SET among Croatia’s beautiful unspoiled countryside is the Plitvice Lakes National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Despite visiting Zagreb in winter this park was still on my to-do list. I had heard it was great to visit in all seasons, so thought it would be a welcome relief from the city and a chance to see more of Croatia for a day.
But the possibility of ice and snow meant fewer excursions run at this time of year – and those that do, charge you a fortune. The price of day excursions was pretty hefty, with most ranging from £70-150 each and while in Zagreb a local agent quoted us about €200 each.
The other problem is that half of the park is closed at this time of year so you wouldn’t get to see all 16 lakes in their glory, although as a result the entrance fee is half price.
We eventually decided to do the tour ourselves and took a two hour coach from Zagreb for a more reasonable price from the city’s main bus station. Packed with a substantial picnic of cakes, crisps and sandwiches from our hotel to keep us going throughout the day we were all set for a third of the price.
As we travelled out of the city a fog that had shrouded Zagreb in the morning slowly lifted to reveal vast countryside around us. And the day turned into a beautiful sunny winter’s day, providing a lovely backdrop for our trip to the Plitvice Lakes.
The park was simply stunning.
Even in -1C temperatures it was pure natural beauty. The sun glistened on the water and the sound of the water gushing from the waterfalls was deafening at times and sounded around the park. There were photo opportunities from every corner – from down at the bottom, along the wooden footbridges that snake around the edges, or from a path above. You could shoot a lake, rock face or waterfall from every angle.
Having spent a few days in Zagreb it was great to walk among such natural beauty and breathe in some clean air. Even if it was very, very cold, and in some places a bit icy and slippery along the paths by the waterfalls.
It’s not hard to see how this park could look even more beautiful in summer with its green trees, flowers in full bloom and dazzling green water. But at this time of year we had no crowds to deal with bar one coach load of Japanese tourists. The day trip had taken a bit of extra organising but despite a very cold nose, frozen fingers and toes and in need of a hot chocolate, I never once regretted the visit.
It was by far the highlight of my entire trip to Croatia and the park was as stunning and breathtaking in person as it had been in all the photos I’d seen.