Be sure to add the UNESCO site of Plitvice Lakes National Park, with its stunning waterfalls and 16 connected lakes, to your travel Croatia must-see list.
No trip to Croatia is complete without visiting the oldest national park in Southeast Europe, Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was autumn when I was last at the lakes; the leaves had already changed color, and the lakes were full from recent rains. It was a fantastic experience.
I loved listening to the sound of the humming waterfalls and wandering across the wooden pathways surrounded by fir, beech, and spruce trees. Plitvice is mother nature at her best.
So, when my sister announced that she was coming to visit me one summer, I insisted on a day trip to Plitvice Lakes as a must-see site on her vacation. Plitvička Jezera, as it’s known in Croatian, is the largest of the eight national parks in Croatia, and it has to be one of the most delightful ways to spend time with visiting family.
Below my trip report at the end of this blog, you’ll find all the valuable information you need for your day at Plitvice Lakes. Scroll past if you’re in a rush.
We went from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes on a guided tour as I was too lazy to drive.
The excruciating sound of the beeping alarm woke me, but unlike waking up for work, where I hit snooze and roll over and hope the world would end – I sprang out of bed enthusiastically. Having been to Plitvice Lakes before, I knew what awaited us – easy-to-follow wooden walkways that zigzag and wind around the Plitvice Lakes and those eye-popping waterfalls.
Once onboard the tiny bus with the other 20 day-trippers, we were greeted by a welcoming guide who explained the day’s plan.
The day was just brilliant; the waterfalls were, of course, as astonishing as I remember, but this time, the number of people bustling along the trails was excruciating. On a few occasions, I almost fell into the water – which may not have been bad on such a hot day. Keep in mind that since 2006, swimming in the lakes has been strictly forbidden. If you want to swim, you can head to Korana River just outside the park.
You don’t need to be a skilled hiker to enjoy Plitvička Jezera – it’s a casual walk. As you trek along the wooden trail, you can take the time to take photos and enjoy the sights and sounds of the waterfalls; your guide will wait for you and the rest of your group a hundred meters ahead of you. There are several areas with stairs, but overall, I would rate it as an easy walk, one suitable for children.
With crystal-clear lakes flanking us, my sister and I spotted many fish, ducks, and other birdlife as we roamed Plitvice National Park for 3 hours.
What You Need To Know About A Visit To Plitvice Lakes National Park
Jezera in Croatian means Lake; these lakes are the most stunning in Croatia – some say in Europe.
Plitvice Lakes is a National Park, and in 1979 was awarded recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This UNESCO site has sixteen lakes and a series of gushing waterfalls. The lakes are famous for their stunning colors, changing from teal, turquoise, and dark blues to grays throughout the year. The shades vary due to the number of minerals or organisms in the water.
Fun fact: over a million people visit Plitvice Lakes National Park each year
How To Get To Plitvice National Park
From Zadar, it takes 2hrs, and from Zagreb, it takes 2hrs 20 minutes. It is recommended that if you’re coming from elsewhere in Croatia that, you get buses to one of these towns first.
There are direct buses from Dubrovnik. However, the coaches arrive very early in the morning, and it takes 9 hours to get there.
Another great option is to take a private transfer from one of the major cities. A private transfer will pick you up from your hotel, you’ll have an English-speaking driver to take you directly to Plitvice; and he will be waiting for you once you have completed your day. A private transfer from Zadar starts from 130 euros for a vehicle with four passengers. Talk to our partners, Octopus Transfers, for more information.
If you’re planning to drive from Plitvice, the route is easy to find and is approximately 155 km from Zadar, 130 km from Zagreb, 280 km from Split, and around 465 km from Split Dubrovnik.
Detailed Guides On Getting To Plitvice Lakes
Here are several detailed guides we have written on how to get to the lakes using all modes of transport:
Plitvice Lakes With a Group
This is how I last enjoyed the lakes. The top things to know about a guided tour are:
- Be guided by a local. We were hugely impressed with our guide; she was enthusiastic and friendly, as any guide should be – but she was also highly knowledgeable. No question from the group went unanswered, and she also had a great sense of humor
- Sit back and relax. Booking a tour means you don’t have to worry about public transport or driving alone. Taking public transportation can be painful, e.g., Taking a bus from Zadar means arriving with hundreds of people, pushing and shoving their way to get to the park.
- Time crunch. The same bus leaves just a few hours later, so you don’t have very long to enjoy the park
- Small groups. I was expecting the bus to be a coach packed to the brim – it wasn’t, and there were 22 people in our group. Meaning that you’re only waiting for 21 other people.
- See more. The bus driver drops you at one entrance and collects you at the second so that you can see more along the way instead of backtracking.
You won’t regret a trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park when I tell people five reasons why they should not visit Croatia; this is one of them.
Tips While At Plitvice Lakes National Park
If I were to go again, I would like to spend an entire day there, not just a few hours. I recommend arriving early, which you can do by spending a night in either the Hotel Jezero or one of the other nearby accommodation offers.
This way, you would not have to rush and have the opportunity to row your rented boat, which costs just 7 euros per hour. And if you know where to look, you could even have time to spot some brown bears known to live in the park!
I’d also say to bring lunch; the food here is awful and overpriced. Coffee and water are available, so you won’t need to pack those.
Be sure to wear comfy footwear for walking on the walkways.
Entrance & Trails Options
There are several ways to enter the national park. There are two main entrances and a lesser-known entrance (flora entrance). The two main ones are:
Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1 is just above the lower lakes and referred to as the north entrance.
Plitvice Lakes entrance 2 is next to the upper lakes, also called the south entrance.
Between November and March (low season), only entrance 1 is open.
- Trail A takes 2-3 hours over 3.5km and is rated as easy. This is the lower lakes only as it starts and ends at Entrance 1. Walk to the Great Waterfall and Kozjaka Bridge
- Trail B takes 3-4 hours over 4 km and is rated as easy. It is similar to Trail A but includes a boat ride on Lake Kozjaka
- Trail C takes 4-6 hours over 8 km and is rated moderate. It is an extension of Trail B, including a visit to the upper lakes
- Trail K takes 6-8 hours over 18 km and is rated difficult. This Explores the whole park
Trail options from Entrance 2
- Trail E takes 2-3 hours over 5.2 km and is rated as easy. This takes on the upper lakes to Proscansko Jezero, starting with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake
- Trail F takes 3-4 hours over 4.6km and is rated as easy. You will walk the upper lakes and sail across Lake Kozjaka and then visit the lower lakes – take the shuttle back
- Trail H takes 4-6 hours over 8.9km and is rated moderate. You will start with a bus ride to your starting point, walk the upper lakes, then sail across Lake Kozjaka to the lower lakes, and then take a shuttle back
- Trail K2 takes 6-8 hours over 18 km and is rated difficult. This Explores the whole park
How Much Does It Cost To Enter Plitvice Lakes, National Park
As the park was getting too busy and overcrowded, management recently introduced a visitor number limit to the park.
To make things easy, you should use the online ticketing system at least one day prior in the low season and at least a few days before the summer when most visitors head to the lakes.
Where To Buy Tickets For Plitvice
Tickets do sell out, so don’t be disappointed and book here: https://ticketing.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/Index.aspx?l=EN
If you’re in the area, you can also buy tickets on site, but just because you show up does not mean they’ll sell them to you if they are sold out for the day. On the day, look here, and you see can see how many tickets are left: http://oa.rao.hr:8051/#/dashboard
Please check these with the park for ticket costs, as these change throughout the year, and there are sometimes special sale rates.
Plitvice Lakes Park entry fees range from 5 euros (kids in low season) to 40 euros (adults in peak season). You will also need to budget for parking costs (1 to 1.5 euro per hour)
The great news is that kids under seven years old are free, and group booking discounts exist.
Plitvice Lakes Opening Times & Parking
There is ample parking to park your car at the lakes. You’ll need to pay for parking just before returning to your vehicle to exit the park, so bring the ticket with you to the park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is open all year round. The park opens from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m……………… in the summer, while the park opens later and closes early in winter.
The last time I checked, the park opening times were:
- Summer: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Winter: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Spring: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Fall: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Best Time To Go To Plitvice Lakes
Any time of the year is an excellent time to go to the Plitvice Lakes. That said, there is something special about each season and a few things you should know:
- Autumn: Oh, the colors! The leaves change, and the September rains fill the falls
- Summer: The busiest time of the year, huge crowds are guaranteed, but so are the many colors of the lakes, even though the water is at its lowest during summer
- Winter: Frozen and icy white. For sure, it’s the most magical. Be sure to have suitable travel shoes with you as you wander the park while it’s the least busy
- Spring: The falls are the most full! The winter ice has melted, and the spring foliage comes to life
What Else You Need To Know
- Toilets: I would go before entering the national park. There aren’t many toilets on the trails, the queues are long and are not so clean. There are toilets at both the entrance 1 and 2
- Best Photo Op: Head to the main waterfall (Veliki Slap); once there, head up the stairs to the right side. Once at the top, turn right and walk for a few minutes. You will then reach an asphalted road. Turn right again, walk over the wooden bridge, and turn right again. You will then walk a short way to get to the deck with the best view (pictured above)
- Food & Drinks: Take your own. The options are limited, to say the least, and are overpriced.
- Swimming: This is strictly forbidden. Big fines apply, so please don’t risk it. You can swim in the nearby village of Korana and also in Slunj
- Dogs: Your furry friend is allowed. Dogs are permitted at Plitvice; you do have to keep them on a lead at all times
- Boat rental: this option is available on Lake Kozjak (at the electric boat stop close to P1)
- Luggage storage: Free baggage storage is available, but space is minimal
Accommodation at Plitvice Lakes
There are hundreds of options. 3. to get you started, here are:
- Ethno Houses Plitvica Selo – Located in the heart of Plitvička Jezera National Park, about 400 meters from the highest waterfall.
- Grand Lakes Rooms – Featuring free WiFi, Grand Lakes Rooms are just 2 km from the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes entry.
- B&B Millenium House – B&B Millenium House is located in Jezerce, 800 meters from Jezerce – Mukinje Bus Station. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant.
Have you ever been to this UNESCO site? What else should we add to this guide?