Plitvice Lakes is the oldest, largest and most visited national park in the Republic of Croatia. The Park is situated in the mountainous region of Croatia, between mountain ranges Mala Kapela in the west/northwest and Lička Plješivica in the southeast. Plitvice Lakes National Park is best known for its 16 emerald green lakes. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List due to its outstanding universal value – the process of tufa formation, through which tufa barriers, and subsequently lakes, are formed.
The Park offers eight tour programmes and four hiking trails for visitors to explore the lakes. In addition to tour programmes, there are so many other attractions, activities and protected areas around the Park, whose stories and beauty delight every visitor. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to present some of them to you.
1. Grabovača Cave Park
In the heart of Lika, you can find one of the first European cave parks. This park, among the first in Croatia, introduced speleotherapy in 2021. As Lika is mostly a karst region, it is full of caves, holes and water sources. All these natural phenomena can be found in the Grabovača Cave Park, where pristine nature, splendid views and caves, which were inhabited hundreds of years ago, amaze every visitor. Walking through the footsteps of old cave inhabitants is something that inspires you with awe. The colours inside the caves are mesmerizing; unique shades of white, orange and grey. Outside the caves, there are marked nature trails and viewpoints.
2. Horse riding at Ranch Terra
If you are passionate about horses and you are looking for that kind of adventure, the perfect place to visit is a small family ranch that offers unique riding experiences along the trails of the picturesque Plitvice Valleys. Try walking, trotting or galloping across spectacular green meadows surrounded by magnificent mountains. Thanks to beautiful and well-trained horses, a warm welcome and a professional approach, you will cherish this memorable experience for the rest of your life.
3. Kayaking on the Mrežnica River
Mrežnica River is one of the most beautiful rivers in this part of Croatia. If you are looking for an unforgettable adventure, we recommend that you check out the Mrežnica Kayaking day trip. For those who are seeking an adrenaline rush, there are small waterfalls that you will be able to jump from. If you are unsure about jumping, there is always a way around them. You will also be able to enjoy the beauties of the canyon, crystal clear water, mountain peaks, stunning pebble beaches and islets. Afterwards, you will get the opportunity to jump into the clean waters of the Mrežnica River, which leaves a great impression and provides much-needed refreshment in the summer months.
4. Adventure park – ZIP LINE BEWARE OF THE BEAR
In the small village of Rudopolje, situated 30 km from Entrance 2 of Plitvice Lakes National Park, you can find an amazing zip line adventure. If you have ever dreamt of flying, this is the right place for you. By flying 80 m above trees and peaceful pastures of Lika, you will reach a speed of 120 km/h. With 1700 m, this is the longest zip line in Europe. You can make a reservation for your single or tandem zip line “flight” (with an instructor).
5. Barać Caves
Situated in Plitvice Valleys, Barać Caves are a must-stop while you are in Plitvice Lakes National Park area. Just a 15 minutes’ drive from the National Park, you will discover the beautiful sight of a green valley with a peaceful stream, a children’s playground and places to enjoy the greenery in front of the caves. Guides will wait for you there and take you on a 40-minute cave tour along the illuminated path between the majestic speleothems. You will hear the story about the millennial creation of this underground treasure and valuable archaeological finds. At the end of the tour, your guides will ask you to turn off the lights to experience absolute darkness for a few seconds.
6. Cycling (Karlovac and Lika-Senj County)
Cycling is not allowed in the central zone of Plitvice Lakes National Park, but there are numerous cycling routes surrounding the Park – both in Karlovac County and Lika-Senj County. In Karlovac County, you can find 31 routes providing 525 kilometres of marked cycling trails, while in Lika-Senj County there are 54 routes with a total length of 2185 kilometres. These are all trails that pass through beautiful green valleys, hills, picturesque villages and forests, intertwined with cultural sights and natural attractions. Family or recreational, guided or individual, bike tours will allow you to enjoy the ride and explore the corners of Plitvice Lakes surroundings in a very exciting way.
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7. Northern Velebit National Park
Northern Velebit National Park is the youngest Croatian national park and is characterized by a unique karst relief. Its biodiversity makes it one of the most interesting karst areas in the world. Northern Velebit is a location with truly pristine nature. There are four areas under the special protection regime, which have not been significantly modified by human activity. This National Park is an ideal place for all fans of active vacation. The offer of activities is diverse, with more than 30 marked trails available. From the numerous peaks in the surroundings, it’s possible to enjoy a magnificent view of the Adriatic Sea and its islands.
8. Memorial Center Nikola Tesla
Did you know that one of the world’s greatest scientists, Nikola Tesla, was born in 1856 in Lika, just 68 kilometres from Plitvice Lakes National Park? Nowadays, younger generations associate the name Tesla with the popular electric vehicle manufacturer, but none of this would be possible without Nikola Tesla and his invention of the electricity system we still use today. Nikola Tesla had ideas in the field of physics and electrical engineering far ahead of their time. That is the reason why many people refer to him as the mind of the future. In his birthplace, the picturesque village of Smiljan, the Memorial Center Nikola Tesla opened its doors to visitors in 2006, on his 150th birth anniversary. The multimedia Memorial Center, in which science fans and children of all ages can enjoy replicas of Tesla’s inventions that changed the world forever, stretches over an area of 13674 m².
9. Aquatika – Karlovac Freshwater Aquarium
If you are in the vicinity of the city of Karlovac or just passing through, the Aquatika Freshwater Aquarium is a place you must visit. The building in which it is located is perfectly integrated into nature. The aquarium presents all aspects of Croatia’s rivers and lakes, including flora and fauna, geological past, tradition, culture and history of the area of Karlovac. You can see more than a hundred freshwater fish species, which should be one more reason for you to come visit. Also, this location is perfect for a one-day outing if you’re staying at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Therefore, visit the Karlovac Freshwater Aquarium and take a peek into the mysterious riverine world.
10. Ranch Deer Valley
Situated 12 km from Plitvice Lakes National Park, Ranch Deer Valley offers you a unique experience of visiting red deer and fallow deer in their habitat. You will also see horses and Black Slavonian pigs, taste local food and hear educational information about these animals. The visit is possible only as part of a guided tour, which will give you the opportunity to feed the animals, take pictures with them, and most importantly, learn about them. This is an experience designed for the whole family.
Tomislav Kovačević is General Manager at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest and biggest national park in Croatia.
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