Legend has it that some time long ago, the people who inhabited a dense forest in the Dinaric Mountains craved water. Their crops were drying up and they lived their days in thirst. And so one day under yet another cloudless, rainless sky, they called upon their magic queen for help. Hearing their plea, the merciful queen summoned the spirits to fill an earthen reservoir with water. The spirits answered with an abundant offering that filled the woodland basin to overflowing, causing water to spill over to form another lake down the hill … then another … and another … until a five-mile network of terraced lakes threaded its way through the forest like a glittering necklace.
Strolling through this spellbinding paradise of stepped lakes, you cannot help but feel as if you’ve found the key to an enchanted forest. More than a dozen lakes are linked by mossy waterfalls. The highest cascades are 230 feet and by the time the waters have made their journey from the first lake to the last, they have fallen 430 feet. One lake might shimmer a milky turquoise blue while another glimmers a green hue or a sludgy gray. It’s easy to imagine that tiny nymphs—or even the magic queen herself—reside in these woods.
You will visit Plitvice Lakes during our Dalmatian Isles, Croatia & Slovenia small-group journey. Like many visitors, you’re sure to be smitten with their fairytale atmosphere. And you might be quite satisfied by the notion that this watery wonderland was conjured into being by a magic queen. But you might also like to know that each lake’s distinctive color is created by minerals, microorganisms, and the angle of the sun. And that UNESCO added them to its World Natural Heritage List in 1979 for their “outstanding natural beauty and the undisturbed production of travertine (tufa) through chemical and biological action.”
These magnificent lakes, you see—if you believe the geologists over the storytellers—were formed with the passing of millennia rather than with just one incantation. As waters flowed over limestone and chalk, they deposited rocky barriers along their pathway, creating a series of mossy natural dams. Behind the dams, water built up to create lake after beautiful lake. A rich and rare ecosystem evolved around this astonishing string of azure and aqua-green pearls. The European brown bear, lynx, golden eagle, wolf, lizard, and turtle call the lakes home. More than 50 mammal species, 320 types of butterfly, 157 bird species, and numerous fish make this a hugely diverse corner of Croatia.
You’re sure to fall under the spell of Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes, the enduring gift of a magic queen.