The Plitvice Lakes (Plitvicka jezera) are the most famous natural wonder of Croatia. The crystal clear water of the lakes attracts around a million visitors every year. It can get very tight on the narrow wooden walkways in the high season. Nevertheless, the scenic beauty of the lakes is so impressive that a visit is also worthwhile in summer. The national park has an area of around 300 km², which is about 6 times larger than the city of Rijeka. The park is so big that the catchment area of the watercourses is also protected. The exciting part of the park is located in a gorge, where pools of different sizes have accumulated over a distance of around 5 kilometers, separated from each other by travertine barriers. These shallow basins gave the national park its name, because shallow means plicina in Croatian.
The Plitvice Lakes consist of 16 lakes, which are divided into two groups. The 12 Upper Lakes and the 4 Lower Lakes. The lower part is located in the north of the national park, where the main entrance and the ticket office are also located. The entrance fees are high and vary between € 12-40 (2021) depending on the season. These prices can also change daily due to the exchange rate to the euro. In summer (June-September) it is very crowded and very expensive, whoever has the opportunity should try to visit the park in spring or autumn. The link to the official website of the Plitvice Lakes can be found at the very bottom of this page. In summer you should buy a ticket with a time slot online.
The visitor center is located on highway 1 that connects Split with Zagreb. There are also parking spaces and bus stops here.
The Plitvice Lakes are part of a kart landscape. The porous limestone weathers and water gets into the rock, only to escape in other places. The high lime content of the water creates travertine barriers that dammed the water in basins. In this way, the Plitvice Lakes gorge overcomes a height difference of around 130 meters. The uppermost lake is at an altitude of 636 m, the lowest lake at 503 m. The water flows from one lake to the next. But there are also waterfalls and many small springs. The landscape is constantly changing because barriers break or new ones emerge.
One of the most famous sights in the Plitvice Lakes National Park is the "Great Waterfall" Veliki Slap. The waterfall is located near the Lower Lakes visitor center. Sights and viewpoints are marked by signs. You can find your way around on overview maps. The Lower Lakes are connected to the Upper Lakes by electric boats on Kozjak Lake. The ferry is included in the ticket price. There is another entrance at the Upper Lakes, which is also on National Road 1.
Plants play a major role in the creation of the water basin, because the lime is deposited on the mosses and thus the travertine barriers are formed. Due to the humid microclimate in the gorge, numerous endemic animals and plants have developed. Due to the difference in height, you can find very different species in a small area. There are 270 different butterflies, 160 species of birds, amphibians, reptiles and even brown bears. The fish are best known because you can see them very well in the clear, shallow water.
You can find more information about the Plitvice Lakes National Park on the national park's website (see link). The location marker shows the entrance to the Lower Lakes. There are restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops in the national park. Since there is usually a very large crowd in the few restaurants, it is better if you have eaten beforehand and take something with you when you are out and about. Since you often have to negotiate inclines and stairs on the narrow paths, sturdy shoes are recommended. In spring and autumn you have to expect sudden rain and in winter there is often snow and the lakes are icy. It can be significantly cooler in the mountains than on the sunny Croatian coast.