On a Europe trip, singer and music composer Raghu Dixit finds an unexpected song of paradise at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. He takes us on a stroll through the verdant wonderland.
I’ve never been engulfed in so much natural beauty in one single place as I was at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Located in central Croatia, this protected area spreads over nearly 300 square kilometres and is dotted with several lakes and waterfalls and populated with diverse flora and fauna. When I visited the national park, it was difficult for me to believe that the whole place was a natural phenomenon and not crafted by man. I read later that its making took 12,000 to 15,000 years of three rivers’ water flowing through the region rich in limestone and chalk. Their hydro-geological properties led to travertine barriers, which created lakes that perch on multiple decks. The water flowing down the hills from these lakes creates several small and big waterfalls across the national park. This is probably the most stunning sight I saw on my long Europe trip this year. It wouldn’t be over the top to describe this place as paradise on earth.
Once you enter Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, it’s easy to get a bus to Plitvice. If you happen to be travelling from the south, there are several connecting buses from Split. Though it is prudent to book a bus ticket in advance during peak season, one can always find a seat on the go, on one of these comfortable buses. It took me about two-and-a-half hours to reach the national park. The journey itself was uneventful, but it served glimpses of the vast forest reserves that Croatia boasts. My advice would be to take the earliest bus and head straight to the national park, or arrive late in the evening, spend the night in one of the several bed & breakfast accommodations, and be the first one to get into the park the next morning.
There are luxe hotels, both within the park and outside, but I booked an Airbnb, which was a 20-minute walk from entrance no. 2. There are two entrances to the park, and this one is almost always crowd- free while entrance no. 1 usually involves a long queue.
The National Park
The route through entrance no. 2 includes a beautiful walk through the woods. Although I had reached the national park by 7 am, I wasn’t the only early bird. I bought the entry ticket, and after a short walk down the stairs, reached the first lake, Kozjak, and was welcomed by a stunning sight. A boat then took me across to the main park, where I had to choose among 11 trails, labelled A to K. I chose the E trail, which was supposed to be of moderate difficulty and would take me to the ‘upper lakes’. However, I switched to the more tasking H trail once I reached the upper lakes, to explore a bit more, and ended up gasping for breath.
The huffing and puffing aside, the national park took me completely by surprise with its beauty. I was not prepared to witness what I saw on the trails. The ample greenery brought a sense of calm, and the music of the water gushing underneath my feet was blissful. I was grateful to have come early, because the crowd was still thin and
I could be one with nature. The smaller waterfalls were beautiful, but as I climbed,
the lakes and cascades became bigger and even more stunning. At one point, I sat
at the feet of an enormous waterfall and meditated for a good 20 minutes without
any interruptions. This was probably the calmest I have felt in all my life. On a certain bank of an upper lake, I sat and marvelled at the crystal-clear water, where numerous fish, big and small, of different hues, flitted by, with underwater flora and algae lending the water intriguing hues. I hugged the trees and spoke to them in whispers. The whole experience reminded me of botany classes in college. When it was time to return, I trudged down slowly, taking in every sight, sound, and aroma, wishing the walk would never end.