Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is one of the most magical places I've ever been to. It is a series of lakes with cascading waterfalls as they drop in altitude, not that you notice that at first. Luckily, we arrived at 4 in the afternoon and were instructed to do the top ones first, so we took a boat to those trails and enjoyed the most magical 5 km hike ever.
Previously, Cinque Terre in Italy was the most beautiful national park hikes I've ever been on (I grew up on the doorstep of Banff National Park in Canada, and I admit that must be in the top ranks for some folks too, though you'll rarely be able to be warm in shorts all day long there).
Plitvice has some serious fairy magic, though. Check out these leaves growing underwater. The top lakes particularly are intricate, full of magical, undisturbed aquatic life on a scale I've never seen in lakes before. Swimming and boating are forbidden, and so the plants have been allowed to flourish beyond our wildest dreams.
Fish frolic aplenty, too, and the undisturbed water is so clear that you can watch them, count them, marvel at the big ones and the little ones and the different kinds of fish and the fish who follow the ducks around. I took hundreds of pictures of the fish along the way and spent a lot of time watching them. Most of the hordes of tourists who marched through did not take much time to look around. It was the same thing we had noticed at Cinque Terre: people just march right on by without taking the time to be amazed. And after all the time it takes to travel there, you think they'd want to stop and marvel! Anyway, I sure did. It was lovely to take time to soak up the magic. I would go again.
Fish chasing duck. Duck was annoyed. :) Didn't stop the fish. Unfortunately, the duck was successful in begging bread from a stupid tourist. We could make a whole 'nother blog about the stupid behaviour of our fellow tourists but we tried to focus on the beauty instead. It was definitely better the first day, because after 4 p.m. we had the place largely to ourselves.
A view from the second dock back to the first dock. The boat trips are included in the price of admission.
The shuttle boat, which has just dropped us at station 2 and is off to station 3.
The beginning of the trail.
The waterfalls and the vegetation were giving the Bedwins a serious case of taking-too-many-photos-itis. We knew we had to do the 5 km in 2.5 hours so we would catch the last shuttle bus back to the parking (for 7:30).
It looks ideal for swimming, doesn't it? But you really mustn't. It's completely protected, and the ecosystem has responded to this kind treatment by flourishing.
I just loved seeing the vegetation through the water, and the fish. There are some little fish in this photo, but they're hard to see when they're in a still photo.