Plitvice Falls

Plitvice waterfalls

Croatia

While some waterfalls can be seen in their entirety in just a quick glance, the casual observer needs to put in a bit more effort to fully appreciate the Plitvice Waterfalls of Croatia. Formed by the turquoise Plitvica river as it meanders through the hard Karst landscape of central Croatia, this sprawling complex of rapids, cascades, falls and lakes extends across almost five miles of a largely unspoilt Mediterranean landscape. The river drops more than 436 feet as it moves through this area, through a series of sixteen lakes, actually slowly moving sections of river, that are each connected by waterfalls of varying sizes.

The most spectacular segment of the river, however, is a two-mile stretch of the lower falls that is crowned by the Great Waterfall, known as the Veliki Slap in Croat. The Great Waterfall is a 229-foot-high monster comprising dozens of small streams that plummet over rocks and through beech and spruce trees into a shallow pool of aquamarine blue and limestone boulders. After heavy rains the individual streams merge into one foamy deluge, the spray creating clouds of mist that slowly linger over the area before gusts of wind blow them away. A series of smaller intersecting waterfalls continues almost immediately downstream, full of sharp turns and angular torrents that smash up against the cliffs. For the best vantage point of the Great Waterfall, travel downstream a quarter mile and ascend some of the nearby hills.

Other memorable waterfalls on this segment of the Plitvica river include the Milanova─Źki Slapovi, a wide waterfall framed by a large canyon and two long, seemingly peaceful lakes stocked full of salmon and brown trout, as well as the odd European pond turtle, an indigenous freshwater testudine that can live for up to 100 years. A more serene set of falls are the Slap Milke Trnine, a small network of drops shaded by foliage. A wooden boardwalk, and a small concrete quay, lets you get just a few feet away from this secluded waterfall, and visitors can wet their feet on the water’s edge.

A tourist attraction for over a century, the falls are now part of the much larger Plitvice Jezera National Park, one of the oldest in south-eastern Europe. Recently made a UNESCO World Heritage site, the park covers over 296 square kilometres, and along with the river, is home to beautiful mountain ranges and an array of rare wildlife such as brown bears, lynxes, and wolves, as well as the imperious Golden Eagle.

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