Hiking at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

One of my favorite days of our whole trip was the one we spent hiking at Plitvice National Park! On our last full day in Croatia, we rented a car to drive from Split, a city on the coast, back to Zagreb the capital city, stopping on our way at Plitvice. Total drive time was about 5 and a half hours, 3 hours from Split to Plitvice and then another 2 and half hours to Zagreb.

We left our hotel right after breakfast so we’d arrive at the park around noon and have the whole afternoon to hike! Plitvice is divided into the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes; we parked at Entrance 2 to the park at the base of the Upper Lakes. Then we took the bus up to the top of the Upper Lakes and began our hike down – you can hike it the other way around, but we opted for a downhill hike!

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The lakes (there are 16 total!) are naturally formed in the mountains with waterfalls from one lake into the next. The trail wound us across the first lake, then through the woods beside it until we came to the top of a waterfall. Then it continued on down to the next lake. It was so neat because we’d be at the top of a waterfall, right next to it, and then the trail would wrap around and down until we walked across the next lake and could turn around to see that same waterfall from below!

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The trail continued the same way – across one lake to the trail alongside it and down to the next lake, continuing pass right next to the waterfalls! The park was incredible – the water was a beautiful turquoise color and so clear! And there were waterfalls everywhere you turned, even little ones in the woods along the lakes.

The trail across the lakes was made of wooden walkways, sitting right on top of the water – there were even a few places were the water was higher than the trail so narrow boards were laid on top for us to walk across.

When we got to the base of the Upper Lakes, we hopped on the ferry that took us across one of the bigger lakes to the section of the park where the lower lakes begin.

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After taking a quick break to eat a snack and refill our water bottles, we kept going on our hike. Because it was early in the season (we were there at the beginning of April), not all of the trails along the lower lakes were open so we hiked along the higher trails. Even though we weren’t right on the water, these were awesome too because we were able to see the lakes and waterfalls from above!

We continued hiking before getting to the finale, the big falls!

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Then we hiked the short way back to the Entrance 1, where we caught the bus back to Entrance 2 where we had parked. Hungry from our hike, we grabbed a late lunch quickly before getting on the road again.

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After our hike, we have a few tips to keep in mind for any future visits:

  • Make sure to eat beforehand! Our hike took about 4 hours total, and once we got started there wasn’t anywhere to stop and grab something until after we took the ferry across to the lower lakes. Luckily we had packed some granola bars to snack on and plenty of water!
  • Bathrooms! After a 3-hour drive, we were all ready to use the bathroom when we arrived, so we went to the first ones we saw right at the parking lot…and found they were stalls with just holes in the ground that you have to squat over! But we realized later, if we had just waited, about a 10 minute walk away, near the bus stop, there were bathrooms with regular toilets.
  • Keep your camera on a wrist strap – the trail goes right on the lake and in most places there’s not a railing, so it wouldn’t be hard to accidentally drop your phone or camera as you’re trying to snap photos!

Our day at Plitvice Lakes National Park was amazing – it is definitely up there on my list of most incredible places I’ve ever been! If you’re visiting Croatia, I would highly recommend a day trip to this beautiful park!

A Day in Split, Croatia

From Zagreb, we headed out to the beautiful coast of Croatia! We flew into the Split airport, but opted to stay in the charming town of Trogir rather than in the city of Split. We only had one full day on the coast so we took the bus into Split and spent most of the day there!

The bus dropped us off right along one side of Diocletian’s Palace, which makes up a good part of Split’s old town at the center of the city. While it is called a palace, it’s actually more like a fortress with pedestrian streets and buildings within its walls. It was built in the 4th century AD for Diocletian, a Roman emperor who wanted to retire to Split.

Having had such a good experience on our walking tour of Zagreb, our first order of business was finding a walking tour of the palace. We did an hour and a half tour with the blue umbrella tour group, and our tour guide was very enthusiastic and passionate about the city and its history. As we walked around the palace, we learned about all the different influences making up what we see today – from the Romans who first built it to the Christians who were there centuries later, both made their mark on the palace.

The walking tour ended near the center of the palace in front of the Cathedral of St. Domnius. We went inside to get a look at the smallest cathedral in Europe and then started climbing the bell tower. Now I’m not usually afraid of heights, but this climb had me shaking by the time I made it to the top! It began with large stone steps that were so steep at some points, I was using my hands and feet; then about a third of the way up, they turned into metal stairs with only a little railing between you and the open windows of the tower! Plus there’s only one way up so we had to share to steps with people on their way back down – I was glad it wasn’t the busy season! But after all that, the climb was worth it – the view of the city was incredible!

After the just-as-scary climb back down the bell tower, we walked along the water for about 20 minutes to the marina, where turning around, we had a great view of the old town across the water! We got dinner at a restaurant right next to the marina and then wandered up to a park just behind the marina.

Then we walked back into town to find the bus station and headed back to Trogir for the night! More on Trogir coming soon!

Sneak Peek of Kim’s Eurotrip: Croatia & Vienna

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my two weeks in Europe! We’ve already finished our time in Croatia and Vienna and are on our way to Budapest! I’ve been posting to our Instagram (@schmahlworld) and I’ll be sharing more details in future blog posts when I get home but thought I’d share some sneak peek pictures on the blog:

First, Croatia!

St. Marc’s Church in the old town in Zagreb, Croatia
Statue in Jelacic Square in the city center of Zagreb
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Wandering around the charming island of Trogir, Croatia
Morning view from the rooftop of our hotel in Trogir, Croatia
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View from the bell tower in Split, Croatia
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Hiking at Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park, Croatia

And then on to Vienna!

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
Woman feeding the pigeons outside of the Vienna State Opera
Tour of the Vienna State Opera
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Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

And that’s it for now, more to come on our time in Croatia and Vienna, but for now, I’m on to the next legs of my trip!

 

Kim’s Upcoming Adventure: Croatia, Budapest, Vienna & Venice

I am just about a week away from leaving for my next travel adventure and I could not be more excited! I will be traveling in Europe for two weeks with 3 of my best friends/roommates from college (at Ohio State – go bucks!). All 4 of us have traveled in Europe before so planning an itinerary of places that none of us have already been to was a fun challenge! Here’s what we have planned:

  • We’ll begin our trip with 3 days in Croatia – splitting our time between the capital city of Zagreb and Split, a coastal city (we are actually staying in Trogir, just outside of Split)
  • Next we’ll head to in Vienna, Austria for 3 days
  • Then we’ll spend 3 days in Budapest, Hungary
  • And finally we’ll spend our last 3 days in Venice, Italy before heading home

We’ve spent the last few months planning (via Skype since we’re living in different cities!) and have nailed down the logistics of the trip like lodging, transportation, etc. So now we are just down to the fun part – what we are going to see and do in each place!

That’s where you come in – like I said, none of us have traveled to these cities so we’d love any recommendations! Have you been to any of these places before? What are the must-sees and must-dos? Knowing that we only have a few days in each city, what are the things that we absolutely  should not miss? Is there anything that you wouldn’t recommend, anything that didn’t live up to its hype? We would love to hear any and all advice!