Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and the largest national park in Croatia.
The national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia.
In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Plitvice Lakes National Park covers an area of 297 square kilometers (115 square miles) or 29,700 hectares (73,350 acres).
The main attractions of this park, unique in the world, are the 16 small lakes joined by waterfalls created by the sedimentation of travertine, a special type of limestone.
The waters flowing over the limestone and chalk have, over thousands of years, deposited travertine barriers, creating natural dams which in turn have created a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls. These geological processes continue today.
This national park encompasses the source of the river Korana, located in the area surrounded by dense forests of beech, fir and spruce.
The overall water body area is about 2 squares kilometers (0.77 square miles). The two largest lakes, Prošćansko jezero and Kozjak, cover about 80 percent of the overall water body area. These lakes are also the deepest, with a depth of 37 and 47 meters (121 and 154 feet) respectively. On Lake Kozjak, low-noise and ecologically-friendly electric boats are being used. None of the other lakes in the park exceeds 25 meters (82 feet) in depth. The altitude drop from the first lake to the last is 133 meters (436 feet).
The highest waterfalls are the Large Waterfall at 78 meters at the end of the Lower Lakes, over which the Plitvica river falls, and Galovački buk at 25 meters at the Upper Lakes.
The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is heavily forested, mainly with beech, spruce, and fir trees, and features a mixture of Alpine and Mediterranean vegetation. It has a notably wide variety of plant communities, due to its range of microclimates, differing soils and varying levels of altitude.
Scientists have so far listed 1,267 different plants out of 109 species that can be found within the area of the national park. Within the national park area 55 different species of orchids can be found.
The area of the national park is home to an extremely wide variety of animal and bird species. Rare fauna such as the brown bear, wolf, eagle, owl, lynx, wild cat, and capercaillie can be found there, along with many more common species.
Humans have inhabited the Plitvice Lakes area for thousands of years. It has been settled in turn by Illyrians, Japods, Celts, Romans, Avars, Slavs, Croats and Turks.
During the 1980s, tourism was booming in Yugoslavia. Plitvice Lakes National Park soon became one of Yugoslavia’s most popular tourist attractions.
Between 1962 and 1968, many Western film productions of Karl May novels have been shot at the Plitvice Lakes (mainly German-French-Yugoslav cooperations). The most successful film of this series, Treasure of the Silver Lake was also produced at some locations within the national park.
It is impossible to say whether the park is more beautiful in the spring, when the flowers in its meadows are in full bloom and when the trees have turned green again, or when the riot of autumn colors is reflected in the waters of the lakes, or indeed during the winter calm, when ice petrifies the waterfalls and when the surrounding trees are heavily laden with snow.
Plitvice Lakes National Park has about 1 million visitors per year.