At the beginning of August I spent an awesome week in Zadar with some friends, and there was one thing in particular that I was really looking forward to doing – visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park. This place has been on my bucket list for about four years, so when I got to Zadar I immediately booked onto a trip to the Park.
I’m usually not one for guided tours – I hate the school trip-esque thing where you’re expected to stay together and move at the group pace, often being forced to loiter in front of something you have no interest in or race past a spot you want to take a closer look at. However we chose a small tour of just 7 people, and we found that having a guide ensured we saw the whole park; there are two different sections to it and without our guide we could have missed so much!
After a short walk down into the park from Entrance 2, we got on a boat to take us to the first section of the park – the Upper Lakes. Here you’re on a level with the lakes, walking on a series of boardwalks constructed over the water to allow you to get as close as possible. The circuit takes about 2 and a half hours at a leisurely pace, but the time flew by.
Despite my proximity I found it impossible to tell how deep the water was – it always seems shallow due to its incredible clarity. Plitvice is known for the intense colour of the lakes – because the water’s so clear, the colours of the sky and the trees reflect perfectly. The colours can vary depending on the minerals in the water and the light conditions, but when I was there it was a beautiful bright blue-turquoise colour. Honestly, I felt like I saw new colours, colours I’d never seen before and never will again.
The boardwalk took us in a loop back to the boat port, where we boarded a second boat to the Lower Lakes. It’s a 25-minute trip, with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding woodland. The Lower Lakes were probably my favourite part of the day – instead of being surrounded by the lakes, they’re in a basin with visitors walking to viewpoints above them, and the colours were even more breathtaking from afar.
Our guide was a Zadar native and had been coming to Plitvice every year since she was small. Near the end of the day I asked her, tongue-in-cheek, if she ever stopped appreciating the views,and she said something that stuck with me. She told me that, even though she never tires of seeing the Lakes, she wishes she could see them again for the first time, and experience the same amazement as her tour groups do.
She struck upon the one tragedy of travelling – that, once you’ve visited a place or seen a sight, a small part of its magic is gone forever. You can return to your favourite places and enjoy them in different ways with different people during different stages of your life, but there’s a unique magic about the first encounter that can never be recaptured. So when you’re in that moment, take the time to pause, lower your camera and drink it all in, because it will never come around again.
Have you visited Plitvice Lakes? And do you think experiences are diluted by repetition? Let me know your thoughts!