Blessed by nature with a long coastline of up to 1,800km and many ancient structures from Middle Ages, Croatia is a raw gem that not many tourists know in Europe. Among countless attractive tourist destinations in Croatia, especially to mention Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia. It possesses a surreal beauty that you can only find in fairytales, a must-visit destination in Croatia. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip and how to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia for the first-time? Let’s check out our Plitvice Lakes National Park blog (Plitvice blog) with the fullest Plitvice Lakes National Park guide from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, top things to do to find out the answer!
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The Plitvice Lakes National Park was officially established in 1949 with an area of 296.8 km², is planned within a mountainous region of central Croatia, adjacent to the border area of Bosnia and Herzegovina. To the Croatian government, the national park is considered as an important topographic place in connecting the inland region of Croatia and the Adriatic coastal region.
The activities in the national park are also very diverse, you can choose from a variety of types such as: Walking, climbing, cycling in the forest, tram ride or even taking a boat to visit. For couples, Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia is an ideal place to filming and taking wedding photos here. The management board of the national park even had arranged special zones where couples can get engaged and have a wonderful wedding ceremony in this charming place.
Plitvice blog: Overview of Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
Basically, Plitvice Lakes National Park is an extremely large national park consisting of a system of 16 cascading lakes are interconnected by small to large of cascades and waterfalls, from upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains. Crossing the lakes are poetic wooden walkways. Water from the Plitvice lakes forms the Korana River that flows to the north of Croatia.
Plitvice Lakes National Park has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. This is the oldest national park in Southeastern Europe and also the largest national park in Croatia. This park has two main entrances on Croatia’s D1 national highway.
In terms of location, Plitvice is located in central Croatia near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The national park is located on important north-south routes, connecting the interior part of Croatia with the coastal areas of the Adriatic (including two famous tourist cities: Zadar and Zagreb). That is why tourists often combine to visit Plitvice with famous Croatian tourist destinations such as Zagreb, Zadar or Split on their itinerary.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is divided into two main parts: Lower Lakes (Donja Jezera) and Upper Lakes (Gornja jezera), of which 12 lakes belong to Upper Lakes and the remaining 4 lakes belong to Lower Lakes along with numerous of cascades and waterfalls. These two parts are separated from each other by limestone beds of the Plitvice Plateau.
The lakes here are connected to each other by 92 waterfalls and cascades, then together they pour into the largest waterfall of Veliki Slap (Great Waterfall). Along the lakes are the diversified vegetation covers with a majestic cave system. It all seems more prominent when reflected into the clear emerald water.
- Opening hours: 8AM – 4PM
- Ticket price: 80 Kuna(HRK) ~ 10.59 EUR (low season) | 300 Kuna(HRK) ~ 39.71 EUR (peak season)
- Phone: +385 53 751 015
- Elevation: 367 m (Korana bridge), 1279 m (Seliški vrh)
- Web: https://np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/
Plitvice Lakes National Park blog: When to visit?
Summer (June – August) is the good time to visit Plitvice because of the beautiful sunny weather with little rain which is suitable for trekking. But summer is also the peak tourist season, visitors flocking here very crowded.
If you are a fan of Final Fantasy VII, you will probably remember the part in Forgotten Capital at the end of disc 1. Before, I thought that I could only see such a scene in my imagination but after watching the winter photos of Plitvice. I was surprised because it was so similar. Although it as beautiful as in the imagination but in winter some trails here will close. And note that even in April, there is still snow here, if you are lucky, you will see it.
Autumn (September – November), the leaves change its color, shining down on the clear emerald and blue water, creating a colorful scene like a painting.
In each season, Plitvice will has its own beauty but I recommend you to go in the fall. Because I went to Plitvice in summer and my personal opinion is that the scene is not as beautiful as in winter or in autumn. In addition, water volume in lakes in the fall will be abundant than in other seasons.
How to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia?
Because it is one of the very famous tourist destinations, getting to Plitvice is very easy. There are two most common options: Self-drive or take a bus. There is no train to Plitvice. If you go with a large group, around 6 or 7 people, renting a car and self-driving is also a good choice. The price is not much different than taking the bus. So, I recommend you go by bus. And you also should not take a tour, although tour operator will arrange everything but there is no time to relax.
Note: The national park has 2 entrance gates, Rastovaca and Hladovina. The bus will only take you to the gate which is listed on the ticket.
It takes about 2 and a half to 3 hours of traveling from Zagreb to Plitvice. You should come before the departure time about 15, 20 minutes. The fares ranging from 10 EUR to 12 EUR (one-way). You also should check the returning time for convenience of traveling.
- Traveling time: 2:05 – 2:25 hours | 30 minutes / 1 trip
- Ticket price: €10 – €12. It is cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket than to buy a single ticket.
- Buy tickets at: https://www.buscroatia.com/ or https://getbybus.com/en/bus-zagreb-to-plitvice-lakes
Note: Bus tickets can be bought at the counter or buy online in advance on these websites above. But if you are not sure how many days for this trip is enough, you can go to the counter and buy tickets directly, the ticket seller will advise you.
Getting to the park by private car is also simple. It takes the same time as travel by bus, but you will control your time and more active because you no need to pay attention with regard to the last bus trip that return from Plitvice (for those who plan to visit Plitvice during the day like me). In Croatia, Rentalcars.com has many offices which is quite convenient to rent a car.
There are two main routes.
- Route 1: Entering the highway A1 in the direction of Karlovac, then take the 3rd exit towards Plitvička jezera / Duga Resa / Karlovac. Then entering the road D1 in the direction of Slunj and Rakovica, continue running about 80km (You must pay road fees, about 2 or 3 euros when entering highway A1).
- Route 2: Entering the highway A1, exit highway A1 in Bosiljevo, then entering the road E71, and go to D41. A little further, but not much different.
Plitvice Lakes National Park guide: Tickets
As mentioned above, the entrance ticket price depends on the season. Summer fares are the most expensive. If I remember correctly it was about 30 euros / ticket for students. The regular ticket is higher. In other seasons, the ticket price is half or one third. Visit their homepage and check the ticket price on this page.
Due to I had planned a detailed trip and a specific schedule, I bought online tickets for 110 Euros for 2 adults and 2 children over 7 years old (under 7 years old is free). Booking ticket must have a specific date and time, so you must consider to make a reasonable and suitable schedule, avoid buying tickets on the spot because the queue is quite long, it takes at least 30 – 45 minutes in line.
Then it takes about 20 minutes walk from the night parking lot next to the ST2 entrance. Parking fee for 1 day is 10 Euros.
Note: You can book tickets in advance on the park’s homepage. But the matter is that they sell tickets online based on the remaining tickets after they sold on the spot at the park gate. In the off-peak seasons, buying online ticket is convenient and reasonable but in the summer, you should check how many tickets are left and then go to the park to buy right on the spot is best way. Because Plitvice park limits the number of visitors, so tickets may are not available every time you come. But I “revealed” a thing that it is a very rare case when you go there but could not buy a ticket.
The admission ticket including 1 bus trip and 1 boat ride to cross the lake.
The Plitvice park has 2 entrances, ST1 and ST2. But in my experience, ST2 and follow the direction of orange H is the easiest way. Because you only walk downhill, not climb like other trails and at the end of the trail, you only have to climb the slope for 10 – 15 minutes only.
Plitvice blog: How to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia?
Stretching over an area of nearly 300km², Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia includes many different lakes and ecosystems. To fully explore this large area, it will take 2 – 3 days or more. But not all tourists have that much time to visit all of this area but they almost will make a day trip from nearby cities such as Zagreb, Split. Therefore, the authorities have designed many different routes to serve the demands of visitors.
There are 8 main routes numbered A, B, C, E, F, K, H (if entering the Entrance 1, you can select routes: A, B, C, K while entering the Entrance 2, you can take routes: E, F, H, K, G1). The routes information will be posted right at the entrance gate and also printed on the tickets.
Of which, Route A is the easiest with an average trekking time of 2-3 hours. However, if you take this route, you will just “looking at the flowers while passing on horseback”, you could not see the most signature features of Plitvice.
I recommend you to take Route C (Trail C), this is a route with an average difficult level but enough for you to experience all the best of Plitvice (such as: view point from above, waterfall and boat ride on the lake). However, you do not need to follow a specific route, but can combine routes together to make the most of your time and your health.
Review Trail C (Route C)
After arriving at Plitvice, bought a ticket, you will see a board show the three trails along with the estimated time of each trail.
During my visit, I chose the trail C. Because I want to take advantage of this trail to see the best features of the park as much as I can. I also recommend this route, because of walking for 4 or 5 hours is not too much, admiring many beautiful scenes will be satisfied. As for the other routes, I see they are a bit short, so I did not choose.
It’s easy to get in, every turn will have signposts, if you want to follow any trail, just follow the instruction board. If you choose Route C, you have to take the bus first, getting to a high point then walking down from that spot. After about 2 hours of hiking, you will reach the place to take a boat to cross the lake. I will describe this trail by pictures for you to easily imagine.
Plitvice Lakes National Park blog: Where to stay?
As mentioned above, the Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia is extremely large. As such, this park is an ideal place to visit during the day. But it’s also very appropriate if you want to stay for a few days to slowly experience. Around the park there are many hotels and guesthouses. You can find the best one on Booking.com, Agoda.com or Airbnb.com. Ideally, you should spend two days to trekking all the routes of the park.
There are also accommodations inside the park, but the price will be expensive or places to stay near the park the price also the same.
Another option is you can choose to stay in remote villages near the park for overnight and come back on tomorrow. Usually these villages are about 5 to 10km from the park. If you don’t have a car to coming back the park, it will be inconvenience. But there’s a village a little further away, Slunj. This village has a bus stop to Plitvice from Zagreb so it is quite convenient. Check its accommodation on Agoda.com or Booking.com or Airbnb.com.
What you need to know before visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia?
- Croatia is a country adjacent to the sea, so in the summer it will be extremely hot. This park is also the same. Although there are many trees and many lakes, but in the summer it is also extremely hot. Not being careful becomes torture, could not enjoying anything. Every year, there are many cases where many people faint right on the trail. So, be well armed if you decide to visit in the summer: Bringn enough drinking water, a wide-brimmed hat, a thin shawl, sunscreen, snacks…
- However, the good thing of European weather is: When you are out in the sun, it is very hot, but under the trees canopy, it is comfortable and cool immediately. In addition to walking under the sun, there are many spots right under the canopy of trees which are very cool and pleasant. That’s why I strongly recommend that you have a small picnic backpack including purified water, fruit, cakes to recharge energy…
- There is usually no toilet along the trail. If possible, refuel with fruits and vegetables rather than pure water.
- Should wear sneakers. Anyway, it is still a natural park, a lot of dirty roads, wooden paths with slippery splashes of water.
- At the beginning or at the end of a trekking trail, there are also cafes or food trucks to relaxing or eating. But as I mentioned above, I advise you to bring it for sure.
- Obey absolutely the laws of the park. Especially not to bathe in lakes or throwing gabbage.
- There is a luggage storage and money exchange counter at the entrance area, so you don’t need to worry too much.
- Should eat at the outside of the entrance area or eat something before, not bring food inside. Because in this area, people pay great attention to the issue of of environmental protection. If you bring food in, you should keep it clean.
- Should prepare suitable outfits and sports shoes because you will have to trekking quite a lot.
- Advice for those who are afraid to walk, you should not go. Because there is only 1 means to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the park is to walk.
- The opening hours in summer begin at 7am – 8pm. If you book ticket early, you will be selected a beautiful time at 7am – 8am to avoid harsh sunlight in the afternoon. Fall and spring from 8am – 6pm and winter from 9am – 4pm.
- One more thing to note is that the tickets have fixed hours, so it is best to come 1 day before, so on the next morning to go into the park without being rush. Because Croatia is the European country but not in the Schengen, so when entering Croatia, it will take time to go through the border gate. At least it took an extra hour to line up.
Plitvice blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Plitvice you can refer to
- Plitvice Lakes National Park and Rastoke Day Tour from Zagreb
- Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke Village Day Tour from Zagreb with Skip-the-Line Ticket
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Whole Day Tour from Zadar
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Day Tour from Split or Trogir