Our last stop on our Croatian journey was to Plitvice Lakes National Park. For this last leg of the journey, we left Dubrovnik and headed straight back up the Dalmatian coast until Zadar at which point we heading inland to the Park. The whole journey took the bulk of the day to complete. As the organizer of this trip, I'm pretty sure our team members were questioning whether our one day at the park was going to be worth all the time in the car. I can confidently say, "it was!"
When booking accommodations online, for a group, on somewhat of a budget, you never know what you are really going to get. For Plitvice Lakes, we were more than happy with our selection of apartment/hotel. It was located in the greenest of settings, a short drive from the entrance to the park. With one step out of the car, the kids were instantly transformed from cranksters to happy, rambunctious kids, noisily running around kicking a deflated soccer ball. I only recommend places we have stayed if they really checked all the boxes for our family- ease of check in, decent sleeping arrangement (for a family of 5 this is not easy), good price, nice people, great setting, and good food. This totally checked all the boxes. So here you go, if heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park, I recommend you drop House Tina a line.
After the kids burned off a day of built up energy it was time to eat. There wasn't much in the close vicinity in ways of restaurants so we opted to have a BBQ dinner prepared by our hosts at House Tina. What a smart decision that was! It was so good that we did it again the next night. The owner's son prepared a huge BBQ dinner with yummy salads all presented al fresco. To top it all off we had a sweeping view of the lush countryside. The kids ate, ran around, and then returned to eat some more, while the parents and grandparents relaxed with good wine, good food, and a great view. A perfect summer night family dinner.
We were warned that tour bus upon tour bus shows up to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park so the early you can arrive the better. Dreading the thought of hoards of people, we made sure we were first in line at the entrance the next morning. Being from Canada, Niagra Falls is what comes to mind when you speak about waterfalls. This needed to be erased from our minds as the waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes were nothing like this. Instead of one massive forceful waterfall, you will find dozens upon dozens of beautiful flowing falls. some big, some small, some with force, and some just trickling. Lush green trees gave shelter from the sun and helped keep the air cool. At times the path was shown by carefully groomed boardwalks while at other times the path was just mother nature's dirt floor. There were trees to climb, water to cross, fish to watch and waterfall after waterfall to gaze at. It was spectacular.
At one point along the trail, you will reach the lake. Here you can take a few minutes to relax while you are chauffeured across in an open ferry. The water is so clear throughout the park that it almost didn't seem real. While in the ferry, really take a moment to take in just how clean this water is. Incredible.
The bulk of our day was taken up walking the park and at the end, we still wished we could do more. I'm happy to report that we did beat the crowds for the most part- victory! Be warned, we heard over and over again that waiting until later in the morning to arrive is a disaster. you are pretty much guaranteed to be walking shoulder to shoulder with your fellow tourist (at least in the summer months.) So make the most of it and arrive as soon as it opens (even 10 minutes before :-) And bring plenty of water and snacks as there is no opportunity to buy them on the trails.
We wrapped our day up at the park around 3pm and decided to try and squeeze one more activity in before heading back to our apartment for the evening. The night before we had stopped at the tourist info and they had recommended that Barac Caves could be worth a stop. So we piled into our cars and headed to the caves. The guided tour of the caves took about an hour from start to finish so you don't have to commit too much time here. The cave formations were really interesting and it felt so nice to be out of the heat of the day. Be warned though, once again there are places in the caves where people with a fear of heights might not have much fun. The highlight came as we were exiting the cave and looked up to see a few upside down bats. What kid wouldn't get a thrill from that? All in all, the caves were a good pitstop but definitely not something you will be devastated by if you don't have time for a visit.
The next morning we were up early and headed back to Venice to catch our flights for each of our home destinations. The Croatia we saw was beyond our expectations. If you asked me if it should be on your European dream list I would answer without hesitation "ABSOLUTELY." When I asked the kids what they thought of the trip, they responded with a loud "we loved it!" So there you have it, a trip for everyone. Next time we return we will be heading to the famous Croatian Islands. Until then, I continue to dream of adventures.
Our route through Croatia.