Day 844 of Traveling the World, Retrospective: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. May 25, 2020.

It was raining…that steady, constant rain, but not too heavily. We drove in the rain from Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, for 82 miles to Plitvice Lakes, although it took 2.5 hours on the small, winding, country roads. The park is rural, close to the Bosnia-Herzegovina border, not near the fabulous Croatian coast. The date was October 10, 2015. Everyone knows the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, but Plitvice? Nah, never heard of it! It should be on everyone’s short list as a Place to See Before You Die. When people ask us about our favorite places on the planet, Plitvice is invariably mentioned.

We had a fabulous time in Zagreb’s Old Town, including an all-day food tour that we will never forget. We rented a car for seven days, planning to visit Plitvice Lakes, then on to a drive down the coast, including Split, some of the islands, and ending in Dubrovnik. The rental cost? Just $71 for seven days. As we waited in the Hertz office, there were two couples ahead of us trying to rent an SUV for two days. The agent tried to talk them into a car, due to the outrageous cost, but they insisted that they had too much luggage for a car. So they were going to pay $450 for a two-day rental. After they paid, and were waiting for their SUV, the agent asked for our name and reservation number. We told her, and when she found our reservation, her eyebrows went up, and she said, “How in the world did you get seven days for $71??” Needless to say, the two couples stared at us, chagrined, pained… dismayed. We said, no special connections… we just made the reservation eight months ago! There is (financial) power in planning ahead!

So, we arrive at the park and the rain is still constant. We debated whether or not we wanted to walk in the rain, as we had no umbrellas, just raincoats. We decided, well, we’re here, so let’s see what’s up. We found out that the lakes in the bottom area are connected by wooden boardwalks, but then you begin a gentle climb up the mountain to the upper lakes, with the entire trek taking about two hours, on average. At the top is a restaurant and souvenir shop, and buses are there to return you to the parking lot. We had no intention of walking in the rain for two hours, so we decided we would walk on the boardwalk a little ways and then return to the warm, dry car. Guess what?? More than two hours later, we found ourselves at the top of the mountain, heading toward the restaurant for coffee and lunch! Once we saw some of the natural features, we couldn’t resist this fabulous place, and the rain just didn’t matter in the whole scheme of things. You can see why.

From the air, 16 lakes can be seen in the park, all interconnected. It took 20 minutes of walking before seeing our first lake, by which time our hands were frozen and our shoes and socks were soaked. After the first 30 minutes, we didn’t even think about how cold we were. All of the benches along the way were wet, so we never sat down or rested. We just kept going, in the rain, and this magical park, with its waterfalls, autumn leaves, and lakes, gave us the energy to keep on going. We didn’t want to miss a thing!

The boardwalk wraps around the first lake, and you see what we called “waterfalls” by the dozens feeding the lake (also called cascades). You can’t imagine how breathtaking it is to come around the first bend and see the waterfalls emptying into the lake, as shown in the first photo. You sort of think, this is it! – but you keep walking, follow the boardwalk, and a minute later, at the next turn, you see essentially the same thing, but it is a different lake with different falls. Then there is a third, fourth, fifth…..amazing. Most of the boardwalk was at ground level, so it was completely flooded, with no choice but to walk through the puddles, getting our feet completely wet. After a while, we didn’t even think about how wet our feet were…we wanted to see the next, and the next, and the next. Some photos of the cascades are taken from above, as you can see, as we started to climb the mountain. You can find photos from sunny days online, which is what inspired us to come here, but these are our rainy day photos, and they are still beautiful.

The last two photos are of our lunch, a wonderful Croatian salad and some pasta…accompanied by hot coffee, of course. Wrapping our hands around the mugs was as comforting as the coffee itself! When we returned to our car, we changed out of our wet clothing into dry threads, right in the parking lot. Then we cranked up the heat and took off for the Riviera….the Croatian Riviera!