. The hidden treasure of Plitvice Lakes National Park : Budget Travel Adventures

The hidden treasure of Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia Galovac travertine waterfallsPlitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Croatia with its majestic waterfalls, tranquil lakes, turquoise blue and green waters, and unique terrain.  For many years, Plitvice Lakes was a hidden treasure buried and hidden away in the Croatian countryside and mountains.  While many Europeans have been known of its beauty for years, this UNESCO World Heritage sight have brought millions of people into this jaw dropping depression.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is located south of Zagreb between the Mala Kapela mountain range and the Plješevica mountain in the Dinaric mountain range, making it an easy drive from the capital city or the Adriatic coast.  16 lakes make up the upper and lower lakes as the calcium carbonate water flows through rivers, lakes, and waterfalls through the trees, moss, and dolomite and limestone rock foundations to produce one of the most stunning natural wonders in Europe.

Plitvice Lakes History

While people have inhabited this area for thousands of years, it has come under the rule of many empires and kingdoms.  During the 6th century, Croats settled in the area and eventually took control defending this area against Mongols before establishing the kingdom of Croatia during medieval times.  In 1102, they decided to join up with Hungary.

Over the next few hundred years, this area changed hands numerous times as the Ottomans and Hapsburg empires fought for control while Napoleon also ruled for a brief period.  In the late 1800s, Croatia finally wrestled control away as Plitvice Lakes and the rest of Croatia were ruled by the Croats.

On April 8, 1949, Plitvice Lakes was designated a National Park which offered numerous protections for nature and wildlife in the area.  In 1979, it was named as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites for its natural beauty.

During this time, Croatia was part of Yugoslavia which was ruled by the dictator Tito until 1980.  However, the history of Yugoslavia changed in 1991 during the reign of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia.  In March, the conflict among Serbs and Croats escalated resulting in the Plitvice Lakes Bloody Easter – the first shots of the Yugoslavia War were fired in the park.  On June 25, 1991, Croatia once again proclaimed their independence as they fought a brutal war filled with genocide.

Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia reflections in the waterPlitvice Lakes wildlife, geography, and interesting facts

The park is home to a variety of wildlife species including brown bears, eagles, wolves, lynx, and a variety of birds.  The abundance of beech, fir, and spruce trees in the dense forests around the lakes help these animals survive.  Animals and trees are joined by a variety of flora and fauna as there are a number of different species of flowers and plants that are unique to this area.

The turquoise blue, green, and gray waters are a result of the sedimentation process from the limestone rock from the various rivers feeding into the park.  As the waters wash the limestone into the waters, the calcium carbonate that forms helps give the water its unique color.  Also, the sediments that are deposited result in chalk formations which settled and build.  These formations are known as tufa or travertine.  As these sediments build, they create barriers for the water as unique waterfalls flow over and around these new formations.  As the sedimentation, limestone, rock, and water continue this cycle, there is an abundance of moss and vegetation that form giving Plitvice its unique look.

One of the most interesting pieces of information about this area is its place in movie history as it became the site of various spaghetti westerns which were filmed here during the 1960s.  Karl May novels were transformed into the European version of American Westerns as Plitvice became home to many of these films, including The Treasure of Silver Lake.  Even today, Croatians, Germans, and others who remember these films come to Plitvice not only for its beauty but for the cinematic history and film locations of these westerns.

Plitvice Lakes – A hidden gem of natural beauty

Before planning my visit to Croatia, I had never heard of Plitvice.  Along with other wide-eyed tourists, I was able to explore the upper and lower lakes as we hiked from top to bottom.  A boat took us across the biggest lake, Kozjak Lake, as we stopped along the island for a bite to eat before hiking along the wooden paths through waterfalls.

For anyone visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park, the color of the water immersed among the fauna and forests adds to the serenity as many people walk in stunned silence at the beauty.  Whether its the Veliki slap waterfall, the Galovački waterfall, the views of the Sastavci lake chain, or just the serenity and peace of these 16 lakes, waterfalls, and turquoise blue waters, visitors will leave knowing they discovered where Croatia’s treasure is buried.

If you love Plitvice Lakes, don’t miss out on another hidden gem of Eastern Europe in Lake Bled, Slovenia.

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Filed Under: CroatiaDestinationsEuropeHiking


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  1. Wow those are great photos Jeremy! Plitvice has been on my list but after seeing these the need to visit is more urgent. We are planning on being there in 2012 :)

  2. Laura says:

    I have always wanted to visit here. These photos are great!

  3. Toni says:

    Two words Jeremy – ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! Only serves to reinforce the fact that I have to wiggle my butt over there because these are the kind of photos I want to take for myself =)

  4. Jordan says:

    Wow. Those waterfals are amazing. Toni said it right: Absolutely Stunning. I wish I were there right now.

  5. I have heard a lot about Croatia but not this place. Looks like a beautiful place to explore.

    • Thanks Stephanie! I wasn’t really sure how many people have heard about this but glad I could share it! It really is beautiful and the experience of being there is much more beautiful than the photos!

  6. Annie says:

    I am pretty sure that to me this is the most beautiful place on earth. The problem is I haven’t seen if for myself yet! That last shot is the one that always gets me, it’s just so freaking gorgeous!

    I didn’t know that the color and the waterfalls were caused by limestone deposits! Learn something new everyday!!

    • My travel blog is not only fun with beautiful photos but educational too! :)

      It really is an amazing place. If you go to Croatia, definitely a must see – especially if you love beautiful outdoor places!

  7. It looks like something from the movies!

  8. jade says:

    My brother is planning his honeymoon to Croatia, hopefully he’ll go here- stunning!

    • Make sure you tell him about! I think any visit to Croatia should include this. I know many people love to head to the beaches there in Croatia but this place is fabulous!

  9. Suzy says:

    I have always want to go to Plitvice Lakes National Park. These photographs make me want to go even more! Although it seems pretty touristy by the looks of that path, or line rather of people.

    • Actually, it wasn’t that touristy at all. That line of people was just a group of people that happened to be walking together. However, going in early Fall is a great time because there are less crowds. you go at your own pace and you can easily find a little space of your own. While people stay on the paths when walking through, there are also trails you can explore as well. The area is huge so you can always get away from some of the crowds if you want. I highly recommend going as the photos don’t do this place justice!

      Trust me Suzy – I don’t like going to places that are touristy and crowded. Never have. That’s one reason why I loved this place. For many, it’s still a secret and a place you can enjoy without feeling overwhelmed by too many people.

  10. I am seriously kicking myself right now!! Last year when I was in Croatia we ran out of time so had to skip Plitvice. I wish we’d made the time. Stunning photos!

    • It’s one of my favorite places! Glad you had actually heard about it. Since I have been there, I think everyone knows about it. I know many people go to Croatia and head to Zagreb or straight to the beaches. They are really missing out if they don’t stop here! Hopefully you will get a chance to go back!

  11. Mark Wiens says:

    The color of that water is gorgeous. It’s great to read a little bit about the background information, history and facts of the park. I’d love to visit someday.

  12. stunning!!! what beautiful photos jeremy. that water is absolutely incredible. i’d love to go there :)

  13. Thanks for sharing, I have (lucky!) friends heading over to Croatia in August and I will make sure to let them know about this little piece of heaven.

  14. Renee says:

    I love anything that illustrates how beautiful the world really is….this park is unspoiled by human hands…..I hope it stays that way because it’s breathtaking.

    • It really is a fabulous place! The photos don’t do it justice. They have done a great job of preserving it and it helps that it was recognized as a UNESCO site over 30 years ago.

  15. Raymond says:

    Great pics! Would love to make it there one day…

  16. inka says:

    Love the waterfalls. Duly tweeted and stumbled. Well deserved.

  17. I keep Plitvice showing up on these travel lists of most beautiful places, and I can see by your pictures why it makes these lists. Hope to check it out someday.

  18. Andrea says:

    Really beautiful photos, Jeremy – the colour of the water is unbelievable!

  19. Jenna says:

    Beautiful! Although I traveled through part of the country by bus and train and stayed on the coast, I haven’t been to Plitvice, and I had no idea it was home to such a variety of animals. But I also think it’s become quite well-known lately (partly thanks to Rick Steves!).

    • Yes, Jenna Rick Steves is a big reason why Plitvice has become popular. However, I don’t blame him for that – that was a fantastic discovery! I guess that’s why I think more people already know about it.

  20. Ayngelina says:

    Croatia continues to entice me although I heard prices are on par with other European cities, is that true?

    • Croatia is on the Euro so that would probably be true. However, it’s not the most expensive place in Europe for sure. Eastern Europe tends to be cheaper than some of the other countries but being on the Euro has caused prices to go up. Still, it’s a beautiful place if you ever get there!

  21. This is the first time I’ve heard of this place! It looks so gorgeous — I would love to swim in those clear pools beneath the waterfalls, though I would imagine that’s prohibited. :)

    • I am surprised so many people haven’t heard of this place. I guess I’ve been there so I am always aware of all the different posts and articles on this place and think people know about it as well. And no, you can’t swim there! :)

  22. Looks beautiful. Croatia is definitely on my list of places to go. Hoping next year it might become a reality!

  23. Christina says:

    Friends of mine went to Croatia and fell in love with the landscapes. Those waterfalls are like right out of a movie!

  24. Sophie says:

    Plitvice is so lovely, isn’t it? Of course, that can be said of so much of Coatia. And all of the Balkans, really. You got some beautiful photos.

  25. Wrabbit007 says:

    There is something so universally beautiful about misty waterfalls, blue lakes, and green foliage – no matter what country you are in, language you speak, or religion you worship, there is always awe when standing in a place so gorgeous. I want to go here now – this place looks amazing! I’ll be adding this gem to my travel bucket list!


    • Hope you get a chance to go! I loved exploring here and would love to do some hiking. I want to go back and visit as well. And yes, there is something universal about the beauty of nature!

  26. udipotawalanagd says:

    You’re pictures are heavenly! Heaven does exist here on earth! ^_^ I can’t stop smiling while looking at the pictures…imagining someday I’ll visit this beautiful haven! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked Plitvice! It is definitely a place worth visiting and the photos don’t do it justice. Somewhere people should see in person if they ever get the chance.

  27. Christine says:

    Stunning pictures. I am going to have to visit this place.

  28. Nate says:

    Wow! Croatia looks amazing! I’ve wanted to go for a while now.. and reading this post is just making it shoot up my destinations list. Thanks for sharing!

    • Croatia is beautiful. I want to explore more of this country. However, Plitvice is amazing! Eastern Europe is my favorite area of the world to explore. Fascinated by the history and there are so many beautiful areas.

  29. Jennifer says:

    We were seriously disappointed by Plitvice. You actually captured a huge part of our dislike in the photo with the hundreds of tourists shuffling one after one on the walkways. We thought it was too overcrowded and just not that spectacular. It was pretty but we’ve seen far more gorgeous places in Croatia that didn’t have a quarter of the tourists.

    • I completely understand being overwhelmed by tourists. I feel the same way. Fortunately, I went there before it got too crowded and well known. I was also there in the off season so it wasn’t as busy. However, there are some off the beaten path places you can go as there are also hiking trails. I know those walkways can get crowded with tourists but imagine having that place all to yourself. The color of the water and the waterfalls are gorgeous. I’ve also seen a show on Plitvice with some photos during winter – absolutely beautiful!

      I understand how the experience didn’t meet your expectations. However, I still love the natural beauty of it.

  30. Kim Olson says:

    Wow, I could just sit and stare at that scenery for hours. Simply gorgeous! Thanks for sharing so many photos of the area. Definitely gotta make sure I make it to that part of the world.

    • Go to Croatia! It is beautiful. A bit of advice for Plitvice – if you have some time, get off the beaten path. While they have the walkways that anyone can take, there are also trails in the park as well. Will give you a different view of the place. Eastern Europe is my favorite part of the world to explore!

  31. Breathtaking pictures! one of my best friends is from Croatia and she has always asked me to come visit. I knew it was beautiful, but this is a place she’s never told me about!

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