My Own Private Plitvice


Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia – June 2011

So this is how it is to travel in high season. One continuous stream of tourists shuffling from one lookout point to the next. No time (or room) to pause.


The boardwalks at Plitvice Lakes are very narrow. There’s barely room for two single lines going in opposite directions. I look around at the other faces. None of them mirror the distress that I’m beginning to feel. This is not fun. This sucks! Occasionally, I hear sighs of annoyance. Someone is in someone’s way. However, the overall mood is one of calm resignation. Everything is as it should be.


The sun blazes, illuminating the lakes to their very depths. I am so mesmerized by the sight that I stumble, almost bumping into the elderly man in front of me. I steady myself and move along, face forward. It seems that I won’t be able to fully absorb the splendor of this place. I stifle my disappointment. At least I am lucky enough to visit. Things can’t always be perfect.Plitvice04

The tufa formations, mineral-incrusted branches, and aquatic life are superimposed against the water, the color of which defies description. A pristine universe encased in glass.


On a far boardwalk, I catch a glimpse of the Spanish people who were on the minibus from Zagreb. I turn away.

After four of us from my hostel were picked up, the minibus stopped at a couple of hotels. The Spanish people got on at the last hotel. Three fiftyish couples. I smiled at them as they got on. Even though I don’t expect, or particularly want, people to welcome me into their fold, we are fellow travelers. The women wrinkled their noses at me and exchanged looks with each other.

I looked down at my colorful tank top, gray knee-length cargo pants, and hiking boots. What was so offensive about my presence?Β I don’t wear a full face of makeup or gold jewelry or designer clothes to go into nature. I’m also in my forties. When I was a young woman, I had grown used to older women’s hostility. I’d thought that this kind of adolescent garbage would subside when I aged.

The atmosphere grew progressively more hostile during the two hour bus ride. Glares and tossed hair. The husbands seemed oblivious or maybe they were just used to it. I tried to ignore it, but ancient playground feelings resurfaced. Once again, I became that ostracized, ridiculed child on the perimeter. Wishing that I could shrink to nothing and disappear.

I wanted to hug the tour guide when he told me, and the others from my hostel, that we had only paid for the ride down and not the tour. I would be free from that toxic energy until the ride back. The others from my hostel were kind, but young enough to be my children. We smiled and went our separate ways.


I reach the dock for the boat ride across a lake. The crowd has now swelled to at least a thousand. During the hour or so wait for the boat, I chat with some British retirees. On the boat ride, I scan the park map. There’s a trail that runs along the lake in the same direction as the recommended scenic trail. When the boat docks, I break away from the crowd and scurry down the shady trail. It only takes a couple of minutes for the crowd’s chatter to recede. I slow my pace and take deep breaths. There’s not another soul to be seen. I sit on a rock and peer through the trees. It may not be scenic or well-trodden, but it’s my own private corner of this wonderland.


**Dear readers – I’m curious to know what you all think about traveling in high season. Do you like to travel in large groups and be around crowds? **

78 thoughts on “My Own Private Plitvice

  1. I definitely prefer low season, you can be much more spontaneous and not have to book in advance. Love the photos.

  2. Such a wonderful post! And such a familiar situation. πŸ™‚ For me its low season only. I like to enjoy the energy of the places I visit. And since my favorite place happens to be a huge tourist magnet (and that is an understatement of massive proportions), I go there only in winter or late autumn, when even its historic center gets a chance to catch its breath.

    • Let me guess…Prague? It’s true that it’s very difficult to feel a place’s energy when you’re surrounded by thousands of people. It’s also much more difficult to take nice photos.

      • Prague… is my second favorite. Top honors go to Venice. πŸ™‚ And its so true about taking photos while tourists are around – it can be a torture at times.

  3. So this is in Croatia! Wonderful! I have often seen a picture of this beautiful place and wondered where it is. You’re lucky. πŸ™‚

  4. It’s such a stunningly beautiful place, and a shame that it’s become as popular. We all want to keep these spots to ourselves, don’t we?
    Going to the Italian Lakes we always went off season and it often meant the weather wasn’t so settled. I guess it’s the same here. Depends what you value more.
    I have places in the Algarve that I like to think of as private. Yes, people are an intrusion.

    • It is a shame about Plitvice being mobbed by tourists. I’ve heard that coastal Croatia is even worse! I haven’t been there yet, but when I do go, it will be in the spring or fall.

  5. A very interesting question. There are dynamics to both that have merit. Low season means that many of the shops and hotels are closed and there is not the hustle of excitement. High season means that I cannot get a photograph without people in the picture. I do not like to travel in groups as a general rule, but then there are different kinds of groups. I like Thomas Jefferson’s approach to travel: “One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.” As for people in general, I always remember what my son said to me one day:

    “Everyone can make us happy – some by entering a room and others by leaving a room.”

    A great post – as always.

    • Your son’s quote really made me laugh. Thanks for sharing.

      And I agree that it’s a difficult decision – to see a place vibrant with colour in high season, or to see it alone, but perhaps in less than ideal conditions. I’d like to be in a position to do both.

      But those delivering the evil looks? That’s just plain nasty. We are fellow travellers, perhaps not seeing the same things, but that’s all part of the experience. Chacun a son gout, & all that, eh?

      And thanks for those beautiful pictures. Yet another addition to my bucket list.

      • Shoulder season (late spring/early fall) is a good compromise. You still get the colors and (usually) decent weather, but no crowds. I make a point to travel at this time.

        As for the nasty people – I’m just happy that I’m not like that!! Can you imagine how boring their lives must be? πŸ˜‰

    • I’ve seen beautiful photos of Plitvice in the winter…if there’s snow. I know people who have gone in the spring and fall and they said that it was perfect. The weather wasn’t too harsh, but the park was relatively quiet.

  6. I love the colors in the photos and share your lack of enthusiasm for tour groups and crowds as well as travel as consumption. If there’s any upside to those experiences, it’s learning fun new ways people sneer in other cultures. :0) As always, nice post.

  7. Wow – GORGEOUS! It’s unfortunate that it was so difficult to enjoy :/ I’m glad you did get to sneak away for a bit, though πŸ™‚ I generally just travel when I can, but when I have more choice of timing, I prefer shoulder seasons, and find them a decent compromise. And I always seek out the sneaky trails πŸ˜‰

    • I almost always travel on shoulder season. April/May and Sept/Oct. The weather is still good, but the crowds are gone. This trip was the exception, and it only reaffirmed that high season is not for me. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. Noooo! I don’t like too much crowd or even to travel in groups, I can’t enjoy especially when decisions are split among my family & the brothers or in laws.
    I like the private place you found, it really looks quiet & there you can enjoy the beauty of the place.

  9. Wow, stunning photos! And pity about the crowd!!!
    Personally I don’t enjoy big crowds, if I saw how many people are going on a tour I would change my mind and not do it and find something else to do. However, at the same time if I wouldn’t get another chance I would just “suck it up” and deal with the crowds.

    • I only go on tours if there’s no other easy way to go on my own, which was the case here with taking the minibus down. It only takes one person to spoil the whole tour. I once cancelled a white water rafting day trip because of obnoxious people. I opted to go hiking instead and didn’t regret it one bit.

  10. Low season is the best for me. I don’t like fighting the crowds and I prefer to dawdle in peace, taking in the sights without a lot of people shuffling for a good view.

    • This seems to be the dominant feeling, and yet most people don’t have a choice but to travel in the summer, because of kids and work schedule, etc. We’re lucky that we have the choice!

      • Totally true. I mean when I have kids I’m guessing I won’t have a choice then! But you know we all try to make the best of the situation.

  11. Low season works best for me. Sometimes, like when it got down to zero at Gettysburg a couple years ago and pipes broke in my house, it doesn’t work out; but usually it does.

  12. Great photos. Living in London has accustomed be to large crowds. I don’t like it really, but it seems normal to me now. I wouldn’t like be sneered at on the bus. What was that about?

    • I think those women were upset that I was a woman traveling alone. I’ve encountered this kind of hostility a lot from women who are mainstream tourists (i.e. not backpacker types). I don’t know if they think I want to try and steal their men or what, but it’s just stupid.

  13. The last time I went to Europe I went on July and I regret it, especially Rome, tourist everywhere, but up north it was not as bad. You know those ladies that look at you like that, they are not use to seeing someone so care free and full of independence, it is the culture; I recently told a friend I want to travel alone and she did not understand she treat me like I was from mars or something.

    • Your comments are always so insightful. I usually travel alone since my husband works so much and (usually) isn’t interested in seeing less-traveled places. I love it, because I can do what I want and really absorb the experience. The most annoying thing is women like these, but the worst is men who think that I’m looking for a fling just because I’m traveling without my husband. That has actually gotten worse the older I get. I might even write a post about it one day.

      I hope you do get to travel alone one of these days. It’s intimidating at first, but it really builds your confidence.

      • You know what now that you say that is true, yesterday I was walking my dog and my neighbor said hi, his wife comes out of nowhere, she did not like us talking, he was with his kids playing, how funny. Human behavior can be crazy even if is the year 2013 some things just do not change. I am not married and yes I constantly get this a lot, also I love to be very independent, two things woman cannot stand, they are needy and always need their man to do things but again it is the culture, you must do everything with your man. By the way love the fact your husband is cool with you traveling alone, not many men can get that, I am glad you are free to travel and do your thing.
        About traveling alone, I did Travel alone to Nevada, Arizona and Cabo but only to meet my cousin there, she came from Mexico City (she is my travel buddy) so that does not count, itβ€˜s a thing I want to do this year, I want to feel free to do what I really want. Another fellow blogger gave the Idea to travel to small place first and the go somewhere in the world alone. I live close to Island so that is my first destination and then I wanted to go to London or Ireland or some other place I have not visit yet, what do you recommend since you been around the world alone?

        • That’s funny and also not funny about your neighbors. Which island do you live near? I think that blogger’s advice is good. The first time I traveled totally alone, I backpacked around Costa Rica…and I speak very little Spanish. I was fine, but so anxious! It’s better to build up to it gradually. Though you can have problems in so-called “safe” countries, too. Ireland has a very well-organized tour industry, so you can do day trips around the country with a tour company and not stress about driving and getting lost. Then on your next trip you can try to go around on your own. I really look forward to hearing about it!!! You can inspire other women to do it.

          • Actually they are a couple Islands near by like South Padre Island and San Jose Island, Latin America was another of my options since I know the language, it’s true about “safe” countries I have been reading and there are not safe at all, well some of them. Thanks for helping!

  14. I’ve stumbled into cities (through poor planning) when they were hosting one of their big festivals and events — Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee Days in London, The Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, St. John’s Day in Florence on June 24. Some of these were in the days before the internet — that’s my excuse. So we had to endure crowds and had a hard time finding lodging, but we missed out on the festivities because we didn’t know what was going on. We also went to Venice on Easter Sunday. I don’t like crowds, but it was kind of exciting to be in these cities with so much hub-bub. Had I known about the events ahead I wouldn’t have gone there at that time or maybe had I gone I would have at least seen some of the events!

      • The funny thing about the Queen’s Jubilee was that my friends and I asked our B&B host why the city was so quiet where we were. This was our first trip London. The day before, when we arrived, it was pure craziness, swarming with people. Now our neighborhood was as silent as a tomb. The B&B host said: “That’s because everyone is at the parade.”

  15. Personally, I like to avoid the droves of tourists. Perhaps because my daily life is spent with many people, it is enjoying the scenery with the least amount of people is what I find more appealing.

  16. Low season. We don’t have kids so we travel in April, May, November or early December when school is still in session. It doesn’t always work to avoid the people though. We once waited a half hour for a brief break in the tour groups to get a shot of one of the Angkor temples in Cambodia — like enough of a view to get more temple than people. There’s a crushing weight of tourists there. We were so fortunate to visit the Taj Mahal on voting day when there were very few people there. That was a treasured, peaceful visit. I prefer traveling to cities though, so there’s always lots of people, if not tourists.

    • Oh, that sucks that there are so many tourists at Angkor Wat nowadays. I didn’t realize that Cambodia has gone mainstream. Good for you for getting to see the Taj Mahal on a peaceful day. I personally like traveling to off-the-beaten path countries, like some in eastern Europe.

      • We liked Luang Prabang in Laos. Very few cars, I saw only one traffic light. Not too many tourists but that was 7 years ago and now we run into people frequently who’ve been there. That’s a sign. My husband grew up in South India and he got wistful there. He said it was so much like the rural Indian countryside he remembered from his childhood 40 years ago. That’s the kind of place to see now before it changes. I’ve heard Angkor Wat is on an endangerment watch list like the Galapagos – too many tourists. I’d love to do an Eastern European river cruise and see many cities.

  17. I visited beautiful Plitvice often during the 1990s – during the war because I worked for the UN there and we passed right through on the way to Knin. It was very empty and you had to be sure to stay on the trails lest you stumble on a land mine. Magical though sometimes eerie. Sometime I should visit all the places I was again – I cannot imagine it as a tourist – such a different experience.

  18. I prefer the low season. The best part about living in Egypt the whole year through was that we could see many of the important sights in the low season. I even like being in Christchurch best during the Christmas holidays when everyone else seems to be away on holiday. πŸ™‚

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