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Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Breathtaking waterfalls, picturesque walking paths, forested mountains, scenic boat rides, the clearest water I’ve ever seen, and pristine nature in such a natural form… What more could you want from a national park? If you love any of those things, you need to add Plitvice Lakes National Park to your bucket list!

Made up of 16 natural lakes connected by waterfalls, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia.

It makes for a great day trip from Zagreb, Zadar or Split, or if you want to experience the park fully, plan to stay a night or two in the area to really take in this breathtaking place.

While you’re there, you’ll follow the winding paths throughout the park to take in scenic views and be wowed by the turquoise water and amazing fauna. You can thank the limestone in the park and the flow of water over time for creating the beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and caves you’ll see at Plitvice Lakes. It’s truly a wonderful way to spend a day in Croatia!

There are a lot of decisions that go into planning a trip to Plitvice Lakes. How long do you need to spend in the park? How do you get there? What will it cost? Don’t worry… I’ll make it easy for you. I’ve gathered a list of everything you need to know to plan your visit to Plitvice Lakes.

Where is Plitvice? How to Get to Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice Lakes is located in central Croatia, not far from the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Depending on where you are based in Croatia, there are many ways to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park from wherever you are.

There is no train route to Plitvice Lakes, so the best ways to get to the park are to drive, take a bus, or book a tour.

If you’re taking a bus, there are three bus stops in the park to depart and board the buses depending on where you’d like to see first in the park. The bus stops look like little log houses and have bus schedules and tickets available daily. If you are driving (which I highly recommend as it gives you flexibility!), there are places to pay to park near the entrances.

  • Zagreb – 2 hours away
  • Zadar – 1.5 hours away
  • Split – 2.5 hours away
  • Dubrovnik – 5 hours (and not really possible to visit for a day trip)

Where to Stay near Plitvice Lakes

If you really want to experience the park for all it has to offer, then staying a night or two in the area is a great idea. This way you’ll be able to take your time exploring the whole park, plus you’ll beat the crowds in the morning and evening and have a more secluded feel to your visit.

Krka vs Plitvice National Park

There are three hotels within the park where you can stay during the summer months: Plitvice Etho House, Holiday Park Fenomen Plitvice and Plitvice Falls Cottage. In the winter, the only hotel within the park that is open is hotel Jezero.

If you don’t want to stay in the park or the hotels are booked, the village of Plitvica Selo is within walking distance to the park and there are a variety of hotels, AirBnbs or VRBOs to choose from for your stay. Other areas to stay close to the park are Jezerce, Grabovac or Korana.

When to Visit

Plitvice Lakes is open year-round and I would argue that it’s always worth visiting. The summer months are the most popular time to visit, but this also means it’s the busiest time with crowds and most expensive entrance fees.

If you can, avoid July at all costs, but even with the extra people and price, in the summer months, you’ll have the whole park available to explore and hopefully great weather. The colors within the park will also be on full display during the summer months which makes it a great time to visit.

In the winter months, bundle up and walk through the magical winter wonderland. Some areas of the park close during the winter, but it’s still well worth the trip to see most of the park.

A few of the waterfalls will partially freeze in the winter, though I would argue that it only adds to the beauty! Definitely don’t shy away from visiting in the winter (especially because it will save you money on entrance fees too!)

Important Info:

Prices keep changing so here’s a link to the updated price sheet. Children under the age of 7 enter the park free!

What’s included in your ticket? All tickets include access to all areas of the park. The tickets also include all shuttle buses and ferry rides within the park, which makes getting around the park very simple.

Tickets are still available to purchase at the park, however, the number of visitors per day has been capped at 10,000 – so if you show up too late in the day, especially during the summer, you may find yourself unable to visit that day!

Prebooking an entrance is also an option if you cannot show up early or drive from another bigger city.

Recommended tours from:

Zagreb | Split | Zadar

Can You Swim in the Plitvice Lakes?

Nope! Swimming is strictly forbidden in the national park.

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Visitors wanting to swim used to be able to do it at Krka National Park, but that’s also no longer allowed.

Can You Bring Food?

You can and I’ll say I actually recommend bringing some snacks with you. There are some restaurants and snack stands available inside the park, so you won’t go hungry either way.

Seven Trails at Plitvice Lakes: Which to Pick?

There are 7 suggested (by the park itself) itineraries around Plitvice.

If you like the idea of visiting the upper and lower lakes plus getting the views from the upper viewpoints, I did something between C and thought it was perfect.

Start at Entrance 1 and you can finish at entrance 3. I highly recommend getting here right at opening time 7am during the summer and 8 or 9 am during autumn and winter. You still might be in traffic of people during the summer, but less than later in the day.

The ferry across Lake Kozjak will take you from the Lower Lakes to the Upper Lakes (or vice versa), and one ride is included in your ticket price. After you finish the route at Station 3 you can take the tram back down when you’re ready to make your way back toward Entrance 1.

The view from the final viewpoint near the top of Veliki Slap is THE photo you want to take.

Choose your footwear wisely!

When visiting the park, it’s best to wear sneakers, hiking boots, or sandals with some grip on the bottom. The wooden boardwalks that guide you through the park tend to get wet from the waterfalls and can get slippery.

There aren’t many benches along the way, so be ready to hike.

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