The Plitvice Lakes are situated near the border of Croatia with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is considered one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe. Moreover, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Plitvice Lakes, situated on the Plitvice plateau, are flanked by the mountains of Licka Plješevica, Mala Kapela, and Medvedak. The peak of Licka Pliesevica at Gornja Pliesevica is 1,640 meters above sea level, while the Seliski Vrh peak of Mala Kapela is 1,280 meters, and the peak of Medvedak is only 884 meters. The Plitvice Lakes comprise 20 lakes at varying elevations from 636 to 503 meters above sea level. The lakes spread out over an area 8 kilometers long on a north-south axis, with the total area of the 20 Plitvice Lakes at some 2 square kilometers. The lakes are fed by runoff from the mountains, and the lowest lake feeds the waters of the river Korana.
The Plitvice Lakes are part of a karst formation, creating both the lakes and the interesting geological features that make them such an interesting locale. The rock plateau is karstic stone, mostly comprised of dolomite and limestone. The 20 Plitvice Lakes are separated by natural travertine dams that grow approximately one centimeter each year with the addition of algae, plants, and bacteria. The natural dams have provided not only an interesting feature to the ecosystem of Plitvice Lakes, but also lovely waterfalls.
The lakes are perhaps best known for their changeable and distinctive coloring. The lake color varies depending upon the balance of minerals and organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight. The Plitvice Lakes can range from azure blue to green or grey.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to dense beech and fir forests. Both Alpine and Mediterranean flora thrive in the microclimates, soil conditions, and varying elevations. The rich forests of the park prevent soil erosion and provide homes for many animal species.
Many rare animals live and breed in the Plitvice Lakes region. The European brown bear, wild cats, eagle owls, and capercaillie can all be found in the forests of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Seventy species of birds nest in the park, and at least 126 different bird species have been seen there. Many lovely species of butterflies are also found in the Plitvice Lakes area. Naturalists and bird watchers will certainly enjoy this aspect of the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Human occupation of the Plitvice Lake area dates back thousands of years. Illyrians, Thracians, Celts, Japods, Romans, Avars, Slavs, and Turks have all settled in the region during different time periods. Today, the area surrounding the park is inhabited by both Croatians and Serbians.
The Plitvice Lakes were a significant tourist attraction as early as the 19th century. By 1893, a conservation committee was overseeing the area, and in 1896, the first hotel was built to accommodate visitors to the lakes. In 1949, the Yugoslavian government declared the Plitvice Lakes a national park, and in 1979, they were recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. UNESCO recognized the lakes both for their natural beauty and for their production of travertine. Plitvice Lakes was recently expanded by more than 100 square kilometers, increasing the amount of protected land in this beautiful area.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s major tourist attractions. The area’s stunning natural beauty, wide range of ecosystems, flora and fauna, and interesting geological features draw many visitors each year. The lakes are beautiful year round, but many visitors find the weather most pleasant from late spring to early fall.