Considered one of the most pristine nature preserves in Europe, Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in central Croatia, and within a two hour drive of the Adriatic Coast. Sixteen lakes flow into one other, like tiny Niagara Falls spilling out of infinity pools. The water runs across limestone forming lakes, caves and waterfalls. Natural dams are created by layers of moss, algae, and bacteria that grow about half an inch a year. Wooden footpaths wind their way through the forests, making it possible to do full or half day hikes.
We walked down a long series of stone steps to water, took the short ferry ride across to the largest lake, and then hiked over the zigzag route of boardwalks and footbridges. All the way waterfalls raced down the sides of ravines and hissed when they reached a lower level. It is said that the lush forests we passed through are inhabited by bears, wolves and many species of rare birds. We visited the day after a storm, and the animals were quiet. However, rainbows popped up at odd angles when shards of light came down through the trees.
Our trip to the national park was a segment of an Overseas Adventure Travel trip to Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia. We spent half a day hiking around the lakes before going on to the seaside town of Opatija, where we stayed overnight. For those driving around the country, there are overnight accommodations nearby and a cafeteria with a Croatian style menu. Many visitors like to arrive when Plitvice Lakes opens so as to avoid crowds.