|Tuesday morning, we woke up early and grabbed some pastries from Bobis before heading to the bus stop for our tour to Plitvice Lakes. It’s a long drive – 3 to 4 hours – so we had to start early. Our tour guide was Mario and our driver was Tiho. We absolutely loved them – our favorite guides of the week. During the long drive, Mario kept us entertained by teaching us about Croatian history and culture and a few words in Croatian (though he wouldn’t teach us any bad words!). Right away, we passed by the fortress of Klis, which is where Mereen in Game of Thrones is filmed. As we headed deeper into hinterland, Mario pointed out how the trees and plantlife were stunted due to high winds coming off the sea. We made a quick stop for snacks at a gas station near Maslenica where we could see the Velebit Mountains. We would pass through this mountain shortly. After our stop, we drove through Sveti Rok Tunnel, passing through the Velebit Mountains. This was the longest tunnel in Croatia at nearly 6 km. Through the tunnel, we left the Dalmatia region and entered Lika. On this side of the mountain, protected from the strong winds by the mountains, the land was all forested. Amazing what a difference the side of the mountain makes. We continued for another hour or so, finally arriving at Plitvice Lakes National Park around 11 at entrance 2. After Mario got our tickets, we entered the park and took a short boat ride across Lake Kozjak to begin our hike around the Upper Lakes. Boardwalks wrap around the many lakes here, each separated by the most beautiful waterfalls. The park was very crowded, despite being shoulder season, so walking around on the boardwalks was slow going. We passed by a few smaller, presumably unnamed waterfalls, and soon arrived at the first named waterfall Veliki Prštavac, at 28 m high. This is the second highest waterfall in the park. It was a real beauty, but was flowing strongly and produced a lot of mist. Continuing on, we then made it to Mali Prštavac, a similar waterfall at 18 m. Next, we came to Galovački Buk. Although not particularly high, I thought this was the most beautiful waterfall in the park. A dozen or more streams of water tumbled down from one lake to the next into the most beautiful turquoise pool of water. This was such a beautiful scene and truly captured the stunning beauty of Plitvice Lakes. Heading further up along the lakes, we saw many more small, unnamed waterfalls. Arriving at essentially the top, we made a short restroom stop and waited a short time for the shuttle bus. It was a bit chaotic getting on the bus - Mario advised me to use my tripod to whack other tourist and ensure our group go on the bus. The shuttle took us all the way down to the past the upper lakes and parked at the lower lakes. From here, we followed gravel road down to lake level. Another trail, mostly composed of boardwalks led past the lower lakes. We first passed Milanovački Slap waterfall, which drained into a most beautiful lake. The water here is so clear and green. A number of fish, European Chub I believe, could be seen in the water. Continuing on, we passed more small cascades and the beautiful turquoise water before heading to the big waterfall. Veliki Slap is the highest waterfall in the park at 78 m. Of course it was very crowded, but we climbed on some rocks to get some good pictures of this massive waterfall. Then we started heading back towards entrance 1 where Tiho would pick us up. Heading back up the gorge, we passed a couple more overlooks of Veliki Slap from a distance. Although the lighting was poor, it was a great view of this waterfall and really put perspective on its massive size. We could see not only the main drop that we could see from the base, but also additional cascades and drops downstream. Back at the bus, we went a short ways to lunch at Vila Velebita. It was a late lunch by around 4 when we arrived and we were all very hungry. But the food was really delicious and nice to have something more traditionally Croatian. After lunch, we started making the long drive back to Split. On the way, Mario opened the bar so we could purchase beer or wine on the ride back. I had a Velebitsko Temno. Mario claimed it was the best beer in Europe, but having been in Munich for Oktoberfest, I was a bit skeptical. But after tasting it, I agreed – it was great. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can get it back home. Mario gave us some more information about Croatia’s history on the ride home and we made one more stop for a sunset view over Krka River. As we approached Split, Mario handed us a note that Tiho was a good singer and we should ask him to sing us a song. Tiho sang O Sole Mio for us as we drove through Split back to the bus stop. It had been a long day so we headed back to the hotel after our tour and went to bed.