Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park is widely considered one of the most stunning national parks in Europe. It is unique in that it is made up of 16 cascading lakes with travertine barriers in between, creating hundreds of waterfalls. A narrow boardwalk runs through the park, allowing visitors to explore the lakes and waterfalls. 

Many people visit the park on guided day trips, however, I highly recommend spending at least two days in the park, as it is quite large and difficult to fully explore in one day. Additionally, guided groups tend to arrive in the park later in the morning and leave in the afternoon, making the park quite crowded during these times. 

To make the most of your visit, I recommend following one of the trails suggested in the official park guide. However, instead of hiking uphill, as the guide suggests, try hiking in the opposite direction. This will make the hike easier, and you'll be able to avoid large groups of people. Additionally, starting and ending your hike in less crowded areas will enhance your experience. For lodging, consider staying at one of the several lodges located in the park. These lodges are situated on the upper lakes, and a short boat ride away from the lower lakes. They offer great locations, free parking, and free admission to the park after your first day, which can be validated for each additional day you stay. The best way to reach the park is by car, as the roads in Croatia are excellent and there is very little traffic outside of cities. 

Before checking into your hotel, I suggest visiting a lookout point that is on the park's admission ticket. The viewpoint is accessible by car, with a short, level walk, and can also be reached by a strenuous uphill hike from within the park. To find it, set your GPS to the hotel you are staying at, and look for a dirt parking lot on the opposite side of the road. Follow the trail to the lookout point.