The Plitvice Lakes National Park is probably the most dreamy place I ever visited and everyone should go there at least once in a lifetime! There! I said it! Plitvice was on my bucket list for a very long time. So when I started planning my trip through Croatia, I knew I had to go there. I stayed 3 nights in the park and I will never ever regret this (even if some people told me it wasn’t necessary to stay there so long). To make sure you can make the most out of your visit when going to the Plitvice Lakes NP, I made a complete travel guide to answer all your questions about this wonderful place and to share my personal tips!
Plitvice Lakes NP: the ultimate travel guide with everything you need to know!
What is Plitvice Lakes NP and why should I go there?
The Plitvice Lakes NP is a natural reserve that extends over 296 km². It consists of 16 lakes combined by streams and waterfalls. The park is divided in two parts; 12 upper lakes and 4 lower lakes. The difference between the highest and lowest lake is about 100 m. In 1979 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Plitvice looks like a fairy forest. When you walk through the park you’ll be constantly amazed by its emerald-green and sapphire blue waters, the beauty of the waterfalls, the amount of fish, the sound of the birds and the water, the greens of the trees and plants, the different fauna and the breathtaking views at the lookout points.
Where is Plitvice Lakes NP and how can I get there?
The park is situated in the center of Croatia near the Bosnian border. It’s about 130 km from Zagreb and 120 km from Zadar.
It’s easy to get there by car or by bus. You can book your bus seat online via Bus Croatia. Busses run frequently from all large cities and stop at Entrance 1 and Entrance 2.
Where and how long should I stay?
The best you can do is book a guesthouse near Entrance 1 or Entrance 2. That way you can get there early in the morning before the crowds arrive. I stayed at Guesthouse Academia Danica at only 700 m from Entrance 1. It was on a side road so I didn’t hear any traffic from the main road. It was super quiet and a beautiful location. The guesthouse offers simple, clean rooms and you can enjoy local dishes at the guesthouse’s restaurant. I payed 186€ for a small twin room for 3 nights (31€ per person per night), breakfast included.
Most people come here for one day, but ask yourself; how much time do you want to spend in paradise? Time flies when you enjoy all the beautiful sceneries this fairytale destination has to offer. I booked 3 nights so I could spend at least 2 full days at the park. That way I was able to visit both parts (lower and upper lakes) in the morning ànd the afternoon. (different light and way less people in the morning) You can visit the park in one day, but then you will be rushing, standing in line to take the ferry and probably be very annoyed by the crowds.
Which season should I visit Plitvice Lakes?
I was told by the hostess of our guesthouse that the park is beautiful every season. In Winter you can have snow. Fall will color the trees in various bright yellows, oranges and reds. Spring will give you more flowers and Summer will give you thick woodlands covered in many greens. I would avoid July and August, because then it will be way too crowded.
How to experience the park at its best?
The park opens at 7.00 am but the crowds only start to arrive around 9.00 am. So be there early and experience the park as if you are there all by yourself. The day I arrived I couldn’t wait to see the magical waterfalls and I visited the park from 17.00 to 20.00. The park almost seemed empty. There were just a few people. Maybe it was because it had been raining very hard an hour before, so everybody had already left. But visiting the park after 17.00 may be more quiet as well.
As I mentioned earlier I prefered to visit the park 2 times. The first time I started at the lower lakes and took the ferry to the upper lakes around noon. The second time I rushed from Entrance 1 to the ferry stop so I could visit the upper lakes before the crowds arrived and then I went back to the lower lakes. It was fun to experience both parts in tranquility without having to line up. I could take all the pictures I wanted without people bumping into me. Another interesting thing to see was how different the same spots could look, at another time of the day and in a different light.
The park actually has two kinds of paths. You have the paths by the lakes and the waterfalls and you have the paths that are higher up and provide stunning views of the park. Make sure you do both so you can enjoy the views from different perspectives. From above you also get a better idea of the grandeur of the park.
Where to get the best views?
Everywhere you go and stand in the park, the views are stunning. But there are some places that really impressed me, so I thought I’d share them with you.
Viewpoint near Entrance 1
Just after you enter the gate of Plitvice paradise you immediately come across this stunning view of the Veliki Slap and the Sastavci waterfalls. The mood is set to start your adventure at Plitvice!
Path to Veliki Slap
Right after you crossed the Kaluderovac Lake over the wooden path you turn right to the Veliki Slap. On your way you will walk on the path that is built over the many waterfalls of Sastavci.
This is the biggest waterfall of the park.
Viewpoint next to Veliki Slap
There is a stairs on the left side of the Veliki Slap with a sign that says you are not allowed to go up. Even though the stairs are steep and can be slippery after rainfall, I recommend climbing them anyway. On top you will walk through a cave and you continue going keeping right. You will find a road where you need to turn right so you can cross the bridge over the river that floats to the Veliki Slap. After about 150 m there will be a small path on your right leading to a fantastic lookout point that offers views on the Veliki Slap and Sastavci.
The 4 waterfalls of the Milanovac Lake
When you go back to the road turn left again and take all the paths you can find on your left. One of them will lead you to the viewpoint of the 4 waterfalls that float into Milanovac Lake.
These waterfalls can be found in the lower lakes part. You can’t miss them since the wooden path leads you there anyway. Look out for frogs in the high grass!
Another cascade you can’t miss next to the path.
This impressive waterfall can be found at the upper lakes part.
Another gorgeous wonder of nature on your way on the wooden paths.
Nice to know before your visit
Paths and shoes
The lower paths mostly exist of wooden logs. They are steady but be careful where you walk, because they are not always even and you can stumble a lot. Hiking shoes aren’t necessary, but I recommend wearing sneakers. Flipflops or heals are a no go!
The paths have no railings and often lead through the lakes or waterfalls. Keep right so the path doesn’t get blocked and no one gets bumped into the water. If you want to take pictures, stand on the side and take a look around before you continue your way, so you don’t knock someone in the water who didn’t expect you to start moving. Make no sudden moves with your arms. Small children need to hold hands.
You are not allowed to step off the paths. The park is a protected area and its environment is very sensitive.
Overall it rains a lot in the Plitvice region. So you need to be lucky with the weather. I went in June, which is the wettest month, but I was lucky, because I didn’t have any rain during my park visits (just two very short periods of a few rain drops). August is the warmest and January the coldest. I’d say always bring an umbrella with you or a rain jacket you can put in your back pack.
I recommend taking your own lunch unless you like really greasy food (hamburgers, fries,…).
Opening hours: 7.00 to 20.00
- 1 day ticket
- 1/11 – 31/03: 55 HRK
- 1/04 – 30/06 & 1/09 – 31/10: 110 HRK
- 1/07 – 31/08: 180 HRK
- 2 day ticket
- 1/11 – 31/03: 90 HRK
- 1/04 – 30/06 & 1/09 – 31/10: 180 HRK
- 1/07 – 31/08: 280 HRK
All transportation in the park is included in the entrance price.
Currency: 1 HRK = 0,13 € = 0,15 $ = 0,11 £ (status 30/07/2016)
I hope this travel guide really helps you visiting the Plitvice Lakes NP! If you have your own tips you would like to share, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments down below!