The waterfalls of Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Parks
Posted on June 28, 2009 at 6:34pm Madrid / 12:34pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes
I honestly never knew natural water could be these colors: so blue, turquoise, and teal. And it is also so clear; I can see the duck’s feet swimming! Usually, I’d be happy to hike an hour just to see one waterfall, and here I see a new one around every corner. I start to think about the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, wondering, “What could beat this?” The Alps in Murren, Switzerland and Mount McKinley in Alaska are at the top of my list of beautiful sites I’ve seen, and the waterfalls at Krka and Plitvice National Parks in Croatia just joined them.
My mom and dad visited last month, May 18-26, and it was so much fun to get to share our new home in Croatia with them. Their time here flew by quicker than I could’ve imagined. The highlight of their visit for me was the weekend road trip we took together to Krka and Plitvice National Parks to see the breathtaking waterfalls. We rented a small Peugeot 206 (I bargained for the price, of course) and headed out early Saturday morning to Krka National Park, stopping first to get fresh bakery goods. About two hours and one detour later we arrived at Krka National Park (the less famous and smaller of the two parks we visited, though hardly less impressive).
We spent the morning visiting a traditional water mill and walking the main trail through the park. We’d weave throughout falling water and thick lush forest and stop at viewing areas overlooking the main staircase of waterfalls. The waterfalls are formed as the Krka river fights its way through a long gorge and plunges over numerous steep drops. We were happy to be able to enjoy the views in May before the big crowds arrive in July and August.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the weekend for me was swimming in the waterfalls (which you are allowed to do at Krka, but not Plitvice). There were very few people in the water and the second we stepped in we knew why: it was cold! The air felt nice and it was unseasonably hot, but the water had definitely not warmed up for the summer yet. I’m actually happy it was too cold because consequently most of the time it was just Jay and I in the water. There is something special about solitude that can make a moment feel more magical. Plus, when you start swimming against the current of a waterfall, your body temperature heats up real quick.
Swimming towards the waterfalls was exhilarating (not just because I was cold). They felt so massive in front of me. Their size and power was amazing. The water was refreshing: probably the best, cleanest, most natural water I have ever been in. I wish I could bathe in it everyday. My hair felt so nice and soft after it dried and I hadn’t even actually washed it in the lake. I opened my eyes under the water (though not for very long) and they never felt irritated. I was keeping a watch out for rocks because there were a number of large rock formations in the lake which you could stand or sit on. Jay and I swam out to the large rock closest to the waterfalls and enjoyed the view. As we left, we kicked off the rock and the waterfall’s strong current carried us most of the way back to shore. The shallow part of the water that had felt so cold when I stepped in felt like warm bath water as I got out.
After leaving Krka we drove to the village of Korona, just north of Plitvice, to find our bed and breakfast for the night. Thank goodness it was still light out because we don’t think we ever would’ve found it in the dark. We would’ve been stuck on the side of the road and calling the owners asking them to come find us. We drove through winding roads, up and down hills, on the sides of cliffs, over small wooden bridges, and finally found our place for the night.
The bed and breakfast was a four-bedroom house with sparse clean rooms. The best part was the river running right beside the house that flowed into a small waterfalls below the house that we could hear cascading as we fell asleep at night. The owners (a son in his 30s and his older father) were quite friendly. They gave us advise for the best paths to take in the park (“Path C, remember C for Cincinnati,” he told us.) and a good overlook we could drive to for seeing some of the grand waterfalls from above before dinner. Dinner was at one of the only local restaurants we saw, and the food was excellent, especially the smooth chocolate cake for dessert.
The night did end on a bit of a sour note though because we arrived back at our rooms to find the guy staying upstairs (who had his own in-suite bathroom) taking a crap in our bathroom – gross! It was so retched that I couldn’t enter for an hour. I guess those are the chances you take when you can’t lock your bathroom.
The next morning things looked better as we arrived early at Plitvice to see the stunning waterfalls and turquoise-gemmed water. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded, though there were a couple Asian tour groups also arriving at the same time. It always surprises us that we see many more Asian tourists in Croatia that we do Americans. Somehow they seemed to have discovered its beauty before us.
Plitvice has many similarities to Krka, but enough differences that we appreciated seeing them back-to-back. The waterfalls at Plitvice are more numerous and some are much taller. We hiked for three and a half hours and we were almost never out of a sight of a waterfall. Waterfalls aren’t like churches; I never get sick of seeing a lot of them in one day (no insult to God intended).
The water at Plitvice was even clearer than at Krka too. There were some trees that had fallen into the lakes and the water was so transparent you almost couldn’t tell which part of the tree was below the water and which part was above it; it looked seamless. It was tempting to try to reach out and touch the fish because there were so many of them so close to the paths. They looked like they would be so easy to catch, though that is doubtfully true.
Part of the hike included a boat ride across one of the longer lakes, and we enjoyed watching the fish and the ducks swim in the water. I was struck by the simplicity of the duck’s glide across the water as I realized I had never seen the feet of a duck under water before.
The day was warm (in the mid 80s), but we were kept cool by the shade from the trees and the cool breeze off the waterfalls as we hiked along the path. Whomever engineered the path system through Plitvice was quite genius. Much of the hiking was on wooden bridge-like paths built right on top of the lakes, which took you directly beside the waterfalls. We felt like we were participants surrounded by the beauty, and not far away bystanders.
All day we were surprised to see another waterfall at every turn, yet when we could tell our hike was coming to an end, I still wanted more. I had fallen into such a peaceful awestruck rhythm and I wasn’t ready to fall out of it. Mom seems to have such good intuition and eased our return to reality by having us pose in the woods as the three wise monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). It was quite silly, but lots of fun.