Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes is Croatia's oldest and largest National Park which has about 296 km2 of the wilderness worthy of poetry. Lying on karst, this National Park consists of 16 turquoise lakes of different sizes, which unite with other water streams, thus forming the most diverse displays of the sheer force water that can be imagined.
The area of Plitvice used to be inhabited by various tribes, including Illyrians, Celts, Romans, Avars, and Slavs. In the 16th c. this territory, already populated by the Croats, was occupied by the Turks, and only in the second half of the 17thc. regained by the Austrians, who soon made it a part of their Military Frontier. This place was turned into a popular tourist spot in the end of the 19th c. and was granted the status of a national park in 1949. The remarkable value of Plitvice was recognized by the UNESCO, and it was designated on the World Heritage List in 1979. In 1991 the park became the scene of the first armed conflict in the Croatian War of Independence and was liberated in 1995 during Operation Storm, which solved the war. Damaged during wartime, Plitvice Lakes National Park soon recovered thanks to travertine, a variety of limestone, which grows rapidly and ceaselessly, forming new pools, barriers, and waterfalls.
Many travelers who visit the coastal areas of Croatia take the unique opportunity to see Plitvice Lakes, conveniently positioned close to the main road between Zagreb and Zadar. One can use the public transport, a personal vehicle or a bicycle to get to the park.
To get an idea how the Park looks, try to visualize Niagara Falls divided and scattered over a densely wooded Grand Canyon, with 16 terraced lakes connected by waterfalls and romantic plank walking paths. All the lakes are legendary for their breathtaking colors, ranging from bluish green to grey or blue. These colors change all the time depending on the quantity of minerals or living organisms in the water and the sunlight. Numerous waterfalls and uncommonly clear and colorful water make this place a fantastic natural wonderland.
The lake which deserves a special attention is Proscansko Lake with waters of dark green color, nestled cozily at an altitude of 636m. Slight peaks around this lake, covered with evergreen and deciduous forests, will certainly give your neck a good workout! One more lake worthy of mention is Okrugljak, which is famous for the so-called "cave park", consisting of a series of caves. You will be surprised to learn how most of these caves have been formed. There is a kind of moss known as Cratoneuron which grows under the travertine cascades here and there; over the time this moss gets covered with travertine and new moss grows on it; then a crag is formed which soon gets covered with a cave roof. Provided the water keeps rushing the cave becomes gradually bigger.
In addition, you should definitely save time for a 20-min boat ride along the park's largest lake Kozjak, which connects Lower and Upper Lakes. The lower part of the Upper Lakes is considered to be the most mind-blowing place in the entire park.
However, it's not just lakes and cascades which make Plitvice Lakes so mesmerizing. This place will also fascinate you by its majestic trees, caves, springs and flower meadows. Here you might get lucky to spot many rare but still preserved species there, such as brown bear, lynx, black stork, and Ural owl. At the foot of the Dinaric Mountains, rainwater collects and rushes through underground caves, which are adorned with chimerical stalactites and inhabited by rare species.
The hauntingly beautiful area of Plitvice would be ideal for walkers, hikers, and nature lovers. Hiking trails and wooden paths are everywhere so that visitors can even be one step from the waterfalls, but they are not allowed either to trample on any plant growing there or swim in the lakes. Apart from the special programs organized for hikers the park's visitors can enjoy cycling, skiing, rowing, and rides on electric boat or panoramic train.
Being a sundae for the senses and a sheer joy to explore, Plitvice Lakes National Park will win your heart for ever and will come back there over and over again.