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.
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). Explore this map for more info!
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!
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.
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:
Plitvice Lakes are magical throughout the year. It's very popular destination as more than 1.4 million tourists visit the park every year.
My advice is to visit Plitvice in late spring (May), early summer (June) or during the snow period (February or March). At any period you choose to visit Plitvice, don't think you can see too much in an hour or two. Plan a whole day trip, better if you stay overnight. Be aware that some trails are closed in the off-season.
Arrive at opening or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. Take your own food and water. Pick your trail before you get there to save time. Here you can choose
How to plan your trip by bus from Zagreb to Plitvice? If you can, book you bus ticket in advance online. I recommend to opt for Autotrans website and save 5% on a ticket price. When searching for your ticket, you have to use the name Plitvicka jezera for Plitvice lakes. You can book also your return ticket. Here is my advice:
Take an early morning bus with departure from Zagreb to Plitvice at 05:45 and arrival in Plitvice at 08:08. Ask the driver to let you know when you arrive at Entrance 1 (see above all about park entrances). At this entrance, there is a possibility to leave for free your luggage.
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.