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Lake-lustre Croatia

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Catriona Rowntree has been to Croatia a couple of times. She's visited Hvar, Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb and loved it all, but her Croatian friends back home told her she was missing something. They said she hadn't really been to Croatia if she hadn't seen Plitvice Lakes. It didn't take long for her to realise they were quite right.

The 300 square kilometre Plitvice Lakes National Park, around two hours from Zagreb, is the green heart of Croatia,. Catriona was shown around by guide Katika Peljak, Croatia's first female ranger.

It's hard to imagine that 15 years ago the beautiful area was a war zone. Now it is the country's prime tourism destination.

The highlight is an 8km string of 16 turquoise lakes linked by a series of waterfalls and cascades. Water enters the park from nearby mountains, and lakes are separated by natural dams of travertine deposited by moss, algae and bacteria. Woodlands are populated by deer, bears, wolves, rabbits, badgers, boars and rare birds.

It's divided into upper and lower lakes. Upper lakes are surrounded by thick forests and are connected by lots of waterfalls. Lower lakes are smaller, shallower and vegetation isn't quite as lush.

Wooden footbridges follow the lakes and streams with water every imaginable shade of azure, green, grey and blue, depending upon the minerals, organisms and angle of sunlight. Dolomite and limestone provide the distinctive colours.

Each lake and waterfall has its own story. Catriona liked Milka Ternina, named after Croatia's greatest opera singer. She gave money from concerts to preserve the park, upgrade tracks and build pathways.

There are 10km of walking trails, but if you want to take it easy, boats and buses will get you around.

There's no "best time" to visit Plitvice. Every season has its own special something to offer. In spring waterfalls are flush with water; summer brings bright greenery to the hills; leaves turn miraculous colours in autumn and there are fewer visitors; there's plenty of snow in winter, and even the waterfall freeze, but it's still beautiful.

As it's the water source for the local area — said to be the purest in the world — swimming is not permitted, but you are more than welcome to drink it. You don't have to wander far off the path for a sip as Catriona did, and she said she felt as though she was in a mountain spring water commercial.

It's not exactly like climbing Mt Everest. There are plenty of toilets, picnic tables, a restaurant and gift shop. If you don't feel like walking any further, there's a shuttle bus called Panoramic Train running every 20 minutes or so between four stations.

Related: Catriona's Croatian overview


Halfway between Zagreb and Zadar in Croatia.


Plitvice Lakes National Park is open every day year-around, usually between 8am and 7pm. Entrance fees between November and April are around $10, $16 in May, June, September and October and $20 in July and August. A boat ride is included. Fees are used for the park's upkeep and protection.

Emirates has flights to Rome.

Fares from:

  • Perth $2051
  • Melbourne and Adelaide $2253
  • Sydney $2272
  • Brisbane $2275

Sales, validity dates and conditions apply.

Connections to Zagreb in Croatia are available.

Prices correct at September 23, 2010.

For further information

Ph: 1300 303 777

Plitvice Lakes National Park Scientific Research Center
HR 53231 Plitvice Lakes
Ph: +385 53 751 015

Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. They must have a passport valid for the period of the stay.

Electricity: 230V at 50HZ and two-pin plugs.

Time zone: GMT +1.

Currency: The kuna.

International dialling code: +385.

It is recommended travellers to Croatia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit

User comments
To all the people with Serbian origin, please...READ, learn the facs tand sepparate fiction , look at the history books, and remember- Croatian people never, never attacked no one, they were only defending what is theirs,as I am apsolutley positive that anyone would do. Agressiors have done it before and throughout the history they were trying to take Croatian land.Ottoman empire, etc. It is bad enough that it was chopped and given away through history,when Tito was allive, majority to the Serbia, so they are HAPPY.Please, get your facts straight-Croatian people are not agressors. I feel sorry for all the innocent people that got killed, but Serbia has to learn that we can go as far back as the Middle Ages when the majority of the balkan region was occupied by Illyrians . You try to tell me that Croatia is yours and you got the wright to claim it as one!? You are wellcome as visitors, not as the agressors, everybody knows what you have done, even to Bosnia.Just ask Bosnian muslims.
its not about the serbs and the croats, but rather about the beauty of the country. the lakes were stunning regardless of who lived or fought there. such strong emotions and opinions from people who once lived there, but totally irrelevant to the program.
many of your beautiful views of the world is obscured by your so called stars of your show. We only need to hear them talk about the scens. it is a shame you find your stars more important than the view of what you want to show us or sell. I like the show but please, A little less of the obscured views. Sell the location,not the stars.
Krajina has never really been Serbian territory. It was part of the Austrian-Habsburg empire and when large number of Serbs migrated north, Ferdinand I offered them sanctuary and permanent settlement in exchange for protecting the borders from Turks. Claiming that because of this it's a Serbian territory is a bit silly. Serbs were a national majority through an emigration, but the land was never part of Serbia. I do agree however, that Croats under HDZ treated those Serbs apallingly. The only reason Krajina Serbs supported Milosevic was because Tudjman was a nationalist and threatened Serbs living in the area to take jobs and land from them. When Croatia will learn to respect others is when they will get my respect and not a minute earlier.
Thank you for the lovely commentry on Plitvice. The background and modern history was spot on. As for some of the uneducated comments noted above, if they (persons noted above) really understood what they were saying, the law does not prevent people who voluntarily fled these parts to return to their homes if proof of ownership exists. As for the history of this region, it has always had many nationalities claiming ownership. We can go as far back as the Middle Ages when the majority of the balkan region was occupied by Illyrians . You can imagine why it always been a prized area to own. Simply breathtaking. Thanks again for wonderful camera work!
Thank you to the Serbs on this forum for the history. Sadly though your version is completely inaccurate and follows the same mantra of a true occupier. To Ines and Raptor I suggest you that you pick up and read a history book not written by a nationalistic Serb. God Bless – you are all welcome to visit our beloved homeland JK
I watched the Getaway programme last night features this most beautiful region, and was awestruck by its magniicence. May all people be entitled to enjoy its serenity and find the motivation and reason to share in its beauty.
What is the name of the peaceful spot high up in the lakes? What a beautiful story about the Croatian opera singer's legacy in preserving the Lakes and the Austrian chocolatier's love for her - what an inspiration! I visited in 96 and it was spectacular - can't wait to visit Croatia's Plitvice lakes again, except in Autumn this time!
My father is from Plitvice and he is Serbian,He was very angry with the story that you ware telling last night, Why didn't you Catriona learned something about that region before you start talking *** and why didn't you go to take some picture of Serbian villages around Plitvice Lakes they are still empty and houses burned down.there is lots of Serbian's from that region here in Sydney since 1995 so lots of them are very unhappy with your story last night...
Hi, I was just wondering what the strings music was in the background was? thanks

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