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 learn a bit about our gorgeous massif and then come to enjoy its stunning beauty.
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 medicinal herbs 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.
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 that threatens the extraordinary web of life that the mountain supports. With your help and our joint effort world's mountains can 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 has a distinctive symmetrical look because the highest point is not in the central part, but at the beginning and at the end of the mountain.
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 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.
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, Karblovica korito etc.
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.
After the last peak, the ridge gradually descends to the Skipine gorge (1212 m). South of the gorge, the ridge again rises and reaches the highest altitude at Trovrh (1,620 m), followed by Zestikovac peak (1,333 m).
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 and the Una-Korana plateau.
Mountains are crucial to life, yet despite their importance, mountain resources and local population are today 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 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 resource!
The occurrence of rare sources is related to the water-bearing Triassic werfenian schists, and in need of higher protection!
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.
Our main GWT2P trail passes by the powerful fresh water spring Klokot near Bihac, one of town's important water supply sources. The spring's high discharge forms a little river already at the source.
Klokot - fragile ecosystem worth protecting!
The forests, that occupy nearly 85% of the surface, are the main feature of the mountain and its biggest value.
Above the tree line (1450 - 1550 m.a.s.l.), the ecosystem 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.
Beech is the most widespread tall tree on Mount Plješivica (75%). Among other dominant tree species are fir and spruce forests.
The extraordinary beech, long-lived hardwoods 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.
Flora and Fauna
Pljesivica's flora and fauna were thouroughly researched due to mountain's opulent biodiversity. However, the mountain has to put up with human actions and a very variable climate.
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.
Pljesivica is known fot its especially diverse and colorful Alpine flora and its great wealth of endemic specie. As well as for the mountain grasslands that have a great landscape value.
Numerous alpine species and glacial relicts were found here:
- Wulfen primrose;
- Pljesivica carnation;
- Lady’s-slipper orchid;
- Selaginella (spikemosses).
Licka Pljesivica fauna is very diverse and characterized with large carnivores. The mountain is home to many different species of animals and all are in need of enhanced protection.
The most famous inhabitant is a brown bear, but forests are also rich with wild boar, grouse, martens, wolves, and many other species. On the plains we can often encounter roe deers, bucks, and eagles and hawks in the air - but just for photographing!
Wolf and Man
Unfortunatelly, for hundreds of years wolves have gotten a bad reputation, mainly due to the lack of academic research and relevant knowledge about this iconic animal.
Today, we know that wolves are a “keystone species“, vital to maintaining the health, structure and balance of ecosystems, with power to improve habitat and increase populations of countless species.
Wolves, the largest members of the dog (canine) family in the wild have an average life expectancy of only 6 to 8 years. This very intelligent animal lives in a pack of 12 to 40 members:
- alpha male and beta female are generally the only two in a pack that will mate, and if there isn’t enough food for a wolf pack, they may not even mate;
- entire pack cares for the young, they work together and respect each other;
- once a wolf has found a mate, they usually stay together for life;
- the home range for a pack can be from 33 to 6,200 km2.
Wolves are meat eaters at the top of the food chain and have no natural enemies – an apex predator - and feed mainly on deer, moose, and also snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, and some types of fruits and plants if lacking meat.
They used to live throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but the land that was once their home and natural habitat to roam and search for food is getting smaller and smaller. Right now the biggest threat is to them, many wolves are killed by humans, both in hunting as well as by traffic, and some are killed by other wolves in battles for territory and food sources.
That long battle between humans and wolves has resulted in increased wolves mortality from hunting – that almost brought this keystone species to the brink of extinction.
The reduction of their habitat has caused problems for both humans and wolves. Wolves are struggling to find food in the wild and are looking for other food sources, like cattle and other domestic animals. But we shouldn't blame wolves for this problem, they are simply doing what they can for their own survival.
The key to the future is education and a close partnership between ranchers and conservationists with the main focus on prevention, not hunting. Already, there are a few examples of positive human impacts on biodiversity.
Endangered species - wolf
The climate is rather harsh and rough, with mountain tops often hidden by clouds and long-lasting snow. Although today the amount of snowfall grows scarce due to climate change.
Summers tend to be warm with moderate temperatures but often quite dry.
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 mountain has interesting temperature fluctuation, not just diurnal (day vs. night), but also fluctuations along the foothils, so the Korenica side is, on average, colder than the Bihać side.
The same is with the circulation of the atmosphere, atmospheric circulation is also different along the eastern and the western foothills of Lička Plješivica. In Korenica, winds tend to come mostly from the northwest. In contrast, the Bihać side have winds that primarily come from the west.
As the most important climatic element, the famous bura wind stands out, a dry, very cold northern wind characterised by violent gusts.This beautiful mountain ridge is the „birthing place“ of the powerful - licka bura! The strongest gusts are between the peaks of Gola Plješivica and Mala Plješivica, and in the Škipine Gorge!
Another important local wind is jugo, the south wind that sometimes reaches stormy force.
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. Unfortunately, not anymore.
Throughout the history, Pljesivica was a natural defense against the assaults of numerous invaders due to its height and steep slopes.
This was especially evident during the attacks of the Ottoman army.
After the peace of Svistovo (1791) and liberation of Lika region, Licka Pljesivica became the border with the Ottoman Empire.
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.
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.
Among other things, Raštel was a veterinary-sanitary control station and the medical control headquarters for people and goods between the two empires: Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empire!
The border area on the plateau above Bihac, was a place of intense trading. Everything that was bought or sold at Raštel went through custom and supervision control of the disinfectant supervisor.
Thus, for example in a time of great infestation, purchased cattle had to spend several days under the veterinary supervision at the Raštla.
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 Raštel 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.
It’s also worth noting that one of the oldest and leading Croatian cultural institutions was active at the foot of the mountain. Curiously enough in 1890, a branch of „Matica hrvatska“ was founded in Zavalje!
Matica (1842), 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).
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
Enjoy Guided or Self-Guided Tours
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 where a beautiful bird's eye view awaits you, and on the side of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the direction of Bihac where a mountain home and an excursion site awaits you!
Explore both Bihać and Korenica while there, 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