Within the 15 years since I final visited Plitvice Lakes nationwide park, a lot has modified on this mountainous area of Lika, close to Croatia’s border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lodges, residences, B&Bs and campsites have popped up at a speedy charge, their homeowners catering for guests to those wonderful, Unesco-listed lakes: 16 of them, tumbling down numerous waterfalls in each shade of blue and inexperienced, from jade to turquoise and deep ocean blue.
Croatia map
As solely three lodges are allowed within the nationwide park, this different lodging has appeared throughout the area. The most recent, Lodge Lyra Plitvice, which opened in Might, is in an unlikely spot, solely 2½ miles from the border. After I reached Ličko Petrovo Selo, I used to be ready for the sight of ruined homes on this predominantly ethnic Serbian village, as a result of I knew it had suffered in 1995, on the finish of the Croatian struggle. From a inhabitants of two,000 earlier than the battle, it has dropped to round 120.
As an alternative, I discovered indicators of regeneration, helped by the Lyra’s opening. Constructed on the positioning of the derelict village college, the 58-room resort has gone in opposition to the native grain of faux-rustic and has a modern, fashionable fashion: the steeply sloped roof sits in opposition to a towering wall of pine timber and the decor is low-key and modern, with authentic artworks and a classy glass-walled lounge bar.

Lodge Lyra. {Photograph}: Adam Batterbee
The Lyra makes use of a few of its earnings to assist rebuild the village, one property at a time. It’s early days, although it has already began restoring a small group centre utilized by the Tara Residents’ Affiliation, a collective of largely older ladies created in 2004 by villager Sonja Leka, who spent seven years as a refugee in Belgrade. Their small-scale manufacturing of handicrafts is giving them a much-needed monetary and psychological enhance, and the plan is to promote them within the resort.
About 90% of the meals served within the resort comes from native producers, together with delectable grilled trout within the night and fats kobasica sausages at breakfast. And in a spirit of reconciliation – within the area the place a few of the first pictures had been fired within the battle – the Slovenian tour company that owns the resort, Pleased Excursions, is hiring equal numbers of Croats, Serbs and Bosnians. The common visitor could also be oblivious to this however as somebody whose dad and mom had been born within the space, I discovered it immensely heartening.

Boats at Natura Artwork in Una nationwide park. {Photograph}: Adam Batterbee
I quickly found that what appeared like an out-of-the-way location labored within the resort’s favour, particularly with Bosnia being so shut. It was a scenic 15-minute drive by means of woods to Plitvice Lakes nationwide park, the place I reacquainted myself with the heart-stoppingly stunning panorama. Beginning within the decrease lakes, we adopted trails and picket walkways that wind by means of beech woods and previous lakes of such vivid turquoise they cooled the eyes on a day that hit 32C. One has my household identify on it – Novakovića Brod – however I overlooked it in a sea of selfie-sticks (regardless of the whopping £30 summer time grownup entrance payment to the park).

A walkway within the Plitvice Lakes nationwide park. {Photograph}: Sebastian Condrea/Getty Photographs
It was quieter after we reached the jetty, the place an electrical boat took us throughout Kozjak lake, however there was one other scrum on to the identical slim walkway to the higher lakes (get there when the park opens at 7am to keep away from the crowds).
It’s not laborious to go away the hordes behind although. We drove 19 miles north from the park’s major entrance to the place the River Korana (which flows into Plitvice Lakes) passes by means of the village of Rastoke. A riverside seashore has been arrange on this village of watermills and waterfalls, and colleges of tiny fish swirled round my legs within the heat water.

Korana river swimming seashore in Rastoke. {Photograph}: Adam Batterbee
In Croatia’s mountainous hinterland – hours from the Adriatic coast – rivers and waterfalls rule. Over the subsequent few days, we hunted for sylvan spots the place we might laze by a river and take in all that inexperienced and blue loveliness. They weren’t laborious to seek out.
The medieval tower in Drežnik Stari Grad was the place to begin for a stroll down a rocky path to the place the Korana flows by means of a little bit canyon. I plunged into the clear water, revelling in its freshness within the shade of pine-covered cliffs. Additional downriver, the Korana varieties a part of the Adrenalin Park Plitvice, the place the canyon widens into a large grassy part the place households had been picnicking and swimming. Often a toddler on a zipline whooshed over us.
Again at Lodge Lyra, a couple of of the Bosnian workers urged me to go to the Una nationwide park throughout the border (entrance £3.20). I’d pushed previous it many instances over time however had solely stopped for plates of ćevapi (minced meat) stuffed into lepinja (flatbread) at Mlin restaurant by the Una river.

Mlin Restaurant on the Una river. {Photograph}: Adam Batterbee
I used to be drawn once more to Mlin, this time by spit-roasted lamb, but in addition found the charming riverside Natura Artwork – part-restaurant, part-hotel, part-boating centre – and a calming place to sit down and gaze on the Una’s rapids. In entrance of me was a comically large veal shank – clearly meant for 2 – that had been cooked slowly in a peka, a bell-shaped iron pot that sits underneath scorching embers for hours. The Una nationwide park’s star flip is the Štrbački Buk waterfall. I’d seen it earlier than however solely from the less-accessible Croatian aspect. In Bosnia, a community of picket walkways takes you proper as much as the thundering waters. Intrepid leaders of a rafting group threw their empty rafts down the 25-metre waterfall earlier than leaping in after them. The ready rafters on the banks cheered as they ready to renew their wild journey.
The Una and the quieter corners of the Korana are much-needed antidotes to busy Plitvice. There are occasions if you don’t need to observe the crowds.
• The journey was supplied by Pleased Excursions and Lodge Lyra Plitvice (doubles from €95 B&B)
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