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Croatia`s Plitvice National Park is one of Europe`s most beautiful natural attractions. The 16 inter-linked lakes and the surrounding forest were made a national park by the Yugoslavian government in 1949. Some 30 years later, the site received UNESCO World Heritage status to recognise its `outstanding natural beauty, and the undisturbed production of travertine through chemical and biological action.
Humans have inhabited the area for centuries, and Illyrians, Celts, Thracians, Romans, Japods, Avars, Turks and Slavs are among those who have, in turn, settled here.


PLITVICE LAKES - Croatian National Park

The Ottomans took control in 1528, before the area became part of the Austrian Empire. Native Croats, and Serbs, who fled the oppression of Ottoman, also settled here. The area has long been a major tourist attraction, and the first hotel opened in 1896. However, In 1991, it was the scene of the first armed fighting of the Croatian War of Independence to result in the loss of human life, and the Republic of Serbian Krajina forces held the park during the conflict. Hotels weror claimed for military purposes, and the park suffered significant damage. Mining has also been a problem, but in 1998 UNESCO removed the park from its List of World Heritage in Danger. Plitvice is the oldest national park in the balkain region, and is Croatia`s largest national park. Today it receives more than 1.2 million visitors each year.



The area is surrounded by large areas of beech, fir and spruce forests. With a range of microclimates, soil types and altitudes, the park has a rich diversity of plant life, and features both Mediterranean and Alpine vegetation. The bird and animal life inhabiting the area is also diverse and some species that predate the arrival of man still exist.. Rare species found there include the wolf, eagle, wild cat, lynx, and European brown bear, and more than 126 different bird species have been recorded in the area.
The 16 lakes lie between three mountain ranges on the Plitvice plateau, in the karst area of central Crotia. The lakes form upper (12 lakes) and lower (4 lakes) clusters which together cover approximately two square kilometres. They are separated by travertine, formed by the encrusted deposit resulting from the action of algae, moss and bacteria, and connected by rivers, waterfalls and cascades. The lake colours, which change between green, grey, azure and blue depending on mineral and organism quantity and sunlight, are particularly striking.
The whole park covers 297 square kilometres. In addition to the lakes there are a range of waterfalls, including the 100 foot Veliki Splat and a large waterfall complex. There is also a significant underground river system, resulting from water seepage and erosion of the predominantly limestone landscape.
The park is accessible by bus from Zagreb, Split and Zadar, and the park entrance ticket includes access to free boat travel on the lakes. Paths and trails link the various areas of the park, and a leisurely walk around the park will take around 5 hours. Swimming is not allowed.
There are several large hotels close to the park entrance, but these are generally expensive. Camping is available in nearby Korano (8 km) and Borje (16 km). Homestays can also be arranged from the travel agency located at the entrance to the park. Room and board can be rented from the locals for a competitive price.