Complete Guide to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia: When to Go, How to Get There & More
Visiting Plitvice Lakes Croatia will be for every visitors a great pleasure to discover that untouched and wild area still exists.
If you are in love with waterfalls, you can not get enough of the beautiful scenery as this one of the oldest national parks in the world, will offer you. This park’s majestic waterfalls, lakes, and forests have contributed a deserving place on the UNESCO list of world natural heritage sites and making it Croatia’s biggest tourist attraction outside the country’s Adriatic coast and islands.
The park’s most spectacular features are the waterfalls that interconnect 16 turquoise lakes, which are all set in dense forests. The core of this park is made of two deepest and biggest lakes, Kozjak and Prosce, making a group of Upper Lakes.
The next part of the park is a group of Lower Lakes situated downstream from Kozjak lake in the 80 meters deep limestone canyon. Lower Lakes host the tall and misty ‘Great Waterfall’ also known as Veliki Slap, 70 meters tall with several a dramatic overlooks where the waterfalls are the most photogenic.
Plitvice Lakes Croatia: When is the best time to visit?
It depends on what you are after! Maybe, more stable weather, higher water level, more enjoyable colors or less tourists? One thing is certain, Lakes keep the door open all year round.
According to seasonal weather rules, late Spring and early Summer (from April to June) , Plitvice lakes will have the highest water volume, rather stable weather and as a period of preseason less tourist crowds.
High season is July, August and the first 15 days of September when Lakes get very hot and with the biggest crowds. This period is characterized by higher entrance tickets rates and accommodation.
The Fall period (late September to November) is my favorite season when Lakes offers a real feast for the eyes and camera shots. The water level isn’t as high as at late Spring and weather can be unpredictable but you’ll be paid with the colors of the leaves mixing with the colors of the lakes.
Plitvice Lakes Croatia National Park is open the whole year around and you can visit it in Winter period. There isn’t too much snow and usually some smaller waterfalls freeze but it’s a period with a lower number of visitors.
Useful visitor tips when visiting Plitvice Lakes Croatia:
How to avoid the crowds – Try to arrive at any of the entrance to the park early (before 09 AM). Plan to leave by noon to avoid traffic. It’s a good idea to plan your visit in the afternoon as most tour groups have already finished their guided walks.
Picnic planning – You’ll get quickly very hungry walking around the lakes. Plan ahead and pack a picnic lunch during short breaks. Food inside the park is costly and not high quality. It’s better to eat your meals outside the park. (Check advice of TripAdvisor’s mid-ranged restaurants around Plitvice Lakes Croatia National Park).
Don’t stuck behind tour groups – You don’t really need for the guided tours in the park as the routes are easy to follow.
Take a walk in opposite direction – if you accidentally happen to find yourself in front of big guided tourists group, change your walking in reverse direction. You’ll be walking uphill most of the time but you will see fewer people on the trail.
Plitvice Lakes Map
The national park is located at the national route D1 Zagreb–Split between Slunj and Korenica in the vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Distance from main Croatia’s cities:
- Zagreb – 136 km. About 1 h 58 min
- Karlovac – 76,6 km. About 1 h 15 min
- Zadar – 133 km. About 1 h 44 min
- Split – 258 km. About 2 h 48 min
- Sibenik – 189 km. About 2 h 5 min
- Dubrovnik – 447 km. About 4 h 59 min
- Pula – 257 km. About 3 h 17 min
- Rijeka – 155 km. About 2 h 3 min
Plitvice Lakes Croatia: How Do I Get There?
Unless you’re on one of many organized tours to Plitvice Lakes Croatia, you probably won’t be interested to know how to get here. For those independent travelers, let me help you find the best way to spend a day or two.
Actually there are two ways to reach this magical destination. If you decide to drive yourself it won’t be difficult to find this place, particularly if you self-drive from Zagreb capital.
The roads are very well signposted from Zagreb to the north and from Zadar to the south. These two starting points are the closest to the lakes. Traveling from Zagreb to Plitvice lakes you’ll find two big parking places at Entrance 2 (Hladovina) and at Entrance 1 (Rastovaca). See the above map.
The bus is the cheapest and the most frequent way of traveling to Plitvice Lakes. Bus station in Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes are connected with daily bus lines. The number of daily buses from Zagreb varies from a dozen in high season to four to five in a winter period (December- March).
There is 130 kilometers between Zagreb and National Park Plitvice Lakes Croatia, and a bus ride takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Important: Between November and mid-April, only Entrance 1 and the Lower Lakes are open to visitors.
n the area of Plitvice Lakes National Par, there is no bus station in the full sense of the word, but there are a number of bus stops on the main road passing by the national park.
Plitvice Lakes Croatia – ticket prices
The ticket is a contribution to continued protection and maintenance of the Park. The price includes electric boat rides on Lake Kozjak and panoramic train rides, visitor insurance and VAT. The tickets need not be booked in advance for single visitors. Booking is recommended for groups.
Unique Ways To Experience Plitvice Lakes Croatia National Park
Hiking and cycling are two most popular activities inside the National Park. Plitvice Lakes park is ideal place for hiking activity with several hiking trails from easy, moderate to difficult levels.
There are 8 different hiking routes of which 4 start and end from Entrance 1 (ULAZ) while 4 start and end from Entrance 2.
I recommend a moderate hike, marked Trail C from Entrance that lasts from 4 to 6 hours. The advantage of this track is that includes both lakes, and you’ll start the trail uphill through the park and end at the top of the upper lakes where you can eat your packed lunch at picnic tables.
If you decide to explore Plitvice Lakes Croatia National Park biking than you can hire your own bike. Below you can see the Plitvice Lakes cycling map!
As the swimming is not allowed inside the National Park (UNESCO rules), you can hire a small row-boat for 50kn/hour to explore some lakes.
Where To Stay On Plitvice Lakes Croatia?
You should stay at least one night in Plitvice Lake National Park to enjoy more this natural beauty and to take advantage of early access to the lakes.
Consider staying in the nearby villages the day before so you can go right when the park opens. Stay in smaller accommodation properties, so called (Sobe accommodation – similar to a B&B), instead of a hotel and save money. Below I’ve chosen some of good hotel alternatives:
- Villa Sumrak – excellent position. The Big Waterfall (Veliki Slap) is only a 15-minute walk away.
- Villa Lika – this property also has one of the best-rated locations in Plitvice Lakes area, with 16 rooms.
- Apartment and Room Toma – The best selling property 7 km from Entrance 2. Free private parking is available on site.
- Bungalow Korana Campsite – offers 35 hectares of spacious campsite situated 8 km north of Plitvice Lakes National Park.