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Plitvice Lakes Overview

Plitvice Lakes National Park, located in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, is a stunning natural wonder that has captivated visitors for centuries. Established in 1949, the park spans approximately 296 square kilometers (about 114 square miles), making it one of the largest national parks in Croatia. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, celebrated for its outstanding natural beauty and ecological diversity.

The park is renowned for its 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon. These lakes are known for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey, or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight. This dynamic landscape is the result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers, all of which are connected by these breathtaking waterfalls.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is enveloped in dense forests, home to an abundance of flora and fauna. The park’s forests serve as a sanctuary for deer, bears, wolves, boars, and numerous bird species, making it a significant area for biodiversity conservation in Croatia. The diversity of habitats creates a rich tapestry of ecosystems, from the aquatic ecosystems of the lakes themselves to the forest ecosystems surrounding them.

Visitors to Plitvice Lakes National Park can explore its beauty through a network of trails and wooden walkways that meander around the lakes and waterfalls, offering stunning views and easy access to this unique landscape. The park also offers boat rides on the larger lakes, providing a different perspective on the serene beauty of the area.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is not only a natural phenomenon of immense beauty and geological significance but also a tranquil oasis that offers visitors a chance to connect with nature and experience the serene and majestic landscapes of Croatia.  The lakes and falls are also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Europe.

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Park Map
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Plitvice Lakes National Park Highlights

Striking Waterways of Wonder

Plitvice Lakes National Park, renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, encompasses a network of 16 interconnected lakes cascading into stunning waterfalls.

These lakes, formed by the confluence of several small rivers and streams, are renowned for their vivid turquoise hues, which result from mineral deposits and algae.

The park boasts a total of 90 waterfalls, each a captivating spectacle of cascading water amidst lush, verdant surroundings. Visitors can explore the park via a series of wooden boardwalks and hiking trails that wind through its diverse landscapes, offering unparalleled views of the lakes and falls at every turn.

From the towering Veliki Slap (Great Waterfall) to the tranquil waters of Kozjak Lake, Plitvice Lakes and Falls captivate visitors with their timeless beauty and serene ambiance.

Predators

Plitvice Lakes National Park, nestled in Croatia, harbors a diverse array of predator species crucial to its ecological health. Among the prominent predators are the brown bear, wolf, and Eurasian lynx.

Brown Bear: The brown bear is an iconic inhabitant of Plitvice Lakes, playing a vital role as a top predator. These majestic creatures are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of foods, including berries, insects, and occasionally larger prey. While encounters with bears are rare and typically non-threatening, visitors should exercise caution and adhere to park guidelines.

Wolf: Wolves are another integral component of the park’s predator guild. These highly adaptable predators play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of prey populations. With their keen senses and elusive nature, they roam the park’s forests, primarily hunting ungulates like deer and wild boar.

Eurasian Lynx: The elusive Eurasian lynx is a lesser-known but equally important predator in Plitvice Lakes. These solitary felines are adept hunters, preying on smaller mammals such as rabbits and rodents. While sightings of lynx are rare due to their secretive behavior, their presence underscores the park’s ecological richness and biodiversity.

Popular

Plitvice Lakes National Park boasts a rich diversity of wildlife beyond its iconic predators. Here are some of the park’s other popular wildlife species:

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus): The majestic red deer is the largest herbivore in the park and a common sight among its lush forests. With their impressive antlers and reddish-brown coat, these ungulates contribute to the park’s natural beauty. Visitors may encounter them grazing in meadows or navigating through the woodland habitats.

European Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus): The graceful roe deer is another prevalent herbivore in Plitvice Lakes. Smaller than red deer, these solitary animals are distinguished by their reddish-brown coat and distinctive bounding gait. They are often spotted foraging in open areas or seeking cover in forested areas.

Wild Boar (Sus scrofa): Wild boars are common inhabitants of the park’s woodlands and wetlands. These robust mammals, known for their distinctive snouts and bristly fur, play a vital role in shaping the park’s ecosystem through their foraging behavior. Visitors may observe them rooting for food in the forest floor or traversing the park’s diverse landscapes.

European Otter (Lutra lutra): The European otter is a charismatic resident of Plitvice Lakes, inhabiting the park’s waterways and wetland habitats. With their sleek, streamlined bodies and webbed feet, these playful mammals are superb swimmers and skilled hunters. Visitors may catch glimpses of them gliding through the park’s crystal-clear lakes or along its winding rivers.

Eurasian Badger (Meles meles): The elusive Eurasian badger is a nocturnal inhabitant of Plitvice Lakes, dwelling in underground burrows scattered throughout the park. Recognizable by their distinctive black-and-white facial markings, badgers are primarily scavengers and omnivores, feeding on a varied diet of insects, small mammals, and plant matter. While sightings are rare, visitors may encounter signs of their presence, such as tracks or burrow entrances

Plitvice Lakes National Park Pictures

Engaging Plitvice Lakes

Traverse Amongst the Falls

Hiking in Plitvice Lakes National Park offers an immersive experience amidst breathtaking natural beauty. The park boasts well-maintained pathways and hiking trails, winding through verdant forests, alongside crystal-clear lakes, and past cascading waterfalls.

Hikers can anticipate traversing wooden boardwalks and stone paths, providing easy access to the park’s most scenic spots. Along the way, they’ll encounter a diverse array of flora and fauna, including vibrant wildflowers, towering trees, and perhaps glimpses of wildlife like deer or foxes.

The trails lead to panoramic viewpoints overlooking the park’s iconic waterfalls, such as the Veliki Slap (Great Waterfall), offering stunning photo opportunities and moments of serenity amidst nature’s splendor. With trails suitable for all skill levels, hiking in Plitvice Lakes National Park promises unforgettable adventures for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike.

Off the Beaten Path

Embarking on a boat tour at Plitvice Lakes National Park offers a unique perspective of its enchanting landscapes. Visitors can anticipate leisurely cruising across the park’s pristine turquoise lakes, gliding past verdant shores adorned with lush vegetation and towering cliffs.

The tranquil boat ride provides an opportunity to marvel at the park’s ethereal beauty from a different vantage point, immersing oneself in the serene ambiance of the surroundings. As the boat gently glides over the glassy waters, passengers can admire the reflections of the surrounding forests and cliffs mirrored on the lake’s surface, creating mesmerizing visual symphonies.

The boat tour allows for up-close encounters with the park’s captivating waterfalls, as passengers navigate closer to these natural wonders, feeling the cool mist on their faces and listening to the soothing sound of cascading water.

With knowledgeable guides providing insights into the park’s ecology and history, a boat tour at Plitvice Lakes promises a memorable and immersive experience for visitors of all ages

Plitvice Lakes National Park Trails

The Lower Lakes Circuit

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2.8 miles (4.5 km) loop, 300 feet (91 meters)

Description: This trail offers an immersive experience of the park’s famous lower lakes and waterfalls, including the iconic Veliki Slap, the tallest waterfall in the park.

Hikers will walk on wooden boardwalks that meander through vibrant green landscapes and over clear blue waters, providing up-close views of the park’s unique geological formations and abundant wildlife.

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The Upper Lakes Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 4.3 miles (7 km) loop, 400 feet (122 meters)

Description: This trail explores the upper lakes, where hikers can see a series of smaller, cascading lakes connected by waterfalls.

The path takes you through dense forests and across wooden bridges, offering panoramic views of the area’s natural beauty.

This tranquil hike is perfect for nature lovers looking to explore the park’s quieter, less visited sections.

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Kozjak Lake Boat Ride and Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: Varies with boat ride, minimal elevation gain on foot

Description: A unique combination of a boat ride across Lake Kozjak, the park’s largest lake, followed by a gentle walk.

This experience allows visitors to enjoy the serene beauty of the lake and surrounding forest from the water, followed by a leisurely hike along the shores, featuring stunning vistas and peaceful spots perfect for a rest.

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The Educational Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 1.9 miles (3 km) loop, minimal elevation gain

Description: Specifically designed to be educational, this trail takes visitors through significant geological and hydrological features of the park, with informative boards along the route.

It’s an excellent choice for families and those interested in learning more about the natural processes that shaped Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Vidikovac Trail (Viewpoint Hike)

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.6 miles (1 km) one way, 500 feet (152 meters)

Description: Leading to one of the highest viewpoints in the park, this steep trail rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the Plitvice lakes and waterfalls from above.

The climb is challenging but offers unparalleled photo opportunities and a chance to see the park from a different perspective.

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FAQ’s

1. How many waterfalls are there in Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Plitvice Lakes National Park boasts numerous breathtaking waterfalls, with a total count exceeding 90 individual cascades.

These waterfalls vary in size and height, adding to the park’s allure and providing captivating sights for visitors to admire as they explore the park’s picturesque landscapes.

2. How many lakes are there in Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to a network of sixteen interconnected lakes, each characterized by its distinct shades of turquoise and azure waters.

These lakes, formed by natural processes over thousands of years, are a hallmark of the park’s stunning beauty and ecological significance.

3. What is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park?

The best time to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park is during the spring and fall seasons, typically from April to June and September to October.

During these periods, the weather is mild, and the park’s lush vegetation is at its most vibrant. Additionally, visitor numbers are lower compared to the peak summer months, allowing for a more serene experience.

Average temperatures range from around 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F) in spring and from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F) in fall, making outdoor exploration comfortable and enjoyable.

Sources
  • All Trails, Plitvice Lakes National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/croatia/licko-senjska-zupanija/plitvice-lakes-national-park, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Plitvička Lakes, https://www.britannica.com/place/Plitvicka-Lakes, retrieved March 2024.
  • Kimkim, Unique ways to Experience Plitvice Lakes, https://www.kimkim.com/c/unique-ways-to-experience-plitvice-lakes-national-park, retrieved April 2024.
  • Park Site, Plitvice Lakes, https://np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/, retrieved March 2024.
  • UNESCO, Plitvice Lakes National Park, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/98/, retrieved March 2024.
  • World Atlas, Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/plitvice-lakes-national-park-unique-places-in-croatia.html, retrieved April 2024.