I would not be lying one bit if I said Plitvice Lakes way exceeded my expectations.
Before going to lakes, I had already known it was a UNESCO Heritage Site and has one of the most beautiful and largest waterfalls in Europe. However, I expected it to be so crowded with tourists because of how well known it is.
BUT, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is literally one of the most calm, peaceful, and tranquil heritage sites, with the CLEAREST of waters and the best of nature.
My friend and I took about an hour long bus out to the lakes, there were 2 entrances and the one that we were at had so many groups of tourists, I was internally freaking out at how I wouldn't be able to enjoy the place and take pictures (#firstworldproblems much!)
Judging from this image, you can tell I was worrying too much.
After entering into the compound, we were able to roam free, and follow one of the 10-11 possible routes suggested on the map we got. My friend and I chose route C and began on our trail. The trail led us from the top with an aerial view of the waterfalls, and then down by the lakes. There were so many different kinds from tall waterfalls, to medium ones, and mini ones that form when the water rushes over uneven rocks.
The great thing about this trail is that it isn't made of mud and how i'd perceive regular nature walks to be like. The Plitvice Lakes had individual narrow wooden planks nailed together to form a pathway. At times, whilst we were walking over the water, it felt as though one of them planks could break any moment!
What I Wore
Shoes: My very trusty Converse
Even thought they weren't very stable and even, I think the wooden planks really add to the whole aesthetic of the National Park. Also, it allows visitors to go up close & near to the waterfalls or streams which is awesome! Of course, it wasn't all just wooden planks. Parts of the routes were through tall green trees with large exposed roots, and you just climb your way through. Definitely 'gotta wear some decent walking shoes when you're there.
As expected from the number of people that entered the National Park, certain parts of the trail got a little crowded - namely by a really good photo spot, a nice stream, or the big waterfalls. Still, the trail was generally quite acceptable in terms of tourist crowd of a Mid-Summer peak season.
I found it difficult take good photos mainly because there were usually people somewhere in the shot. However, thats not you say you don't get any secluded spots! My friend and I found quite a number where we could pose for pensive-absract-enjoying-the-moment travel pictures, and happily snapped away without having to face the shame/guilt for blocking others along the same route as us.
What I absolutely LOVED about the Plitvice Lakes National Park is how INSANELY CLEAR The waters of the lake were. We could see so many meters down, the fishes, and sometimes even the actual bed of the lake! It was incredible. Each individual lake got clearer and clearer, to the point we couldn't quite believe our eyes. It really shows how clean and how well maintained the whole park is.
As we only had 5 hours to spare at the park, we chose a moderate route which was estimated to take around 5 hours (factoring in time for lunch). That route led us the base of the largest waterfall in Park and I must say, it was SO TALL. I had to take several steps back just to see the top of it, and many more to get it fully in the camera frame!
At the end of our trail, we took a boat ride across one of the lakes instead of walking all the way back because we thought it would be quite a cool experience. Seeing the greenery and waterfalls from the lake was quite fun, and an extra plus for not having to walk haha!
Because we took the boat, we ended with some time to spare. So, we got ourselves some ice-cream and sat on the planks along the lakes and watch ducks swim by, couples row on boats (or failing at getting the boat in the right direction), and just having a nice chilled out end to the day appreciating the beauty of mother nature.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is absolutely stunning! I was looking at pictures of it in the fall, and the colourful leaves look so good! I wish I could go back and experience the park during the autumn months. Alas, thats a little impossible since I'm already back at uni :(
Nevertheless, I had so much fun at the waterfalls and lakes. When you get to places like these, you really appreciate the beauty of mother nature. Seeing how clean the parks were also somehow instills a sense of responsibility in people. If only we all take the effort to maintain and protect our environment, we'd have such beauty all around us!
10 September 2015 Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
In between long days of travel, and getting from one destination to another, there are always these periods of rest. Sometimes you get rest days; where you do nothing and have a chilled relaxed day in the same city, other times, you get rest destinations.
This is what Zagreb was for my friend and I. After jam packed exploring days in the hot sun, we decided to take it slow in Zagreb. Many people in the online travel community have lamented about how this capital of Croatia has not lived up to their expectations, but well, for the both of us, we enjoyed our relaxing, cool weathered, peaceful day in Zagreb.
Even though it was a rest day, it is very unlikely i'd do nothing in a day when I'm abroad, so my friend and I decided to flip through a list of potential museums our Airbnb Host left us. We weren't up for big museums, so we decided to give 2 smaller thematic museums a look. Of course, not before having lunch!
We had some affordable food at a small restaurant called Fotic, which has one of the cutest shop decoration.
The food wasn't anything too fancy, but it was delicious, and worth the money. I think Croatia generally has decently priced, and tasty food options!
And can we please take a moment for that cute purple bicycle outside the restaurant. YES. A purple bicycle against a white brick wall. It pleases me on so many levels!
After lunch, we headed on to our first special museum of the day.
THE MUSUEM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS
When we first saw it in the list of museums, we thought, oh how can people create a museum out of broken relationships? How does it even work? We were definitely interested in checking it out.
Plus, we had already been talking about the topic of relationships the past few days during our meals and downtime, it just felt quite apt.
When you first walk in to the display area (I'm calling it a display area because it does not look like a conventional museum) you get to read the whole reason behind the museum and where they got their display items from.
Basically, people from all over the world donate an item that symbolises a relationship, usually one that has ended, some ended good, some ended bad, and along with that item, a story or explanation about that broken relationship.
There were all sorts of stories, from long relationships to short flings, 3 months, 3 years, 10 years, the ones who left without saying goodbye, or the ones who got away. Some stories were so fairytale like it was so hard to believe, and there were others were so simple and realistic. Yet, all these stories seemed just as poignant.
The picture above signified a broken relationship between a father and their kids, and how these 2 figurines were supposed to be a reminder of the bond between them.
The dresses below belonged to the donor's mother, and she passed away, leaving behind these and the donor felt was time to let go, thus donating these items.
I like how the they categorised the display/museum into different segments, relationships between partners, and relationships between parents and child.
Even though most of the stories were very heart wrenching, I think stories about the brokenness of parent - child relationships really got to me. It was literally a whole different level of heart break compared to partner relationships. Of course, nobody really categorises heartbreak, because heartbreak is heartbreak, and it hurts no matter.
One part of the museum was a huge wall, and thick book where people can express their love, write a note or share their stories. Just looking at the wall alone, you can see the number of people who have broken relationships. There were writings in so many different languages, and it just hits you how everyone goes through heart break and how common the pain of relationships is. Sometimes we don't ever let go, and I think that's that hard and sad part about life.
Letting go may be hard because you let go of both the good and bad, and more often than not, because we don't want to let go of the good parts (no matter how few there were) we too hold on to the bad parts of a relationship.
After a rather emotional experience in the first museum, we decided to take walk around the city centre of Zagreb, and slowly make our way to our next museum.
Our next museum was actually really hard to locate. According to our maps, it was supposed to be just round the corner from our Airbnb apartment, but after walking for a few rounds we weren't able to find it. We had half a mind to give up, but as we sat in our apartment, we looked at the clock and thought, it doesn't close for another 30 minutes, why not we give it another shot.
Eventually we found ourselves on the 3rd floor of what appeared to be like a school for the visually handicap, and we got led via some back door to the
Basically, this museum displayed the life of someone who was visually impaired, how their day was like, and it also allowed us to see the various works of these people. Not only that, we were introduced to the whole concept of braille, and even got to attempt at punching braille.
Our first experience was walking in the dark room with a walking stick, trying to figure out what items are on the walls, and feeling our way around. When it was pitch black, the room felt as though it was so huge! But after we finished the trail and they turned on the lights, we realised it was actually just a small room.
Although I could feel and recognise the different materials, textures and shapes, I kept bumping into the wall the whole time, and just not knowing where I was going. It was to the point I had to walk with one hand ON the wall! This experience really allows you to be put into the shoes of someone who is visually impaired.
Other than having really good displays and information, the museum was also very interactive. There was this station where we could be blindfolded and then attempt to draw one another base on memory. Well.... as you can tell, it was pretty much a flop.
At another station, we were able to punch braille with this puncher, and after punching what I thought was a secret message, I realised, I wrote the words backwards. So much for a secret message. Guess no one will know what it says - not even me because I no longer remember!
It's just amazing to see the works of the visually impaired. Like how in the world do they create artwork so beautiful! It baffles me. I was going on and on about how even with all 5 senses I couldn't paint anything half as beautiful. Talent truly shines, regardless of one's physical incapacities.
This museum really just bumps up the respect I have for the visually impaired. So, so, so, much admiration for their tenacity and determination to live.
I have always hesitated/been reluctant when it comes to visiting small, thematic, museums, because, in the past my concept has been "If I'm paying for it, I need to make my money's worth!" But this experience in Zagreb, Croatia has really showed how small museums too have their own impact and sometimes, you learn way more than visiting the conventional huge art or science museums!
7 September 2015 Zagreb, Croatia
It was before 8am, all bright and early for a summer morning. My friend/summer travel buddy, Ji Inn, and I were sitting side by side on a bench, munching on bread we bought from a nearby stall as we awaited the departure of our dalmatian coast cruise.
It was too early for a long conversation, and too bright for our bare eyes. So we sat in partial silence, munching on our bread, heavy headed from the lack of sleep, listening to the crashing of the waves, watching people hop on to their boats, but still excitedly awaiting for our turn.
Finally, we boarded a mini speed boat with approximately 9 other people, and were on our way, bidding the shore farewell, zooming across the water, and the having strong wind blowing in our hairs and faces. It looked to be a pretty exciting day.
B L U E G R O T T O ( B I Š E V O )
After cruising for 20 minutes, we arrived at our first stop. We hopped off the speed boat, and on to a smaller boat that took us into the Blue Cave.
Because the entrance to the cave is insanely small, the speed boat that we were on originally couldn't sail through. In fact, we had to bend down in order for the mini boat to pass into the cave. The guys rowing the boat kept going "BEND DOWN! BEND DOWN!!!" When we were passing into and out of the cave.
The blue cave was probably one of the most interesting caves i've been to. The entire cave was dark, and the water was shining blue. Deep, saturated blue.
The entire time, I had no idea why the waters of the cave were blue. I thought it was some reflection of the sky, but there was no opening and the sky isn't even that blue, so instead of wondering too much, I just marvelled at the beauty and classified this magnificence as one of mother nature's unusual phenomenons.
I did, however, overhear another guide on the other boat explaining some stuff to the people on his boat. Sadly, the rower/guide of the boat I was on did not further explain or give us any information of the cave. We just rowed silence, well, apart from the rapid shutter sounds from everyone's camera.
V I S I S L A N D
We didn't get to spend much time in the blue cave because there were so many people queueing and only about 2 mini boats that rowed into the cave from the shore. After roughly 10-15 minutes in the blue cave, we all hopped back on to the speed boat and continued sailing the seas on to our next destination.
See the fisherman in the image above? Our skipper told us that he is one of the oldest fishermen around! He's been fishing for tens of years! What dedication, and just look how cool he is! So much respect for him rowing that boat all on his own, casting the net and fishing for a livelihood.
Vis Island was one of the stops that I didn't seem to really care for sadly. It is one of the oldest island / towns in the region, but apart from having a very unique older style of architecture, and SUPER SUPER clear waters, I didn't get a super vivid impression of it.
Guess it could be partly because we didn't exactly have THAT much time there. I do, however, remember how insanely clear and lovely the water was!
To be honest, an hour to explore Vis was a really awkward amount of time. I got bored after 20 minutes or so because I'd seen most of the things in that amount of time. 1 hour was more than enough for exploring around coast/beach area, but, barely adequate for the whole island. Even if we RUSHED through, we'd still not complete it. I'm pretty sure Vis had much more to offer, but when you're on a day cruise as such, you don't have half a day to explore a small old town. Guess that's one of the downsides of such cruises.
So, after a cone of ice cream and some walking around, we were once again back on the boat and heading for our next stop.
The Green Cave, unlike the blue cave, was a little bit of a disappointment. It wasn't as green as I thought it would be. In fact, it was just green at one spot and all the different speed boats were crowding in that small area it was so hard to take a decent photograph or to even appreciate the cave for what it was.
This part of the cruise was also a miss.
Stiniva Cove and bay area, although looks nice in pictures, was also little bit of a disappointment. Partially because we thought we'd get to spend more time in the bay as we were all geared up to hop into the waters for a swim, but weren't allowed to.
By this time, we were a little hungry, a little upset, and mostly just jealous because we had yet to enter the water and were seeing how other people from the other boats were jumping in with their floats. Our skipper told us how dangerous (and crowded) it was to be swimming in the cove and promised us we'd get our chance.
So we continued on sailing and, suddenly, he said, "yeah we'll anchor here and you all can hop in for a swim, or head up the beach if you want."
1. The beach was empty.
2. There was only 1 or 2 other boats around, and THAT WAS IT.
The water was ours. IT WAS ALL OURS.
The clear, clear, waters. It was incredible to be swimming and snorkelling (not much to see actually) with practically no tourist or other people in sight!
The water was sparkling and absolutely clear, it was quite unbelievable. Croatia indeed has one of the clearest waters ever! We could see sea urchins from where we stood on the boat! Thankfully, no one stepped on any! And as you could tell, we were all very excited to be able to swim in that clear blue water. The mood was high once again.
H V A R
After maybe 2 hours of swimming, everyone got a little hungry, and we eventually ended our day off at the lovely town of Hvar. I remember seeing instagram pictures my friends put up of the clear waters of Hvar and thinking to myself "Oh, how I wish I could fit that town into my itinerary when I'm in croatia!"
Turns out, I managed! It was totally unexpected that my friend and I would end up going on a day cruise that ended off at Hvar.
Hvar, although has gorgeous clear waters, had more to offer than just its beach. Besides after swimming in that clear gorgeous greenish blue waters in the middle of no where, we had sufficient playing and the water and didn't mind being on land.
Instead of hanging out at the beach, we took the advice of our Skipper, and headed up to explore the Hvar Fortress to get and amazing view of the whole town. We did pay to go into and explore the fortress. Although it was cheap, it wasn't worth it.
Do NOT pay to go in, just enjoy the view from around the fortress!
As you can tell, it was one jammed pack day.
I should commend myself for being able to squeeze the entire day into one post, and narrow down 200++ of pictures to just 30.
The cruise I went on took me from Split - Blue cave - Green Cave - Stiniva Coast - Hvar and back to Split at the end of the day. That costed about $90 per person, there about, and a small lunch was provided. We didn't have to pay any entrance fees on top of that.
I would definitely recommend going on a day cruise from Split. You don't have to take the one I took, because they tried to squeeze lots of stuff in one day. There are many other more relaxed (or intense) options, depending on what you like. All you have to do is just google or approach the individual umbrella stands along the harbour to find out more about what services they offer.
The dalmatian coast is indeed worth sailing and cruising across. However, bear in mind that like any other cruise, there are good and bad points, and there will be times where you'd be disappointed. Regardless, I had a great time, and given that I didn't have a lot of time in Croatia, this day-cruise was a good fit. I'd give this cruise trip a 7 out of 10. At least that's an A!
Pretty wordy post, but I hope you enjoyed/gained something from it anyway! x