Pinterest, Instagram and the internet in general had all filled me in on the wonders of Krka National Park in Croatia. You might have seen the pictures yourself. Beautiful waterfalls cascading into a splendiferously turquoise lake, water twinkling in the sunshine, surrounded by dense woodland. And the internet has not lied about this, because all these things are indeed there, and it is indeed truly glorious. HOWEVER. Let us not forget, pals, that the internet is not real life. I myself am full on obsessed with taking photos wherever I go, and I’ve been told I’ve got quite a knack of spotting things that to most might appear mundane, pointless or just plain unremarkable, and making them appear pretty, or at the very least, interesting. To a certain extent I think this is fine; I mean, who doesn’t appreciate a pretty photo? However. As we all know, the danger of The Internet is that it’s exceedingly good at making things appear perfect. The reality, of course, is that nothing and nobody is perfect, and so let me present to you a terrible tale of Expectation vs Reality: Croatia Edition.
Krka National Park is one of the most famous National Parks in Croatia, situated right in the middle of Dalmatia on the Krka River. As well as being home to numerous different species plants and animals (including bats, a whole load of varieties of bats!!!), the thing that this place is probably the most famous for is its travertine waterfall. Skradinski Buk is this glorious waterfall’s name and it is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. In actual fact a series of waterfalls of varying heights, they all tumble one by one into a large pool area which then carries on down the length of the river. It’s Skradinski Buk that had featured in just about every blog or Instagram post that I’d ever seen on the subject of Krka.
Expectation: hiking shoes necessary
Reality: come as you are
We were staying for a few days in the stunning city of Split, which is a beautiful but chock-full-of-tourists city, especially at the height of Summer when we were there. So, we were pretty excited to get out of the sticky narrow streets and into the wilderness of the countryside. We didn’t have a car to get us around for the duration of our time there, so the solution to the problem of how to reach a national park in the middle of nowhere was via a tour bus. Easy-peasy! We booked a ticket from an office on the harbour-front the day before, and then headed to meet the bus early the following morning. Loving. Life.
We had water. We had snacks. We had the most sturdiest shoes we’d brought with us on our travels…and the sturdiest shoes I’d personally brought was a pair of Vans so I was worried they wouldn’t hold out to be honest.
We were mildly confused to see several other lasses turn up in sandals, flip-flops, and even a couple in pairs of cork-wedges. Who can do a hike in the wilderness in a bejewelled sandal, let alone a cork wedge?
Still, each to their own, and obviously if they felt like a cork wedge was doable then who was I to judge!?
Related: What to do in Split, Croatia
Expectation: adventure in the great wide somewhere
Reality: do not stray from the path
The bus dropped us at one of the entrances to the park, and we headed off with excitement about our Big Trip to The Wilderness in the direction that we were pointed. Us and approximately six and a half thousand other visitors who happened to be entering at the same as us. Hmm.
I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly the vibe we were expecting, and I was even more concerned when I glimpsed a woman in a kitten heel running to keep up with her child. Soz if this is considered offensive pals, but there is no place in this world for a kitten heel. LET ALONE KRKA NATIONAL PARK!! What in the world was going on? But. We remained optimistic about the whole situation. It was a gloriously sunny day, and as the bus had gone into the park we had been presented with views so downright incredible that there was no doubt that we would truly be at one with nature in the very near future. Those who had come prepared would head off up a mountain or dive head-first into the lake, and those in Inappropriate Footwear would obv just sit and have lunch in some kind of log-cabin restaurant.
Well. How wrong we were. How very wrong we were.
After pushing through the throngs of people milling around the little village which shows how people used to live many many years ago (it’s genuinely pretty cool there- we even saw a blacksmith demo- it was just so unexpectedly filled with people that I was rather overwhelmed), we stumbled onto a wooden walkway which led us into the park itself. Us, and all the other six and a half thousand people who’d arrived at the same time.
There were in fact, so many people on this wooden walkway all the way down to the foot of the famous waterfall, that you had to shuffle onwards keeping at all times at the same pace as those in front of you like penguins pushing onwards through a blizzard. No stopping to take a picture, no stopping to just admire the undoubtedly beautiful nature around you, or even to have a read of the very useful signs dotted about explaining what flora and fauna you might come across. Just forward, march! It turns out, Krka National Park is- in high summer at least- the Ikea of National Parks, in that there is no stopping or deviating from the route set out for you, even if you wanted to.
When I decided to jump down from the wooden platform to take a closer look at the giant dragonflies circling above the water, I felt the eyes of all six and a half thousand fellow walkway-shufflers glaring at me in horror while my pal Rachel photographed the whole situation. I took a video of Rachel being ‘at one with nature’ while six and half thousand other people were simultaneously ‘at one with nature’ behind her. At one point we reached a little dead-end which looked out across the stepped waterfall, which I was full on excited to finally get a proper sight of! But first…we had to queue for a while as people shuffled towards the viewpoint and took pictures one by one, all attempting to somehow achieve the impossible task of getting a picture with no other humans in it. I take my hat off to anyone who did manage to do it, I’ll tell you that for sure.
Expectation: a relaxing chill-out spot by the lake, and a tranquil swim!
Reality: absolute carnage
As hilarious as we were finding the whole ridiculous situation, I was still holding out hope that by the time we made it to the bottom, the path would disappear and the swathes of people would be able to spread out. You’ve probably guessed already that that was not to be.
Just off of the shady footpath in front of us were a couple of little streams of water tumbling down the rock face into a very shallow pool, so we decided that as we were there anyway, we might as well attempt to jump under the waterfalls for a laugh, even though we had to queue in order to do so. It was icy cold but a nice relief from the feelings of being trapped on the never ending wooden walkway in the heat.
As far as the eye could see there were collections of people laid out on beach towels in whatever spot they could squeeze into, whether that was on the grass or mud, in sunshine or shade. To one side was a makeshift food court area selling different edible treats out of vans. We picked our way through the sea of towels to see if there was an easy way to get down into the natural pool that the bigger waterfalls were pouring in to. You’ve probably guessed already: there wasn’t.
One by one, we guarded our belongings whilst the other went for a dip in the river. Now pals, I’ll be honest- though the circumstances were not what I’d been expecting, it was still pretty fun to be swimming in a real life river. Especially as someone who’s never done that before. Eighteen species of fish live in the Krka river, but of course I did not spy even one as it was so full of other human beings. Each of our swims were fairly brief as refreshing swims on a hot summers day go, but that was just the way it had to be when neither me nor my pal are massive fans of overcrowded locations.
Swims completed, we chose not to stick around for too much longer. It had been a funny but somewhat confusing day which if I’m honest had left me feeling rather troubled indeed.
So. What on earth do we do about this overtourism issue?
Now let’s face it guys, I’ve really banged on in this post about the countless number of strange or annoying factors that there were with this trip to Krka. I’m still glad we went. And I surely would have regretted it had I been in the vicinity not taken the opportunity to go. However, I think both me and my pal Rachel are the type of people who are quite talented at seeing the funny side to most situations in life, mainly viewing moments like these as potential material for a future comedy sketch show. Other people might have been verging on rage at being stuck on a wooden pathway for so long unable to appreciate where they actually were. Secondly, and more seriously…there is a clear problem with over-tourism here…and we were obviously part of it!
I’ve had similar experiences to this in other places around the world (I’m looking at you, Preikestolen). And some locations have had to close to all tourists to prevent their ultimate destruction. Like Maya Bay in Thailand (you know, where Leo filmed The Beach), where over 80% of the surrounding coral has been destroyed by the 5,000 daily visitors it received daily. The government were reluctant to shut it down for years despite knowing how much damage was being done, because it brings in so much revenue. The National Parks of the USA have reported similar problems- with tourists arriving in their thousands to photograph beautiful locations, leaving behind them a Hansel and Gretel trail of McDonald’s wrappers and car exhaust fumes. On a slightly different note, even in my hometown of little old Eastbourne in England, a girl died trying to get the perfect Instagram photo. She literally jumped into the air for a photograph and subsequently tumbled off the cliffs. What if Krka is heading the same way, where people don’t respect the environment, or do stupid and dangerous things, just for a photo!?
Related: Climbing Preikestolen
So I’m asking myself- and you, pals- what on earth do we do about this fairly new problem which has really only appeared since the invention of social media? Especially, when I’M PART OF IT!? I visited Krka, and I took pictures, because it was absolutely beautiful and I like taking pictures, and I would still recommend that people see it because it is BEAUTIFUL.
In the short term I’d say the answer is to first and foremost do your research and steer clear of any true tourist location during high season; and I want to make a conscious effort to find lesser-known places if it’s possible. Not only will it be less of an overwhelming burden on the environment, but it’ll also be a more pleasant- and probably cheaper- experience. We didn’t even think about the fact that we’d be visiting Croatia at its busiest time, so had we visited at a different time of year maybe we’d have had a different experience. Secondly- respect the environment while you’re there. There are way too many litterbugs around for my liking who clearly care more about taking the best photo of themselves possible than actually understanding what they’re photographing and treating it with some respect. And thirdly- if you go somewhere like this and post about it on social media, be honest about the fact that it needs to chill out on the tourism front! I read countless articles and posts about this stunning pocket of the world, but not one of them mentioned that it tends to get so very crowded.
Pals. This place is beautiful, and I’m sure there are people who’ve visited and had a completely different experience to the one I had. And it’s not just Krka- there are so many beautiful places in this wonderful world; I’m keeping all my fingers crossed that we can find a way to make sure they all stay that way.
Related: How to be a Hometown Tourist
- There are five entrances to the park, and as part of a bus load of visitors from Split, we entered through the Losovac entrance, which is closest to Skradinski Buk. Im guessing that this is the most-visited part of the park, and that potentially the other entrances could provide you with a more tranquil experience.
- We were told that Krka was a great, less-crowded alternative to Plitvice Natial Park which was also further away. So goodness gracious me, I am over the moon that we didn’t go to Plitvice.
- July and August are probably the busiest times to visit- and subsequently the priciest.
- Price of entry ranges from the equivalent of around £3.50 in the off-season, to £23.50 in summer. I mean, guys…that’s a hefty old saving, ya know!?
- To reach Krka from Split takes just over an hour by road.