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Plitvice Lakes Croatia

If you’re traveling to Croatia, be sure to spend a day at Plitvice Lakes!  This is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia, famous for its turquoise waterfalls, lakes, and suspended walkways throughout the park. 

The 295 km park resides in central Croatia, closest to Zagreb’s capital. The park is constructed by a chain of 16 lakes joined together by beautiful waterfalls, flowing into a limestone canyon. An electric boat links the 12 upper lakes to the lower 4, where the 78 m high ‘Veliki Slab’ must be seen up close.  Surrounded by dense forestry, this area serves as a popular tourist destination for hiking and photography.  Plitvice Lakes National Park serves as home to a variety of flora and fauna, including deer, bears, wolves, and over 100 species of birds.

History of Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Following the arrival of Croatians in the early and middle ages, Plitvice Lakes formed part of a medieval kingdom until Croatia entered a union with Hungary.

A large monastery was built in honor of the union, and can actually still be seen in the park today.

Plitvice Lakes was first established in 1949, then was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Since then it is well known as a popular tourist attraction in Croatia with more than 1 million visitors per year.  

How To Get to Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park: map of Croatia

Plitvice lakes reside roughly 135 km from Zagreb, or around a 2.5-hour drive.  I strongly recommend driving down the night before your adventure, this way you’re able to get up early and beat the crowds.

There are many places for accommodation within 10 minutes of the park entrance. Nearby towns with housing include Zaklopaca, Korana, and Jezera.  Prices range from 30 USD up to 250 USD per night depending on what level of luxury you desire.

If you’re strapped for time and do choose to make a day trip out of it, booking a tour is recommended as this will include your transportation as well. 

Best Time of the Year to Visit Plitvice Lakes

Fortunately, Plitvice Lakes is open 365 days per year.  Regardless of your time, the park is certainly worth seeing with your own two eyes.

Expect the largest crowds and a hot and humid climate in the summer months. Also of note as this tends to be the dry season water levels may be down, yielding smaller pressure on the waterfalls. 

Winter can result in a different and unique experience.  If you’re lucky, there’s a chance you’ll see the winter wonderland of Plitvice Lakes under a layer of snow.  As ice melts and the day warms, the waterfalls will flow with the increased force for a more dramatic view. 

Springtime will be a mixture of both worlds as the rainy season is more prominent in Croatia.  Crowds may be a bit less than in summer, the turquoise colors will be bright with fewer crowds.  

If you can time Autumn right with the leave change, you’re sure to have a unique experience (beware the crowds).

Regardless of the time of year you go, I encourage you to get started as soon as the park opens so you can best beat the crowds!

Depending on where you’re starting your travels, you may have an opportunity to find some great places to relax in Greece.

Park Hours and Prices

The park is open 365 days a year.

Summer: 7 am – 8 pm, 300 Kona before 4 pm, 200 Kona after 4 pm

Autumn:  7 am – 7 pm, 180 Kona

Winter: 8 am – 4 pm, 80 Kona

Spring: 8 am – 7 pm, 180 Kona

10 Kona for onsite parking

1 Kona = 0.14 USD

How to Visit Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park: image of park map

To start, there are two separate entrances.  I recommend you start at entrance 1.

This way you get the best view of the largest waterfall(Veliki Slap) up close to start your day.  Also by starting at entrance 1 you’ll be walking towards waterfalls throughout the day instead of having to turn around to view them properly. 

From here, visualize the park into two sections, the Lower (entrance 1) and Upper (entrance 2) lakes.  An electric boat connects the lower and upper lakes.

The walking sections, or routes, can be a little confusing at first glance.  All trails/walkways are marked by signage to assist you in real time.  I’ll do my best to recommend a simple route to follow that gives great exposure and isn’t too complicated to follow.

Lower Lakes Section

At entrance 1 you begin with program A (3.5 km). This will take you down a stairwell to the viewing platform of the Veilki Slab.  As mentioned earlier, this 78-meter-high waterfall is a must-see.

From here you’ll walk along the suspended pathway around the lower lakes.  As you approach the Kozjak bridge, you can turn around to complete program A.

Or, continue on with program B (4 km total)  past the bridge where you’ll approach an electric ferry boat, and coffee/lunch spot.  Take the free boat across Kozjak lake, and enjoy the views along the way.  

Be sure to look out for Supljara cave on your left during your route to the ferry boat!  Climb up the slippery, dark stairwell to the top of the cave.  I referred to this as the ‘bat cave’ as I could see some little creatures take flight on my ascent!  

Be careful as you descend back down, enjoy the lookouts you’ll come across as they offer spectacular views of the lower lakes.  Continue on towards the ferry boat after Supljara cave.

To complete program  C (8 km total) you’ll have a shuttle ride, followed by a beautiful scenic hike along border trails.  From here you’ll be above the lower lake trials you managed before, this time with a bird’s eye view.  Take it all in as you approach entrance 1 again.

Or, to move on towards the upper lakes.

Upper Lakes Section

To see the Upper Lakes, or Big Lakes, take the shuttle from entrance 2 up to the top of the upper lakes. This is program H, there will be signage!

On this route you’ll walk down  9 km of trails. Expect to see a beautiful layout through this journey of the upper lakes.  The winding foot paths will take you through lakes, by waterfalls, and Instagram perfect viewpoints.

When you arrive at the end of this program you’ll find yourself at Kozjak Lake.  Take the ferry across and begin your walk to entrance 2 where you’ll jump back on a shuttle.  Join in on program C so you can end your trip with views from the lower lakes in birds eye view fashion.

Cliff Views Section

Located directly in front of the Veliki Slap waterfall is a steep staircase.  Up this staircase will take you to an additional hiking route offering views from the other side of the lower lakes.  This trail will take you to the end of program B, where the Kozjak Boat ferry and cafe are located.

Unfortunately, at the time of my visit in 2022, this stairway was closed.  I hope you have better luck when you find yourself at this location!

Tips For Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Parks

Here are some helpful tips to best prepare you for your adventure at Plitvice Lakes National Park.

1. Arrive early, preferably when the park opens.

This way you can beat the crowds! See nature’s beauty without other tourists.

2. Dress for the weather.

Goes without saying, but if it’s warm remember to bring sunscreen and a hat.  If cold, wear a layer of thermals under your clothing.

3. Bring a snack, and plenty of water.

You’ll come across many pic-nicable spots in the park.  Always remember to leave nothing behind.

4. Start at Entrance 1.

As described earlier, I recommend starting here, making your way through the lower lakes to entrance 2, taking the shuttle to the top of the Upper Lakes. Then walking down them, take the shuttle back to the upper views of the lower lakes trail.

5. Plan for a whole day.

I strongly recommend to budget around 6 hours of time to get the full experience. If you’re in a pinch, at least do the entire lower lakes section as this has the largest waterfall in the park.

6. Stay local the night before.

To assist with tip numbers 3-5, find a reasonably priced location near the park entrance.  After your day at the park you’re free to go to your next destination if you have the energy.

7. Your park entrance fee covers the ferries and shuttles.

BUT, it does not get food at any of the cafes or rest areas.

8. Swimming is not allowed at Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Be careful. Try to resist the urge to dive headfirst into the turquoise waters

Conclusion of Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

Hopefully by now you’ve gained a great understanding of Plitvice Lakes National Park!  I strongly encourage you to visit and capture the beauty of nature in Croatia First hand.

Apply my information from my experience, plan your trip in advance, and have a great time!  Use my tips to help get the best experience.

If you’d love to be able to see more places like this as well as afford to go more often, check out Cheapest Ways to Travel.

Caleb

About the author

Hello!

My name is Caleb Allen and I run the website TravelLifeBlueprint.com.

Born and raised in North Carolina, I enjoyed nature around my home state.  I took up the culture of Traveling shortly after graduating from Physical Therapy School.  

After a few years of living all over the United States, I found my true passion for International Travel.  

Traveling through the world has brought me much joy in this life.  I value meeting new people, indulging in their culture, adventure, and creating experiences that will serve as positive life long memories.

Founded by my career in healthcare, my passion lies with helping others improve.  This desire stretches online now through TravelLifeBlueprint.com.  I am to inspire, educate, and entertain those with aspirations of seeing all the beauty the world has to offer.  Each of us are capable of traveling and creating amazing experiences, and I look forward to teaching you the most efficient ways!

Complete Guide to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia | The Common Traveler shares everything you need to know about visiting Croatia's famous Plitvice Lakes. From when to go, what to see, and what to bring, consider this your complete guide to Plitvice Lakes.

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