Plitvice Lakes National Park (NP) Guide
Rarely does the nature hypnotize one with its beauty as it does at Plitvice Lakes. Harmony of water, greenery and stone is simply enchanting! Plitvice Lakes were declared a national park in 1949 and UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site already in 1979, as one of the first natural attractions in that esteemed list.
Plitvice Lakes are the largest and most popular Croatian national park. They consist of 16 lakes, divided into Upper Lakes (12 of them), from which the sparkling water cascades and descends into Lower Lakes (4 of them). The Upper Lakes are larger and deeper, while the Lower lakes are smaller, shallower and built on a limestone base.
The 78 m high Great Waterfall (Veliki slap) is the largest waterfall at Plitvice Lakes, but in whole Croatia as well. Except the height, it is different from the other waterfalls due to the fact that it is formed by a stream that is falling sharply down a steep cliff, while other waterfalls are formed of the lakes. The stream named Plitvice joins Plitvice Lakes in Sastavci, a place whose name could be translated as 'connecting places'. It is a stone recesses at the end of stepwise flow of Plitvice waters. Thus merged, stream and lake water form the beginning of the karst river Korana.
When you continue walking from the Great Waterfall towards the Upper Lakes, you will be constantly served with beautiful scenery. In good weather one can enjoy the turquoise waters of the Plitvice, whose colors are almost the same as those in the most beautiful bays in any idyllic island of Kornati archipelago! The clear water is full of fish, mostly chub and trout, and it is interesting that the trouts of the upper and lower lakes are somewhat different.
First of the Upper Lakes that you encounter on this route is Kozjak, the largest and deepest lake at Plitvice. The maximum depth is 47 meters, 10 meters deeper than the second deepest lake there, and also the second largest, Prošćansko lake.
Speaking of Prošćansko lake, there is a legend associated with its name. Once upon a time the whole area was struck by a serious drought. Desperate people prayed for help, and they got a reply from the Black Queen. She sent them rain that was falling for days, until the lakes were formed. These lakes are, of course, the Plitvice Lakes. In short, the name Prošćansko lake was created in memory of people 'begging' (prositi) for rain, while the other, more credible, story says that the lake owes its name to 'poles' (prošće).
For tourists it is useful to know that Kozjak lake is the center of tourist activity at Plitvice. You can sit down and eat or drink something by the largest lake and there is also a gift shop with some nice souvenirs of Plitvice.Kozjak lake is a starting point of the boat tour that connects it with Gradinsko lake. That route is full of waterfalls that leave you breathless, with Great and Small Prštavac (Veliki and Mali Prštavac) being especially delightful. Climb up and experience the Great Prštavac from the other side (internal), or approach the Small Prštavac and listen to a symphony of water 'telling' the story of the millenniums of creation of beautiful travertine rocks, down which the water flows!
Plitvice Lakes are not only rich in water, but also in forests, which are inhabited with all the biggest European mammals - brown bear, lynx and wolf. The local forests are rich with endemic plants, such as grassy bells and Thor’s buttercup. Endemic species at Plitvice are just a part of the rich populations of plant species there - 1267 of them in total, among which 22 are protected in Croatia.
Finally, some practical advice. If you decide to visit the Plitvice Lakes, the first dilemma is to visit them in the summer or winter time. Our answer is - both! While spring, summer and autumn weather offer plenty of water and splendid waterfalls, winter has its own charms. Frozen waterfalls and lakes and the white cover are certainly good enough reasons to visit Plitvice, with cheaper tickets during those months being another advantage.
There are two car parks at Plitvice. One hours of parking for cars costs 7 HRK per hour or 70 HRK per day, while motorcycles can park for free.
It's time to stop here, the beauty of this national park is difficult to convey on paper anyway. Plitvice Lakes are certainly among the most beautiful natural sites of the world and it would be a pity not to visit them if you're nearby - at least briefly, on your way to the Adriatic Sea.