Plitvice Lakes National Park, a comfortable drive from Zagreb, is a happily under-discovered wonder of the world. We found it thronged at its entrance, but progressively thinned out as we explored.

The Park is a network of paths, stairways and rustic boardwalks built around a string of terraced lakes that spill over, one into another, through a cascade of waterfalls and smaller natural spillways. The calcium-laden flows have laid down unique travertine deposits over the millennia. Ghostly, calcified tree branches spread out beneath the surface of the turquoise and azure lakes and ponds, whose water color changes with their contents and composition. But these are not like the  crystal-clear but lifeless acid-rain-fed lakes some of us have known in the American Northeast; they are teeming, surely stocked, with small trout.

We begin our circuit with the “lower” lakes, and continue after a short ferry trip and lunch at the open-air pavilions with the upper lakes, walking mostly on boardwalks placed near to, or often just inches over, the rushing water.

There are vantage points that induce the sensation that the ground beside you, above you, below you, and around you all has sprung serious, simultaneous leaks. Water spills through shrubs and tufts of grass along a narrow field between lakes, but the water’s source is hidden until you climb a bit further to see the surface of the next pond or lake. If this were your back yard, you’d call a plumber–if not the national guard!

Though we are still in the North of Croatia, the lush and varied vegetation here feels and looks tropical–or rather, it runs the gamut from tropical to humid sub-tropical. The constant mist created by the rushing and falling water keeps everything moist.

Photos carry the rest of the story…

(click on any photo to open the gallery)