Day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park

The main reason we booked our trip to Croatia this summer was because we wanted to experience the wonder of Plitvice Lakes ( Plitvička Jezera in Croatian). It’s the largest national park in Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage site, located near the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It’s a four hour drive from Pula where we spent the first few days. That was about an hour longer than what we had expected but on the other hand we got some spectacular views along the winding roads up and down the mountains. We started off early in the morning from Pula and drove up to the national park via a lunch break with stunning views in the coastal town Senj.

Where to enter the park

The park is so vast that it’s probably not possible to see all of it during one day. We chose Entrance 2 since we had read that the lines were shorter there, and they were. We parked the car and bought tickets at the entrance without having to wait at all.

The lakes have absolutely crystal clear water but you are not allowed to swim in it because it would disturb the delicate balance in the sensitive ecosystem.

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Lower Lakes at Plitvice Lakes National Park

From Entrance 2 we took two boat rides and then walked along the lakes and waterfalls of the middle and lower parts of the water system. Our goal was to reach Veliki Slap, the Big Waterfall, which with it’s 78 meters is the largest waterfall in the park.

How to get the best photo of Plitvice Lakes

Once there you want to climb up to the vantage point where you can take some fantastic photos, like the one that is on the entrance ticket. To do that you need to climb up the path that is located to the left of the big waterfall and climb it all the way to the top. Keep right and you will eventually reach a paved road. Keep going to the right passed a small bridge and then immediately take the path to the right and you will soon see the lookout with views of most of the lower lakes. Don’t miss this, it’s quite breathtaking.

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View from the vantage point above the Big Waterfall

We spent several hours at the park and only managed to see half of it. But after a four hour drive and a long day at the park, we had to leave for our rented Airbnb place in the nearby town of Korenica. (Don’t forget, if you sign up to Airbnb via this link we both get a coupon worth 35 USD off our next stay.)

I would have loved to stay another day but we had to get back to Pula and our flight back to Sweden the next day.

Although there are both tram cars and boats (included in the entrance fee) to take you between the different spots, be prepared to walk a great deal. That way you will also get the best views from this magnificent place.

Here are some more photos from our visit.

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Cliff jumping in Kamenjak, Croatia

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Cape Kamenjak is located on the Premantura peninsula and makes up the southermost point of Istria in Croatia. The area has been protected as a national park since 1996 and it’s a popular destination for tourists and locals in the region.

Be prepared that your visit will last for the major part of the day since the park is so vast. You will need to pay a small entrance fee when you enter the park and then you will be able to drive through the park on some of the worst “roads” you’ve probably ever seen. But it’s a beautiful place and well worth the trouble.

You can choose from several small beaches in the park, but there are no sandy beaches. Even the one that was marked sandy on the tourist map was completely devoid of any sand. There are only beaches with rocks or where you step in the water directly from the cliffs. We stopped at two of the small beaches on the eastern side and to be frank they we’re a bit disappointing.

Cliff jumping

So we headed down to the cliffs at the southern end of the peninsula and it was a spectacular sight. Now we were finally rewarded for putting up with the bumpy roads in the park.

There were cliffs with vertical walls dropping some 15 meters straight down into the clear turquoise water, but also lower cliffs where you could practically walk out into the water.

Swimmers of all ages jumped and dived from both sides of the U-shaped cliff and it was really cool to see.

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It was way too high for me but I was happy to watch as my son and many other visitors challenged themselves.

Safari Bar

Next to the cliffs, someone had come up with the odd idea to build a safari themed bar, with some slides and a table tennis table, all carefully hidden between tall grass and bamboo. Once you were able to locate the bar (not easy) you could order lemonade, snacks and other drinks. It was all a bit wacky and we sat there wondering how fast the entire thing would burn to the ground if someone dropped a match or a lit cigarette.

Between the Safari Bar and the parking lot there was a lookout tower with a very steep ladder. Just as we were getting prepared to leave, a small boy tried to climb the ladder and just before he reached the top, he lost his grip and slid some 4-5 meters down the ladder and fell on his brother’s arm, which broke. So if you have small children, please be advised that this is a bit dangerous to climb.

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View from the outlook tower, Cape Kamenjak, Croatia

If you are planning to visit Cape Kamenjak I would recommend that you start down by the cliffs and then if you feel you have the time you can stop by some of the other beaches or even have a look at the path of the dinosaurs on your way out.

Pula Arena

The Pula Arena in Croatia is the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world. It’s as impressive as the Colosseum in Rome and it retains its complete curcuit of walls.

Today the arena is used for gladiator “fights” and concerts. There has even been a hockey game inside the arena! 

When we visited in July there was a film festival in Pula and the arena was one of many venues used for film screenings.

If you get a chance to visit Croatia, be sure to plan for a stop in Pula, it’s a beautiful place.

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After rain comes puddlegrams

It’s not always fun when it’s raining on your vacation, but there’s one advantage of rain and it’s called puddlegrams. I really like to take photos of new cities reflected in a pool of water. It often results in cool new perspectives.

So the next time you are on holiday and it stops raining, hit the streets in search of the biggest puddles.

Here are puddlegrams from our trip to London the other week.

A weekend in Belfast

 

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A weekend in Belfast
It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a weekend if you just plan a little. Or a lot…  I like to plan my trips so that I get the most out of them. I recently travelled to Belfast for a weekend with a friend and we managed to experience both fantastic nature, some whiskey tasting, shopping and a local beer or three.

We landed on a Thursday afternoon and had a rental car waiting at the George Best International Airport. From what we had gathered it would be as cheap to rent a car for three days as it would cost to take the bus from and to the airport. Cheap, in other words. The only challenge was driving on the right side of the road, but I managed to not get us killed during any point of the trip. Goal one achieved.

The Crown Liquor Saloon
Once we had settled in we hit the streets for a bite to eat and some drinks. Everything is within walking distance so we left the car at the hotel.

Our first stop was the Crown Liquor Saloon, a former Victorian gin palace and one of Northern Ireland’s best-known pubs. We sat down at a table and although I’m used to finding Swedes wherever I go, I was a little surprised that the couple next to us were Swedish. I didn’t see Belfast as a typical destination for Swedish tourists, but there you go.

Anyway, the other couple told us to try the beer tasting option, so we did. You could choose three out of five different draught beers in smaller glasses which was perfect for me. I can’t drink three pints of beer in one evening.

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Here are the hard working bartenders trying to explain to confused Swedes what to order.

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Giant’s Causeway and the Dark Hedges
We got up early on Friday morning because we had a lot to cover during the day. We drove north for about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the natural wonders of Giant’s Causeway. This was a must see for me during this trip and I was not disappointed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is nothing short of amazing. As a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, there are now some 40,000 hexagonal shaped basalt columns down by the water and it’s just spectacular.

Goal two achieved.

Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway

Everywhere we went we were told that we were lucky because the weather was great. It was sunny with some light overcast, so it was a great day to take photos at the causeway. As one guide told us:

“two days in a row in Northern Ireland without rain is called a drought” 

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

Bushmills
After our visit to Giant’s Causeway we drove only a few minutes to Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland. Bushmills was founded in 1608 and has been producing whiskey for more than 400 years.

Once again we were lucky because a tour of the premises was starting only two minutes after we arrived. So we walked the tour and got to smell the different barrels used to store the whiskey. All barrels that they use are “second hand” because the whiskey is supposed to aquire taste during the aging process from the previous liquids. Bourbon barrels, sherry casks and madeira drums are used for example.

We finished the tour with some whiskey tasting and a visit at the store to bring some bottles home.

Old Bushmills Distillery
Old Bushmills Distillery

The Dark Hedges
On our way back from Bushmills we took a small detour in order to visit the Dark Hedges, which is a tunnel of old beech trees from the 18th century. The Dark Hedges have appeared on Game of Thrones and it is a magnificent place. Unfortunately it was damaged quite a bit during a recent storm, but it is still impressive.

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The Dark Hedges – as seen in Game of Thrones

Gobbins Path
After a short stop at the Dark Hedges, we were in a bit of a hurry. We had a tour booked at Gobbins Path at 4.30 PM and we had specifically been asked to arrive fifteen minutes before in order for us to be all set when the tour was about to start.

But it’s quite a drive from the northern parts of the region down to Islandmagee on the coast north of Belfast. Roads are small and we were starting to become just a little concerned that we might be late. At 4.26 PM we stormed into the reception only to find out that we weren’t the last of our party to arrive.

Anyway, Gobbins Path is a cliff path originally built in 1902 as a tourist attraction. It was rebuilt and opened to the public again in August, 2015, and consists of a path along the cliffs, through caves and more than 20 bridges. The Tubular Bridge below is a replica of the original and the most famous of all the bridges on the path.

The tour along the path took about 2.5 hours and it was a true one-of-a-kind experience. I don’t think you can find a similar path anywhere else.

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Our guide Robert at the entrance to Gobbins Path

Gobbins Path

The Tubular Bridge below.

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Gobbins Path

Saturday
On Saturday it was raining, so apparently there was no drought this weekend 😉

We spent most of the morning at the Titanic Belfast, the museum to honour the legend of Titanic. We could have spent some more time there but we had an appointment after lunch, since we had managed to get tickets to the Irish Cup Final in football.

Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast

We had to grab a taxi in order to make it to the game in time and 30 seconds before the referee kicked the game off, we sat down in our seats.

It was a great atmosphere with fans from both teams singing and chanting throughout the game. In the end, Glenavon beat Linfield 2-0 to become champions.

Irish Cup Final 2016
Irish Cup Final 2016

We had dinner and beer at McHughs, a classic pub located in the oldest building in Belfast.

Belfast Castle
Belfast Castle

Sunday
Our KLM flight back to Stockholm on Sunday was scheduled at about 2PM so we had the morning for some last minute excursions.

We drove past Falls Road which is a road with significant political history. It has several political murals that we stopped to look at.

Then we drove up to Belfast Castle which was situated beautifully on the hillside with a view of Belfast. At least it used to have a great view, now trees blocked some of the view for us. We skipped the wedding exhibition inside the castle, since neither of us plan to get married again 😉

If we had had more time, I would have loved to walk up to Cave Hill, which is at the top of the hill, but that will have to wait until next time.

Before we left we stopped by the Victoria Square Shopping Centre. It has a really cool domed ceiling and you can go up to the top and get a great view of the entire city through the glass.

We did that one evening at sunset and it was a really cool view.

Victoria Square Dome
Victoria Square Dome

All in all, we had a great time and Belfast can be recommended as a weekend destination, at least if you make that a long weekend. There were a couple of things we didn’t have time to see, so maybe we’ll meet again…