Plitvice Lakes National Park lies midway between Zagreb and Zadar. The 19.5 hectares of wooded hills enclose 16 turquoise lakes, which are linked by a series of waterfalls and cascades. Wooden footbridges follow the lakes and streams over, under and across the rumbling water for an exhilaratingly damp 18km. In 1979, Unesco proclaimed the Plitvice Lakes a World Heritage Site, and the lakes and forests are carefully regulated to ensure their continuing preservation.
The extraordinary natural beauty of the site merits at least a three-day visit but you can experience a lot simply on a day trip from Zadar or Zagreb. There's no bad time to visit - in the spring the falls are flush with water, in summer the surrounding hills are greener and in autumn there are fewer visitors and you'll be treated to the changing colours of leaves.
The lake system is divided into the upper and lower lakes. The upper lakes lying in a dolomite valley are the most impressive, surrounded by dense forests and interlinked by several gushing waterfalls. The lower lakes are smaller and shallower, surrounded only by sparse underbrush. Most of the water comes from the Bijela and Crna Rijeka (White and Black Rivers), which join south of Proscansko Lake, but the lakes are also fed by underground springs. In turn, water disappears into the porous limestone at some points only to reemerge in another place. All the water empties into the Korana River near Sastavci.
The upper lakes are separated by dolomite barriers, which expand with the mosses and algae that absorb calcium carbonate as river water rushes through the karst. The encrusted plants grow on top of each other, forming travertine (porous rock) barriers and creating waterfalls. The lower lakes undergo a similar process but they were formed by cavities created by the water of the upper lakes. Travertine is constantly forming and reforming itself into new combinations so that the landscape is ever changing. This unique interaction of water, rock and plant life has continued more or less undisturbed since the last Ice Age.
The colours of the lakes also change constantly. From azure to bright green, deep blue or grey, the colours depend upon the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water, whether rain has deposited mud, and the angle of sunlight.
The luxuriant vegetation of the national park is another delight. The north-eastern
part of the park is covered by beech forests while the rest is covered with beech, fir spruce and white pine dotted with patches of whitebeam, hornbeam and flowering ash that change colour in autumn.
Coordinates: N 44° 52’ 50", E 15° 37’ 08"
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