16 lakes and a lot of people

The largest national park in Croatia is Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera, known in English as Plitvice Lakes National Park. This National Park was included, in 1979, in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Park is located in central Croatia, not far from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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One of the entrances to the National Park.

The National Park is famous for its 16 lakes, connected in cascades which create magnificent waterfalls. It is an extraordinary example of karst hydrography. The lakes are separated by travertine barriers formed by the sedimentation of calcium carbonate from the water and complex interactions between water, air and plants. The formation and disintegration of travertine is constant causing the water to change its course over time and so making it a dynamic, ever-changing system.

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The first lake that visitors reach. It’s a big lake in the middle of the Park and can be crossed by boat.
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A cascade created by the travertine barriers that separate the lakes.
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Another lake and the waterfalls that creates it.

The National Park is rich in forest with many species of animals and plants, some of which are endemic to the area. The National Park is house to hundreds of species of plants and butterflies, there are tens of species of birds, over 20 species of bats and, among bigger animals, brown bears and wolves. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any though.

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Crystal clear water.

One of the most beautiful features of the lakes is the constant change in colour of the water, which ranges from blue to green with everything in between, depending on what is dissolved in the water and sunlight.

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One of the lakes of the upper section of the path. The colour of the water in the upper lakes, on the day I visited the park, was greenish.
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The biggest and highest lake in the National Park, Prošćansko jezero. The colour of the water drastically changes, depending on the sunlight, time of the day and substances dissolved in the water.
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Middle section of the National Park, as seen from a view-point above the cave. In the middle and lower section of the National Park, the colour of the water, on the day I was there, tended to look blueish, rather than green.

The typical excursion inside the park consists of a combination of boat rides, some easy hiking and what the rangers of the park call train, but it’s actually a truck with trailers set up to transport people. As of August 2016 the entrance fee to the park is 180 KN, in the summer season, and it includes transportation (boats and train) inside the National Park.

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Paddle boats wandering around the middle lake.
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The motor boat crossing the middle lake.

I personally chose to cross the first lake on a boat, then I hiked along and across the upper lakes making my way to the highest point of the park, the lake called Prošćansko jezero. From there I took the train to go back to the entrance of the Park and then I started hiking again, this time toward the lower lakes of the Park. It was overall about 12 km of very easy hiking and I managed to see everything important in a few hours.

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The tallest waterfall in the upper section of the Park.
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Panoramic view of two waterfalls that are formed by the water of the highest lake in the park, that pours into the second lake.
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Another waterfall between the highest lake and the next.

The hike is easy because the Park is equipped with wooden pathways that follow the sides of the lakes and sometimes even cross them. The pathways, built on stilts about half a meter above the water, are completely made of wood. This is a very good way to minimize the impact on the environment while allowing visitors to hike in the park. I really enjoyed this technical solution together with the rule that prohibits people from swimming in the lakes, although that water is so inviting on a hot summer day.

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The wooden pathway used by tourists to hike throughout the park. Being wood and elevated, its impact on the environment is minimal.
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Prošćansko jezero and the pathway that follows it.
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Another picture of the pathway along one of the lakes in the upper section of the Park. It follows the lakes all the way up to the highest level.

What I didn’t enjoy very much was the number of people visiting the park. Several times there were so many people on those wooden planks that just walking was problematic, not to talk about taking a picture in front of a beautiful waterfall. Most of the visitors come on a day trip from Zadar, Split, Zagreb or other bigger cities in Croatia and not only. Tour agencies organize day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park from every main tourist city, therefore there are hundreds of visitors every day. On the other hand, all the tourists bring a lot of money to the National Park and, if that money goes to the protection and conservation on the environment, a big number of responsible visitors, who respect the nature they’re appreciating, is only a good thing.

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Crowded pathway crossing the water. Lower section of the Park.
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The 80m high cave that can be crossed to reach the lower section of the path.
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Big lake in the lower section of the National Park.
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The tallest waterfall in the National Park, almost 80m high, seen from the bottom. It was like a shower that’s why a smart visitor is using an umbrella.
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The beautiful way leading to the big waterfall.
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Posing at the final view-point, like every good tourist at the end of the amazing hike.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a stunning place. A place where nature is shaped into something that can make your jaw drop in astonishment. A beautiful place that, also thanks to UNESCO, has been protected even after the horrors of the Yugoslav War and hopefully will preserve its habitats and ecosystems for a long time.

theunescochallenge

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