TRAVEL

Plitvice Lakes National Park:

At One with Nature

March 20, 2018

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

IMAGE: Lucija & Rade Jug

Step in to the boundaries of the 300km² Plitvice Lakes National Park in north-west Croatia, and you’re stepping in to another world: a world of beauty, staggering vistas, and captivating wonder. Plitvice National Park is an enticing maze, meandering between dense emerald greens of the forests, and the crystal clear, cobalt blues of the lakes. These impressive natural wonders are only broken up by something that elevates the beauty yet further: the dashing tumble of mighty waterfalls, where different channels emerge as the pounding waters head for their quickest route down.

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park beckons you.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Lucija & Rade Jug

ADVERTISEMENT

 What’s more, the outstanding natural beauty doesn’t stop with wide-reaching views. Look closer, and there’s impressive beauty to be found in the flora and fauna. Wolves, bears, deer, and a myriad of birds are just some of those to make their home here.

 

With a range of exciting activities from hiking to boating, combined with the natural splendour, you won’t be alone in wanting to visit. And that’s the problem. How do you visit a place of such natural beauty without being part of the sustainability conundrum?

 

 

ADVERTISEMENT

IMAGE: Lucija & Rade Jug

The Good and the Mesmerising

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. That’s not up for debate. Indeed, it was crowned Croatia’s first national park as far back as 1949. Some fascinating geology creates the wonder of these lakes, waterfalls and forests – something truly unique. The limestone and chalk have come together over thousands of years, known as tufa formation: the travertine, or impressive geological barriers created by this, carve up the landscape to create deep clear lakes interspersed with majestic waterfalls.

 

Indeed, so unique is the landscape, flora and fauna at Plitvice that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 26 October 1979.

 

As a traveller stepping inside this National Park you’ll find something that truly takes your breath away. A tramp through sun-dappled forests will be rewarded when you catch a glimpse of the next majestic water-world. A morning will be etched in to your memory forever, as you watch the mist and cloud rise off the waters at Plitvicka Jezera. The thundering waterfalls, vibrant in your ears, will leave you awe-inspired at Milanovac. The plethora of lakes to explore seems never-ending. The grasslands and forestation will invite you to look closer. If you do, you’ll discover the national park’s flora and fauna gems.

 

The diversity of flora and fauna in Plitvice is remarkable. There are over 260 species of vertebrates established so far. If that isn’t impressive enough, the park is also home to over 1400 plant species – accounting for an eye-watering 30% of all Croatian flora. You’ll also find 321 different species of butterflies vying for attention. You may just spy an attention-grabbing woodpecker before watching a buzzard dive for its prey. Nestled within the park boundaries are brown bears, grey wolves and even the opportunity to discover the Eurasian lynx and Eurasian otter.

 

The promise of Plitvice Lakes National Park for those who love the natural environment is captivating.

 

However, how do you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park responsibly, sustainably, and without undue environmental harm?

 

IMAGE: Lucija & Rade Jug

The Bad and The Ugly

 

You won’t be alone in being drawn to the majestic wonder of Plitvice. And therein lies the problem. Back in 2000, the National Park welcomed around 300,000 visitors per year. This has now reached a staggering 1.7 million, with up to 15,000 visitors arriving each day during peak season.

 

Ecologically and environmentally speaking, this is not sustainable.

 

The problem is worsened by the behaviour of the average visitor. Visitors are straying from paths, desperate in their attempts for the social media-worthy selfie. In fact, unsustainable tourism in Plitvice Lakes became so dire that in July 2016 its UNESCO World Heritage Status was declared at risk.

 

However, what’s good is that this challenge isn’t being ignored. Steps are now underway to get tourism under control and sustainable in Plitvice Lakes National Park. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy and the Plitvice Lakes National Park, along with support from both the US and Canadian embassies in Croatia, are collaborating to create a new ‘participatory development plan for visitor management’. This will be a 10-year plan lasting until 2027, which will define the solutions needed to ensure tourism in this natural wonder is sustainable and ecologically sound.

 

 

IMAGE: Lucija & Rade Jug

For the Ecologically and Sustainability Minded

 

Whilst there is no doubting that action needs to be taken to preserve the incredible landscape and environment of Plitvice Lakes National Park, this is only possible by investing in eco-friendly tourism solutions and a change in attitude. Every visitor to Plitvice can both enjoy the remarkable sights, and contribute to change.

 

Being a responsible visitor enables change at the micro-level. Infrastructure within the NP will be catching up for a while yet, but in the meantime, it’s possible to be a sustainably conscious visitor and enjoy the park and contribute to change now. Simple steps such as sticking to the paths and not littering are the first stages needed.

 

For an eco-tourist, Plitvice Lakes offers rich rewards. There are seven main visitor routes in the park around the lakes, and four defined hiking trails taking in such wonders as Oštri Medvedak Peak and Šupljara Cave. Following the main routes and trails ensures you benefit from informative panels and waymarking, as well as boardwalks that get you up close and personal with wildlife and lakeshores, without leaving a negative mark on the environment. Information on lake tours and hiking routes are readily available. Cycling is restricted to one area for environmental reasons.

 

In winter, visitors can marvel at iced waterfalls before enjoying skiing and sledging opportunities within the defined areas close to the town of Mukinje.

 

It is possible to both indulge in the natural wonders of the Plitvice Lakes National Park and look after them at the same time. It’s time for Plitvice Lakes to be enjoyed naturally, taking away nothing except memories, and leaving nothing except passion. In time, we hope we will see a greater number of eco-tourism accommodation options too. For now, be the individual who enjoys the majesty of Plitvice Lakes National Park and takes a step towards change.

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more about nature-based tourism at the Plitvice Lakes National Park then please visit:

 

www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr

 

 

 

 

© Sustain Europe 2018. All rights reserved. Powered by 100% Green Energy. Our pledge to the Environment.