Geology | Croatia Unbound

Croatia’s unique geology has made the country famous over the centuries, largely due to its dominant karst topography. Croatia’s karst landscapes are unique partially because of the formation’s sheer size, as karst topography takes up about half of Croatia. See them for yourself on our Croatia Tour.


The word “karst” comes from the former Kras/Karst region defined by its limestone plateau, and it means “rocky mountain.” The term “karst” applies to a distinct geological landscape and morphology created with the dissolution and fragmentation of soluble rocks—primarily limestone and dolomite. As limestone and dolomite are highly porous and permeable to hydrology and geomophology, these karst rock formations are often characterized by chasms, caves, underground waterways, and sinkholes.

The majority of Croatia’s karst landscapes can be found in the Dinaric Alps, though Krka National Park displays Croatian karst landscapes at its best with its scaffolded series of waterfalls made possible by karst’s collapsible nature.

Not all limestone can be claimed by karst, however. Famously, Istrian Stone, a metamorphosed limestone that resembles marble in building quality and appearance, is known for its strength, pliability, and water-resistance. You can see an example of Istrian Stone on your Croatian vacation if you walk along the famous Placa or Stradun Street in Dubrovnik, with which the street was paved.    


Plitvice Lakes National Park lies in the Dinaric karst region, and it remains one of the world’s most impressive karst formations. Plitvice’s visually stunning landscape comprised of tufa barriers and placid, terraced lakes is possible due to the hydrologic properties of the region’s dolomite and limestone deposits, and it’s impossible to visit and not be amazed at what geology can create.  

The waters in Plitvice, supersaturated as they are with dissolved calcium carbonate in the form of calcium bicarbonate, are indispensable to the creation of the tufa barriers. As the waters disperse through existing tufa barriers, they mineralize and attach themselves to the surface of the tufa with the aid of the mosses, algae, and bacteria growing there as well. Over time, the resulting tufa grows and evolves, with layers upon layers of tufa barriers creating lakes or altering the flow of water.


Istrian stone, a metamorphosed limestone which resembles marble, can be seen throughout Venice as it was regularly used as building stones.