When I visited the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, I stayed in Opatija, which is located right on the coast in the Kvarner Bay.
Apart from Opatija being a lovely destination in its own right, it is located so that you could quite comfortably visit two World Heritage Sites while staying there: the above-mentioned Plitvice Lakes and the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč. However, I think that this holds true mostly if you have a car at your disposal – I was stuck with public transport and did not manage to visit both sites. To be fair, though, I might have, if I had planned a little better in advance.
Opatija – Villa Angiolina
Opatija – View from Lungomare -1-
Opatija – Sveti Jacova
Opatija – House Detail -1-
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Opatija – House Detail -2-
There is evidence of Optija being inhabited from before Roman times, but it really took of as a hip seaside resort for the rich and the famous in the 19th century. At the time, the area still fell under the jusrisdiction of the Austro-Hungarian empire and Opatija became a favourite resort on the so-called Austrian Riviera. A large number of hotels and villas was built, many in the beautiful Art Nouveau (or Belle Époque) style. Thankfully, many remain and were or are being restored, making Opatija a rather pretty city. One of the aspects I enjoyed perhaps even more is the promenade called Lungomare, which allows you to stroll along the coastline for miles and miles. It actually connects several towns in the area. I was also quite taken with the situation regarding food: There are sufficient numbers of cafes or restaurants, and even food stalls where you can grab a bite if you don’t feel like dining out. When I visited, there were several events on at the open air theatre, and you could regularly listen to really good musicians in the park for free.
Opatija – View from Lungomare -3-
Opatija – View over Bay from Volosko
Opatija – Operetta at Night
Opatija – View from Lungomare -2-
In case you’d like to explore the surrounding area, there are several pretty towns strungs along the coast, you could go hiking inland in Učka Nature Park or go on a day trip to Istria. Alternatively, you could visit the islands of Cres or Krk.
Opatija makes for a lovely detour from visiting World Heritage Sites!
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia just has to be one of the prettiest World Heritage Sites I have visited so far. The vast hilly woodlands, the streams, waterfalls and cascading lakes are breathtaking. Due to the underlying limestone and chalk and the reflected colours of the canopy and sky, the water takes on mesmerising hues of greenish-blue and is crystal-clear:
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You really wouldn’t be entirely wrong comparing some of those lakes’ colours to a Caribean or South Seas beach and when I visited, I wanted nothing more than just jump in – this is not allowed, though, because people entering the lakes would destroy the underground, which makes the colours so special. To keep the park intact, it is absolutely necessary to stay on the paths and wooden walkways.
The national park was created in 1949 and is just under 297 square kilometers large; it was granted World Heritage status in 1979. The park is situated about 55 km from the Adriatic coast and can easily be reached by car or coach – there are regular tours on offer. Getting to the Plitvice Lakes by public transport is a little more tricky, but not impossible.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to many species of birds, and also to bears and wolves, apparently. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter any of those! =)
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I know that a majority of tourists to Croatia spend their time on the beaches along the Adriatic coast, but it is well worth having a day away from the beach in the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park.