plitvice waterfalls

Plitvice lakes National Park in Croatia 🇭🇷 | Travel tips + Guide

Plitvice lakes National Park in Croatia 🇭🇷

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Thanks to an 18km long wooden footbridge route, we can discover a succession of 16 lakes that are connected to each other and that flow into each other through 92 waterfalls. All this forms an incredibly beautiful landscape, with forests, turquoise lakes, waterfalls…. The water is so clear that you can see a multitude of fish and other small creatures. If you’re going to Croatia, it’s a place not to be missed.

Summary

  1. How to get to Plitvice National Park?
  2. How much does it cost?
  3. How long does it take to visit the park?
  4. How to get around the park?
  5. What circuit to do?
  6. Where to stay in Plitvice lakes National Park?
  7. When to go to Plitvice?
  8. Tips for visiting Plitvice
  9. Where are the best photo spots in Plitvice?
  10. Krka or Plitvice?
  11. My opinion on Plitvice lakes NP
  12. Useful links

croatia waterfalls

How to get to Plitvice National Park?

Most tourists visit Plitvice on a day trip from Zagreb or Zadar.

You can therefore go there by bus, by car or with an organized tour, but it is better to spend a night inside or around the park to arrive as soon as the opening hours and enjoy the small number of tourists in the morning. It is impossible to go to Plitvice by train.

Go to Plitvice by bus 🚌

If you travel by bus from Zagreb, the ideal is to travel to Zagreb – Plitvice – Zadar – Split (or vice versa). The buses stop near entrance n°1 or n°2. Feel free to ask the driver where you are.

From Zagreb: it takes 2h30 of travel. There are about ten buses a day leaving from Zagreb bus station. The price is 85 Kuna. (For details of bus schedules from Zagreb follow this link).

From Zadar: the bus takes about 2h30 to reach Plitvice. There are only 3-4 buses a day leaving for Plitvice so check the day before to prepare for your departure. The ticket costs about 100 Kuna from Zadar. (For details of bus schedules from Zadar go to this site).

From Split: it takes 4h30, and the bus must pass through Zadar.

From Dubrovnik: There is no direct bus to Plitvice from Dubrovnik. The distance is 450 km between the two places, and it will be necessary to go through Split in any case.

Go to Plitvice by car 🚗

Renting a car is worth it if you are several people.

From Zagreb: it takes two hours by car. You have to go to Karlovac, 40km south-east of Zagreb, then take the D1 towards Plitvice. It is well enough indicated not to get lost. Plitvice is located 80 km south of karlovac.

🎯 if you are driving from Zagreb, try to drive through the pretty village of Rastoke.

From Split and Zadar: take the A1 motorway towards Zagreb and exit at Gornja Ploca. Continue on the D522 towards Udbina and then the D1 towards Plitvice.

Go to Plitvice from Istria (Pula, Rovinj…)

Pretty complicated, I must say! That’s what I did and I had no choice, we had to rent a car because there are no direct buses from Istria to Plitvice: you will have to change buses, certainly in Karlovac. For the record, by car from Pula to Plitvice I took a 5:30 drive!

Leaving Plitvice

There is no bus station as such but small huts located near the two main entrances, where buses stop and leave. If you don’t have a ticket, you can buy it directly from the driver, provided there’s a seat available of course! Remember to keep 10 kuna to give to the driver if you have luggage to put in the hold.

Plitvice lakes National Park in Croatia

How much does it cost? 💰

The entrance fee depends on the period you come to: it goes from 55 Kuna in winter to 180 Kuna in high season (from July 1st to August 31st). The two-day pass costs 280 Kuna in high season.

Don’t forget your student card if you have one! If you come by car you will have to pay for the parking (7 Kuna per hour).

You will find details of the updated prices on this site.


How long does it take to visit Plitvice NP?

Most people visit Plitvice on a day trip from Zagreb or Zadar but I recommend that you spend the night in a hostel nearby to visit early in the morning.

For those who really want to take their time, you can buy a 2-day pass but unless you are a professional photographer who wants the ideal shot, one day is enough to visit the park.

This is what I did during my trip: I got up at 6:30 to show up at 7:00 at the gate of entrance n°2, and I finished the visit of the park at 15:00. However, it was useless to get up so early because I had to wait for the first shuttle at 8:00 to do the H circuit.


How to get around Plitvice?

Electric vehicles are used to reach the starting point of the trails and hotels. The routes are marked and a map of the park is on the back of the entrance ticket.

The entrance fee includes unlimited panoramic train trips (between st1 and st4) as well as a one-way trip by boat. Be careful, you can’t take the boat several times: the tickets are checked before boarding.

Once in the park, the visit is done on foot via wooden footbridges that run along the lakes or cross the water bodies to get close to the waterfalls. There are no safety barriers so be careful where you step, especially if you have children.

Plitvice National Park in Croatia

What circuit to do?

The park is divided into upper and lower lakes. You will find the park map on the back of the entrance ticket to help you find your way around.

The journey between entrance n°1 and entrance n°2 is done in 3-4 minutes by car, it’s right next door! A good tip: if there are too many people at entrance 1, go to entrance 2 where there is less crowding.

If you spend a night on site and can get to the park as soon as it opens, I recommend you take the H circuit, starting at entrance n°2: you go up by train to the upper lakes and then end up with the big waterfalls. The first hour of visit is not very impressive (except the clarity of the water, quite crazy) but the longer we go on, the more beautiful it becomes.

By doing the H circuit, I reached halfway point after 2 hours of walking (towards P2 on the map, where we take the boat). Then I took the boat to go from P2 to P3.

If you start from entrance n°1, you start your visit with the most beautiful place in the park. Might as well save the best for last, right?

⚠️ since entrance n°2, even if you go there very early as soon as you open, there is no bus before 8:00 ! so in any case you will have to wait until the first bus arrives to take you to the beginning of the visit! (if you decide to go by foot it’s far enough).

However, there is no shuttle problem from entrance n°1, since you can reach the most beautiful waterfalls on foot as soon as the park opens (around 7:00 am).

⚠️ A large part of the park runs straight along the road and there is no fence. We met two French people with their backpacks who had just returned’free’ through the woods… and people who were leaving the park had given them their entrance ticket, in case they were checked.


Where to stay in Plitvice lakes National Park? 🛏️

You won’t find cheap youth hostels in the vicinity of the park, only hotels, guest rooms or farms in the surrounding villages that display the signs “zimmers” or “sobe“.

There are some campsites if you have a tent, including one where the bus from Zagreb stops to drop off visitors. The ideal is therefore to have a car and go to the park as soon as it opens. The landscape around Plitvice Lakes National Park is very beautiful.

Find the best hotel in Plitvice on Booking.com (near entrance 1 / near entrance 2)

🎯 A restaurant you should avoid at any cost, and even if Croatians recommend it because it is the only one in the area: Macola. The food is bad there. Bring your own food or make yourself cup-noodles at worst, I guarantee it will be much better!

Plitvice lakes National Park Croatia

When to go to Plitvice? 📅

In the spring, the flow of falls is greater and some roads may be flooded.

Unless you are present when the park opens, avoid visiting in July and August. If you come after 10am, you might as well avoid the park because you will spend more time queuing than visiting the park.

Don’t forget that you will have to look for a parking spot, wait two hours in line to buy your ticket and wait for the electric train, not to mention the traffic jams on the footbridges with all the tourist groups that are on the way taking selfies. In addition, the entrance fee is at its highest in summer.

In autumn, the colours of the changing trees make it possible to take beautiful pictures and there are fewer people.

In winter, from November 1st to March 31st, there is no boat or scenic train.

If you can, avoid going on weekends and go on weekdays. Also avoid rainy days or if the sky is too overcast, not so good to enjoy the beautiful colors of the water.


💡 Tips for visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park 💡

  • No need to take a bathing suit, swimming is prohibited in Plitvice.
  • Camping in the park is strictly prohibited.
  • Take a picnic with you and lots of water!
  • If you come with a large backpack, there is a free locker room.
  • There are a few benches scattered throughout the park to settle in and have a picnic, except in the most beautiful places.
  • Try to spend the night by the lakes and go early in the morning.
  • Save offline maps on your smartphone or iPad. There’s a map on the back of the entrence ticket, which is just fine. Honestly, it’s hard to get lost in the park, everything is quite well indicated and there are maps of the park in many places. So don’t worry about it.
  • No need to hire a guide, everything is well indicated.
  • Open your eyes to spot little animals! I saw a snake in the water, and a pike waiting for a prey to pass under his nose!
  • Dogs on a leash are allowed: even if I love animals, I think it should be forbidden because it’s difficult to walk when there are people (I also saw a dog close to push a little girl in the water).
  • Be careful if you have children as there is little space on the walkways.
  • Some people have been disembarked from the bus because it’s forbidden to stand on it (whereas on the way there, it didn’t cause any problems).
  • A fun thing to do: once your visit is over, look for #Plitvice in Instagram. You will certainly see people you met in the park during your visit.

plitvice lakes croatia

Where are the best photo spots in Plitvice?

Here are some tips to take beautiful pictures of the lakes and waterfalls in Plitvice:

  • It is possible to take a tripod but with people moving around, it is difficult to install and the pontoons tremble when people pass by.
  • Also take a polarizing filter to avoid water reflection and an ND filter.
  • You will have less shadows on the pictures around 12pm
  • ⚠️ drones are prohibited. ⚠️

For photo spots, one of the best viewpoints is towards entrance n°1: go to the biggest waterfall near entrance n°1 (Veliki Slap), then take the stairs just a little to the left before the waterfall – they are impossible to miss. Climb up to the top and you will reach a viewpoint over the valley and the waterfalls below. Strangely enough, very few people go there.

Another panoramic spot, which is visible from the one mentioned above, is a little further down the road by cutting through the woods: you will fall on a paved road where cars are driving. Go to the right and you will pass a wooden bridge. Turn right after the wooden bridge, and enjoy the view!

A magnificent viewpoint that is often seen on Instagram or in travel guides is at the bottom of the upper lakes: you will see a cave on your right (the cave is called “Supljara“): go inside, then climb the stairs that lead to the top, and from there you will have a superb view of the lakes below with the footbridge that zigzag in the middle.

If you are lost, show the pictures of the place you want to go to the staff and they will tell you where to go.


Krka or Plitvice?

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is comparable to Krka Lake National Park, also located in Croatia. Without hesitation, I would say that if you have seen Plitvice lakes National Park, it’s useless to go to Krka: it is poorly maintained, it’s smaller, just as crowded, the water is not very clear… but you can swim there. That is the only advantage.


Plitvice lakes review

WHAT I LIKED

✅ One of the most beautiful natural places in Europe
✅ The best viewpoints are not easy to find = less people!

WHAT I DIDN’T

✘ Overcrowded in summer
Park employees not very kind
Not very secure (no barriers)
Entry price in summer (around 24€ without parking fee)

TRAVELFORNOOB SCORE: ♥♥♥♥
One of my favorite place in Croatia (with Dubrovnik), and one of the most beautiful national park to see in Europe. Just don’t go in summer!

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