Lakes, Waterfalls, and War


On frosted planks of chestnut we carefully stepped so as not to slip and tumble into the chilly blue/green water on either side. When available, we tread on dried crinkly leaves for better grip. Most of our walking minutes were spent with our heads down, paying attention to our footing, but stopping often to admire the incredible scenery before us.

Plitvice Lakes

Ivica chatted almost the entire time. He filled us in on the important aspects of Plitvice National Park, his nearby home, and the decorated and tragic history of the area.

“To know the park, you must know the war,” he said. Declared a national park in 1949, the whole surrounding area suffered blows from the Yugoslav Wars of the early 1990s. Ivica himself moved west with his family, taking jobs on cruise ships in Italy for five years to earn money. When the war ended, he returned to the area in 1995 to help with rebuilding. The park, less than two hours from the capital Zagreb, opened again a year after cleanup was done and paths were able to be reopened.

Plitvice Park Above

Some of the falls, as seen from above.

Now it is the most important national park in the country and can bring in more than 10,000 visitors a day during the busy summer months. We felt lucky to be here on a sunny November day, having much of the park to ourselves (in winter, the number of tourists is as little as 300 a day).

Throughout the park there are a multitude of waterfalls and lakes, the number varying yearly depending on the level of water. We saw ponds of crisp, pristine aquamarine, and sone entirely dried up holes. In the full ones, fish were plentiful unlike anything we had seen before. In some spots, chum lined up by the hundreds, thousands, crowded together in the shallow, warm waters, so thick they looked like weeds.

Plitvice Park Fish

Brown bears live in the park as well, although their numbers are down. Scared off by bombs and mines during the war they followed many human refugees and migrated west. Some bears were found as far as Trentino, Italy.

Images of war understandably focus on the human suffering – not often do we hear of ravaged landscapes or displaced bears. Thankfully the damage to the Park wasn’t devastating, and thus soon brought some prosperity to an area that needed rebuilding.

As well as to give us, and almost one million other visitors a year, this:


Known simply as the “Large Waterfall”, the biggest one in the park stands at 78m high. Small cascades on the edge were just starting to show signs of winter freezing.





Many thanks to Ivica and the Croatian National Tourist Board for the complimentary tour.


41 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Plitvice is one area I definitely want to visit! The colors of the water seem so amazing. Thanks for sharing your pictures and adventure with us.
    Debbie – European Travelista recently posted..My Travel ABC’s

  • Mom
    December 2 2011

    Wow !!! That last photo took my breath away.

  • December 3 2011

    Great photos guys!! I love the flowing water ones and the first one. Very abstract. Love it!


    • December 3 2011

      Thanks Jeff! Luckily there were very few tourists around so that we could get away with the slowing the shutter for the flowing water ones. πŸ™‚

      • December 6 2011

        I have a trick for getting rid of tourists πŸ™‚ It’s called a neutral density filter. A 10-stop filter will reduce the light by 10 stops so even in bright daylight you’ll need to take an exposure of 30 seconds or longer. Since the exposure time is so long the people walking in the photos rarely even register.

        In my Glacier Melt photo this was a 30 second exposure. People were walking in and out of the picture:

        Here’s the filter I have:

        πŸ™‚ Keep shooting! I love ’em!

        • December 6 2011

          Oh yeah! We have the filter and were using it, but we just had people walking up and down the wooden platforms, shaking them constantly! Finally, our guide offered to make them wait (I think the exposure was set for 25 secs!) πŸ™‚

  • December 3 2011

    I agree with your mom, that last photo has sooo much mood to it! And the one above it is pretty cool, too. Okay, alright, they’re all good. Clearly I need to book a flight to Croatia asap. πŸ™‚

    • December 3 2011

      Clearly you do! That park is a really amazing place, but I would warn against going in summer when it is apparently wall-to-wall people. We luckily had it almost to ourselves!

  • December 3 2011

    Every time I see a post on this place, I realize how much more I need to go there. These photos are exceptional, though.
    Phil recently posted..You Bring the Yam, I’ll Bring the Fire

    • December 3 2011

      Thanks Phil! A visit is highly recommended, a lot of beauty and a lot of history.

  • December 3 2011

    That looks like a beautiful place I love national parks I had no idea that there were bears there though.
    James Cook recently posted..Guinness and Jameson – The Flavours of Dublin

    • December 3 2011

      Just brown bears in the park, and fewer than before, unfortunately! Probably why the fish are so overpopulated!

  • December 3 2011

    this looks like paradise. I must go here immediately.
    Jade recently posted..The Perfect Christmas in NYC

  • Emily in Chile
    December 3 2011

    I loved Croatia but only saw the coast. Photos like these make it clear that I need to go back and explore more of the interior!

    • December 3 2011

      Ah yes, the coast is beautiful, but there is so much more! Zagreb is also particularly awesome!

  • December 4 2011

    these photos are absolutely breathtaking. well done!
    Maria D. recently posted..Tips for keeping it cheap in a small town

  • December 4 2011

    More wonder of Croatia. you guys are persuading me with your enticing descriptions and photos that I must go there.
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Running Away to Home (Croatia)

    • December 4 2011

      Good, then we’ve done our job! (Wait a minute….we just need Croatia to pay us for our work now…haha)

  • December 4 2011

    WOW! So very beautiful. I want to go there right now!

    • December 4 2011

      Do it! Right now! πŸ™‚

  • Beautiful!
    Jade Johnston – recently posted..Guinness and Jameson – The Flavours of Dublin

  • December 4 2011

    Totally loving your Croatia posts and pictures. Each one makes me want to visit there more. Without your posts I probably would never have put it on my list of places to visit.

    • December 4 2011

      Just wait until tomorrow (it’s our favorite post coming up) – a wrap-up of our favorite pictures!

  • December 4 2011

    Gorgeous! Love the waterfalls and the colours. Just shows there’s so much to Croatia beyond just the coastline.
    Natasha @ Wandering Kiwi recently posted..Love in a cold climate: Europe in Winter

    • December 5 2011

      There is SO much more than just the coastline, but many people forget that! πŸ™‚

  • Leah
    December 6 2011

    Love your photography work!

  • December 9 2011

    Wow — I had no idea something this cool existed in Croatia. I really do need to get there one day.
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel from Point A to Point Z

  • December 29 2011

    Amazing scenery. I didn’t know such beauty existed in Croatia. In the past there has been so much war. I guess it must be safe to travel through the country now. and so much to see. Interesting post and wonderful pics.
    travelyn recently posted..Romantic Road | Frankfurt | Attractions Germany

    • December 29 2011

      The Balkan area is now said to be one of the safest in Europe. A trip to Croatia is definitely worth it – it is an amazingly beautiful country!

    • December 30 2011

      The Balkans are now said to be one of the safest parts of Europe! They have some extraordinary scenery – we can’t wait to return some day!

  • January 4 2012

    This is definitely one of my MUST sees for this year!
    Cole @ Four Jandals recently posted..Hatshepsut Temple – Weekly Hump Day Photo

    • January 5 2012

      I’m glad!! It is so beautiful. Try to go in the shoulder season if you can, we were lucky to be without many tourists, in summers it can be unbearable (so we’ve heard).

  • January 10 2012

    Great waterfall shots. I’m also a big fan of your reflection photos too. Nice work.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..GLOBAL CUISINE: Simple Crock Pot Carnitas (Mexico)

  • January 10 2012

    Like most I have seem primarily the coast in Croatia. I did spend two days in Zagreb and really wish I knew these lakes where there. I would have so done a day trip instead of sit in the cafes drinking beer (though that was nice at the time). I remember seeing some neat waterfalls in the river next to the train though.
    Andrew recently posted..Seattle Pike’s Market Other Than Fish

    • January 12 2012

      The trip to Plitvice is definitely worth it, although beers in a cafe in Zagreb is also a nice alternative! We really enjoyed that city.

  • February 24 2012

    This park is just mesmerizing. Plitvice makes me realize how beautiful and wonderful nature is and I’m glad they’ve rebuilt this place after the war. The waterfalls are my personal favorite. Thank you fro sharing, this is truly amazing.

  • January 31 2013

    Slovenia is SO beautiful, I can’t wait to go back there and explore more!

    • January 31 2013

      Haha oopps I meant to write Croatia πŸ˜›

  • Angelica @BkChickTravels
    May 9 2015

    Looking up and lusting over Croatia…so much to see there!

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