Croatia is beautiful.  More beautiful than I had ever expected.  I think I have made that pretty clear in every blog that has been posted over the last week and a half.  Today I was lucky enough to explore even more of Croatia’s abundance of natural beauty at Plitvice (PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes National Park.

Ever since a friend posted a link about this park onto my facebook page, I knew I needed to go there.  Plitvice Lakes is made up of 16 gorgeous aquamarine colored lakes that are so crystal clear you can see the details on the fish and the bottom of the deep lakes.  I have never seen water so clear.

What makes this park even more special are the hundreds of waterfalls cascading into these lakes.  Rick Steve’s, my European travel idol, describes the park like this: “Imagine Niagara Falls diced and sprinkled over a heavily forested Grand Canyon. There’s nothing like like this lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, laced together by waterfalls and miles of pleasant plank walks. Countless cascades and water that’s both strangely clear and full of vibrant colors make this park a misty natural wonderland”.  Here is more of Rick Steve’s description of Plitvice Lakes National Park:  It is definitely worth a read.

Plitivice Lakes National Park was established in 1941 making it Croatia’s very first National Park. Interestingly, the first shots of Croatia’s war with Yugoslavia were fired in this park on Easter Sunday in 1991.  For 5 years, the Serbs occupied the park and the park had no tourists.  Today, there are no visible signs of the war and it is definitely a natural wonder of the world.

Michal and I took a 2-hour bus ride to reach this heavenly place.  When we arrived, the air was cool which was a welcome respite from the intense heat and humidity by the coast.  There were several hikes we could have taken, but we opted for a loop estimated to take 4-6 hours.  We only had 4.5 hours until our bus left, so we rushed through.

It only took us 3.5 hours of non-stop uphill walking to finish the loop.  I was immediately disappointed that we had rushed through this.  Some of the waterfalls we stumbled upon literally made me catch my breath. I could have spent more time admiring nature’s art work. I do not remember ever seeing something so visually stunning that I felt my breath catch in my lungs.  I cannot comprehend how so much natural beauty exists in this world.  I tried to memorize the colors of the water and the way the waterfalls cascaded over the mountainsides.

Throughout the day, I paused several times to simply remind myself that I was standing in a national park in Croatia.  That this beauty is real; that I am witnessing this beauty with my own eyes.  That this is my life.  For all of this, I am eternally grateful.

When Michal and I arrived back in Zadar this evening, our legs ached and our feet are blistered.  However, these minor discomforts pale in comparison to how incredibly fortunate we were to spend the day in such a beautiful paradise.  I have often wondered what heaven looks like.  In my mind, I am pretty sure heaven looks like Plitvice Lakes.  I hope to come back here again someday.  Next time with my mom.