Hiking Guide: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Over the weekend, I ventured out of Budapest and into Croatia for another weekend getaway. Plitvice Lakes has been on my list since forever, and you’ll understand why soon! To get there, we opted to rent a car because we wanted to be able to work on our own time and not have to worry about missing anything. There are other options though such as a FlixBus, which I am a HUGE lover of! The Plitvice Lakes is truly an unreal sight, with 16 lakes that cascade into beautiful waterfalls separated by travertine dams and green moss.

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We started at entrance 1, we decided on this entrance honestly because it was the closest one to our hostel. Entrance 1 starts at the lower lakes, while entrance 2 starts at the upper lakes. All the trails loop together with buses and ferries so you can really start at either one. The park costs $1 USD an hour for parkings and then $5 to enter if you are a student (this also varies by season so be sure to check the updated prices before you go.) Another great tip is to get there early. We got there at 8:40 which is only about an hour after the park opened and there were already a fair amount of people. It only gets more busy throughout the day so be sure to get a head start so you can beat the crowds! As soon as you walk in the park, you can get a nice little overlook of some of the waterfalls that are on the lower lakes. As you descend downward through some switchbacks, you’ll start to notice really how blue the water is. Soon, you’ll get to the first floating walkway which in my opinion was the coolest thing in the park next to the waterfalls.

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We took a right at the first fork, so we could get a quick glimpse of the large waterfall called Veliki Slap, this thing is seriously massive reaching a height of 78 meters (255 feet.) After that we turned around and headed back up to the fork where the trails started. We opted to do Trail A first, so that we could see all of the sights of the lower lakes. Walking through here is magical, many people compare the park to Eden because of its natural beauty. The lakes are full of vegetation and wildlife, you can see everything from draping green moss, to fish, and lots of ducks! You’ll get really up close & personal with some of the waterfalls so be sure to really take it all in! Trail A is 5.2 KM (3.2 miles) and can take about 2-3 hours depending on your pace and how much you stop. This trail will lead you through all the waterfalls and then end by taking you through a cave. You will climb some stairs to get back to the top.

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After we finished trail A, we really wanted to experience the upper lakes as well so we decided on Trail H which is around 8.9 KM (5.5 miles,) and takes roughly about 4-6 hours (it took us exactly 4.5 hours.) To get to trail H you need to follow the signs from the top of the cave and catch the bus at the rangers station, there are some maps scattered throughout the park but I think it’s best to just download their online map or buy one inside the park. From the bus, follow the signs for trail H. This path is really mostly along the lakes, so you don’t need to worry about being exhausted from elevation or anything because it really is a relatively easy hike. This hike was beyond beautiful, not that I didn’t enjoy the lower lakes but the upper lakes are really just unreal. You see so many waterfalls, and the water color is so crazy you feel like you’d have to be in Thailand or something to see waterfalls that are so blue and so tropical looking. After you finish the hike it will basically lead you to a place where you can jump on a ferry and catch the boat back to Entrance A. Make sure you get on the one that is on the left and headed toward P3!

DSC_03443 As far as gear goes, you’ll be just fine in regular running shoes as the trails are extremely maintained and you really aren’t doing anything strenuous. A couple things to remember though: always bring enough water for you and whoever you are hiking with, this hike is also really long so consider packing in your own lunch and snacks as the places inside the park can be a bit over priced, and lastly DO NOT SWIM IN THE LAKES. I cannot stress this enough!! There is absolute zero swimming allowed in any part of the Plitvice Lakes. This disturbs the natural eco-system and especially the bacteria that makes the water so beautiful. All buses and boats are free, however you can only take the one from entrance 2 to entrance 1 ONE time. For you fashion people, I linked my outfit here and here. Happy hiking, always be sure to pack out what you bring in to keep our planet clean!

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Weekend Guide to Prague

Weekend Guide To Prague

For my first weekend trip in Europe, I thought there would be no better place to visit than Prague. It’s beautiful, close to Hungary (where I am studying abroad), and extremely affordable. The Czech people have done an outstanding job of preserving the buildings as well as their culture which is what I really loved the most. Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and also has the largest castle in all of Europe. My friends and I arrived in Prague via FlixBus on Thursday night, and then took an uber to our hostel. Below I’ll be talking about where to stay, where to eat, and what to do.

Where to stay

For our trip, we wanted to get the full experience of traveling Europe as a student so we stayed in a hostel. After doing plenty of research we decided on Hostel Santini,  and we absolutely loved it. The hostel was in the perfect spot, located in the Mala Strana district of Prague. It was a 7 minute walk to the castle, 10 minute walk to the Charles Bridge, and was centered perfectly around many of the popular cathedrals, statues, as well as amazing restaurants. Each dorm had it’s own bathroom en-suite and was cleaned twice a day, which was a god sent. They also offered a small breakfast every morning, as well as the most informational travel advice you could ask for. We made so many friends here and truly enjoyed the environment!

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5 minute walk from our hostel

Where to eat

Being that Prague is one of the most popular spots for tourists, we knew that going to the square to eat would only mean that we would be paying ridiculously inflated prices which means we wouldn’t be taking advantage of the fact that Prague is INSANELY inexpensive. For most of our meals we wondered past the main tourist spots, and really just stopped in wherever looked good. Here were a few of my favorites.

Baterka $- This place was tucked away on a street in the Jewish Quarter, and when we walked in we only saw Czech people which was immediately a good sign for us. One of the coolest things about this place was that they brewed their own beer. Now, this is no surprise for Prague as a lot of places do this, but this was my first time ever going to  restaurant that did that so I found it quite interesting. I stopped in this place for a quick snack with my friend before we continued on our day, so we decided to go with classics and get the house beer, fresh bread, and potato soup. The potato soup was honestly perfect, and so filling even with two people sharing it. It wasn’t creamy, but it also wasn’t very broth-y which I loved. There were potatoes, carrots, onions, cheese, and the soup itself was extremely savory.

U Parlemntu $- This place was a little closer to the square, however the prices did not reflect that at all. This compact bar is extremely lively and known for its music and energetic setting. You’ll find people from everywhere making new friends, or coming with old ones to enjoy a beer and take in the atmosphere. For an appetizer I have to recommend the garlic toast with Czech blue cheese, the cheese in Europe is so much better first of all and 2nd this cheese was the perfect balance of salty and tart which is essential for a good blue cheese. For the main entree I ordered the Chicken Schnitzel and was over the top impressed with it despite the fact that it is such a simple meal. The sauce they provided to spread over the chicken was made from sweet cherry tomatoes, and the chicken itself had been fried to a perfect crisp.

Kamparium $- This place was somewhat close to the cultural center and my friend and I just happened to stumble upon it while walking through the streets. The set up was really fun to me, as it was underground so you had to actually walk down steps to get into the building. Again, we were going for a light fare here so we stuck to some classic Czech appetizers and desserts. We really enjoyed the potato pancakes for our appetizer as the filling was infused with the most savory spices that literally made your mouth water. For dessert, we decided to try the fruit dumplings. The name is pretty self explanatory but I really had no idea what to expect, but I am SO happy we ordered it because it was insanely good. It’s basically the shape of any dumpling but it was stuffed with a fruit filling and then drizzled over top of the dumplings was this sweet, gravy-textured sauce.

Prague Farmer’s Market $- I suppose this falls under the category of both things to do and things to eat but I’ll just stick it here. Every Saturday, Prague hosts a farmer’s market along the river and local vendors come in and serve all types of food. There’s everything from cheese burgers, to Czech pastries, to canned vegetables, fresh cheese, and homemade krauts. All of the food is so tempting, and honestly all of the food is so good. We tried a bit of everything, but my favorite thing would’ve had to be the traditional Czech pastries just because of how sweet and fresh they were. Another plus is that this is a place where you can get so much food while spending very little money, which is always a plus. The address for the market is as follows, Náplavka Rašínova nábřeží, Praha 2, 120 00 Praha 2, Czechia.

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Traditional Czech pastry

What to Do 

Prague has an endless amount of opportunity of things to see and do. You could spend a whole day walking without doing any of the tourist sites and still be so amazed by the architecture and history that Prague has. We did a pretty jam-packed weekend because we had so much we wanted to do. For the most part, we stuck to what was free because we are broke students obviously. A couple of my favorite things throughout the trip would have to have been,

Prague Castle- Although most of the things you have to do here cost money, you can still wander the castle grounds and take in some of the amazing views of Prague from the castle. When we went, we came early in the morning just after sunrise so we could still catch some of that morning light and also to enjoy the stillness of the morning before the flood of tourists came through.

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view from the castle

John Lennon Wall– Even if you were a hippie like Lennon, the John Lennon wall is something you definitely don’t want to miss especially if you enjoy street art. The wall is extremely close to the St. Charles bridge, in the Mala Strana district of Prague. It is free to view, and there’s also usually someone singing old Beatles songs for you to sing along to as you admire the art. When you finish up there you can also take a look (or stop for a bite) at the John Lennon restaurant which is themed with Beatles songs like Yellow Submarine, Hey Jude, and Imagine.

Dancing House- A major tourist attraction in Prague, which is free to view and almost free to go up in. The only rule of the Dancing House is that if you go up to the roof you must order a drink or something. You can easily cheat the system though and order a water, as that still counts as a drink. It’s quite relaxing to sit atop the building and look at the river and the castle in the far distance. Plus for you people watchers, it’s quite enjoyable to get a cocktail and watch the paddle boarders try to go down the river without falling off.

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Dancing House

Jewish Quarter- So dark fact, but during WW2 it is rumored that Hitler was planning on retiring to Prague. Because of that most of the Jewish Quarter of Prague remained intact during the war because after the war he had plans to turn it into a “museum of extinct people.” Pretty messed up, but it means that the intricate synagogues of Prague got to remain as they were. For $11 USD, you can get access to 4 synagogues as well as the cemetery which is an amazing deal in my opinion. The synagogues were all beautiful in their own ways but my personal favorite was the Spanish Synagogue. I loved the attention to detail, as well as all the gold, red, and orange hues within the building.

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Spanish Synagogue

All in all, Prague is a wonderful city with so much to offer besides just tourist sights if you are willing to look for them. Just by wandering the streets we stumbled on two different festivals and found the farmer’s market which was easily one of our favorite parts. Especially if you are in Europe already, Prague is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway that isn’t going to break your wallet. Happy travels!