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Plitvice Lakes National Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Plitvice Lakes National Park, located roughly halfway between the capital city of Zagreb and Zadar, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The country’s biggest natural attraction presents some of the most eye-catching scenery in mainland Croatia.
The 16 lakes are famous for their stunning colors, often changing from shades of teal, turquoise and deep blues to gray. In the park, wooden footbridges and pathways run across the edges of the lakes, over rumbling water, through verdant forests and very close to tumbling waterfalls.
The protected area covers almost 300 square kilometers, but some of the most beautiful hiking trails only take a few hours.
The best time to visit is spring when the waterfalls are at their peak, or in autumn when the trees start to change color. The tourist office at the entrance can advise you on which trail best suits you, so you don’t really need a guided tour. Beside, all trails are very clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. There is also an electric boat that takes you from one side of the largest lake to the other. This boat runs all year round, more frequently during summer. Swimming in Plitvice Lakes is forbidden as it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park. The park is open daily all year round, with longer opening hours during summer (usually to 8 PM). There’s an entrance fee which varies according to the season. It’s easy enough to see the sights of Plitvice in a day, although a two day visit will allow you to see the park in the glorious morning and evening light without having to travel far at night.
GeologyThe Plitvice Lakes' basin is a geomorphologic formation of biological origin, a karst river basin of limestone and dolomite, with approximately 20 lakes, created by the deposition of calcium carbonate precipitated in water through the agency of moss, algae, and aquatic bacteria. These create strange, characteristic shapes and contain travertine-roofed and vaulted caves. The carbonates date from the Upper Trias, Juras and Cretaceous Ages and are up to 4,000 meters thick. In order to maintain and preserve the natural characteristics of the lakes, the whole surface and most of the subterranean drainage system has to be embraced by extending the original borders of the park. The new areas comprise layers of karstified limestone with dolomites of Jurassic age.
Flora & FaunaThe dolomite communities comprise tertiary pine, horn-beam, spruce and beech-fir forests. The limestone communities have a smaller number of forest types but cover a larger area with communities of spruce and fern, spruce in beech, coppiced horn-beam with sumac, maple, and heather. Hydrophytic communities of black alder, gray ivy, willow, reeds, and bulrush communities are found. For fans of orchids, this is a floral mecca, botanists have so far identified 55 species within the park. The area is rich in fauna, including European brown bear, wolf, eagle, owl and Capercaillie. There are records of 126 species of bird, of which 70 breed. You might also occasionally see black storks and ospreys. Flocks of butterflies flutter throughout the park.
Where to StayMany people visit Plitvice Lakes on a day trip from either Zagreb or Zadar. But, by staying in Plitvice you can get to lakes before the day-trippers arrive. It is possible to stay within the park at one of its three hotels (Plitvice Hotel, Hotel Jezero, and Hotel Bellevue) or at its campsite, Camp Korana located about 7 km from the entrance. There is also a very wide selection of private accommodation (rooms, apartments, guesthouses) in a number of the towns and villages on the way to the park.
Food & DrinkYou can bring your own picnic to the park or you can grab lunch at one of the cafés or restaurants. Check opening times though, because they’re not all open for the duration of year. There is a small restaurant on one of the larger lakes that offers sandwiches, cold drinks, and coffee if you’d like a mid-day rest. The food near Plitvice is definitely more traditional, expect to be offered a glass of brandy, while the meals are mostly roasted meat, grilled sausage, hearty soups, with a side of potatoes, noodles or cabbage.
- You need to bring some good hiking shoes around the park as you will be walking on wooden paths with lots of short steps.
- You’ll need lots of water if you’re hiking through the park in the summer and the cafés are quite a distance apart, so take your own drinks.
- Stay away if you're visiting in July and August, the two busiest months of the year for tourism in Croatia, or go early in the morning before crowds arrive.
Getting There & Around
By CarIn total, it takes about a 2 hours drive from Zagreb as well as from Zadar to reach the park. Plitvice National Park is located on an approximate 1 hour drive from A1 main motorway.
From Zagreb, take the south route towards Karlovac . Once in Karlovac, take the D-1 road which leads right to the park.
From Zadar, take the north route on the A1 motorway to exit Naplatna Postaja Gornja Ploca. From there, take the exit to the D522 road. When you reach Udbine , take the D1 road which will take you right to the entrance of the park.
By BusBuses run to the park from most cities in Croatia. For the latest bus schedules, visit the main bus station in your city. Be aware that it is difficult to do a day trip to the park by bus, as most major cities are a minimum of 2 hours away. You can also book an organized excursion to Plitvice Lakes from a wide variety of other towns and resorts in Croatia.
The Plitvice National Park offers eight different hiking routes. A, B and C are the ones starting at entrance 1; while routes E, F and H start from entrance 2. There is also K route which can be started from either entrance. If you are fit and have lots of time then you should go for K route which is the longest and takes 6-8 hours. Each route is supplemented with environmentally-friendly electric buses and boats. There is also a little shuttle bus called the Panoramic Train that runs every 20 minutes.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Apr 29, 2015