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Plitvice Lakes National Park travel guide

plitvice-lakes-national-park-croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park travel guide

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Croatia. When people think of Croatia, it’s mostly the unspoiled islands, historic cities, and a beautiful coastline that get all the hype. Now imagine 295-sq. kilometers of glorious nature, all to be explored and discovered as you please.

Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park - a unique natural phenomenon that will blow your mind

Plitvice consists out of 16 natural lakes making a unique and very scenic lake system. When people think of Croatia, it’s mostly the unspoiled islands, historic cities, and a beautiful coastline that get all the hype. Now imagine 295-sq. kilometers of glorious nature, all to be explored and discovered as you please. This simply breathtaking jewel is one of the first natural sites to be found on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

By far Croatia's top natural attraction and the absolute highlight of any Croatia trip will delight you with its peacefulness, picturesque landscapes and unspoiled nature followed by cascading waterfalls and a myriad of lakes that are accessible via kilometers of wooden walkways.

It's a world-renowned natural treasure, rich in flora and fauna, while its forests are home to many animal species (bears, wolves, and many rare bird species) that along with the unique turquoise waters and breathtaking views, will leave its mark on every visitor. With easy walking trails, stunning viewpoints, and photogenic Plitvice waterfalls, this place welcomes visitors of all ages.

Plitvice Lakes are divided into two groups. You'll have an opportunity to explore the upper as well as lower lakes, which are the ones you often see on postcards. The most dramatic waterfalls of all are Veliki slap (78 meters) at the lower lakes and Galovački buk at the upper lakes. As they are the main attraction, there is a great possibility to run out of your camera's battery while trying to try to take the perfect selfie at a popular viewpoint.

There are many efforts to maintain the balance of the environment, and this is achieved through the extremely strict rules of the park guards. In this article, we will cover the answers to frequently asked questions about Plitvice lakes as well as tips on how and when to visit it.

Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park 

Plitvice Lakes are located in the middle of the country between Split and Zagreb, about 2.5 hours from both cities. If you are going to Croatia soon or thinking about it as a possible option for your next vacation, visiting this spectacular place for a day when in Zagreb or Split is among the best things to do in Croatia! This is, of course, a great way to experience the lakes, but if you would like to avoid the crowds and get to the Plitvice Lakes first thing in the morning, staying near the park is your best bet.

  plitvice-lakes-national-park

There are two entrances to Plitvice Lakes National Park (Entrance 1 for the lower lakes and Entrance 2 for the upper lakes) which are offering visitor parking for all types of vehicles and the parking is paid upon exiting the park (at the parking payment stalls).

You can get here by renting a car, using public transport or joining an organised excursion. If you arrive by public transport (bus), the both entrances are very near the bus stops, but if you like to do the driving yourself, keep in mind that car parking fee is 10,00 kn/hour in the high season and 8,00 kn/hour between the dates (1.4.-31.5. & 1.10. – 31.10.). No matter what method of transportation you choose, we do recommend visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park earlier in the day to avoid the crowds.

Best time to visit Plitvice National Park Croatia

No matter what season you are coming to Plitvice, it’s beautiful year-round and our guess is that you will be amazed by this wonder of nature. Each of the four seasons has its unique charm and tells its own little story with different colors, sounds coming from the waterfalls, chirping of the birds, flight of the butterflies, breathtaking scenes, and life itself unfolding right in front of you.

Plitvice Lakes is truly a spectacular sight to visit in the winter season, especially from December to February when the park is covered in snow. As you might have guessed, these are the cheapest months of the year to visit this magnificent place when the low temperatures turns it into a real winter wonderland. On rare occasions, the park can be closed due to an abundance of snowfall. Also, the buses and boats within the park typically do not operate during the winter months. Please note that only Entrance 1 is in operation during winter, so make sure to park or get off the bus there.

Entrance 2 is closed in winter from November through March, but there’s still plenty to explore from Entrance 1. Winter is also said to be magical, and the best part is that there are obviously very few visitors and no crowds. This way, you'll skip waiting in lines at the ticket counter. And just imagine having the park nearly all to yourself? Such bliss!

Like all of Croatia, the summer months are the peak tourist season here. Summer (July & August) may offer the best weather, but it is the most expensive and busiest time of year to visit Plitvice and the pathways can be quite crowded (the park is visited by up to 11,000 people per day!). We'd ideally recommend visiting during Spring and Fall (April-June and September-October) when the weather is still good with fewer crowds.

Regardless of time of the year you are traveling to Croatia, you will most definitely want to put Plitvice Lakes National Park on your list of things to do in Croatia.

Plitvice Lakes Opening Hours & Entrance fees

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is open all year round with longer opening hours during summer (usually 7 am to 8 pm). However, as mentioned above, not all parts of the park are accessible to visitors year-round.

This year, Plitvice National Park has also introduced an online e-ticket system. Tickets can be purchased in advance, at least 2 days before arrival. Of course, there is still an opportunity for you to buy entry at the park, but keep in mind that the number of available tickets per hour is limited. Therefore, we always recommend to anyone who intends to visit Plitvice to book their tickets on time.

Once you book your entry ticket online you will receive a voucher on email which you can exchange for a ticket at the ticket office at the entrance of the park. Also, you can enter the park only during the hour for which you have bought tickets, and you can pick up your tickets half an hour before and during the hour you booked for entering the Park. Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1 can get a bit crowded during the touristic season and you might want to head to Plitvice Entrance 2 as there are way fewer people there.

Entrance ticket prices vary from season to season ranging from 60 Croatian Kuna ($9) to 250 Croatian Kuna ($37) which are sold as the one-day or two-day tickets. Discounts are available for children and teenagers (age 7-18), students (with valid ID). Tickets for children under 7 years of age and persons with disabilities (over 50%) are free of charge.

The ride in the panorama train and the electrical boat (across Kozjak lake), tourist insurance and VAT are included in the ticket price (you can get on and off any time you wish). Dogs are permitted in the park, but they must be on a leash. They are also allowed on the shuttle bus and ferry boat shuttle within the park.

One day adult tickets prices are as follows:

Nov.-March (Adults: 60 kn, Children (7 to 18): 30 kn);

April-June, Oct (Adults: 100 kn, Children (7 to 18): 50 kn);

June, September for visits until 4 pm (Adults: 250 kn, Children (7 to 18): 120 kn)

June, September for visits after 4 pm (Adults: 150 kn, Children (7 to 18): 70 kn);

July-Aug for visits until 4 pm (Adults: 250 kn, Children (7 to 18): 120 kn)

July-Aug for visits after 4 pm (Adults: 150 kn, Children (7 to 18): 70 kn)
 

The national park’s hours of operation by season:

Opening hours between last Sunday in October until last Saturday in March: 8.00 – 16.00 h (entering park/ticket purchase/exchanging vouchers for tickets – until 14.00 h);

Opening hours between last Sunday in March – 31.5.2019.: 8.00 – 19.00 h (entering park/ticket purchase/exchanging vouchers for tickets – until 17.00 h);

Opening hours between 1.10 until last Saturday in October: 8.00 – 18.00 h (entering park/ticket purchase/exchanging vouchers for tickets – until 16.00 h);

Opening hours between the dates 01.06. - 20.08.: 7.00 – 20.00 h (entering park/ ticket purchase/exchanging vouchers for tickets – until 18.00 h);

Opening hours between the dates 21.08. - 30.09.: 7.00 – 19.00 h (entering park/ticket purchase/exchanging vouchers for tickets – until 17.00 h);

Plitvice Lakes Map & Trails

Below you will find the Plitvice Lakes map with both entrances marked as well as all of the main attractions of the park. Once you are there, it is hard to get lost as there are plenty of useful info signs and arrows. However, our advice would be to buy a printed Plitvice lakes national park map at tourist information centers 'cause it will be easier for you to follow the signs for different programs and trails.

plitvice-lakes-trails

While trails are well-marked the majority of the time, they aren't always easy to follow. However, you can find your way around using google maps or get yourself familiar with the trails using the Plitvice park app (found at their website).

The Plitvice Lakes National Park offers visitors seven different routes (also called programs) to tour the lake system, and four hiking trails throughout the park. These are suggested routes (4 hiking routes from each entrance) so you should choose your route wisely depending on how fit you are, how much time you have, and how much you enjoy hiking. The shortest route takes 2 to 3 hours and the longest up to 8 hours. Programs A, B, and C all start at Entrance 1. Programs E, F, and H all start at Entrance 2 while Program K is a full day hike through the entire park starting from either Entrance 1 or Entrance 2.

The main attraction in the park is the 78 meters high Veliki Slap (Croatia’s’ highest waterfall) situated at the lower end of the park near entrance No. 1. That said, make sure you choose a path that includes a visit to the Veliki Slap Waterfall which is worth seeing. If you have enough time, we recommend visiting both the lower and upper lakes. To do this you will need to do Program C (from entrance 1) or Program H (from Entrance 2). Both sections feature stunning waterfalls and lake views, but if we have to choose, the waterfalls of the upper lakes are slightly better than the lower lake sections.

Enjoy stunning views, diverse fauna, and exceptional turquoise waters as well as get unbelievably photogenic snaps on every corner. The location is kids friendly, the paths are secure, nature is something they will most likely benefit from.

Click here to see the map

Day trips to Plitvice Lakes Croatia

If you do not feel comfortable renting a car or if you don't want to use public transportation during your time in Croatia, there are abundant opportunities to experience Plitvice Lakes - the most beautiful place in the world, no matter where you’re based throughout the country. One thing is for sure, the true beauty of the untouched nature will leave you breathless. The Plitvice Lakes is conveniently located in the heart of Croatia, therefore they are easily reachable on a day trip from both, Zagreb, Croatia’s capital and Split, country’s second-largest city.

Take a look at 2 different tour options and book a guided day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park with us:


Great waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes day trip from Zagreb

National Park Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb (private)

Great waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes day trip from Split

National Park Plitvice Lakes from Split (private)

National Park Plitvice Lakes from Dubrovnik (private)

Tips for Experiencing Plitvice Lakes:

 
  • Stay overnight so that you get to see the entire park without the rush
  • Get your ticket at the entrance and a map with the trail you wish to take or download Plitvice Lakes application with a list of activities and places you can visit
  • If you're going to visit the natural beauty and the stunning waterfalls, we strongly suggest coming very early to avoid the crowds. It is a completely different atmosphere without tourists where you can enjoy the peace of oasis
  • Complete the mind-blowing experience by going on the boat trip or take the free bus because you can't go around the whole park by walking. However, individual routes itself (for example, route H) are walkable (except routes K1, K2, which are a little bit demanding) and the steps around the waterfalls are well maintained
  • Wearing comfortable walking shoes is the most important
  • Bring a couple of liters of water & your own lunch if you want to avoid waiting in lines
  • Bring very comfortable walking shoes and if they are waterproof, even better
  • Tour the Lower Lakes early and hike up to the top of the cliff to get a birds-eye view of the falls
  • Make sure to check the weather forecast before going. It might be a good idea to bring a light rain jacket as the weather is different from the Croatian coast and showers can appear even in the summer months
  • If you are visiting during the peak summer months, purchase your tickets online at least 2 days in advance. They do limit the number of tickets sold during peak months
  • Don’t forget to use a bathroom at either entrance before beginning your hiking adventure because there aren’t many restrooms along the way

And if you ever get the chance to experience the natural beauty and magnificence of Plitvice Lakes National Park full of, which we consider to be the 8th Wonder of the World, don’t think twice.

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