From Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is the fastest and the shortest distance to this top natural wonders in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park. It’s definitely on the bucket list of many Croatia visitors.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s most publicized natural wonder. Its majestic waterfalls, lakes, and forests have received a place on the UNESCO world natural heritage list and the title of Croatia’s biggest tourist attraction apart from Adriatic coast and islands.
From Zagreb to Plitvice
Plitvice National Park is only 140 km south of Zagreb. It’s located on the old road (E71) between Split and Zagreb. There are several options to reach Plitvice lakes from Zagreb.
Best way to get from Zagreb to Plitvice lakes National Park is by bus, by private car or taking one of day trips from Zagreb. Note – there are no trains that go to Plitvice.
To get to Plitvice by car from Zagreb ( about 2 hr.), take the Zagreb to Rijeka highway to Karlovac (taking E65/E71). From Karlovac follow the signs to Plitvice Lakes taking D1 road (no toll) for 50 miles (81 km).
On this route you have to pass through these villages, Slunj, Rakovica, Grabovac and finally the road will takes you straight through the national park Plitvicka Jezera.
The cost of this trip (one way) , including a toll (Zagreb – Karlovac) and fuel consumption is approximately 150 Kuna (€ 20) . You also should add a parking fee (two large parking places are available at Entrance 1 and 2), 07 Kuna per hour!
- Opening hours of parking places at Entrance 2 (Hladovina) – from 07:00 to 21:00
- Opening hours of parking places at Entrance 1 (Rastovaca) – from 07:00 to 21:00
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 136 kilometers between Zagreb and National Park Plitvice Lakes, and a bus ride takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Plitvice Lakes Bus Station
In the area of Plitvice Lakes National Park, 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.
National Park Plitvice Lakes has two official entrances. From each of these entrances you can undertake various walking trails trough the park. For this reason, it’s important to decide which route and entrance to take before your arrival by bus. Inform the bus driver about your decision to avoid getting off on the ‘wrong’ entrance.
The location of the bus stops in relation to the entrances you can see on the map below where you can notice two main entrances:
- North entrance (Ristovaca), known as Entrance 1, is just above Lower Lakes.
- South entrance (Hladovina), known as Entrance 2, is next to the Upper Lakes
- Auxiliary entrance Flora (open only in July and August) is close to Hotel Plitvice. This entrance is less crowned.
- Distance between Entrance 1 and 2 is about 2.4 km (1 1/2 miles).
- Both Entrances 1 and 2 – have a tourist info office, gift shop, and snack shop.
- Entrance 1 is open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM during July and August, from 9 AM to 5 PM April to June and September and from 9 AM to 4 PM October to March.
- Entrance 2 is open from 8 AM to 7 PM July and August and from 9 AM to 5 PM April to June and September.
Tips to know when you are traveling by bus to and from the Plitvice Lakes
- Be at the bus stop 15 minutes before departure. All bus stops are a small wooden hut, easy to identify.
- During the winter season the number of daily departures to and from Plitvice is reduced.
- The bus stops are situated on the main road along Plitvice Lakes. There are 3 main positions – A. at the entrance 1, B. at entrance 2 and C. near Mukinje (see the above map).
- I recommend entrance 1 when you travel to Split and Zadar, and the entrance 2 in the direction to/from Zagreb to Plitvice.
Getting Around Plitvice Lakes
How you are going to plan your visit to Plitvice Lakes depends first of all, how long you’re planning to stay there. On Plitvice National Park website you can find several tours around the lakes.
All tours depend exclusively from the entrance you choose to start your exploring program. Four visiting programs start from Entrance 1 (these are convenient if you are coming by bus from Zagreb to Plitvice).
From my personal experience I suggest the entrance 2 (south entrance of the Park) as the best starting point. This entrance is practically in the middle of the National Park area and gives you more options for exploring the park.
Another advantage of this entrance is the proximity of the three big hotels (Jezero, Plitvice and Bellevue), in case you want to stay near the park.