PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK – COMPLETE TRAVEL GUIDE 2020

Nested in the mountainous Lika region, half-way between the coast and the capital ZagrebPlitvice Lakes National Park is, along with Dubrovnik, the single most visited site in Croatia. Plitvice Lakes became a protected national park back in 1949, and since 1979 the place is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Plitvice Lakes Travel Guide

Plitvice Lakes Croatia | Croatia Travel Guides

This wonderful natural phenomenon consists of 16 interconnected lakes and over 90 waterfalls of different sizes.

Contents:

WHERE IS PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Depending on the point of view, we can think of Plitvice Lakes national park as being in the middle of nowhere, or not far from anywhere. Plitvice national park is actually located in the mountainous Lika region, in central Croatia, halfway between Zagreb and Zadar. As such, Plitvice national park is a perfect stop for anybody traveling from north to south or vice versa.

Before the modern multilane highway A1 was built, Plitvice lakes were actually along the main route from Zagreb to Dalmatia.

Below is the location of Plitvice lakes national park Croatia on google map.

HOW TO GET TO PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Many people visit Plitvice Lakes National Park for a day either from Zagreb or from Zadar and Split. While this is a good way to experience the lakes, you might also consider staying in the nearby villages for easier and early access to the lakes.

You can rent a car, take an intercity bus (online booking here!), or join an organized group tour (more details here!).

HOW TO GET FROM ZAGREB TO PLITVICE LAKES

If you travel from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes by car head to Karlovac, a town 40 km southeast of Zagreb. From Karlovac take a state road D1 direction Slunj, Grabovac, Plitvice. You’ll see lots of signs for Plitvice lake. Plitvice is about 80 km south of Karlovac. The highway fees amount to 19 Kn (approx. 2,5 €), and the ride is less than 2 hours.

If you prefer to travel by bus from Zagreb to Plitvice lakes it’s super easy. Many buses leave throughout the day from Zagreb’s main bus station. The trip takes about 2.30 hours, and it costs around 100 Kn (13 €).

HOW TO GET FROM ZADAR TO PLITVICE LAKES

Zadar is less than 2 hours drive from Plitvice waterfalls. If you decide to take your own car there or rent one (check for rates and availability here!), it’s an easy and safe drive along multilane highway A1. You will take a highway exit Gornja Ploca, and then continue along state road D522 to Udbina. From Udbina take D1 road to the Plitvice Lakes. One-way highway fees cost 24 Kn (approx. 3 €).

A bus from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes departs throughout the day and the ticket costs about 100 Kn (approx. 13 €). The ride takes around 2.30 hours.

FROM SPLIT TO PLITVICE LAKES

If you travel by car from Split to Plitvice lakes take a motorway A1 direction north (Zagreb/Rijeka). Take a highway exit Gornja Ploca. Continue on a state road D522 to Udbina. From Udbina take D1 road to the Plitvice Lakes. The highway will set you back 84 Kn (approx. 11 €). The drive from Split to Plitvice park takes a bit less than 3 hours.

Bus from Split to Plitvice lakes costs 150 Kn (20 €). It takes about 4h 30 min, and it departs many times a day.

DAY TOURS TO PLITVICE LAKES CROATIA

If you plan to visit the lakes, you can do it on your own. Most people visit Plitvice on their way from Zagreb down to the coast, or vice versa. This is a convenient way to visit as the visit to the lakes doesn’t take you off the trajectory.

If you stay for a couple of days in one place, be it in Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik or Zagreb, consider joining one of the organized group or private tours.

BEST TIME TO VISIT PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK CROATIA

Plitvice falls are worth visiting at any time of a year because they change with every season.

In summer months (particularly in July and August), lakes get really crowded, that it is even difficult to move around. Also, in the summertime, the level of water is lower. They are still pretty, though :).

Spring and autumn are perhaps the best time to visit Plitvice park. If you visit Plitvice national park in spring you’ll benefit from high water levels, and witness the waterfalls and streams running wildly.

Autumn is also a good time to visit Plitvice lakes national park as there aren’t many people around, and trees start changing colors. In winter, when covered in snow, the Plitvice waterfalls look like a scene from a fairy tale.

VISITING PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK IN CROATIA

In the following chapters, you will find everything you need to know if visiting Plitvice lakes. The National Park covers an area of almost 73.000 acres. It consists of 16 lakes, over 90 waterfalls, many caves, caverns, and forests. Lakes are divided into two groups: 12 Upper Lakes and 4 Lower Lakes. The Upper ones are larger than the Lower ones.

A Complete Travel Guide To Plitvice Lakes National Park

A Complete Travel Guide To Plitvice Lakes | Photo credit: Free-photos via Pixabay

Plitvice Lakes National Park is accessible on foot via dirt paths and walkways. Shuttle buses run every 20 minutes through the designated areas of the park. A visit also includes a boat ride.

The highest point of the park is Seliski Vrh (1279 m), and the lowest point is the Korana Canyon (367 m). Lakes lie on an altitude between 503 m and 636 m.

Plitvice Lakes Park, for us, is one of the most wonderful places we’ve ever visited. The color of the water, changing from emerald green to aqua blue, is simply mesmerizing. And it’s so clear that you can easily see through the water, and spot small fish.

PLITVICE LAKES MAP

Below you will find Plitvice Lakes map with both entrances marked as well as all bus and boat stops, and most importantly lakes and waterfalls.

However, once you are in Plitvice national park buy a printed Plitvice lakes national park map. The free map they offer with the ticket isn’t very useful. On our last trip there we didn’t have a map and we did regret it later. We ended up walking around without an idea where we are going.

While trails are well-marked most of the time, unfortunately, it’s not all the time. At certain fork roads, you need to use your own judgment. You can always consult google maps, or get yourself familiar with the trails using the Plitvice park app (found at their website).

PLITVICE LAKES ENTRANCE

Plitvice waterfalls can be accessed through two main entrances open to the public, and the third auxiliary entrance Flora.  North entrance, known as Plitvice lakes entrance 1, is just above lower lakes, while the south entrance, Plitvice lakes entrance 2, is next to the Upper Lakes.

If you travel by car, you will like to know that parking spaces are abundant even in a high season. However, in high season you’ll perhaps have to park a bit further from the entrance.

An auxiliary, third Plitvice entrance – entrance Flora – not far from the hotels Bellevue and Plitvice.In order to better protect this fragile natural environment, the park’s management decided to limit the number of visitors to the park and hence, they introduced the online ticketing system. You have to purchase the tickets at least one day prior to your visit via THIS LINKAnd in the high season, we highly encourage you to purchase them well in advance due to the high demand. You can still buy tickets at the ticket booths in the park, but nobody guarantees you’ll find them available for the desired time. To check the number of available tickets for a current day, you can consult this webpage.

Bear in mind that in the wintertime, from November through March, you can access park only through Plitvice lakes national park entrance 1. Plitvice entrance 2, and Plitvice entrance Flora, are closed in winter.

PLITVICE LAKES TRAILS

There are as many as 8 different hiking routes (actually four different Plitvice lakes hiking trails for each of two main entrances). The shortest route takes 2 to 3 hours and the longest up to 8 hours. Although the routes are marked, they aren’t always easy to follow. Sometimes the marks aren’t clear.

Plitvice Lakes’ best route depends really on how fit you are, how much time you have, and how much you enjoy hiking.

ROUTE A

This route starts at the north entrance to the park (Entrance 1), descending down to lower lakes, and leading to the Great Waterfall. You return a bit and then continue along lower lakes to the Kozjaka Bridge. From here you walk uphill back to the Entrance 1. You can also take a shuttle back. This route is 3,5 km long, it takes 2 to 3 hours, and it isn’t physically demanding. However, you only get to see the lower lakes.

ROUTE B

Similar to the route A, but it continues across Kozjaka Bridge where you take a boat across the Kozjaka Lake. Once you get off the boat, you can walk back to the Entrance 1, or take a shuttle back. This route is 4 km long, it takes 3 to 4 hours, and a hike is easy.

ROUTE C

Plitvice Lakes trail C is actually extended route B. The first part is the same, but instead to return to the Entrance 1 after the boat crosses the Kozjak Lake, you continue the hike along the other three lakes to the southernmost Proscansko Lake. Route C is 8 km long, it takes 4 to 6 hours, and a hike is moderate.

ROUTE K1

The longest route to take starting at Entrance 1, route K includes also a hike around the Proscansko Jezero. The route K is 18,3 km long, it takes 6 to 8 hours, and a hike is demanding.

ROUTE E

The shortest route of all starting at the south gate – Entrance 2, route E takes you along the Upper Lakes, all the way to the Proscansko Jezero. You start a visit with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake. You can come back with a shuttle bus, or on foot. The route is 5,2 km long, and it takes 2 to 3 hours.

ROUTE F

Route F takes a different direction than the route E. You start a visit with a long boat ride across the Kozjak Lake. From there you continue a visit across the Kozjak bridge and along the lower lakes to the Great Waterfalls. On return, you’ll need to walk up to arrive at the shuttle bus stop. The route is 4,6 km long, and it takes 3 to 4 hours.

ROUTE H

Route H includes a bus ride to the Studovac site near the Proscansko Lake. Here you start your hike along the Upper Lakes to the Kozjak Lake that you cross by boat. After a boat ride, you continue walking along the lower lakes all the way to the Great Waterfall. You return to your starting point by shuttle bus. The route is 8,9 km long, and it takes 4 to 6 hours.

ROUTE K2

Similar to route K1, the K2 route gives you an opportunity to explore the entire lakes’ section of the park. The hike starts at the south entrance – Entrance 2. The route is 18,3 km long, and it takes 6 to 8 hours.

PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEE

Plitvice Croatia is open a year around. However, not all parts of the park are accessible to visitors year-round. Also, the crowds aren’t the same in winter or summer. In order to limit the number of visitors (or at least to discourage them a bit), the Plitvice lakes entrance fee has a tendency to increase in summertime every few years, if not yearly.

For the same reason, the park’s management introduced an online ticketing system in 2019. There is a limited number of visitors per hour who can enter the park. So, if you want to make it in, you are highly encouraged to purchase your ticket in advance through the park’s website.

Plitvice lakes national park entrance fee is as following:

Nov.-March | Adults: 80 Kn | Children (7 to 18): 35 Kn

April, May, Oct | Adults: 180 Kn | Children (7 to 18): 50 Kn

June-Sept for visits until 4 pm | Adults: 300 Kn | Children (7 to 18): 120 Kn

June-Sept for visits after 4 pm | Adults: 200 Kn | Children (7 to 18): 70 Kn

Parking costs 10 Kn per hour from June through September and 8 Kn per hour for the rest of the year. Children below 7 years of age are free of charge. There is a student’s discount upon presenting a valid student ID. There is also a discount for the groups of 15 persons or more.

WORKING HOURS & CONTACTS

Park is open a year-round but certain parts of the park can have limited access due to the weather conditions. Shuttles and boats operate from April through October.

Entrance 1 | Nov.-March: daily, 8 am-4 pm (entering the park until 2 pm) | April, May, end of August (20/8-31/8), September: daily, 8 am-7 pm (entering the park until 5 pm) | from June until August, 20th: daily, 7 am-8 pm (entering the park until 6 pm) | October: daily, 8 am-6 pm (entering the park until 4 pm)

Entrance 2 is closed from November through March. IN other periods it has the same operating hours as the entrance 1.

Parking | Daily, 7 am-7 pm

Boat | 8.00 am-6 pm, every 30 minutes

Shuttle | 8.30 am-6 pm, every 30 minutes

Contacts | t: +385 0 53 751 026 | e: info@np-plitvicka-jezera.hr | Website

TIPS ON VISITING PLITVICE LAKES

  • With a ticket in hand, try to enter the park through entrance 3. It’s much quieter, and the boat stop is very close by.
  • Go to the toilets before entering the park. You’ll find toilets along the trails, at certain stops, but maybe not when you really need it.
  • Take plenty of water and enjoy it at your own pace.
  • Take a look at the boards to decide which route to take but expect it to take a little longer than stated.
  • Get there early in order to avoid crowds. Crowds also tend to go down after 3 pm.
  • If visiting in summer, be patient. Some trails are narrow. People of all ages visit the park. Some people move very slow. And people do stop to take photos.
  • Further parts of the Plitvice park are less crowded even in summer (from Burgeti station further away).
  • Swimming isn’t permitted in any of the lakes here, but you can hire a small rowboat for only 50 Kn per hour. You will find these rowboats on the Lake Kozjak near the electric boat stop P1.
  • Dogs are allowed in the park but must be kept on a leash at all times.
  • If you travel by bus and wonder where to leave your luggage while visiting Plitvice lakes, you’ll like to know that at each entrance you’ll find designated luggage area. It’s free of charge but go early as storage space might be limited.
  • Swimming in Plitvice lakes is strictly forbidden. However, if you feel like cooling down in cool river waters, head to the village of Korana. Here you can swim. You can also swim a bit further north in Slunj.

ACCOMMODATION NEAR PLITVICE LAKES

The accommodation in the vicinity of the park consists of vacation homes and apartments. There are also a couple of hotels near the entrance 2 (walking distance to the lakes) and in nearby villages.

Below you will find a couple of properties we recommend in Plitvice Lakes, but for more info check our detailed guide on Plitvice lakes accommodation.

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