|Plitvice Lakes National Park is
Croatia’s largest national park. Covering almost 300 square kilometres,
it can be found near the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Plitvice is a
UNESCO World Heritage site whose stunning landscape
attracts over a million visitors a year.
Its world-famous lakes currently number 16. These lakes have formed over
time as a result of the karst topography found in the area – soluble
rocks like limestone and gypsum, which cause an underground system of
caves and sinkholes to form – and the natural build-up of travertine
dams – a type of limestone which is deposited by algae, moss and
bacteria, and which grow in size by about 1cm per year.
||The lakes, filled by water from the mountains, are
arranged in two groups, the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes, and cascade
down the hills, starting at around 636m above sea level, and descending
in stages to about 503m above sea level. Water from the lowest lake runs
into the Korana River. The colour of the lakes varies through the
blue-green spectrum, and changes depending on what types and amounts of
minerals and organisms are present, but you can guarantee that whatever
the shade, they are always breathtaking.
Due to the varied topography in the park, and the different climates it
experiences, there can be found a number of species that exist nowhere
else in the world. There are even species still found there whose
origins hail from a time before the arrival of humans – a very rare
The fact that there is no real industrial development anywhere nearby
has contributed to keeping the area a healthy place. Beech, spruce and
fir forests are home to brown bear, wolves, eagles, various owl species,
otters, lynx, bats and other more common species like deer and boar.
Many butterfly and moth species have been discovered, as well as fish,
amphibious dwellers and reptiles.
|The park authorities have built paths and wooden
footbridges between the lakes so that visitors can more easily enjoy
their beauty. You can also see waterfalls between the lakes – the
largest is 78m high. Visitors must pay to enter, but that fee goes
towards the necessary and important upkeep of this naturally beautiful
environment. Guided tours are available, or if you’re feeling brave you
can take the 8-hour sightseeing walk guided by map. The park is open
year-round, and is equally amazing to see in the snow.