Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes National Park (& From Plitvice To Zagreb)

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Post author Mate

Written by our local expert Mate

Mate is Croatian and owns a transport company in the Balkans, he has visited over 30 countries. He is an expert on all things transportation as well as food and wine.

Wondering how to get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park or from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb? You’ll find a few viable options here.

Croatia Travel Blog_How To Get From Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes

Home to the largest international airport in Croatia, Zagreb, the country’s capital, is a common starting point for holidays in Croatia.

There are numerous fun day trips from Zagreb, and the city is fascinating in its own right. Combining old and new, with several superb museums and Europe’s best Christmas market, Zagreb is a new hot destination in the Balkans.

Croatia has several visit-worthy destinations, from Istria and Zadar to Split and Dubrovnik. Still, if you’re looking for stunning nature, few places on the Balkan Peninsula can beat Plitvice Lakes. So, we recommend exploring Zagreb before heading out for more Croatia exploration.


A day trip (or an overnight trip if you opt to book Plitvice accommodations) from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the best excursions you can do while visiting Croatia. You’ll hit two major attractions with one stone, so to speak, traveling from incredible architecture and culture deep into spectacular nature.

One of several beautiful national parks in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the absolute top places to visit in this varied country.

This post tells you all about getting from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes and from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb.

How Far Is Plitvice Lakes National Park From Zagreb

Croatia is relatively small, and distances between major destinations are relatively short. The distance from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park is only 130 kilometers; the park is about halfway between the Croatian capital and Zadar. (This is how you can get to Plitvice Lakes from Zadar.)

So, no matter the type of road transportation you choose—road travel is your only option in this case—the journey shouldn’t last longer than a few hours maximum. If traffic conditions are favorable, getting from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park is possible in under two hours.

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Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes By Car

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For those who relish the opportunity to explore and discover a new country at their own pace, renting a car in Zagreb is the best choice. All major car rental companies have one or more offices in the Croatian capital, making finding the perfect vehicle and comparing prices super-easy.

Once you’ve got your wheels, it’s time to leave the bustling city behind and head into the glorious Croatian countryside. Driving in Croatia, by the way, is a piece of cake. You’ve absolutely nothing to worry about. However, if you do happen to desire some peace of mind before your trip, you can read our detailed Croatian driving guide here.

The first leg of the drive from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes couldn’t be any easier. Take the E65 out of the city, southwest toward Karlovac. This perfectly straightforward stretch is about 50 kilometers long. You’ll notice signs for exit 3 to Karlovac. Leave the highway there and drive through the center of Karlovac on April Većeslava Holjevca.

Remember that Croatian highways have a toll system. Double-check with your rental car company if toll fees are included in the price.

Once you’ve left the Karlovac town center, the road will turn into Route 1, which takes you straight into the heart of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Easy? You bet!

Here is a quick summary of the route:

  1. Take E65 out of the city in a southwesterly direction toward Karlovac.
  2. After about 50 kilometers, exit three toward Karlovac and drive through the town center.
  3. The road will turn into Route 1, which runs directly into and through Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Zagreb To Plitvice Bus


Another option for a Zagreb to Plitvice day trip is taking the bus. This is the cheapest option, but remember that it allows for much less freedom on the road. You’re bound to the strict Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes bus schedule, whether it’s simple public transportation or an organized bus tour.

From the central bus station in downtown Zagreb, which is easily reachable from the Zagreb Airport, several buses depart for Plitvice Lakes National Park daily. Depending on the time of year, there’s at least one bus from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes every 1.5 hours, from early in the morning to late at night. Trust us when we say you want to maximize your time in the park! You’ll want to take one of the earliest buses out for obvious reasons.

You can consult the handy website below for an overview of current Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes buses. Bus travel from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes Transfer

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Answer number three to the question of how to get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is booking Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb transfer. Although this is the priciest option, it’s essential to know that there are a couple of reasons for that. Don’t just eliminate it merely because it takes a bigger bite out of your budget.

If you cherish comfort but still crave freedom, a private transfer from Zagreb to Plitvice is worth looking into.

The beauty of this transportation method is that there’s no need to find your way to a car rental place or bus station. Nope, your driver will pick you up right outside the door of your Zagreb accommodation! There’s also the extra peace of mind that’s lacking when renting a car: you’re not responsible for any damage to the vehicle. Perhaps a tiny detail, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that!

There are a few private transfer companies in Zagreb, but check out Octopus Transfers. They have numerous routes throughout Croatia and can take you from all major airports, cities, and destinations to the next, all over the country.

Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Day Trip

With many travelers staying in Zagreb, they prefer to take a private day trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes. Taking a Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes day trip means your driver picks you up from your accommodation, door-to-door service, and you make your way to Plitvice Lakes in your own vehicle at the time you have selected.

More importantly, you get to avoid those crowded group tour buses. Upon arrival, your driver will drop you off at the Plitvice Lakes entry and then wait for you while you explore the stunning national park. He will collect you at the agreed time, and you will make your way back to Zagreb. Some guests even like to include a visit to the charming village of Rastoke. 

If you would like a guided tour, this can also be arranged for an additional cost. But; this is the best way to visit Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb as you control when you depart Zagreb and how much time you spend in Plitvice Lakes.

Organized Zagreb-Plitvice Lakes Bus Tours

Bus tours from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes are pretty popular as well. These tours have the benefits of being pre-planning and organized, leaving all logistics to the travel company.

Some people love these tours for convenience, while others avoid them because of their inflexibility. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about a thing when joining a bus tour.

On the other hand, you’re stuck with a pre-determined schedule, often allowing for less time at the destination than you’d ideally prefer.


Getting From Plitvice Lakes To Zagreb

The return trip, or one-way trip from the national park to Zagreb if you’re coming from somewhere else, is the same as outlined above but reversed. Car, bus, and private transfer options are all available. Organized tours are round-trip excursions, so your return ride is automatically included.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the number one nature destination in Croatia. Routes are smooth and straightforward, and connections are plentiful.

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