It is always good to remind ourselves what we have on our small blue planet - mountains, for example! We are connected to them and affected by them in ways many of us don't even know, or have not yet become fully aware of. Yes, they are majestic, their serenity brings us peace, and their stunning ecosystems give us energy. But, why exactly are they so important?
Mountains matter because:
- they provide most of the world's freshwater (80%);
- they harbor 50% of the planet's richest biodiversity hotspots;
- they are home to a quarter of the world's forests;
- they are home to 12% of the human population;
- around 2 billion people depend on food produced in mountainous regions;
- they cover approx. one-quarter of the world’s surface - and are simply beautiful.
Mountains have always been a source of wonder and inspiration for humans, so we invite you to learn at least a little about our beautiful massif and then come for your dose of inspiration and enjoy the beauty of Mount Licka Pljesevica and other hidden gems in our destination such as Medvjeđak (Plitvička jezera NP), Mrsinj (Korenica), Ljutoč (Una NP) i Osječenica (Una NP).
Link: Mountains matter
The United Nations General Assembly designated 11 December “International Mountain Day”.
Once known as the most inaccessible mountain in Croatia, our natural gem Licka Pljesivica belongs to External Dinarides and has a Dinaric orientation NW to SE. With its natural extensions, Medvjedak on the north and Kremen and Postak on the south, this impresive mountain range has a surface of 453 square kilometers and a length of over 100 km, stretchig from the Plitvice Lakes National Park to the River Zrmanja in the South of Croatia.
The view from the Plitvice Lakes National Park on the peak Gola Pljesivica
Like many places around the world, Licka Pljesivica has also undergone name changes. It was known as Gvozd, in the 16th century it was called Hortus Diabolicus or the Devil's garden (probably out of spite because the mountain of amazing biodiversity was so inaccessible it simply couldn't be conquered), and the contemporary name was written for the first time by the Venetian cartographer Forlani in 1560 in the “i” form of Croatian dialect - Plisva.
On a small part of the mountain that was given to neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1946, a common name for the mountain is Pljesevica, and the autochthonous Lika population from Croatia still living in mountain villages above the town of Bihac continues to nurture its Ikavian dialect and the name Pljesivica.
The first description of the mountain was given by the bishop from Senj, Sebastijan Glavinić in 1669. Thanks to its opulent natural wealth, Pljesivica was researched in many areas by a great number of scientists and ecologists, we will name some of them:
- In 1789, Balthasar Hacquet (French naturalist, ethnographer, surgeon and one of the founders of hiking) described the mountain in his book "Oryctographia carniolica";
- In 1802, the mountain became famous in scientific circles thanks to botanical findings collected by Pal Kitaibel (Hungarian botanist and chemist) and Franz de Paula Adam von Waldstein (Austrian nobleman, soldier, researcher and naturalist). The findings, accompanied by color pictures (K. Schultz), were published in "Descriptiones et icones plantarum rariorum Hungariae";
- In 1845, Pljesivica was explored by Saxon King Friedrich August II;
- In 1852, the mountain was explored by Dr. Josip Schlosser (Croatian botanist and zoologist) and his associate Mr. Ljudevit Vukotinović. The researches were published in the famous "Flora Croatica";
- In 1863, it was researched by Johann Zelebor (Austrian Zoologist and Naturalist);
- Since 1894, the mountain had been studied for a longer period of time by Arpad von Degen (Hungarian botanist);
- In 1896, the mountain was explored by famous and renowned botanist amateur Ljudevit Rossi, one of the pioneers of Like & Velebit flora research;
- In the 20th century, the Croatian botanist of world renown, Dr. Ivo Horvat, had been exploring Pljesivica for quite some time.
A scientific interest in Pljesevica’s opulent biodiversity was, and still is, the best confirmation of the massive's great natural value that deserves to come out of a deep isolation, which threatens the extraordinary web of life that the mountain supports. With your help and our joint effort world's mountains can and will get adequate attention!
Our main GWT2P trail leads across one of the most impressive Dinaric limestone plateaus, 15 km long and up to 3 km wide the Una-korana plateau located half way between our 2Parks at the foot of Mount Licka Pljesivica!
Licka Pljesivica is even more special thanks to its peculiar symmetry, namely its highest points are not in the central part, but at the beginning and at the end of the mountain range with the highest elevation in Ozeblin Peak at 1657 meters above sea level.
The northern part of the mountain has a sharp and prominent reef, rocky peaks and two steep slopes protruding from the reef. Beautiful northern section of the mountain reaches its highest altitude in Gola Pljesivica peak (1649 m) from where the uppermost part of the Pljesivica mountain ridge starts, defined by three peaks: Mala Pljesivica (1576 m), Gredoviti vrh (1429 m) and Suputov vrh (1403 m). On that part of the mountain range, on the Bosnian side of the north slope, at an altitude of 1100 m stretches a longitudinal crease with a beautiful valley and numerous karst sinkholes.
Gola Pljesivica is an impressive bare stone peak which attracts admiring attention - in winter thanks to its white snow-topped peak and in summer thanks to its white shiny limestone. The peak is also one of the main attractions of our destination because it provides breathtaking views of surrounding peaks, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and faraway Italy and Hungary. The starting point for Gola Pljesivica ascent is Korenica - more about hiking under the Experience and in our Calendar of Events and Activities!
At the south part, from the Pljesivica stone peak (1616 m), the main ridge gradually disperses and spreads in a plateau from which peaks and sinuous slopes rise, and among them riverbeds and bays with beautiful high altitude pastures: Veliko and Malo Kamensko, Paljenica, Poljana, and Karblovica korito.
The relief of Licka Pljesivica has several interconnected ridges, slopes, and isolated peaks. Some peaks rise above the limits of the forest and stick out as rocky summits. There are also five interesting interconnected mountain units: Gola Pljesivica group, Trovrh group, Ozeblin group, Javornik, Orlovaca & Brusnica group, and Lopate & Ticeva group.
Further south of the Šuputov Peak (1403 m), the ridge gradually descends to the Skipine Gorge (1212 m) from where the ridge rises again, reaching its highest elevations at Trovrh Peak (1620 m) and Zestikovac Peak (1333 m). The Skipine Gorge is known for its strong atmospheric appearance - this is one of only two spots on the mountain where the famous bura wind has the most powerful gusts.
The geological age of the mountain is also impressive, the oldest formations are from the Triassic Period, 245 to 202 million years old (Melinovacka valley), and the most dominant formations are from the Cretaceous Period, 145 to 66 million years old.
The mountain, with its impressive steep slopes and almost completely flat bases, was formed by the faulting along the tectonic fractures of the Earth’s crust.
Pljesivica is know by two types of faultings (fractures in Earth's crust where rocks on either side of the crack slid past each other):
- NW-SW faultings that formed impressive bays;
- NW-SWE faultings that formed valleys.
And by its diverse karst forms:
- like numerous pits and sinkholes:
- and limestone blocks on Gola Pljesivica Peak that are extremely rich in fossils, especially in hippurites.
The sinkholes are distinctive karst forms on Licka Pljesivica and can be found almost everywhere, from the foot of the mountain to the mountain peaks they are particularly common on the Una-Koran plateau, a beautiful stair-step to a mountain range.
Mountains are crucial to life, yet despite their importance, mountain resources and local population are under great pressure. Environmental degradation, exploitation of natural resources by private interests in ruthless pursuit of profit threatens extraordinary mountain ecosystems and the future of communities who live in or near them.
We all need to breathe, drink and eat - and these are all benefits that are fundamentally provided by nature and its biological diversity. Let us never forget that!
As the mountain belongs to the Dinaric system, it is predominantly made of limestone, and therefore has very scarce water resources!
The occurrence of rare sources is related to the water-bearing Triassic werfenian schists in need of higher protection!
Namely, Mount Pljesivica is not indented, streams flowing from the Lika side sink underground on the edges of the Korenica and Krbava fields to reappear 300 m farther down on the opposite Bosnian side in the form of strong karst springs. During the rainy season sinkholes often cannot absorb all the water, which results in the periodic appearance of freshwater lakes on the Korenica and Krbava fields in Croatia.
The powerful fresh water spring Klokot near Bihac, one of town's important water supply sources, forms a little river already at the source.
Our main GWT2P trail passes by this beautiful spring, so we invite you to enjoy the beauty, and of course, take care of nature!
Klokot - fragile ecosystem worth protecting!
The forest wealth is the main characteristics of Licka Pljesivica and its highest value that occupies nearly 85% of the total surface area of the mountain. The ecosystem above the upper tree line (1450 - 1550 m.a.s.l.), a transition zone between closed forest and treeless parts of the mountain, is dominated by grasses and low-growing shrubs, mountain pastures, and rocks in the summit regions.
Until not so long ago the forests were classified as virgin forests!
Unfortunately, they were devastated by the excessive deforestation in recent history. Considering they were positioned far from the public eye, very little attention was paid to their care and to the protection of the natural resources, but things are slowly changing for the better.
A big part of the forest on the Croatian side is protected:
- 122 ha of the forests Kriva Lisica;
- 4,18 ha on Debeli vrh peak;
- the area of Bijeli potoci - Malo Kamensko has been protected by the Croatian Parliament from 1972 as a memorial monument of nature;
- the area Javornik - Tisov Peak has been protected as a special reserve of forest vegetation from 1962, with mixed stands of beech and fir trees of the virgin type.
The mixed fir-beech forest formation cover about 75% of Pljesivica’s forest area. European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is the most widespread tall tree on Mount Plješivica. This extraordinary long-lived hardwood is slow-growing (120 to 150 years), loves calcified, acidic, well drained, and fertile soil and in this conditions lives up to 200 to 300 years.
Among other dominant tree species are Silver Fir (Abies alba) and Norway spurce (Picea abies).
In addition to these three dominant species, the mountain boasts a high diversity tree species: sessile oak (Quercus petraea), turkey oak (Quercus cerris), European Black Pine (Pinus nigra var. austriaca), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), European or common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus).
Other tree species represented in slightly smaller numbers, but no less valuable are: elm tree (Ulmus campestris), traditionally known as a sacred tree on which the fairies live and evil spirits cannot approach. Once planted, elm trees were not cut due to the belief that the doom will follow the destruction of a portal between the human realm and the fairy realm. Then there are also the species of common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis) considered to be the natural diabetes medicine, has edible fruits which are eaten fresh or made into marmalade or dried fruits into flour, and whitebeam (Sorbus aria) also one with edible fruits used for marmalade or juice, and others.
Among many small trees and bushes that offer a variety of edible fruits, leaves, and seeds that have always been sources of nutrition and health for the local population, these tree types stand out:
- common hazel (Corylus avellana);
- field maple (Acer campestre L.);
- common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea);
- cornelian cherry (Cornus mas);
- hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha);
- blackthorn (Prunus spinosa);
- black elderberry (Sambucus nigra).
Flora and Fauna
Although the study of a rich diversity of the mountain flora had been pursued by many scientists in the past, animals on the mountain are no less diverse and rich in species. But like many mountain ecosystems around the world, the ecosystems of Mount Licka Pljesivica are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of various human activities, more frequent and intense extreme weather anomalies, and let us not forget to mention the impacts of a terrible war not so long ago.
The mere fact that its northern part is surrounded by our 2Parks, is a good indication that its natural wealth is equally impressive and in need of adequate attention.
The mountain had attracted attention of the researchers due to its valuable composition of diverse and colorful Alpine flora and a wealth of endemic species. Its rocks and heaths abound with a richness of the vegetation of grasslands and rocks, and high altitude meadows had been recognized as special landscape value land. Conditions with milder temperature extremes, weaker winds, and earlier melting of snow provide ideal growing conditions for juicy mountain grass that was used in the past by local residents for high altitude grazing of cattle (oxen).
Numerous alpine species and glacial relicts were found on the mountain, and noteworthy representatives are:
- Wulfen's Primrose (Primula wulfeniana);
- Carnations (Dianthus);
- Lady’s-slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus);
- Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum);
- Daphne alpina (the family Thymelaeaceae);
- Lesser club moss (S. selaginoides) - a small forest and bog-side plant trails along the ground with the upright yellow-green strobili, loves moist mountain meadows and grasslands and is one of the 3 rare and insufficiently researched species in the Republic of Croatia
Although equally diverse with a number of animal species, the fauna of Mount Licka Pljesivica was somewhat less in the focus of the scientist. Large carnovores are without doubt a special feature of the mountain, though other animal species do not lack importance. Due to the long-standing and deeply rooted hunting tradition in the region, as well as the tragic war events in the late 20th century, large mammals and a wide variety of birds and animals on the mountain are in a vulnerable position.
Most of the major invertebrate groups were, and still are represented on the mountain, and we will highlight:
- numerous insects (class Insecta) - like butterflies, caterpillars and moths (order Lepidoptera), beetles (order Coleoptera), grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (order Orthoptera), dragonflies (order Odonata), earwigs (order Dermaptera), plant bugs, bed bugs, cicadas, aphids (order Hemiptera), and others;
- Chelicerata division - like many spider species (order Araneae), ticks, mites (class Arachnida), and many others.
Vertebrate animals also leave an impression of diversity, but considering the global state of vertebrates that are declining rapidly everywhere around us, and of course without detailed scientific research it is hard to determine the exact status of species on the mountain.
Although most wild animals can hear, see or smell you long before you hear, see or smell them, and they'll flee, nevertheless you will experience many harmless species as you hike through the area. We will highlight some well-known representatives.
The mountain supports a high diversity of large mammals, specifically large carnivores (Carnivora):
- brown bear (Ursus arctos)
- gray wolf (Canis lupus)
Bears and wolves are considered a keystone species, immensely important to maintaining the health, structure and balance of ecosystems, with a power to increase populations of countless species of animals and plants in them!
- Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
- European wildcat (Felis silvestris).
All four species of large carnivores inhabit our 2Parks, represent EU rare, threatened or endangered species (Natura 2000 important species) and planet's natural world heritage protected species - listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Carnivorans are the most diverse in size of any mammalian order, we will highlight some other members present here: the beech marten (Martes foina), the European polecat (Mustela Putorius), the red fox (Vulpes vulpes),the least weasel (Mustela nivalis), the European badger (Meles meles) and others.
Endangered species - wolf
Three species of ungulate (order Artiodactyla) stand out on the mountain: the wild boar (Sus scrofa), the red deer (Cervus elaphus) and the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).
The present wild boar population on the mountain is large and they've been increasingly seen searching for food in mountain villages. Very intelligent, secretive and a highly mobile species able to cover between two and 15km a day, has been in a lot of conflict terms with the humans.
It is also worth noting several species of rodents (order Rodentia): the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), the European hare (Lepus europaeus), the edible dormouse (Glis glis), the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) and others.
Out of insect eating mammals (order Eulipotyphla), several species of small secretive mammals stand out: the hedgehog (family Erinaceidae), the mole (Talpidae) and the common shrew (Sorex araneus) - valuable creatures that provide biological or natural control of insect pests.
In addition to the above mentioned butterflies, there is one more useful bioindicator species worth mentioning - bats (order Chiroptera) one of the largest orders of mammals is showing signs of recovery!
Licka Pljesivica is also notable for its population of reptiles - lizards and snakes (class Reptilia). The order of scaled reptiles (order Squamata) is a very diverse group on the mountain of predominantly nonvenomous and absolutely harmless representatives.
The nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) is the best-known venomous snake of the mountain, reputed to be the most dangerous snake of Europe. It is also highly likely that species of the European adder (Vipera berus) and the meadow viper (Vipera ursinii), less venomous than other snakes and highly endangered, are present on the mountain.
The avifauna of the mountain is characterized by the presence of many rare species that began their slow process of ecological recovery from the trauma of war. The avifauna now present on the mountain boasts some rare and endangered species:
- the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) - a critically endangered species;
- the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) - when in its hunting dive flight, this endangered species can reach the speed of 250 km/h, and the record speed, which was able to be measured, was 389 km/h (National Geographic);
- family hawks (Accipitridae) - thanks to strict ban on hunting, this bird species is no longer critically endangered;
- the western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) - highly endangered in many Western and Central European countries;
- true owls or typical owls (family Strigidae) - these endangered species are very sensitive to environmental conditions and excellent indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem health;
- the common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) - a threatened species, like the vast majority of migratory birds;
- and around mountain villages we can see: the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris), the common blackbird (Turdus merula) the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) and others.
The threats to birds today are many and varied: habitat loss (modern agriculture, logging), food shortage and invasive species are the most severe!
At this moment, thorough scientific research and the assessment of the overall status of species and the ecosystem condition is just a dream, but with raising our awareness, particularly among the local population, and by stopping the ruthless exploitation of mountains with no thought for tomorrow, we will provide the opportunity for nature to regenerate/rebuild herself and recover her natural beauty and wealth.
This whole area is characterized by rather harsh and rough climate and mountain tops often hidden by clouds and long-lasting snow. Severe snowstorms accompanied by strong winds used to be a regular winter occurrence on the mountain, but today the amount of snowfall grows scarce due to more frequent and pronounced weather anomalies we are witnessing. Summers are generally warm and pleasant with moderate temperatures, but often quite dry.
The mountain is also characterized by interesting temperature fluctuations, not just diurnal (day vs. night), but also fluctuations along the foothills, so the Korenica side is on average colder than the Bihać side. Before hitting the trail, it's important to know that the weather can change quite quickly. Keep in mind that in summer temperatures cool down quickly after sunset with often present mountain breeze.
The temperature conditions on Pljesivica are very similar to those in higher altitudes of the Alps!
It is interesting to note that Scabiosa Silenfolia and Potentilla Clusiana of the alpine vegetation, can be found on Pljesivica at 1,500 m.a.s.l. while at the same time in the Alps we find the same species above 1,800 meters!
The atmospheric circulation along the eastern and the western foothills of Lička Plješivica is also interesting. In Korenica, winds tend to come mostly from the northwest and the Bihać side has winds that primarily come from the west. When it comes to local winds, the famous bura wind stands out. This dry, very cold northern wind characterized by violent gusts is the most important climatic element of the region. Due to its force and gustiness, bura hits different parts of the mountain with different intensity because its speed depends on the mountain relief.
This beautiful mountain ridge is the „birthing place“of the powerful licka bura, with the highest wind gusts between the peaks of Gola Pljesivica and Mala Pljesivica, and in the Skipine Gorge!
Another important local wind is jugo, the south wind that sometimes reaches stormy force, causing damage to homes and trees.
In addition to these, we hope interesting, data about the climate we add yet another interesting historical fact, namely one of the first meteorological stations in Croatia was opened in the mountain village of Zavalje, a former municipality in the Austro-Hungarian Empire! Measurements of air temperature and precipitation started back in 1852, and a bit later the air pressure measurements. This tradition has been extinguished unfortunately!
Throughout the history, Pljesivica was a natural defense against the assaults of numerous invaders due to its height and steep slopes, and this was particularly evident during the invasion and the absorption of the Balkan Peninsula by the Ottoman Turks.
The Peace Treaty of Sistova, which was signed in 1791 between the Habsburg Monarchy (Austria) and the Ottoman Empire was, in fact, the division of the spoils of war after the last conflict between two powers in which the primary victims were smaller countries and nations which served as cannon fodder in centuries-long bloody wars. Thus the area around Plitvice Lakes, Korenica and Mount Licka Pljesivica (Lika region) became part of the Military Frontier under the direct control of the Habsburgs, while Bihac and Una became part of the Ottoman land.
Much of the old Croatian territory became part of the sultan's domain, and a substantial part of the remaining territory had long served as a Habsburg outpost in the defense of central Europe against the Ottomans. The whole male population of the Military Frontier was forcibly recruited into the armed forces, often with little choice but to remain and fight as professional soldiers on several fronts and through many European wars. What a terrible fate!
Life for mountain people has always been difficult, a challenge, and in this period so difficult that more than a few residents of mountain villages emigrated to Bihac (then part of the Ottoman Empire) where living and working conditions were better.
After the peace of Sistova, Mount Licka Pljesivica gained a new role and became the border area between the two empires.
During 18th and 19th century, an important border area was established in then municipality district Zavalje under Austro- Hungarian Empire, with a trade and customs zone at the Rastel Complex.
Rastel Complex - late 19th century, Stipe Tomljenovic, ink, 1992.
Rastel (Raštel) consisted of several stone buildings, surrounded by a 2.5 meters high wall. The first building was built back in 1795, and the main one-story cross stone building presumably in 1877. The officers, customs officers, and the municipal adjutant who lived and worked there, used the first floor, while the ground floor of the building was used for warehouses for commercial goods and a beerhouse.
Rastel was a veterinary-sanitary control station and the medical control headquarters for people and goods between the two empires!
The border area on the plateau above Bihac, was a place of intense trading. Everything that was bought or sold at Rastel went through custom and supervision control of the disinfectant supervisor, for example in a time of great infestation all purchased cattle had to spend several days under the veterinary supervision at the Rastel.
Also, to benefit the enhanced veterinary control, a 20 m long and 5 m wide bathing area was built, a deep plunge dip tank through which all purchased cattle had to swim for disinfection. Virtually all goods, even the mail, had to be disinfected and subjected to strict sanitary control.
The Zavalje Municipality Office was in Rastel until 1926/1927. Unfortunately, this historic complex suffered the same fate as more or less all the other historical sites in the region, it was completely destroyed, the last blow was made in 1942 when it was completely burnt down.
In addition to the above-mentioned historical facts, it is highly worth noting that one of the oldest and leading Croatian cultural institutions took an active role in establishing educational and cultural institutions and in preserving communities' cultural heritage.
In 1890, a branch of Matica hrvatska was founded in the Zavalje Municipality and influenced the cultural life of the parish for over half a century, until the beginning of the Second World War, and even partially during the war.
The founder and the first trustee was Mr. Stjepan Ritz, landed gentleman and a postman from Zavalje. Ritz owned postal carriages that were operating on the route between Split and Vienna (via Kordunska cesta and Una-Korana plateau). Today, this section of the road is part of our main recreational trail.
We believe that you share our feelings that this magnificent mountain deserves proper attention!
Sources: “Croatian Mountains” by Dr Zeljko Poljak / ”The history of the Zavalje diocese" by MA Ivan Dujmovic.
Detail from the mountain village Zavalje - The Hečimović Family
You can climb the mountain from both sides of the border and all routes are worth the effort.
Choose your hiking route and guides on the side of the Republic of Croatia from the direction of Korenica (ascent to the the highest peak of the northern part the Mountain with the most beautiful bird's eye view in Croatia), and from the direction of Udbina (ascent to the the highest peak of the Mountain with beautiful pastures and vistas), and on the side of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the direction of Bihac (ascent to a mountain home and an excursion site).
While there, explore Bihać, Korenica, and Udbina with the historic Krbava Field, it's worth it!
Check our Events & Activities for inspiration and useful tips for different routes!
Find your route and a guide:
Guided tours: go to our Experiences and scroll down to the interactive map. Select Sports Activities - Guided Mountaineering tours and find your guides on both sides of the border.
Self-guided tours: go to our Experiences and scroll down to the interactive map. Select Sports Activities - Mountaineering tours and select your route.
Check safety rules: Make sure you get familiar with important safety rules you will find under our Rules and Regs. Safety First!!
Just a short reminder before you go:
- explore the mountain on foot, on a bike, or a horse - give your car a rest and help reduce car emissions;
- please take litter with you - never leave garbage in nature;
- take care to place all recyclable items in proper receptacles - recycle;
- bring reusable water bottles - avoid plastic;
- Join our Green Mission! Thank you!
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” J. Muir