Plitvice is an ensemble of 16 natural and amazing lakes. The national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Herzegovina and Bosnia.
The important north-south road connection, which passes through the Plitvice National Park area, connects the Adriatic coastal region with the Croatian inland.
The park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 in recognition of its “outstanding natural beauty, and the undisturbed production of travertine through biological and chemical action.”
The protected area extends over 73,350 acres (296.85 square kilometers). It takes upwards of 6 hours to explore the lakes on foot. About 90 percent of this area is part of Lika-Senj County, while the remaining 10 percent is part of Karlovac County.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park lies in a basin of karstic rock, mainly limestone and dolomite, which has given rise to their most distinctive feature.
The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to gray, green, or blue. The colors change regularly depending on the quantity of organisms or minerals in the water and the angle of sunlight.
Today the park is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Croatia. Due to its high natural, tourist and cultural significance, the park have become a motor for the local economy.
About 1,000,000 visitors per year (on a busy day, the park welcomes 10,000 hikers) greatly contribute to the economic development of the wider region.
Flora and Fauna
Botanists have so far listed 1,267 different plants out of 109 species that can be found within this national park. 75 plants are endemic, which signifies that the plants have first been classified and defined in this area of the world or not far from it.
An important number of these endemic species and plants is protected by law. In addition, there are 55 different species of orchids within this area. Also, it has over 320 types of moths and butterflies.
Furthermore, the area of the national park is home to an extremely wide variety of bird and animal species (at least 126 species of birds have been recorded, of which 70 have been recorded to breed there).
Rare fauna such as the European brown bear, wildcat, wolf, eagle, owl, lynx, and capercaillie can be found there, along with many more common species.
How to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia?
The national park is located at the national route D1 Zagreb–Split, between Korenica and Slunj, in the vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Other larger municipalities within the surrounding area are Rakovica, Ogulin, Otočac, Gospic, and Bihac in Bosnia. This fantastic park is on most Croatia bus tour itineraries. It’s quite possible to get there by public bus (around 2 hours from Zagreb, departing several times daily) but is easier by car.
Plitvice Lakes – Entrance Fee & Opening Hours
There are two entrances to the Park – excitingly titled Entrance 1 for the lower lakes and Entrance 2 for the higher lakes. The entrance fee is subject to variable charges, up to 180 KN or around €24 per adult in peak season.
Children aged 7 to 18 have cheaper tickets, whilst children under the age of 7 enter for free. Students also get discounted entry, and groups of fifteen or more (whether students, adults or children) can also get discounts. Rowboats can be hired from the shores of Lake Kozjak close to Entrance 2 (50KN per hour).
The National Park is open all year round and access is available from 7 am – 8 pm (in the Summer), 8 am – 6 pm (in the Spring and Fall) and 9 am – 4 pm (in the Winter).
Lakes and waterfalls
These marvelous lakes are a result of the confluence of subterranean karst rivers and several small rivers. Presently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface.
These 16 lakes are separated into a lower and upper cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 2,087 to 1,650ft (636 to 503m) over a distance of ~ 8 km, aligned in a south-north direction.
To reach the lower cluster you can either hike or take a pollution-free ferry across Kozjak, the largest lake in the park. The upper cluster is composed of a multitude of small lakes connected by spectacular wooden paths and waterfalls.
Beggin your park visit in the early morning (8 am) – you will take amazing pictures and will walk the park without the crowd. It is a completely different atmosphere without tourists.
In 1991, the first armed conflict of the Croatian War of Independence took place in this national park.
Since 1979, the annual number of visitors has increased from 500,000 to 1.7 million in 2017.
Visitors to Plitvice Lakes National Park are not allowed to swim in the waterfalls or lakes.
In total, about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) of the park is covered with lakes.