Blog WHS Visits

WHS #620: Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park already became a World Heritage Site in 1979. It was among 6 sites from Yugoslavia that were inscribed that year, sites which now lie in 4 different countries (the others were Ohrid, Kotor, Split, Stari Ras and Dubrovnik). Plitvice is one of those ‘golden oldie’ Eastern European tourist destinations, like the Wieliczka Salt Mine or the Postojna Caves. One wonders if there comes a time when nobody will go there anymore. But it still attracts over one million visitors a year. I visited in early November - so what is Plitvice like out of season?

Late autumn scenery

I had stayed overnight in a town nearby, which allowed me to be present at the Lakes at 8.30 a.m. A November trip proved to be rewarding financially rightaway: no parking fee is required at this time of year, and the cost of an entrance ticket is cut in half to 55 kuna (about 7.30 EUR). This gives unlimited access to the various park entrances for one day, plus free transportation on the ferry across the largest lake and the shuttle buses. Quite good value I think.

The park has two main entrances. I first drove to Entrance 2 (which lies somewhat half way the Upper and Lower Lakes). This parking lot turned out to be closed, so I returned to Entrance 1. While in summer queues of an hour or more are not unheard of, the only other visitors this morning fitted in the one bus and some 10 cars that were at the parking. From Entrance 1 it’s only a short walk to the highlight of Plitvice: the big waterfall and its associated travertine pools. If you have only one hour to spend at the park, I would suggest to take Entrance 1 and make a short dash down to this spectacular section. From the viewpoint it looks like a rather complex jigsaw puzzle. It includes a system of waterfalls and pools, crossected by a boardwalk.

Jigsaw puzzle material

The disadvantage of starting at Entrance 1 is that the rest of the park isn’t as spectacular. Mind you - it is still interesting enough and one can spend easily 4-5 hours hiking the trails. I did a combination of hike C and K: K is the only circuit that can be done fully on foot, while all the others involve some form of park transport. I did take the ferry across the main lake – I believe I had read beforehand that it doesn’t run in the low season, but it does (once an hour). The cafeteria near the dock was open too. There were some 60 people aboard, including a large group of Asian tourists. The latter stayed on board until stop P1, so their tour skipped the Upper Lakes which are accessible from stop P2.

I hiked all the way up, along the smaller waterfalls that feed the Upper Lakes. Trails all around the lakes are well-maintained and easy to navigate. Near the top lies a shuttle stop, where I hopped on a tourist train-like vehicle to take me down to the middle section again. By that time it was around 12.30, and there were many more people around than earlier in the morning. Most visitors seem to come in groups – Asians, but also locals from maybe Zagreb or other cities nearby.

Hiking path along one of the main lakes

This first Saturday in November was blessed with dry and fairly mild weather. Scenery wise it would probably have been better to visit a week or two earlier to enjoy the fall foliage – almost all trees had lost their leaves by now. But it was a pleasure to walk around relaxed, the many boardwalks are no fun when there are droves of people crossing or stopping to take yet another selfie. The Plitvice Lakes are an undisputed WHS, although I found the scenery fairly similar to Jiuzhaigou (which is bigger and has higher mountains – IUCN also stated in Jiuzhaigou’s evaluation that its “landscape attractions exceed those of … Plitvice Lakes WHS”).

Els - 5 November 2016

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