PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK:
Our first stop in Croatia was Plitvice Lakes National Park. We spent one full day in the park in October of 2015.
Plitvice Lakes National Park was the #1 place I wanted to go in Croatia. I had been dreaming of seeing it for years. I built up the experience in my head to the point where it was almost holy by the time I finally arrived.
When I look back on the day, the first thing I remember is the weather. It was raining the entire time we were there, but I didn't mind. It was a place that made me appreciate the beauty of rain - the light drizzle made the waterfalls roar, and a shallow layer of water flowed over the path and gave the appearance that you were walking on water.
The park is laid out in long, flat, trails weaving through the lakes and passing by the best falls. Just commit to walking every single trial. This will take you around 5 hours, but you will get a true appreciation of the entire park. Bring a packed lunch (or, if you are us, a cliff bar). Follow the provided map. Rest when you see a great view. Bring your camera.
We arrived to Plitvice by taking an early morning bus to Plitvice from Zagreb. Side note: the bus station in Zagreb has a really good pastry shop connected to it. We arrived around 10:00AM (park opens at 7:00AM), and stayed until closing (20:00). The park had a luggage room, which is where we stored our bags.
I got a student discount on my admission ticket into the park (always bring your student ID).
The reason for these beautiful falls is the phenomenon of "hydrography" - a word that was thrown around a lot. The falls never look the same day to day, or hour to hour. The water is constantly changing course. The falls collect into large ponds, or basins, which release water into another basin on the other side with another waterfall. The entire park is like a spread out stair case.
After we finished in the park, we took a bus to the tiny town of Korenica (about 30 mins away). We purchased the tickets for this bus ride on the bus (not in advance). These buses leave frequently from the park and are easy to catch on the fly.
We spent the night at Falling Lakes Hostel, which we booked online a few days previously. This hostel was very clean and had a nice social space and kitchen. They also didn't get mad at me for dying my hair in their bathroom, which is always appreciated.
You could easily visit the park two days in a row, but I felt satisfied with one day.