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Plitvica Lakes - Croatia's 1st National Park with Nature Walkways

Updated on October 1, 2012
The natural beauty of the park is more beautiful live and in person than any photo can portray.
The natural beauty of the park is more beautiful live and in person than any photo can portray.

Tourism at Croatia's #1 National Park

Plitvica National Park in Croatia

National Parks are big trends in Croatia, and Plitvica is the most visited, followed by Krk Slapovi, located to the south near Split in Central Dalmatia. Plitvica is Croatia's oldest national park, first declared a protected cultural and ecological resource in 1949. Thirty years laer in 1979, it was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

In 2008, more than 950,000 people visited Plitvica, which is half of the total number of tourists in Hrvatska (Croatia) over a year's time. Why? Many find its natural beauty and protected status very attractive. Eco-tourism is a relatively new trend. Many unique plant and animal species flourish here, and the entire ecostructure is still geologically evolving.

Besides tourism, the park provides a research area for scientists, students and geologists who study the interaction of nature and geology. The park is open year round, and has facilities to welcome its many visitors.

At this time, the National Park offers four hotels, two camps, and several bed and breakfast guest houses. In the future, Plitvica has plans to build a wellness center at Hotel Plitvice.

Nestled in the Croatian mountains south of Zagreb, north of Knin and west of Slavonija, Plitvica is located at the culmination point of several rivers which carve into the limestone below, leaving carbon deposits probably 4000 m deep over thousands of years. The moss and bacteria growing support wild animal life. The area is self-damming and many caves are within the infrastructure of waterways and waterfalls alongside the steep and mountainous cliffs.

A Scrapbook of Views at Plitvica

Ingenious Natural Lake Configuration

Natural Wildlife Reserve

About 8% of Croatian territory is under protected status in some form or another. Cultural heritage sites, national parks and a Geopark at Papuk are protected areas, strictly forbidden by law to destroy or tamper with or build upon. There are eight national parks in all, with Plitvica being the most famous and well-visited, followed by Krk National Park to the south (also famous for its prolific waterfalls).

Self Tours and Guided Tours

Visitors to the park can take a map and wander along the clearly marked trails of varying lengths, from a kilometer or two to a day long hike, depending on time and energy constraints. The fresh air and greenery is truly energizing.

There is an organized boat ride, a shuttle bus and guided tours available in several languages. Within the park itself are hundreds of breathtaking views and photo opportunities.

Who Visits the Park?

Local citizens, international visitors, research and science buffs and professional scientists, professors and students, as well as tourists to the Croatian hinterland make up its nearly 1 million visitors per year.

Geology

More than 20 lakes make up the water configuration. Like Niagara Falls at the American - Canadian border, the basis of the falls has a limestone base. Natural dams are created with calcium carbonate deposits, dating back to the Crustacean Age. Scientists estimate the carbon deposits to be 4000 meters thick. Caves have been formed from centuries of water passage support the growth of moss and growth, bacteria and continues to geologically evolve.

Walking on the Water

The pleasant wooden walkways are a pleasure to traverse.  They are next to nature but also sturdy and well reinforced.
The pleasant wooden walkways are a pleasure to traverse. They are next to nature but also sturdy and well reinforced.

Croatia's First and Perhaps Most Important National Park

Plant and Animal Life

Surrounded by a tall and dense forest, it is actually two parks in one. The upper lakes are surrounded by a dense forest, and have a dolomite basis, accompanying the steep drop of water. Unlike the higher area, the lower lakes tend to be shallower and have a limestone basis, surrounded by scarce brush cover.

Three quarters of the waterfall current siphon into the two largest lakes, Kozjak (Koe-zyak) and Prošće (Proe-shchah). With sizes of 81 hektor and 68 hektor we are talking about two lakes with the dimensions of 8 km by 100 meters wide and nearly 7 km by 100 wide. These are some pretty large bodies of water.

Within the lakes are great, unparellelled depths. In Kozjak the deepest point measures 46 meters and Prošću 37 meters. Waterfalls join the two bodies of water. The two main sources for the lakes are the Crna (Black) and Bijela (White) rivers. The Riječica ("Small River) river flows into Lake Kožjak when then flows into the Korana river.

Animal life flourishes in its naturally rich environment for a rich assortment of plant and animal life. With numerous types of bird and wildlife, the park contains a protective habitat for deer, bears, wolves, owls, wild pigs, otters, bats, cougars, and several river fish species.

Plitvica National Park is located close to the center of Croatia.
Plitvica National Park is located close to the center of Croatia.

Tools from the Bronze Age

The Culture of an earlier Civilization

The park is also important as an early prehistoric settlement dating back to the 1000 B.C. in the early Bronze Age. Some archeologists believe that it was settled during Jurassic times

Before the 6th century A.D. when the first Croats settle the area, it was believed to be occupied by the Japodians (ya-POD-i-uns) or simply the Japodi (ya-PO-di). This is just one tribe of the indigenous Illiric peoples. The Japodians mainly lived in the upper mountainous area towards the inland. They are famous for being able to survive and thrive for over 15 centuries, from the 9th century B.C. to after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 6th century A.D.

Their Illiric brothers the Liburnians and Delmati left behind more records and artifacts of their civilization than the Japodi. However, with the discoveries of new cultural artifacts, it's become clear that their heritage was both rich and extensive.

Iliric Tribes

Other Illiric tribes include:

The Liburnians who lied near modern day Zadar on the Adriatic coast, under the rule of King Jonije. They were famous for dominating the Adriatic Sea, successfully keeping the Greeks out of the area until the 4th century B.C. when Dionisius the Elder successfully started a settlement on modern day Vis, called Issa, in 397 A.D.

The Delmati, known for being fierce warriors and very tall, which is how the Dalmatian region got its name. The Romans respected and feared the Delmati because after expanding westward to Gaul (modern day France) they were rudely surprised to find out that this group of people were about the only indigenous people that they could not easily defeat.

The Histrians occupied the northern peninsula of Istra, which is named for them. They claim to have had a different language than the other Illiric tribes. They settled in the Pula, Poreć and other northern areas of modern day Croatia alongside Celtic tribes, and were known to attack Roman settlements and army camps (Logori).

The Adrijeci (Ardy-yeah-tci) of whom relatively little is known, only that they lived near the Neretva River to the south near Crna Gore (Montenegro).

Japodians - an IlliricTribe to the East

A drawing of the caps worn by members of the Japodi Illiric tribe, which lived in the hinterland of what is today the Balkan Peninsula.
A drawing of the caps worn by members of the Japodi Illiric tribe, which lived in the hinterland of what is today the Balkan Peninsula.
Typical female dress for the women of the Japodian tribe.  Their culture extends from east of Istria, canyons in the Velebit mountains and perhaps as far east as Slovenija.
Typical female dress for the women of the Japodian tribe. Their culture extends from east of Istria, canyons in the Velebit mountains and perhaps as far east as Slovenija.

Park Hours and Walking Trails

Seasonability

The park is open year round for great seasonal beauty.

Hours

7 am to 8 pm during Summer

Admission

Adult entrance fee is 80 Kuna in the low season (November through March) and 110 Kuna in the high season (April through October). In dollars the amount is divisible by 5.5, the current exchange rate, or $14.50 - $20.00 USD.

Teens and Children have a reduced fee, and younger children aged 7 or under are admitted free of charge. Two day passes are available. Group admission of 15 or more people get a discount.

Guided Tours

Four hour tours are available in several languages: English, German, French, Spanish or Italian. The price for 15 people is 700 kuna ($127.27). They must be booked at least a few days in advance.

Park Entrance

There are two main entrances to the Park, but the second entrance closes in the wintertime.

Walking Trails

Upon entrance to the Park, visitors receive a map showing shorter and longer walking trails. The longest is 8 hours long for those who feel they have it in 'em!

Boat Ride

The boat excursion takes you from Lake Kožjak to Lake Pošće, running year round.

Shuttle Bus

If you get tired of walking, the shuttle bus will give you a panoramic tour of the Park and bring you back to one of the main entrances

The Jugoslav National Army

Plitvica was a target during the War for the Homeland (Domovinski Rat) in 1991
Plitvica was a target during the War for the Homeland (Domovinski Rat) in 1991
Serbian terror at Bloody Easter (Krvavi Uskrs) in 1991
Serbian terror at Bloody Easter (Krvavi Uskrs) in 1991

War for the Homeland or Domovinski Rat

Not only is Plitvica a cultural and ecological site, it is a historical one.

During the Spring of 1991, Serbian troops in the Jugoslavian National Army(JNA) blocked the road and took the National park hostage. Random killing of Croatian villagers, gunshots to rooftops, burned churches and devastation marked the era known as Krvava Uskrs or Bloody Easter 1991, right after Croatia had struggled to break free from Yugoslavia.

War Memorials and the Economy

When you visit the Park, you may see War Memorials of the innocent families who were killed in surrounding villages, including Slunj, during that time. It is a painful memory of the price paid for Croatian Independence. Similar things happened in Vukovar, Dubrovnik and Zadar during Croatia's long desired struggle to become its own Republic after centuries of external domination. It took the Croatian economy a full 10 years to recover from the devastating effects of its Domovinski Rat (War for the Homeland). Tourism has provided one of the better sources of economic recovery, though other options are currently being explored and developed. Croatia (Hrvatska) has been accepted as the 28th member of the European Union, which should go into effect in late 2012 or 2013.

Lake Kozjak to the Water falls dropoff point

The river flows to the lake, leading to the  waterfall, downward in effortless motion, as it has been doing for centuries
The river flows to the lake, leading to the waterfall, downward in effortless motion, as it has been doing for centuries
Water falls from the high peaks fyea round, from Spring to Winter.  In the colder months, the water freezes over, creating a Narnia type beauty.
Water falls from the high peaks fyea round, from Spring to Winter. In the colder months, the water freezes over, creating a Narnia type beauty.

Plitvica Q and A

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Autumn Water Falls

The brush begins changing color and the weather is fresh, but not too cold.
The brush begins changing color and the weather is fresh, but not too cold.
With less crowds in the Fall, there is plenty of time to linger and take plenty of photographs.  The colorful autumn leaves make a rustic contrast to the fresh flowing aqua colored water.
With less crowds in the Fall, there is plenty of time to linger and take plenty of photographs. The colorful autumn leaves make a rustic contrast to the fresh flowing aqua colored water.

For those who love waterfalls

Winter at Plitvica - Frigid Beauty

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    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks so much, Good Lady! :) Like yourself I am really excited about this great news - haven't stopped smiling all day. I feel the same way. Warm regards, ECAL

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It is so beautiful and your pictures are very lovely. It is an amazing park and I would love to spend days there.

      Thank you so much for writing so fully about it.

      Voting up.

      Look forward to reading more of your Hubs and getting to know you better through the A P on Hub Pages.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi farmloft :)

      Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and the follow. There are more Hubs in the making - Croatia has eight national parks which are a little less than 10% of the country's entire geographical area.

    • farmloft profile image

      farmloft 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      I love, love, love waterfalls. The beauty of the park and the history is interesting. I enjoyed learning about this special country.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Great, glad you're happy with it, cat on a soapbox. What a great name you picked! I spent a lot of time to give the best presentation of the Park, I was really impressed with its natural beauty. Cheers, ECAL

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for bringing such a beautiful natural wonder to our attention! This has been a very informative hub!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks, Nell! Yes, many Americans say the same thing. Croatia is a truly beautiful place so I will be writing more Hubs uncovering its natural beauty. I appreciate your votes, worked hard on this piece, glad it got the effect I was aiming for - satisfied readers. Wishing you well, ECAL

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hello billybuc, the pleasure was mine, glad to be your virtual tour guide. I was really impressed with Plitvica, but as you know, writing a Hub you always learn much more. Never say never, flights to Croatia in offseason can be as low as 1200 RT. Wishing you well, ECAL

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      @ bmukherjii, Glad you liked them, I tried to find the nicest ones :) In person, the colors and smells are even more wonderful. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, what an interesting and fact filled hub! I only knew a little about Croatia, obviously the war was the dominant feature on the news over here in England, but what a beautiful place! wonderful photos, and video's too, amazing! voted up! cheers nell

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a beautiful area! I have never been abroad but these pictures certainly having me wish I could. Thank you for showing me a place I may never see. Wonderful hub!

    • bmukherjii profile image

      bmukherjii 

      6 years ago

      amazing pictures..

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