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The Beauty of Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

One of the world's great karst landscapes is also a Unesco World Heritage site.

Wooden boardwalks snake through a fairy-tale landscape at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, picture
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Photo: Inge Johnson / Alamy
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Wooden boardwalks snake through a fairy-tale landscape.

With cliffs cloaked in emerald green, countless tumbling waterfalls, and sparkling turquoise pools, Plitvice Lakes National Park looks like a setting straight out of a fairy tale. Though the Unesco World Heritage site—centered on 16 stairstep lakes—lies just 85 miles southwest of Zagreb, Croatia, it feels a world away from the capital. Here, wooden boardwalks take travelers past caves, cascades, and fern-fringed limestone walls. Nearby, an electric ferry quietly shuttles passengers to hiking trails around Lake Kozjak, the park’s largest body of water.

Beyond the lakes, untouched tracts of beech and fir trees—including some of the last stands of virgin forest on the continent—evoke the deep, dark woods of European folklore. Legendary creatures live here too, including wolves, bears, eagles, and wild boars. In a country so famous for mythic beauty that it features prominently in HBO’s Game of Thrones, a trip to Plitvice Lakes could become the best tale of all.

Trip Tip: Leave Jet Lag Behind

Sunshine can help your body adjust to a new time zone. If you've flown west to east and need to get up early, open the drapes at daybreak or get outside in the sun to wake up. If you've traveled east to west, spending some time in late-afternoon sun will help you sleep in a little longer. —Doreen Loofburrow, AAA Travel

Up Next: More inspiration for your international trip.

This article was first published in Fall 2018. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.