No words can fully describe the natural wonders at the Plitvice National Park and no photos will do justice to the breathtaking views of the lakes and waterfalls in the park.
One main reason for visiting Croatia is to fulfill our dream of visiting the Plitvice National Park which in our part of the world is known as the JiuZhaiGou of Croatia ( please see my previous posting: A Wonderworld of Water – JiuZhaiGou). Both Plitvice lakes and JiuZhaiGou are known for their many multi-level waterfalls, the pristine and the inviting blue - green waters, the karstic formation and the travertine dams.
Once we checked in to our hotel within the park, we wasted no time and immediately set out to explore the lower section of the lakes. We were awed by what we saw even when crossing the lake in the boat towards the park. The atmosphere was so serene and the water so pristine with schools of fishes swimming. For much of our walk, we strolled on timber board walks which brought us in close proximity with the many waterfalls.
While both Plitivice Lakes and JiuZhaiGou are UNESCO World Heritage sites, however, they do have different settings and appeals. In Plitvice, the highest lake is Prošćansko jezero with 636 m of altitude, and the lowest is Novakovića Brod with 503 m of altitude. Whereas, Jiuzhaigou which stretches over 72,000 hectares has elevation ranges from 2,000 m to 4,500 m. In terms of size, it is 2 to 3 times the size of the Plitivice Lakes and has an Alpine feel.
Both places seem to have their own legends. The Plitivice legend says that the good and merciful Black Queen came down from her beautiful castle on mountain Velebit , and created the Plitivice Lakes to save the poor and hardworking peasants from prolonged droughts. For JiuZhaiGou, legend has it that long long ago, a beautiful Goddess received a mirror gift from her lover. The goddess was so excited that she dropped the mirror, smashing it into 108 small pieces which now form the clear and reflective lakes. To me, both places seem to be legendary and come out of this world.
The 16 blue-green lakes are separated by natural dams of travertine, waterfalls connect the lakes, cascading from the upper ones to the ones below. The tallest waterfall is Veliki Slap at 70 meters (230 feet) tall. On our second day in the park, we also covered the upper section. We were fortunate to see colored foliage in front of the waterfalls at this time of the year.
We love the lush and extraordinary flora and fauna of Plitivice but also love the Alpine and snow capped mountain backdrop in JiuZhaiGou. One good thing with Plitvice is that the boardwalk bring you so close to the water and the waterfalls; so close that you feel you are part of the whole watery garden of Eden.
With every walk of several metres, the park transforms itself, throwing up a new picture which you couldn’t stop admiring and taking more pictures; the sheer drama of the sight is enough to last you a lifetime.
The cliffs and the glorious waterfalls in Plitvice and JiuZhai Valley are the results of tectonic movements and karst landform. Water running through the karst formation dissolves the rock and deposits calcium carbonate that build dams creating the lakes and waterfalls . With such beautiful views in front of us, who really cares about the geological and natural process behind their formation!
We walked several kilometers on board walks which encircle the lakes, and have a close look at some of the more spectacular waterfalls and interesting land formations. High up on the hills we took this classic photo of the Plitvice lakes showing a curvy board walk. For two days, we were surrounded by a world of water. . . . . .we were thankful for this Giver of Life.
Have been travelling for the past couple of weeks, covering Switzerland (Geneva), Hungary (Budapest, Szentendre), Croatia (Plitvice National Park, Split, Hvar Island and Dubrovnik) and France (Annecy).
This journey is different in that we also have my Father-in-Law (FIL) of age 80+ travelling with us. While the planning of the trip has tried to be as less strenuous as possible, the trip did require quite a bit of walking up and down. We intended to cover all 16 lakes of great beauty in Plitivice National Park (below) and the 2 km (730 steps) walk on top of the Dubrovnik Castle walls in Dubronik, not to mention the daily walking of several hours when we were not travelling by car, catamaran or Ro-Ro ferry.
It was a test of will and strength for my FIL, as before the journey, he has developed a reluctance of climbing up or down even one flight of staircase between two stories in a building. While in our assessment, he should have the physical strength to complete all the walks in the journey, nevertheless, we were worried that he may not be able to overcome the psychological hurdle of tackling those climbs.
The trip did not have a good start. While loitering in the quiet streets of Budapest my FIL was approached by two men in the street, one pretending to be a tourist with a map in his hand, trying to snatch his backpack. Only when I shouted out loudly from afar did the men hastily turn away.
With the help of two walking sticks, my FIL was able to climb up to the very top of one section of the Plitvice lakes and should have been able to complete the other section if not for the very heavy rain which came pouring down like cats and dogs. When we reached Dubrovnik (above), he was also able to complete the picturesque 2 km up and down walk on the high castle walls of the Dubrovnik Castle on a hot day. All in all, he has reconquered the fears of climbing and was proud of that!
One of the things I pondered after the trip was – what lifestyle and exercise should I adopt now so that I would also be able to travel with confidence and strength as I approach 80 ? While life expectancy is increasing, this does not necessarily imply that we will still be sufficiently mobile in our later stages of life.
We have experienced immense beauty in our trip. . . . . . the unforgettable blue sea of the Adriatic, the scenic beauty of the Plitvice Lakes, the festival and cosy town at Hvar, the magnificent Dubronik castle, the quaint little medieval town of Annecy (above) and finally the tranquility of Geneva. This post is a preview and I will write in more detail about each of the places in this journey.
We flew from Chengdu to Huanglong airport which is 11,311 ft above sea level. We were glad that we did not suffer any altitude sickness. The moment we stepped out of the airplane, we realized that we were in a different world. Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟) is a stunningly scenic region in the north of the Sichuan Province in China. The name ‘Jiuzhaigou’ literally means ‘Valley of Nine Villages’, and features nine ancient Tibetan villages where life carries on in pretty much the same way as it always has.
They say a picture says a thousand words, that cannot be truer than Jiuzhaigou. The stunning beauty of the valley makes it impossible to take a bad picture here.
Jiuzhaigou is a world of water. . . . . . water is the soul of the place, giving life to the mountain lakes and waterfalls.
Everywhere, we found ourselves surrounded by water of different colors, flowing at different speeds, in different directions, either gliding along as sheet flows, trickling in small streams, powerful as in waterfalls or placid in the azure lakes.
The area around Huanglong has a feel of Pumakule in Turkey, except that it is much bigger in extent and has an Alpine setting. The water is crystal clear and there is no restriction to walk on or bath in it. We were a little too early for the colored leaves of Autumn, which usually start to appear in the second week of October.
The water is so clear that you not only see the bottom of the lake but schools of a special fish ( with very small scales) and dead tree trunks which have fallen to the lake bed. Walking into Jiuzhaigou is just like walking into a 3D fairy-tale world of colors.
The colorful placid lakes are the main theme of Jiuzhaigou. The Mystical Colorful Pond and the Five-flower Sea are famous throughout China. The water there exhibits different colors like blue, green, yellow, red and so on. It is said that the color of the water depends on the depth of water, the changing color of mountains and the weather condition. When these factors change, so does the color of the water.
It is a world of birds and other animals, too. Golden monkeys, pandas and other rare fowls and strange animals are living here. Swans and mandarin ducks like this fascinating place……
In many of the lakes, the water is calm and the surface is just like a bright mirror reflecting the surrounding mountains.
We stood in awe on this board walk overlooking the blue azure lake, enjoying the heavenly sights of Jiuzhaigou to the fullest!