Plitvice Lakes National Park is famed for its unsurpassable natural beauty. Sitting between Zagreb and Zadar, at the Bosnia Herzegovina border, it is the jewel of mountainous central Croatia, and it’s easy to see why it made the Unesco World Heritage register in 1979. Here are 15 reasons why you shouldn’t leave Croatia without visiting this spectacular feat of nature:
1. Glorious nature spots are casually scattered around Croatia. But Plitvice is the largest of the lot. It’s also the oldest nature park in Southeast Europe, and it continues to reign supreme.
2. Plitvice is essentially a collection of lakes. They are all clear as glass, and they are all stunning.
3. They’re so clear, in fact, that you can see schools of fish swim through the water in microscopic detail.
4. People tend to love them because of their impossibly vibrant array of colours, which constantly change: when the slant of the sunlight alters (and when other scientific things happen) azure turns to forest green which turns again to bluey-grey. From a birds-eye view, Plitvice looks something like a tilting tray of green-blue inkpots.
5.And each pool of crystalline colour is fringed with waterfalls. Hundreds of them – from kitchen-tap dribbles to near-Niagra cascades – gush at once, and walking around the park can make you feel as though you’ve stumbled into the ultimate Herbal Essences advert.
6.So it’s no wonder that around 1.2 million people visit Plitvice each year. Most stop by on their way across the country, or take a day trip from Zagreb.
7. You can walk around its 296.85 km2 on rickety wooden paths. It’s difficult to get lost on these oaky trails, but it's worryingly easy to fall in – the park has yet to be overrun with health and safety officials and there aren't any rails, so beware of leaning over just that little bit too far…
8.But if you do fall in, you can rest assured that you’re drowning in the purest water possible. They’re keen to keep the lakes pollution-free, so there’s no swimming allowed.
9. You might meet a friendly bear. Brown bears live in the national park and are known to take their picnics down to the lakes on a summer’s day. There are also wolves, lynxes and the lowly European pond turtle. The Alpine newt – everybody’s favourite mini lizard – can be found slithering around, enjoying the sunshine on the rocks.
10. Even the insects here are works of art. You’ll see dragon flies in luminescent blue flit past, and the what-the-hell-is-that-someone-get-it-off-me bugs that land on your arm will look like hand-crafted jewels.
11. And the fauna and flora is just as fascinating. There are thousands of plants and over a hundred species here, and much of the park is covered in dense forests of beech, spruce and fir trees. With a landscape this lush, the air is almost medicinally good: so, if breathing is your thing, Plitvice is the place to do it.
12.It’s an Instagrammer’s playground. Caves, crevices and hidden corners mean that at the remarkably picturesque Plitvice, even the most ham-fisted amateur can leave feeling like Ansel Adams.
13. In winter it turns into Narnia.
14. In autumn it goes the perfect shades of bronze and gold and deep, rusty red.
15. And in Summer, it looks like the garden of Eden.