Plitvice lakes are a unique and fascinating natural phenomenon, created in the central part of Croatia, in the region of Lika. Like a hidden pearl, lakes were protected and inaccessible within the dense forests under the slopes of the mountains Mala Kapela and Lička Plješevica. Today the Plitvice Lakes are world famous and easily accessible first-rate tourist attraction.
The national park covers the territory of 19,462 hectares, out of which forests cover 15,715 hectares, water covers 217 hectares and grassland with rural areas covers 3,530 hectares. The climate in the national park is a mild mountain climate. The largest amount of rain usually falls in the spring and autumn. Snow falls from November to March. The lakes are usually frozen during December and January. The Plitvice Lakes have settled in cascade series of travertine bulkheads of spring area of the river Korana, between Mala Kapela and Lička Plješevica. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a special geological and hydrological phenomenon. The lakes were declared a national park in April 8, 1949. It is the largest, oldest and most popular Croatian national park. It represents forested mountain area in which 16 small and large crystal blue-green lakes are strung. Lakes receive water from numerous rivers and streams, and they are all connected by cascades and waterfalls. Travertine barriers, which are made in the period of about ten thousand years, are one of the fundamental features of the park. The special geographical location and specific climatic features have contributed to occurrence of many natural phenomena and to rich biodiversity.
The national park comprises 16 lakes, which overflow and descend gradually into one another. The lakes are divided into Upper and Lower Lakes. The upper lakes are Prošćansko, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Big Lake, Little Lake, Vir, Galovac, Milino, Gradinsko Lake, Big Burget and Kozjak. The lower lakes are Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaluđerovac and Novakovic Brod. as we mentioned before, the special geographical location and specific climatic features have contributed to occurrence of many natural phenomena and the rich biodiversity in the park. Despite the proximity of the Mediterranean climate regions, mild mountain climate dominates because of impact of Velebit Mountain, which acts as a separator between the climate of coastal region and the highlands of Lika.
The phenomenon of lakes is the result of centuries-old processes and deposition of limestone, which is abundantly present in the waters of the karst area. Sedimentation of limestone has formed a travertine - a sedimentary rock that belongs to a group of carbonate rocks. It is frequently used in Italy and elsewhere as a building material. Michelangelo also chose travertine as the material for the external ribs of the dome of St Peter's Basilica.
The uniqueness of the Plitvice lakes is the fact that the lakes are connected. Due to constant change it is not possible to separately analyze the lakes. Water masses of the upper and lower parts of lakes continuously change the appearance of lakes as well as surrounding landscape. The new sediments and new waterfalls are formed continuously. In general, a complex of lakes represents a very sensitive and unstable ecosystem, which makes it so interesting and valuable.
Another distinctive feature is the influence of vegetation in the process of of sedimentation. Vegetative barriers slow down the flow of water. Water, thereby, becomes considerably foamed thus making waterfalls and cascades more attractive. At Plitvice, this interaction between water, air, rocks and vegetation is dynamic and is constantly changing.
The first serious signs of tourism in the Plitvice Lakes originate from 1861. The officers of the Military Frontier have built that year the first tourist house called "Imperial House" at Velika Poljana, with a capacity of only 3 rooms. In 1894, Plitvice have been visited by 1000 tourists and travelers. Hotel with 28 rooms was built in 1896. The construction of the Lika railway in 1927 had a great influence on further development of the tourism in Plitvice.
Plitvice Lakes were declared a World Heritage site under the UNESCO protection in 1979 which was continued by rapid development of tourism in the national park that has seen its peak in years before war. During the war the Plitvice Lakes were occupied, and therefore did not record any tourist visit. Only after the war and the liberation, Plitvice Lakes are again going through a real tourist boom. The number of visitors over the last few years has reached pre-war figures with a tendency of continuing growth.
In the central area of these sixteen picturesque lakes of the National Park Plitvice there are three hotels: Hotel "Jezero", hotel "Plitvice", hotel "Bellevue", and only 10 km from the the central area hotel "Grabovac” is located. If you are looking for accommodation in Plitvice Lakes, perhaps these hotels might be interesting for you. All these hotels in Plitvice Lakes have two or three stars. Don’t be scared, as they offer accommodation in comfortable rooms, have restaurants with rich gastronomic offer, as well as special offers throughout the year, depending on the seasonal culinary hits. In addition to the previously mentioned services, hotel "Jezero" hotel "Plitvice" offer additional facilities for the organization of larger and smaller conferences, business meetings and seminars. When you’re not admiring the beauties of the lakes, you can have a good time playing sports at the hotel grounds, or simply enjoy in peace and relaxation.
For those of you who are seeking a different way of accommodation in Plitvice, and who have different preferences and wish to spend more time outdoors, there are a couple of camps in Plitvice Lakes – camp "Korana" and camp "Borje". Both camps are located in extremely beautiful natural environment; camp "Korana" is located just 6 km from the western entrance, a camp, "Borje" at only 15 km away from the southern entrance to the National Park. Prepare to be dazzled, as we were not exaggerating when we said “extremely beautiful”.
For those of you looking for holiday villas in Plitvice, there is a variety of offer. Private accommodation in Plitvice Lakes goes from high-end to somewhat modest houses or apartments to rent. While browsing the Internet we saw houses so lovely that we are already planning to book them sometime this winter. The place looks magical covered with snow. Of course, there are rooms to rent in Plitvice, also. This can be convenient if you are just passing by and need a bed for one night.
As for the restaurants in Plitvice Lakes, there are many of them. If you want to enjoy the specialties of of Lika cuisine, we heard that restaurant “Lička kuća” has some fine stuff to offer.
National Park Plitvice Lakes can be reached by car or bus. Regular bus lines run from Zagreb to all major cities in Croatia. The closest airport is located in Zagreb, approximately 140 km from Plitvice Lakes and the nearest train station is situated in Karlovac, which is about 90 km from Plitvice. However you choose to come and whatever accommodation in Plitvice Lakes you decide to use, enjoying in beautiful nature, peace and solitude will be priceless. Whether you spend your time in Plitvice doing nothing and enjoying breathtaking landscapes, or go horseback riding, remember to take mental images of the place so you can always go back to it in your mind.