Plitvice Lakes National Park © Croatian Tourist Board
In places the lakes seem as still and reflective as a cathedral, elsewhere they run away fast frothing through steep gullies and shooting out from fissures in the rock.
Croatia’s best-known and most-visited natural attraction– and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 – is the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Covering a total of nearly 300km², the prize here is 16 lakes, falling from one to the next in a series of gushing waterfalls. The lakes are set in deep forests still populated by bears, wolves and wild boar, and are all the more unusual for being found in the middle of a typically dry karst region, where surface water is extremely rare.
The national park has been very carefully exploited, and although it can get busy the crowds are rarely intolerable. The routes are often carried along attractive wooden walkways avoiding erosion and allowing people to walk over, under, across and alongside the waterfalls, and around the lakes.
The combination of running water and altitude makes the park wonderfully refreshing almost all through the summer, although it can be cold and gloomy – not to mention frozen solid – in winter (but you’ll have the place largely to yourself, and the waterfalls turn into curtains of icicles). April and October are the best times to visit – the former with the water flow increased by melting snows, and the latter with the deciduous woods enriched with fabulous autumn colours.