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A Guide to visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
I visited Plitvice Lakes National Park just a few months ago, as part of my second visit to Croatia in the last three years The park is definitely up there with my favourite places I’ve visited. The lakes are stunning, and the colour of the water is amazing. I spent three days exploring the park and surrounds, which turned out to be quite a good amount of time.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Overview
The National park is located in the middle of Croatia, about half way between Split and Zagreb. It’s a hugely popular tourist destination, and is particularly busy through the peak season of June – August.
The park itself is consists of a huge amount of lakes and waterfalls, all of which you take in from boardwalks, viewing platforms and boats that continually zip across the main lake.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park
As the park is located about half way between Split and Zagreb, you can easily get there from either city. If you’re staying in Šibenik or Zadar it’s also easy to get to the park.
There are a couple of options for transport. One is taking the bus. Buses run daily from each of the towns listed above to and from the park. Get By Bus is the best website to check out for timetables and to book your ticket. It’s super easy to use. Just be aware that some of the bus companies will need you to have a PRINTED ticket, rather than show it on your mobile, so double check this before you head to the bus station.
The other option for transport to the park is hiring a car. If there is a group of you, this could be the better option. It will give you a heap more flexibility, and with a few people it can actually work out cheaper than taking the bus.
How long should you spend at the lakes and in the park?
The park itself is really quite big. There are two ‘loops’ that you can walk around, the upper lakes and lower lakes. To do both, you’ll need pretty well an entire day (It took me around 6 hours, walking at a good pace).
It is possible to visit the lakes as a day trip from Split or Zagreb. However, I’d strongly recommend against doing it. You just won’t have enough time to get around both loops and appreciate the park. I’d recommend spending at least one night staying somewhere relatively close by. The main reason for that is that you want to get there as early in the morning as you can (think before 8am) in order to avoid the queues.
Accommodation options are a little limited, but there are a few hostels and guest houses around. I stayed at Falling Lakes Hostel in Korenica, which was a great place to stay. They have a bus to and from the lakes each day as well as loads of other activities like hiking and kayaking. From the people I talked to, it seemed to be the most popular of the hostels at the lakes.
Tips and things to know for visiting the national park
1. Get there early. The park opens at 7am, and there can be huge lines to get in. I’d recommend arriving as close to 7am as you can, to avoid the lines. When I visited I arrived around 8am and still had to line up for about 45 minutes before getting a ticket.
2. It’s quite expensive to get in. Entrance costs to the park vary throughout the year. It’s most expensive in July and August, when an adult admission ticket will set you back 180 Kuna. If you have a student card you’re much better off, and in peak period it will only cost you 110 Kuna. See the full price list here.
3. Have a plan of attack. It’s quite busy and can be a big day, so you don’t want to waste too much time figuring out what you’re going to do. My Advice:
- Start at entrance 2 rather than entrance 1. It gives you more flexibility with where you explore first. Saying that….
- Explore the upper lakes first. The upper lakes are the more popular and picturesque lakes, and if you leave them until the afternoon it can get really busy and you’ll find yourself in huge queues just to get a photo.
- Have a look at the map below. To get to the upper lakes, you go in entrance two. Walk down to the ferry, and catch the ferry from P1 to P2. From there you loop up around the lakes and back to P2.
- After you’ve explore the upper lakes, you can either go from P2 back to P1 and walk the lower lakes (which was really nice and I’d recommend), or you can just catch the ferry straight up to P3 to have a look around (I’d only do this if you’re a bit short of time or already exhausted).
4. Take the essentials (water, camera, sunscreen, food for lunch etc). You can buy food and drink in the park, but it’s pretty expensive, so you’re better to take your own if you can. Make sure the camera or phone is charged because you’re likely to take about a million photos. A lot of the walking that you do is in the sun, so be sure to take sunscreen as well.
5. If you’re staying near the park… book accommodation early. As it’s quite popular and accommodation is limited, it can book out pretty quickly. I booked my hostel about 4 weeks before i arrived, and if I’d left it another week it would have been booked out. I did go in August though, which is one of the most popular times to visit.
Other things to do in the area
If you have the time, it’s worth staying a couple of nights in the area so you can explore what else it has to offer. There are quite a few other hikes that you can do that aren’t in the park itself. Kayaking is also a popular day trip that a lot of people have a go at.
- Raftrek is a popular company that offers a heap of outdoor activities around the lakes and all throughout Croatia. This is the link to the Kayaking trip I did with them. It was organised through the hostel, but is easy enough to organise yourself too.
- The hostel I stayed at, Falling Lakes, had a couple of other organised hikes that they offered, including one that trekked up a mountain and into Bosnia. Have a look at their website for more info. From what i saw, most hostels in the area had organised activities that you could do.
Plitvice Lakes was an amazing place to spend a few days. If you have the time, I’d highly recommend a trip to the lakes to explore them and find out for yourself!
You might also like
- Croatia Travel Guide
- 7 Great things to do in Croatia (that aren’t sailing) – An article we wrote for our friends at Coming Home Strong.
- Top hikes to do in the Jungfrau Region
Back to Croatia: A Travel Guide