One of the first things anyone tells you when you mention Croatia is: Oh the Plitvice Lakes! It’s no wonder really. Probably the most beautiful trap any tourist can find themselves in, and open all year around, Plitvice is something you should really see for yourself. And if you aren’t sure if a bunch of lakes you can’t even swim in are worth visiting, here’s a handy-dandy list of 10 things you probably did not know about them.
What the hell are those things made of?!
Well, it’s called travertine, and it’s a form of limestone deposited by a magical combo of moss, algae and bacteria. They grow rather slow, around 1 cm per year, meaning that hey, if you visit them twice in your life, say, 30 years apart, they will look pretty different. It’s fun to see the travertine slowly taking over trees and roots in the water, making them nearly unrecognizable as time goes by.
Plitvice have over million paths!
Oh, the paths! A good tour guide will suggest one of the marked path, but a really great one, who walked the path themselves, will tell you that you should totally switch to a different path at one or another intersection, to shorten your walk, but not your experience. There are walking paths and biking paths, and hiking paths… and the lakes themselves are just a tiny part of the entire Plitvice National Park experience.
It’s just as good during winter
Though most tourists will prefer the summer months for their visit, winter in the park has a very special charm. If you are lucky and the weather is cold enough, the famous waterfalls will freeze, and you will be left with a landscape seemingly frozen in the moment, and see many sights hidden by the dense foliage of spring and summer.
Keeping it pristine
The lakes, as already mentioned, are very much off limits for any and all dippings, refreshments and impromptu swimming contests. You’ll get very kicked out of the park if you try it. Same goes for sampling the local flora and fauna. No fishin’, shootin’, huntin’ or gatherin’.
So how do you get across those lakes?
Well, you use their famous electric boat! There is a special panoramic boat ride on the Lake Kozjak, and of course, the scenic train rides for those who just aren’t up to long treks. You don’t need to book the tickets in advance, but there might be a longer wait time in the summer.
Those lakes have been heavily guarded for years
Oh, for AGES! Well, not strictly ages, it turns out the lakes were always admired, and in 1949 they decided to make it all super official, and they were declared a national park. Some special allowances however, were made for the film crew producing Western films based on Karl May novels. Not being content with the title of Croatia’s oldest national park, it proudly boasts being the oldest national park in all of Southeast Europe. Let that sink in for a moment.
Look at all the fish!
And not only fish! Plitvice lakes is full of what is known as endemic species, meaning that the lakes are the only place in the world where they can be found. Along the larger animals (most noted being the brown bear), there is a whole mess of bugs and even some crabs. You might want to keep your eye out for over 300 species of moths and butterflies that live there and feed on endemic plant life.
They are very famous – worldwide
If you take into account all the special and unique facts about Plitvice it’s no wonder it is Croatia’s most famous tourist site, seconded by, perhaps only the ancient city of Dubrovnik.
You said something about crowds?
Well, as already said, it is one of the most famous and most popular tourist destinations in the entire country, but don’t let that deter you. If you aren’t really the people type, you might prefer off-season, early spring and late summer, or even, as mentioned, middle of winter, but even in the summer you won’t be elbowing your way as the park is large enough to embrace all its visitors.
Well, now I’m hungry!
Good, because what you really don’t want to miss is the famous Licka Kuca, the Lika house, national restaurant, as it really offers unique local food. If you get hungry on your walk though, there are over 10 other restaurants, buffets and cafes where you can take a short break. Also there is a thing they call “Lički burger” that people love there, it’s the most primal burger you have ever seen and it perfectly fits the area.
We hope you’ve learned something about the lakes, and that you will put them on your must see list for your next Croatia trip!