The Beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Almost half a year ago, I had a privilege of visiting Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was my third visit to the park since 2010, and I’m already looking forward to visiting it again.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is world-renowned for its 16 lakes, countless waterfalls, including 78-meter-high Veliki Slap (The Great Waterfall), and in my eyes, most beautiful waterfall called Veliki Prštavci. The lakes are famous for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue, which changes constantly depending on the quantity of minerals and organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
The area of the national park is home to wide variety of animals such as the European brown bear, wolf, eagle, owl, lynx, wildcat, Western capercaillie, and European green lizard along with many more common species. Various fish specious such as the brown trout, common minnows and European chub can be seen swimming in clear water. The lake area is surrounded by dense forest and the great plant diversity creates a fascinating interplay of colors changing with seasons.
As I wanted to catch the peak of fall foliage, I planned my visit to the park for the last days of October. Flight form Copenhagen to Croatia’s capital Zagreb went as scheduled, but the timetables for bus departure from Zagreb to Plitvice proved to be inaccurate, and I had to wait seven hours in Zagreb before I could start last part of my journey. Bus trip took around two hours, and I entered Bellevue Hotel just before midnight. There are many cheaper opportunities for accommodation around Plitvice, but I chose the hotel near the entrance to the park as it was most practical. The hotel itself is outdated, but the location in immediate vicinity of the park is excellent.
My goal was to see and photograph three locations, Veliki Prštavci, Pevalek falls, and the Plitvice classic – The Great Waterfall and Sastavci Falls. I did get the pictures from all three locations but the result is not exactly, what I had in mind. Weather was the biggest obstacle. First day was dull and very windy. Strong wind gust made it impossible for those charming electrical boats to sail over the Kozjak Lake, which meant that I had to go long distances from location to location on foot.
My first stop was Veliki Prštavci waterfall. I have seen some fantastic photos of that beautiful waterfall, taken from higher ground, but I was not sure how to find the vantage point, as it was not marked on the map that I had. However, when I saw the waterfall, I immediately knew in which direction to look for a vintage point, and I quickly found it. The view towards the waterfall and surrounding lakes is breathtaking. What surprises me is that vantage point is poorly marked, and that very few people are aware of it.
Pevalek falls where my next stop. Pevalek is easy to find, just few hundred meters from Veliki Prštavci waterfall, but much more challenging to photograph, at least if you want to take a photo like the one I had in mind. I knew the location from my previous visits and I wanted to take a long exposure in order to smooth the water surface. Taking long exposures pictures is not a big deal when you have solid tripod, a neutral density filter like Lee Big Stopper as well as study ground under your feet. Well, the problem is that you do not have a study ground under your feet when you photograph on this spot. You are standing on charming, but narrow wooden path that moves up and down on every step. Of course, I can stay still for those 20 seconds that it takes to take a photo, but it is much more difficult to prevent other visitors from walking on the path while I’m taking a photo. And let me be clear, there are many visitors everywhere in the park. I had to wait for a long time until I was alone, and eventually, after several attempts I managed to get a picture that I wanted.
Last stop of the day was amazing postcard-like view of The Great Waterfall and Sastavci falls. For some reason, this classical view point is not that obvious either, and is probably missed by the most of the visitors, even though it is the pictures from this very viewpoint that you see on every guide to the park. After long day on my feet, I found my way up to the viewpoint that I for a while, had for myself. However, dull whether and strong wind gust made it hard to make interesting pictures.
I came back to the hotel, very exhausted after hours of walking, but still happy to have experienced this beautiful place once again.
Following day, I had few hours to walk around the park, before a had to leave. I took few more pictures, but I was mostly enjoying the surroundings, which was also part of my plan.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is inevitably a beautiful place with a lot to offer to a photographer. However, the park is also very crowded, and that can be challenging when main goal of the visit is photographing. My previous visits and good planning where a big advantage. I knew in which order I would visit the three locations to avoid the largest crowds, and I got few good images even through the weather was far from perfect.
The Croatia gallery have been updated with new pictures form Plitvice and can be seen from Landscape menu or simply by clicking on here.
The Great Waterfall and Sastavci Falls