Plitvice Lakes, in Central Croatia, is one of the most stunning hikes in Europe along planked walkways through a series of blue-green crystal clear lakes connected by waterfalls.The UNESCO site is a valley of 16 terraced lakes that are connected by waterfalls that pour out of the crevices. The surprising feature of this lake system is the vibrant green, azure, aqua and blue hues of the water that are constantly changing with the sunlight and the quantity of minerals in that part of the lake system.
The formation of these lakes is a rare combination of the elements. Water flows over the limestone formations, dissolves the rock and the water becomes supersaturated with calcium carbonate which builds a travertine coating on the bottom and sides. The water basically calcifies everything it touches including the muddy river bottoms. Additional minerals, magnesium carbonate, prevents the growth of algae for clear water and the changing color hues.
Due to the sensitive nature of the ecosystem, visitors are not permitted to enter the pools. A series of planked walkways take you around the park, but very close to the waterfalls and often right up the center of them.
Plitvice became Croatia’s first national park in 1949 and was a popular tourist destination in the Yugoslavian Tito era. In 1991, the first shots of the Yugoslavian wars were fired here. The Serbs took over the park which was largely unattended in the war-time period and the Croatians fled to the coast as refugees. The park has been restored and now over 1,000,000 visit every year.
Jezero Kozjak (Lake Kozjak) – The biggest lake in the park, connects the Lower and Upper lakes and you will take a 20 minute boat ride across for the rest of the hike.
Every bend of the hike has a view of water pouring out from the cliffs…. and new shades of blue and green.
[vision_content_box style=”sky-blue” title=”Tips”][vision_list_item icon=”fa-info-circle” color=”#51A6E0″] Go Early: The park is very crowded with tour buses from Zagreb and Split. If you go early in the morning you will avoid them and the “tourist shuffle” when the boardwalks get crowded[/vision_list_item][vision_list_item icon=”fa-info-circle” color=”#51A6E0″] Transportation: I chose to rent a car as I did not want to do the day tour and many of the guide books detailed that the public buses were not very reliable and may be full[/vision_list_item][vision_list_item icon=”fa-info-circle” color=”#51A6E0″] Accommodations: The onsite park accommodations are probably best for an early start OR stay in one of the town 20 minutes away ie Slunj that also has waterfalls[/vision_list_item][vision_list_item icon=”fa-info-circle” color=”#51A6E0″] Itinerary: Ideally, I would drive in the late afternoon from Zagreb, Pula or Split and have dinner/stay in Slunj. Then get do the park early in the morning and do the hike (2-4 hours), then head off to the next destination in Croatia.[/vision_list_item][/vision_content_box]