Friday, May 28, 2010

Destination of the Week

In 1949, Plitvice (PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes National Park became the first National Park in Croatia. This UNESCO World Heritage sight has been the backdrop to feature films, and during Croatia's war with Yugoslavia, the park was occupied by the Serbs. But, the memory of the war is fading and this natural wonderland is an extremely popular tourist destination for people of all ages and backgrounds. It can get quite crowded during peak months (April - October), and the ticket prices increase slightly, but it's well worth battling the hordes of tourists, and paying a little extra if you can't make it in the off season. One of the best back-to-nature experiences in all of Europe, this colossal water garden covers 300 square kilometers (115 square miles), while varying greatly in altitude as well, and has 16 terraced lakes that descend through Europe's most primeval forest; complete with bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species! These crystal-clear waters are strung together by rushing waterfalls, miles of pleasant plank walks, footpaths, and wooden bridges. This system of trails and boardwalks makes it possible to get up close to the park's natural beauty, and in some places, the paths lead right up to the middle of a waterfall. Countless cascades, strangely clear and colorful water, and unassuming caverns make this park an absolute must see. If you take the bus to the upper lakes and walk down, it is possible to see the entire park in one day. Or, if you prefer to take your time and treat the park as its own destination, you can camp out right on the premises! If you prefer to soak up some local culture, you can find a private room in one of the nearby villages (such as Slunj). Plitvice has its own beautiful lodges inside the park, but the bungalow campsites are sure to be more budget-friendly. There are also restaurants and snack shops, so you really don't have to leave the park for anything if you don't want to! Being just a two-hour drive south of the capital city of Zagreb also makes Plitvice easy to get to. Whether you go for a day or stay for a few, you are sure to remember Plitvice Lakes National Park forever!

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