Plitvice Lakes National Park

       
Plitvice Lakes National Park

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Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe 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, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The important north-south road connection, which passes through the national park area, connects the Croatian inland with the Adriatic coastal region.
The protected area extends over 296.85 square kilometres (73,350 acres). About 90 percent of this area are part of Lika-Senj County, while the remaining 10 percent are part of Karlovac County. In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register among the first natural sites worldwide. Each year, more than 1,200,000 visitors are recorded. Entrance is subject to variable charges, up to 110 kuna or around $18USD per adult in peak season. Strict regulations apply.

The national park is world famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria. The particularly sensitive travertine barriers are the result of an interplay between water, air and plants. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm per year.
The sixteen lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 636 to 503 m (2,087 to 1,650 ft) over a distance of some eight km, aligned in a south-north direction. The lakes collectively cover an area of about two square kilometers, with the water exiting from the lowest lake forming the Korana River.
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.
Through different climatic influences and the large difference in elevation within the protected area, a multifaceted flora and fauna has been created. The national park area is home to many endemic species. Those species that prevailed at the lakes before the arrival of man still exist.

The Plitvice Lakes have formed in a depression between the Mala Kapela mountain in the west and the Plješevica mountain in the east amidst the Dinaric Alps. The national park is located at the national route D1 Zagreb–Split between Slunj and Korenica in the vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other larger municipalities within the surrounding area are Ogulin, Rakovica, Otočac, Gospić and Bihać in Bosnia.
The shortest linear distance between the Adriatic coast and the national park is 55 km (34 mi). By road from the coastal town of Senj the distance is about 60 km (37 mi). After traversing the Velebit mountain range travelers reach the Croatian karst plains of Lika. These plains are characterized by many karst poljes (e.g. the Gacko polje).
The fastest north-south road connection within Croatia, the highway A1 Zagreb–Split is distanced about 50 km (31 mi) west of the national park and thus circumvents the protected area. Plitvice Lakes National Park can be reached from Karlovac exit in the north, from Otočac exit in the west or Gornja Ploča exit in the south.
The nearest airports are Zadar, Zagreb and Rijeka. The nearest train stations are Josipdol and Plaški, although no direct bus connection from these train stations to the lakes exists. Using public transport the lakes can easily be reached by direct bus lines from Zagreb, Karlovac, Zadar or Split.
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