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Our planet holds a lifetime’s worth of surprises, whether wrought by nature’s hand, or the wayward imagination of humans – read on for a sampler from our new book celebrating lesser-known marvels


War-torn history is washed away by Plitvice’s ever-changing landscape of pools and terraces. As you step along wooden walkways over cerulean pools, it’s hard to imagine that landmines once dotted this slice of Eden in Croatia. Waterfalls feed the park’s 16 crystalline lakes and butterfies gather near the spray. The tallest waterfall, Veliki Slap, tumbles from 70m high. But Unesco-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park was also among the frst battle sites between Croatia and Serbia during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, with ‘Plitvice Bloody Easter’ in 1991 the frst fatal armed confrontation of the Croatian War of Independence. The last of the remaining landmines are thought to have now been weeded out, but in the more untrodden depths of the park, it’s impossible to be sure.

In a place touched by war, it’s cathartic to know that the Plitvice Lakes are constantly renewing themselves. The lakes form as water washes over the chalk and limestone, creating travertine barriers. As sediment is deposited and washed away, the lake system moves as well (even if you might have to wait hundreds of years to observe the effects). The names of different lakes hint at regional history: Kaluderovo Jezero takes its name from a monk who lived in a grotto at the canyon’s edge, harking back to times when this landscape was used as a spiritual refuge.

• Buses connect the lakes ( with Split, Zadar and Zagreb.


Were it not for its monstrous moniker, few people would bother to visit this unassuming hill in New Zealand, but at 85 letters, the Guinness World Records awards it the longest single-word place name in the world. Roughly translated it means ‘the summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose fute to his loved one’. What a name! According to the legend, Maori explorer Tamatea fought a battle near the hill during which his brother was killed. Grieving, Tamatea lingered near the battle site, playing a lament to his lost brother on a koauau, or Maori fute. Locals just call it Taumata Hill.

• Taumata Hill is near Porangahau in Hawke’s Bay. A sign displaying the name is situated three miles along Wimbledon Road.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - October 2017
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