…delirious from the walk to the bottom of the valley and a lack of sleep.
Plitvice Lakes
Scary but so beautiful. This is under the boardwalk. If I trip and fall or am pushed, I am going to end up at the bottom in that pool of water.
Beautiful colored water at Plitvice Lakes National Park
The water was so clear and bright blue.
Pretty water flowing in Plitvice Lakes National Park
So pretty
Pretty colored water and water falls. The perfect combination.
Pretty views and lots of people reflected in my sunglasses
I look like a giant in this shower!

Family Trip to Germany

While I often travel alone and enjoy it, traveling with a group can be great too, In October 2014, my Aunt Julie organized a family trip to Germany. Our ancestors came to the U.S. from Germany and she is very passionate about genealogy. This trip was a great opportunity to spend time with family, see where my ancestors are from and tour Germany. The trip included Julie and her husband Al, their son, Tim, my Aunt Sandy and her husband, Tom, my cousin, Deb, and me.

Frankfurt

We flew from the U.S. on various flights and met in Frankfurt. After checking into our hotel and resting for a bit, we set out for a walking tour of the city. I found this walking tour on Trip Advisor and it was also listed in Rick Steves’ Germany guidebook.

I find walking tours to be a great way to explore and orient myself to cities I am visiting for the first time. While we paid for our walking tour in Frankfurt, many cities have free walking tours through their Visitors’ Center. Another good resource for walking tours in European cities is Rick Steves and his books and app. For some cities, he has audio tours that you can use to navigate a city (I used his audio walking tour of Athens and it was great!). He also has walking tours listed in his books that are helpful (I followed along with his walking tour of Zagreb, Croatia when I was there).

I was able to find a private guide after reading Rick Steves’ book and consulting Trip Advisor. Our guide, Jo from Frankfurt on Foot, gave us a wonderful tour of the city. She spoke great English, went at our pace and was very knowledgeable about the city. She also recommended a great restaurant for dinner.

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Family Trip to Germany
I loved this old town street in Frankfurt.

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The evergreen wreaths below are pretty but don’t buy them for a loved one. They are grave decorations. The bull is a statue outside of the board of trade.

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Frankfurt is known for their green sauce and apple wine. I liked the green sauce on schnitzel (below). I was not a big fan of the apple wine.

Family trip to Germany
schnitzel with green sauce

After spending a day in Frankfurt, our family trip to Germany continued as we set out to explore other areas of the country. We split up on day 2. Al and Julie went off to do some genealogy stuff while the rest of us spent the day in Bamberg.

Bamberg

Bamberg is a wonderful city. The city center is a listed UNESCO world heritage site. The most well known building is the Bamberg Altstadt, which is the building/bridge in the first three photos below.

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During our exploration of Bamberg, we passed by the bar below several times. Everyone who spilled out seemed to be very happy and having a great time so after walking around the city for a few hours, we decided to check it out. It was worth the stop, other than they were not serving food (we were very hungry by this point in the day). The beer was very refreshing and the atmosphere was fun (sort of cave-like inside).

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Family Trip to Germany
Not the best photo but I feel like it sums up our time in Bamberg well. So many laughs. 🙂
Family Trip to Germany
I love this building!   

The two photos below were taken in the area of Bamberg known as “Little Venice.” If you squint and use your imagination, you can almost see Venice, Italy.

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We finally found food – a brat from a street vendor! It was really good, even competing with the brats from the Edgewood Locker in my opinion (I think it was the bread that made it so good).

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Continue reading about our family trip to Germany here.

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