Instead, I took a hiking tour of Plitvice Lakes which is about a three-hour drive from Opǎtija. I joined a group of Italian, French, and German tourists and we had a fantastic Croatian guide.
Plitvice Lakes are halfway between Zagreb, and the coastal city of Zadar. On the winding road (called serpentinas in Croatia) to the lakes we passed a medieval castle and through a coastal town called Senj. Hundreds of years ago, Senj was the home of pirates who caused trouble invading the area by sea.
Plitvice Lakes are one of Europe’s most beautiful natural destinations. In 1948 the system of 16 interlinked lakes (12 upper and 4 lower) and the surrounding forest was set aside as a Croatian national park. In 1979 UNESCO granted Plitvice Lakes World Heritage status.
Set in deep woods the lakes cover a total area of 116 square miles and for over five miles they connect via a series of waterfalls. The lush hiking trails are mostly wooden steps crossing over the waterfalls and two rivers that flow beneath the lakes. It’s an amazing sight – literally hundreds of waterfalls!
“Water flowing over the limestone and chalk for thousands of years deposited travertine barriers which created natural dams. In turn, a series of beautiful lakes, caves, and waterfalls developed. These geological processes continue.”
“Plitvice Lakes are famous for their unique colors, including azure, green, blue, and gray. The area is home to many animals and birds including the brown bear, wolf, lynx, eagle, and owl.”
In the morning, the tour bus dropped us off at the entrance to the largest upper lake. We took a boat from one side to the other where we started our hike. Visitors who don’t want to hike the entire length of the park can catch a shuttle train or walk part of the way and then hop on it to get back to the entrances. Hiking through the park was a lovely, tranquil experience. It’s the best way to see and enjoy the beautiful setting. We stopped halfway for lunch and at the end of the day the bus picked us up at the entrance to the lower lakes.
Visitors say Plitvice Lakes are stunning at any time of the year. The park takes on different hues depending on the season. In winter with the park wrapped in snow the lakes are a popular location for cross-country skiing.
It was a great day!