Although Croatia has always been famous for its incredible beaches, the most visited destination remains the Plitvice Lakes.
UNESCO world heritage since 1979, its crystal-clear waters, imposing waterfalls, rich vegetation and unspoilt nature make this place a true natural paradise located in the Dalmatian region.
Suitable for families, the elderly or for those who simply want to take time out to relax in close contact with nature, as I do, the Plitvice Lakes can satisfy everyone.
Find out how to best organise a visit to this fantastic natural park with this travel guide I have prepared for you.
About the park
The area covers about 300 square kilometres and is known for its sixteen beautiful lakes, divided into upper (gornja jezera) and lower (donja jezera).
In my opinion, the latter are much more fascinating as they are characterised by surreal shades of colour and feature impressive waterfalls (the highest is 78 metres).
The whole area is rich in vegetation, a real plunge into nature!
More than a thousand plant species have settled here, making the park a true natural oasis.
Making the area even richer are the many varieties of animals including: bears, wolves, wild boar, lynxes, bats, badgers and many types of birds (don't worry, meeting bears is very rare despite the fact that they are the symbol of the lakes, mainly because they occupy the most remote part of the park).
The protected area offers everything you need for a pleasant visit including large picnic areas and catering services.
Itineraries and timing
The entire area is criss-crossed by the famous wooden footbridges that run along and across the lakes, which are 18 kilometres long.
There are many signposted routes that can be followed depending on the type of visit you intend to make. From the simplest and shortest (about 3.5 kilometres) to the more demanding treks that cover the entire park area.
A full exploration, including stops for meals, souvenir photos and simply to enjoy the splendour of the lakes takes about six to eight hours (although the full trek may be challenging, I can assure you that the trails are very pleasant and relaxing).
Visit the official website on this page for a map of all the available routes with the corresponding travel times.
Keep in mind, however, that within the park there is a scenic train that runs through the entire area of the protected territory and electric boats that, in some places, "cut" across the lakes and thus allow a shorter visit.
How to reach the lakes
I was touring the Balkans when I decided to visit the national park, so I was coming from Split.
From here, there are daily “comfortable” buses that take about three and a half hours to get to Plitvice at a price of about €20,00.
From Zagreb airport the lakes are about 140 kilometres away and there are direct buses that take about two and a half hours, the price is around €10,00.
Another option is to take a bus from Zadar airport which is about 130 kilometres away. The journey takes about two hours and costs about €10,00.
Please note that there are generally discounts for students, children and elderly persons.
Buses will drop you off in front of the main entrances (1 and 2). They are marked by characteristic wooden houses which are, in fact, the stops of the latter.
Pay attention to bus arrival/departure times by asking local guides as the “posted” ones are not always up to date.
You can choose to travel with flixbus, a company that offers inexpensive travel with several daily departures (I reached the lakes by these means) or you can visit the bus croatia website to travel with local buses and plan your visit in the best possible way.
Please note that tickets can be purchased directly on board the cars for local buses, while for flixbus you need to book your seat in advance.
When to visit
The best time to visit the lakes is definitely in spring (mid-March to the end of May) because of the abundant water flows and the richly coloured trees and flowers.
I would definitely recommend a visit in winter too.
The frozen lakes and snowy footbridges make this place truly enchanting.
Please note that, during this period, several passages may be temporarily closed because they are dangerous, but the colours and landscapes that the lakes give off in the winter season must be truly unique.
Also keep in mind that in winter there will be fewer people so the visit will be much more enjoyable!
The park is open all year round, including public holidays (for up-to-date information visit the official website) and is open from 7am to 8pm while the car parks close two hours later.
I strongly advise you to always check the latest updates as temporary closures may occur: I visited them in mid-August (not recommended) and a limited number of entrances had been introduced due to the large number of people.
The price of admission varies depending on the season. Please note that tickets can only be purchased in advance (up to one day before the visit) and are as follows:
– from 01/11 to 31/03: 55 kune (approx. €7,50);
– from 01/04 to 30/06 and from 01/09 to 31/10: 150 kune (approx. €20,00);
– from 01/07 to 31/08: (until 4 pm) 250 kune (approx. €35,00), from sixteen onwards 150 kune.
Please note that there are always reductions for students, seniors and children (just show ID or student card).
For up-to-date prices I recommend, once again, visiting the official website at this page.
It is a real bath in nature.
If you like to get lost in the forests and enjoy some good “mountain” air, this is the place for you. It's a really charming place and so relaxing. The wooden walkways make it all very impressive as they contrast with the bright colours of the lakes and vegetation. The nuances of the water, then, are impressive!
It's definitely one of those places you have to visit at least once in your life, especially since it's perfectly suited to all kinds of needs.
Definitely the crowd of people I met.
It has to be said: Plitvice Lakes are an extremely touristy place so it is unpleasant to visit them during the high season. If you can, definitely avoid the months of July and August or, better yet, visit them between October and May.
– Avoid organised tours: let yourself be swept away by the tranquillity of nature and enjoy the lakes to the full. Organised tours often consist of large groups and in my opinion it's not worth missing out on the peace and quiet that you can experience on a solo tour or with your own company.
– Play in advance: if, like me, you don't have other opportunities to organise your visit in the off-season, be aware that you will have to deal with long waits at the entrance. I arrived about sixty minutes before opening time and queued for an hour. If possible, anticipate your arrival so that you can ensure a smooth visit at least for the first hour and avoid spending too much time waiting.
– Visit them from a different perspective: inside the park it is possible to rent wooden rowing boats. This is a very interesting option to have a different experience and avoid the crowds of people that invade the park during the high season.