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Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

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Cascading waterfalls and tucked-away caves surrounded by lush green forests -- the Plitvice Lakes are a wonder to behold. The karst topography of the Plitvice Lakes was created over thousands of years, as flowing mountain waters carved formations in the dolomite and limestone rock. The Plitvice chain includes 20 lakes ranging in elevation from 636 meters (2,087 feet) to 503 meters (1,650) above sea level. Natural travertine dams separate the lakes and create a series of cascading waterfalls along the drop in elevation. The Plitvice Lakes are renowned for their changeable colors, including azure blue, aquamarine, and green. The colors depend on each lake's minerals, organisms in the water, and the angle of sunlight. Today the lakes are contained within the Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of Croatia's most popular tourist attractions.

Although the Plitvice Lakes have been around for thousands of years, it has only recently caught the attention of nature lovers around the world. In 1777, a priest, Dominik Vukasovic, was the first to record the lake's name as Plitvice Lakes. Located between the capital city of Zagreb and the coastal city of Zadar, the lakes today are a protected area. Plitvice Lakes National Park is richly landscaped with deep woodlands that are heavily populated with wildlife. Hiking, wildlife viewing, camping and boating are just a few of the recreational activities that await visitors in Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Plitvice Lakes became Croatia's first national park in 1949; in 1979 it was added to the UNESCO'S World Heritage list due to its intense beauty. In 1991, Croatia's war with Yugoslavia took place within the national park; today, this historical event is known as the Plitvice Lakes Incident. The park was retaken by the Croatian Army in 1995, ending the Croatian War. Though the war will never be forgotten, magnificent lake views help fade away the memories of the war, and the Plitvice Lake National Park has become a popular vacation destination once again.

The Plitvice Lakes are divided into the Upper Lakes and Lower Lakes, stretching about five miles long along the elevation descent. The chain begins with Proscansko Lake and ends with Novakovica Brod Lake. Water from Proscansko Lake travels through dug-out canals and enters Ciganovac Lake; this lake is noted for its southern waterfall and collapsed travertine blocks, and empties into the round-shaped Okrugljak Lake. The northwestern end of Okrugljak Lake features Labudovacki Waterfall, which towers over 65 feet tall. Underneath the waterfall is a mysterious cave opening that is no longer accessible as an entrance.

Batinovac Lake is the next lake in the chain and includes a series of small waterfalls. Part of its water flows down into Grabovac Lake, while the rest flows into some smaller lakes to the north -- these smaller lakes include Big Lake, Small Lake, and Vir Lake. Galovac Lake is the third-largest of the Plitvice Lakes and has several large waterfalls called Prstavci. The next lake is Milino Lake, where visitors will find a walkway to connect Kozjak Lake with Labudovacka barrier and Poscansko Lake. Following Milino Lake is Gradinsko Lake, Burgeti, and Kozjak Lake. Burgeti is a chain of small shallow lakes divided by travertine barriers. Kozjak Lake is the largest of the Plitvice Lakes and features picturesque Stefanja's Island. Once past Kozjak Lake, visitors will find the Lower Lakes, which consist of Milanovac Lake, Gavanovac Lake, Kaluderovo Lake and Novakovica Brod Lake. Additional waterfalls, caves and cliffs can be viewed along the Lower Lakes.

Enjoy the Plitvice Lakes beauty while walking along many trails that meander through forest and along lake shoreline. For those who want to enjoy the beauty but do not care for walking, consider taking a tourist train or boat tour to observe the tranquility of the Plitvice Lakes.

Wildlife is abundant around the Plitvice Lakes and observant viewers may spot deer, wolves, wild boar, wildcat and a number of birds including eagles, owls and herons. In the waters of Plitvice Lakes brown trout is plentiful; however, fishing is not permitted. After exploring the Plitvice Lakes and viewing magnificent waterfalls, grab a bite to eat at one of the many snack shops located on national park property. For those that prefer a more formal setting, sit-down dining is offered at several of the restaurants nearby. And after a satisfying meal, continue your stay in several vacation rentals and other accommodations located in Plitvice Lakes National Park and the nearby towns.

Although there are no homes located on the refreshing waters of the Plitvice Lakes, real estate can be found in the surrounding towns of Gospic, Otocac, Rakovica, Smoljanac, Poljanak, Licko Lesce, Grabovac, and Dreznik Grad. In these towns, potential buyers can find their dream home in rural and natural settings and still be in close proximity to the spectacular Plitvice Lakes.

Tourists who see Croatia's first national park for the first time will not be disappointed. The beauty of the cascading waterfalls along the Plitvice Lakes will enchant visitors and make them want to stay longer. The ever-changing colors of the Plitvice Lakes will ease away stress and allow for visitors to relax while they hike, camp or just enjoy the beauty around them.


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