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The conversation between my husband and myself went something like this.  Husband: ‘I can’t see through this fog, are you sure we are going the right way?’ Me: ‘That’s what the sign said, Plitvika this way, I think’. Husband: ‘You think - I am not sure that we haven’t missed the turn-off.’

I am sure this scenario will resonate with some if you are the 'hiring a car and doing it yourself' type of traveller.

One of the things you become acutely aware of when driving in any foreign country is the multiple ways there are of spelling one destination. In this case is it Plitvica, Plitvika or Plitvice - I guess all are correct as we follow the signs which eventually lead us into the entrance of the National Park. 

The first thing that captures your attention is the amount of snow that still lines the small highway leading to the Hotel Jezero. The modest hotel, our home for the next two nights, is almost engulfed by the snow-laden beech and fir groves.

We are surprised at how many tourists are here at this time of year - however just maybe they booked in the ‘springtime’ month of April as we did believing it would be moderately cool with just a hint of snow. I think waist-deep white is a good indicator that spring is late. 

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, Travel AgentDeanne Scanlan at her hotel in Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

The view from our bedroom balcony is hypnotic. Every which way you turn the scenery seems to be playing a melody, a winter wonderland full of beauty, full of spectacular imagery and one that provides so many photographic opportunities. As much as this view holds us spellbound, it is time to begin our mid-afternoon exploration of the snow-bound forest.

The main entrance of the National Park is directly opposite the lower level of the hotel making the short walk quite easy, as long as you stick to the path.  It is not until we view the park map that we realise just how big it really is. We have glimpsed images of the turquoise waters as they spill into each other from terrace to terrace tumbling downwards, each to a larger lake it seems but this is something I don’t think we expected. 

Today we make our way to the edge of a lake and if this is any indication of what is to follow, we are well and truly hooked from the very first step.

By the lake, Plitvice Travel, CroatiaPlitvice Lakes Croatia, Travel Agent Finder Tour

There are 12 upper lakes and 4 lower lakes all formed with limestone deposits. The park became a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE site in 1979 with the number of visitors listed at around 1,200,000 each year. Covering over 73,000 acres (30,000 hectares) most tourists only see a small part of this world-renowned site. Dating back as far as 1777, the name Plitvice loosely translates to ‘shallows.’ With photography so easily manipulated today, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between reality and enhancements so when we arrive to see the water passing over the limestone creating a palette of soft water colours, we discover that there will be no need for embellishments. 

I have heard that grey wolves, lynx and brown bears all inhabit the forest however I am quite sure that the last thing they would want is a juicy human and will avoid us at all costs. 

We still have to reconcile the season, spring is supposed to be mild and yet the vast whiteness that stretches out before us indicates otherwise. Every step into the park sounds like a snapping branch, a crunch that only compacted ice tends to give. The entry fee to the site is 180 Kuna (local currency) and varies according to the time of year you visit. Of course, we are in the high season but are more than happy to pay the asking price. 

The path winds down to the largest lake – nothing short of breathtaking. We are conscious of safety as we carefully make our way through the tree canopy heavy with freshly fallen morning snow. This is probably a good time to own up to not being very sure-footed when balancing on uneven surfaces – a result of an illness some years earlier. With my husband hot on my heels we made it to the bottom without incident before being able to gaze upon the partially frozen lake. 

The transfer across the water is handled with precision. Once the boat has its full quota of well-rugged-up passengers, we begin the short journey to the farthest edge before a short climb to view the cascading snow-covered lake system. It is quite humorous watching families trying to capture that memorable shot of the lake, the boat, the ducks, the snow and anything else that moved.

Pltivice Lakes Ferry, Croatia TravelBeautiful Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Holidays

We have all day to explore but this did not stop many from rushing up the hill to be the first to glimpse the beauty of the lakes system. To say that getting to the valley is a piece of cake would be quite untrue, so it is important to understand that this is equivalent to a short hike and care needs to be taken no matter what the season. The reward at the end is worth each puff and brow wipe. We are overcome with the sheer size of what we now see. When you watch the travel programs filmed in the summertime, it is quite a different matter to see the same turquoise waters changed to a grey misting vista enveloped in pristine white snow. 

Silence and the crisp clean air fills our lungs and we take just a few moments to appreciate how magnificent nature can be. Thank goodness the bears are hibernating because at this point running was the last thing on my mind. The slippery ice that clings to the narrow trail like toffee to the inside of a spoon – I say this because it was both sticky and hard - is something to be negotiated with care. I very gracefully - well I think so - met the ground on two occasions.

A series of walkways criss-cross the middle lake making venturing to the base of a waterfall quite simple. The snow melting from above comes crashing through low-lying bushes as if racing something unseen to the naked eye. I have to admit that watching it fill your shoes is rather funny until the ice-cold water begins to seep in. At this point, we are getting wetter by the minute, and loving it, except for the now squishy shoes and socks. To reach the base of the waterfall, we must cross yet another timber walkway. The water is now ankle deep. 

Under different circumstances, we would think twice before becoming soaked to the knees but there is just no other way to explore when the snow is melting rapidly providing an immense flow to the lower pools. Sometimes you get just one chance to ‘do it’ and that is now. 

Plitvice Lakes Croatia Travel

Fortunately, there is a small café’ at the departure point for our boat journey back to our starting point. A nice hot – well lukewarm coffee accompanied by a delicious pastry is very welcome. Fortunately, the Hotel Jezero has a lovely café’ in their foyer where we can indulge in a glass of red wine to finish off the excursion. The Spa, located on the lower level of the hotel, is calling me for a much-needed massage. 

The restaurant is simple but well priced with the selection of food more than adequate. All in all a nice end to yet another adventure in our Croatian Odyssey. 


Getting there: Driving - Plitvice is halfway between Zagreb the capital and Zadar, distance 286 kilometres. Qatar Airlines fly from Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Brisbane to Zagreb. Emirates fly from all major cities via Dubai. 

Staying there: The Hotel Jezero has good parking on the grounds, a tennis court, pool and spa all onsite. There are 227 rooms 7 suites, 7 semi-suites, and 5 handicapped rooms available. Facilities also include a nightclub, children’s playroom, café, and onsite souvenir shop. Adjoining rooms can also be booked for larger groups. Prices vary according to the season but are very reasonable for a 2-night stay. The Bellevue Hotel is an upmarket hotel within one kilometre of the park. 

Get in touch for assistance if you're planning on visiting this Croatian wonder.

Deanne Scanlan on tour, Plitvice Lakes CroatiaDeanne Scanlan Plitvice Lakes, Jezero Hotel, Croatia

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