Tuesday 21 Nov 2017



The Plitvice Lakes are situated in eastern Lika, between Mala Kapela and Licka Pljesevica mountains, by the main road from Zagreb to the Dalmatian coast. The name refers in the first place to a group of lakes in the area and then, by extension, to the area as a whole. A shortened version of the name is used colloquially -- Plitvice -- to refer to the lakes and the lake area, to be distinguished from the name Plitvica, which refers to a village and a little stream of the same name in the northern part of the National Park. Since some of the lakes are quite small and are parts of multiple cascades, often without their separate names, different sources and researchers give different figures for the number of lakes. The usual number given is sixteen: The total area of the lakes is about 2 sq. km. The figure is approximate, depending on whether the cascades are also included or not. Besides, the height of the cascades changes with time, as will be explained further below, thus changing also the total surface area of the lakes. Some three-fourths of this area is taken by the two largest lakes: Kozjak - 81.5 hectares and Prosce - 68 hectares. The greatest depths have also been recorded in these lakes: 46 m in Kozjak and 37 m in Prosce. Together with ten smaller lakes between them, these two lakes form the Upper Lakes group. Downstream from Kozjak are laying the four Lower Lakes. These are connected by many large and small cascades. The difference in height between the highest and the lowest lake is about 135 meters. A little below the last lake, the 72-meter-high waterfall of the Plitvica stream plunges into the Korana together with numerous cascades at the point called Sastavci (the name implies the coming together of waters), which is certainly one of the most interesting and impressive sights in the National Park. The River Korana itself forms several beautiful cascades in the first kilometer of its course. Above these cascades one discerns the beginnings of new lakes.
The Upper Lakes have dolomite beds (triassic dolomites), on which surface erosion produces a "normal" relief with the usual stream-made depressions and sloping sides. The terrain around these lakes and parts of the cascade beds are covered with woods. The Lower Lakes have limestone (Cretaceous) beds and are therefore situated in a canyon cut by a river at a time before the lakes were formed. Though the canyon is not very deep (70 - 80 m), its steep sides give the lakes a special atmosphere and picturesque quality. Limestone and dolomites come into contact in Kozjak, as can be seen in its different shores, with the western, dolomite, shore being much more indented. And while the Upper Lakes are situated in a richly articulated relief, the canyon with the Lower Lakes is incised into an undulating plateau which continues down the Korana River.


When reference is made to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, most people have in mind the immediate lake zone with its cascades and waterfalls. This is understandable but it should not be forgotten that the National Park covers a much larger area -- almost 200 sq. km.
Over three-fourths of the National Park area is wooded, and the rest is made up of meadows and fields belonging to the villages and hamlets. The forests are crucially important for the survival of the lakes, since much of the forest substratum are dolomite rocks. Without the forests, the rocks would quickly erode on the surface and begin to fill the lakes with debris.
Forests are also very important to distribute water evenly over time: they store water during the rainy season and release it during the dry season. Finally, forests provide a natural habitat for the rich and varied fauna living in the National Park.
Thanks to the considerable range in altitude (400 - 1280 m), as many as 11 forest communities have been recorded at Plitvice, and since scientific study and education is among the major tasks of any national park, a reservation is devoted to each of these communities.
Plitvice is one of the largest national parks in Croatia. This gives it an important role in protecting and preserving the animal world: it is a well-known fact that fauna is best protected by protecting its biotopes, that is, areas in which the fauna lives.
The most interesting animals in the National Park are the bear and the wolf. The movements of bears have been systematically followed for many years now, and it has been found that their radius extends far beyond the park boundaries. Efforts are now being made to protect this attractive inhabitant of Plitvice wherever it moves. The wolf is also becoming a rare animal in Croatia, and Plitvice is its important refuge. An even rarer animal in these parts is the otter, a protected species, which has Plitvice as one of its habitats.
The bird communities in Plitvice have been studied in considerable detail. We have already pointed out the great variety of forest communities in the area; if we add to this the water biotopes and also the anthropogenic ones (forest clearings, villages), we get the full range of possible habitats for bird communities. A total of 126 bird species have been recorded in the National Park, of which some 70 are regular nesting species.

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