Tourists have been visiting this series of 16 beautiful lakes and countless waterfalls for over 200 years. It was not until 1970's that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage area. Today nearly 2 million visitors come annually to enjoy this amazing place.
It was estimated that 20,000 people came to visit today. A logistical nightmare. More details at the end of this story.
It was suggested that I head out into the park early, I did, I caught the first boat across the lake at 8.30 am. This was so I would beat the heat and also the crowds. The heat I beat until about 11am, but the crowds I didn't. By the time the first boat arrived there would have been 150 people waiting. I was at about the 100 person mark and got on the first boat. They are electric and silently and gracefully motor you across one of the larger lakes. The boats only create the slightest of ripples in the reflections.
Imbued with minerals that create shimmering hues of greens and blues, the lakes change dimension by a centimeter or so each year due to the constantly evolving natural barriers between them. These travertine barriers, natural deposits of moss, algae and bacteria, are interconnected with the air, water and plant life. Swimming is strictly forbidden.
The calcium carbonate rich water creates a special kind of limestone: a Travertine barrier. It is formed from the living mosses that filter the calcium carbonate from the water. This creates a push pull phenomenon as the water erodes the karst while the vegetation growing at the top of these barriers grows at a rate of about 1 cm per year, and over thousands of years eventually becomes stone too. The lakes and their interconnecting travertine barriers create an ever morphing, growing and reducing landscape. Mother Nature knows what she is doing and it is our responsibility to let her do it. Hence no swimming in these lakes.
There are also many species of butterflies, bats, birds, lynx, lizards and wolf, to name a few .
A LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE TRYING TO PRESERVE THE PRISTINE AND UNIQUE BEAUTY OF THE PARK WHILE ALLOWING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AND THEIR DOGS TO VISIT EACH YEAR.
Park entry tickets are also at a minimum. There is a full day ticket, a two day ticket ( slightly less than the cost of two day tickets) and another ticket you can buy at 4 pm for the rest of the day. That's it, no other choices. Very easy and straight forward. You get a paper ticket with a bar code on it and staff with handheld barcode readers check you on to the boats and buses and at the three physical entrances to the park. The park opens at 7 am and closes at 8 pm. Busses and boats run frequently throughout the day between those times. If you manage to get your car into a car park there is a small fee for parking.
There are three 50 seater electric boats and seven 100 seater boats than run continuously moving visitors between the upper and lower lakes.
As well as the boats there are shuttle bus/ trains. There are only three stops, top, middle and bottom. The sealed road is only for the busses, no other traffic. It is single lane with one passing spot. There are cafes and toilets at the stops. The Mercedes unimog provides the power, some of them tow two trailers, each trailer with a 50 person carrying capacity. Double doors for quicker loading and unloading. Not suitable for wheel chairs.
the hiking trails are stone steps, timber boardwalk or dirt. My "stair legs" came in handy as there are quite a few steps. Nothing really steep but steps none the less.