Slovenia & Croatia Road Trip (Part 05): Rovinj, Opatija, & Plitvice Lakes National Park
The last leg of our trip would be spent near Plitvice Lakes, but before setting off on the 3-hour drive we wanted to spend some more time in Rovinj. We made our way to Forest Park Golden Cape, a nature preserve and recreational area just a mile south of the old town boasting a multitude of cycling paths along the Adriatic. With some of the best weather of the trip we decided to take advantage and rent some bikes. We stopped at one of the many pebble stone beaches along the coast, dipped our feet in, and admired Rovinj from afar. It was a shame we didn’t discover this spot until our last day in the area, because otherwise we would have spent some more time there and probably would have brought our swimsuits!
After making a loop around the park we got back in the car and set our sights on Opatija as a stopping point for lunch. Opatija is located at just about the apex of the Kvarner Gulf on the outskirts of the Istrian peninsula. We strolled along portions of the Lungomare (literally “seafront” or “promenade” in Italian) and dipped our feet once again into the sea. From the coast one can see the Croatia islands of Krk and Cres in the distance, making for an almost surreal postcard perfect view. We also stopped at the aptly named statue Maiden with the Seagull which served as a cherry on top in the foreground of the amazing vista in the background and the 600-year-old Crkva sv Jakova, from which the town of Opatija got its name (“opatija” is Croatian for “abbey”).
We continued on the drive toward Plitvice Lakes and at one point ended up on a narrow, windy road through abandoned towns destroyed in Croatia’s war of independence 20 years ago. Eventually we arrived in the town of Oštarski Stanovi, where we would be staying for the last couple of nights of our trip.
Our last full day took us to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed natural wonder that is one of Croatia’s largest tourism draws. It is clear to anyone that spends some time in the park why over 1 million people per year make their way to this remote part of the country. We were blessed with some more great weather which made it all the more enjoyable to be out in nature and taking in the views. We hiked through some of the trails for a couple of hours, took a boat across one of the upper lakes, and even caught an intra-park train to cover more ground! We met some fellow travelers on the boat and got some tips from them on their travel itinerary which included parts of the country we weren’t able to get to this time—but we will be taking advantage of their advice when we go back! We refueled with some ice cream before finishing up our hike and heading back to our house. We will let the pictures do the talking.
The next day we drove to Zagreb to catch our flight back to London. It was not easy saying goodbye but we were grateful for the amazing time we spent in these beautiful countries and we know we will be back soon!