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How To Get From Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes National Park (& From Plitvice Lakes To Zagreb) 2020 Guide
Home to the largest international airport in Croatia, Zagreb, the country’s capital, is a common starting point for holidays in Croatia.
However, it’s not because there are numerous fun day trips from Zagreb that the city itself isn’t interesting, too. Combining old and new, with several superb museums and Europe’s best Christmas market, Zagreb is a major destination in the Balkans.
So, we definitely recommend exploring Zagreb first before heading out for some more Croatia exploration. There are several visit-worthy destinations in Croatia, from Istria and Zadar to Split and Dubrovnik, but if you’re looking for stunning nature, few—if any—places on the Balkan Peninsula can beat Plitvice Lakes.
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 wonderful architecture and culture deep into spectacular nature.
This post tells you all about how to get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes and from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb.
How Far Is Plitvice Lakes National Park From Zagreb?
Croatia is a relatively small country and distances between major destinations are fairly short. The distance from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park is only 130 kilometers, the park is located 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 even possible in under two hours.
Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes By Car
For those of you who relish the opportunity to explore and discover a new country at your 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, which makes finding the perfect car, as well as 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. Simply 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 prilaz 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!
Quick summary of the route:
- Take E65 out of the city in a southwesterly direction toward Karlovac.
- After about 50 kilometers, take exit 3 toward Karlovac and drive through the town center.
- The road will turn into Route 1, which runs directly into and through Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes By Bus
Another option for a Zagreb to Plitvice day trip is taking the bus. This is without question 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 main 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. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to take one of the earliest buses out. Trust us when we say that you’ll want to maximize your time in the park!
For an overview of current Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes buses, you can consult this handy website. Bus travel time from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is usually about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes Transfer
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 important to know that there are a couple of reasons for that. Don’t just eliminate it simply 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 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 car. Perhaps a tiny detail, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that!
There are a few different private transfer companies in Zagreb, but definitely check out Octopus Transfers. They have numerous routes throughout Croatia and can take you from pretty much 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 then 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. Put simply, this is the best way to visit Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb as you are in control of 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 quite 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 types of tours for their extreme convenience, while others avoid them because of their inflexibility. On 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 basically 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 plentiful.
For More 2020 Transport Tips
- How To Get From Split To Zadar – Or – Zadar To Split
- How To Get From Pula To Zadar
- How To Get From Split To Zagreb
- How To Get From Split To Krka National Park
- How to get from Zagreb to Dubrovnik