Lifestyle & Travel

Jun 1, 2016

WILD CROATIA

Dominated by postcard-like landscapes, incredible colours and scents, intertwined with the sounds of the pristine Balkan forests and falling water, Plitvice Lakes Natural Park is Croatia's brightest gem, and one of Europe's top destinations for those who love nature and untouched wilderness.

It's Croatia's most popular tourist attraction, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is a unique location in the Balkan region, halfway between Zagreb and the coastal city of Zadar. A definite must see, in constant changing, divided in two main areas: upper lakes and lower lakes.

The National Park occupies a total area of 300 km2, throughout which lay sixteen lakes, interconnected by waterfalls, in the midst of a luxuriant vegetation and exquisite animal life, typical from the region's temperate climate.

The name Plitvice was first mentioned in a written document in 1777, by Dominik Vukasović, the priest of Otočac, who used the designation due to the natural phenomena that created the lakes. As the water poured across the limestone, Nature formed shallow basins (pličina or plitvak, plitko means shallow in Croatian language), which have been filled with water. For centuries, water has changed the limestone, and thus the landscape of this area. The emerging travertine barriers became ever growing dams, which decelerated and retained the flowing water.

One of the best activities to do at the Park is to hike or walk through its trails. The visitor can access Plitvice's sceneries via one of two entrances. "Entrance 2" welcomes the tourists to the upper lakes. Here you can roam around lakes Prošćansko jezero, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Veliko jezero, Malo jezero, Vir, Galovac, Milinovo jezero, Gradinsko jezero, Buk and Kozjak.

Accessing the Park via "Entrance 2" is the best chance to watch most of the lakes and waterfalls, as there are more of them on the upper region of the Park, and the visitors walk through a gravel path onto wooden walkways to cross the lakes. "Veliki Slap" or Large Waterfall, the 78m tall liquid wall and one of the main attractions in the Park, is accessible through this Entrance. Tourists can also appreciate "Galovački buk", a 28m tall waterfall. Also, there is a "hidden" track which leads visitors under Veliki Slap for some adrenaline-filled moments. "Entrance 1" takes the tourists directly to the lower lakes, and therefore, lakes Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaluđerovac and Novakovića Brod.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is not only to be visited during the Summer holidays. As a natural park, it's in constant change, throughout the seasons. Either in Spring bloom, with magical scents flowing all around, or in Fall, when the golden browns from tree leaves are ready to drop to the floor, the Park is a stunning and amazing place to be, visit and discover, either alone or with friends and family. Although the Park is open year-round – every day from 07.00h until 20.00h, "Entrance 2" is usually closed during the winter season (November to April).

With regard to plant and animal diversity, the Plitvice Lakes region belongs to one the most significant areas of Croatia, in terms of wildlife and natural habitats. On the one hand, this is due to climatic conditions, and on the other hand, due to its geographic location, since the lakes are far away from polluted and noisy cities or industrial plants, which creates the perfect conditions for nature preservation and untouched landscapes.

The poor industrial development of this region, and early introduction of protection measures, have helped to maintain the area as pristine as possible. In the partially primeval beech and fir forests various rare species such as the brown bear have survived. At the Plitvice Lakes, "Evolution" seems to have stopped. Most of the endemic species continue to exist here.

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