Plitvice Lakes National Park is composed of sixteen interlocking lakes that are generally visited in two groups: the Upper lakes and the Lower lakes. The lakes are supplied with water from three rivers called the Crna and Bijela (Black and White) rivers and the Rjecica. The largest of the rivers is the Black River. A number of subterranean sources also feed the lakes as well as a web of above ground brooks, tributaries and springs. After tumbling over waterfalls the lake waters flow into the Korana river.
The distances between the lakes can involve long stretches of hilly terrain which is why the park admission ticket includes a sightseeing "train" ride to the Upper lakes (driving is forbidden) and a boat to visit the larger lakes.
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There are a number of different routes through the national park but this route is the easiest as you take the train to the top and walk down. Plus, you get to see all the lakes! This walk takes about four hours.
From Entrance I, take the sightseeing train all the way to Okrugljak in the Upper Lakes where the wild, untamed forest makes an immediate impact.
Okrugljak lake is known for its 53m long cave that contains two halls and a small pond. The lake is only a little over 4 hectares and is 15.3m deep. The travertine formations here are exceptionally beautiful. Notice the spectacular 20m high Labudovac Waterfall which empties into Okrugljak.
From Okrugljak, take the well-marked trail up to Proscansko, the highest lake.
Proscansko is large (68.2ha), deep (37.4m) and the highest (636.6m) of Plitvice's Upper lakes and the most remote as it's surrounded by dense forest. Follow the beautiful, tranquil hiking trail around the lake to Ciginovac, a much smaller lake which receives its water from Proscansko (as in the photo above). It covers 7.5 hectares and is a little over 11m deep.
Continue down through a series of small shallow lakes--Batinovac, Great Lake, Small Lake, Vir or Small Burget. Okrugljak and Proscansko feed into these lakes which are ravishing in spring when the dams and barriers between them are sprinkled with hundreds of small waterfalls.
Continue down the trail to Galovac Lake which covers 12.5 heactares and is 24.4m deep.
Galovac wins the beauty contest of all the Upper Lakes as it's supplied with water by three small lakes and supplies water to a series of ponds that are also linked by waterfalls. There were once concrete stairs over the main waterfall, Galovacki Buk (below) which were in turn covered by travertine and have now become part of the scenery.
On the eastern side is the spectacular chain of cascades known as Prstavci waterfalls.
Next down the lake chain is tiny Milino Lake linked with Galovacki Buk above and tumbling into Gradinsko Lake below.
Surrounded by reeds, Gradinsko lake is a favourite nesting place of ducks. From its shores, there are peaceful views over the park. The lake covers 8.1 hectares and is 10m deep.
Great Burget is the last great barrier of the Upper Lakes is Great Burget, more of a pond than a lake.
Back to civilization at Kozjak lake! Here's where to have a drink, a bite to eat or use the restroom.
This is the largest lake of the Plitvice lake system at about 3km long, covering 81.5 hectares and it's the last lake in the Upper Lakes. In the middle of the 46.4m-deep lake is a small oval island, Štefanija's island, which now contains a restaurant. Kozjak Lake is notable for the ever-changing colours of the water, a spectacle you can admire from your hotel room as Plitvice hotels have rooms overlooking this lake.
At Kozjak, board a boat for a ride across the lake where the trail continues to the Lower Lakes. It's a different feeling here in the Lower Lakes. The steep shores are surrounded by cliffs and there are an abundance of grottoes and caves. The first lake is Milanovac
Whether azure, sky-blue or emerald green, this small (3.2ha) lake is beautiful to contemplate as the sun brings out its changing colours. Milanovac lake is set within 20m-high cliffs and the eastern part of the lake features Milka Trnina's falls.
The water from Milanovac rushes down into Gavanovac lake in a powerful array of cascades called the Great Falls or Veliki Slap.
The scene is much gentler when Gavanovac empties into Kaluderovac lake.
The intense blue of Kaluderovac (2.1ha) is echoed in its partially submerged Blue Cave, the bottom "entrance" of Supljara Cave (below). See more on Plitvice caves.
Last but not least, peaceful lake Novakovica Brod lake provides the water for the park's highest and most spectacular cascade, the Sastavci.
From Sastavci, it's only a few minutes walk back to Entrance 1.
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