Plitvice National Park in Croatia is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When you see photos of stunning Croatia waterfalls, usually they are from Plitvice or Krka National Park, about two hours away. Plitvice may be more well known to international travelers, but know there is no swimming in the park. In Krka, visitors can actually swim in the water (but not the waterfalls). A visit to Plitvice Lakes was at the top of our Croatia bucket list, but here are some things we wish we had known before our visit.
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What is Plitvice Lakes?
Plitvice Lakes is one of the must see landmarks in Croatia. It is one of the eight National Parks in Croatia and every one deserves a visit, but this one always comes out on top.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers over 114 square miles, and features sixteen lakes (there are 12 upper lakes and 4 lower lakes) connected by waterfalls and streams of all sizes. Visitors can walk the boardwalks that hover above the water for a close up look, or take some of the trails through the forest in the park. No matter which way you choose, the park’s beauty is sure to blow you away.
How to Get to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice National Park is fairly easy to reach from Zagreb (2 hours), Zadar (1.5 hours), and Split (2.5 hours). We had a private transfer from Split to Plitvice Lakes with Octopus Transfers which allowed us to relax and learn about the park before our visit. There is public bus transportation from major cities which will drop you off on the main access road. Before you arrive, be sure to decide if you want entrance 1 or 2.
Plitvice Lakes Entrance Fee
The cost to enter Plitvice varies depending on the season. It can range from 9 to 15 US dollars for an adult single day ticket, children under 7 are free. Two day passes are also available for visitors who want to stay longer. You can find the entrance fees for Plitvice HERE.
Which entrance should I use at Plitvice?
The answer is not as clear as you would think. Each Croatian will give you a different answer, explaining why their choice is the best option. Entrance 1 is the north entrance near the lower lakes, and Entrance 2 is the south entrance close to the upper lakes. There are eight different hiking trails through the park, and you will need to decide how much time you have before embarking on a path. The shortest trail takes approximately 2 to 3 hours, and the longest between 6 to 8.
We started at Entrance 1 near the biggest waterfall, Veliki Slap (78 meters long), made our way along trail C, but at times found ourselves a bit confused and resorted to using GPS. Eventually we found our way to the boat launch (P3), took the ride across Kozjak Lake to P2. Walked around a bit, then took the boat from P2 to P1. At this point we could have hiked to the top of the hill to Entrance 2 to catch a shuttle back to Entrance 1. We opted to walk back to Entrance 1 along the lakes instead. This was a very good overview of Plitvice Lakes that probably took us (two adults) 5.5 hours.
Where can I get a Plitvice Lakes map?
Maps will be available at the entrances where you purchase your tickets. There is also a large map in front of the ticket office. I would highly recommend taking a photo just so you have it on your phone. If you have cell service in Croatia, it will be good to have while hiking in the park. Trails are labeled, but can be confusing at times.
The weather at Plitvice National Park can be quite cooler than the surrounding areas. It is recommended to bring a lightweight rain coat, a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Good hiking shoes are essential!
How to avoid the crowds at Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice National Park is Croatia’s most visited inland attraction, making it extremely crowded. We arrived at 11am and the place was packed with thousands of visitors. I would recommend starting as soon as the park opens at 7am to avoid the crowds. Stay in one of the nearby hotels if you can, or you will have to leave your accommodations at the crack of dawn to arrive at the park as early as possible. If you have the ability to travel in shoulder season (October/November, March/April), you will certainly encounter fewer crowds than summer.
One thing to note, if you take one of the longer trails, you will definitely find fewer tourists as they tend to stick to the main bridges and walking paths. Watch out for selfie sticks, they are everywhere, making it difficult to pass at some points. I also would recommend bringing small children in a baby carrier or backpack, as strollers are extremely difficult to maneuver along the trails.
Where to stay in Plitvice National Park
There are several accommodation options near the lakes of Plitvice, most are in the local villages. If you want to stay in the park, the only options are the state run hotels: Hotel Plitvice, Hotel Jezero, and Hotel Bellvue. The real bonus for these is free parking and early entrance, accommodations are very basic. My sister said Hotel Plitvice was only a ten minute walk to the park entrance.
There are several airbnbs near Plitvice, and if you have a car, you have options available in nearby towns. We would recommend Ethno Houses Plitvica Selo (16 minute walk to Veliki Slap), Villa Stone (13 minute drive to the park), or Hotel Degenija (10 minute drive to the park). If you prefer camping, there are several campgrounds nearby. I would recommend booking a hotel near Plitvice, just to save time in the morning and skip the crowds.
Where to eat near Plitvice National Park
There is a small restaurant and shop outside entrance 1 to the park where you can grab a meal or snacks. However, I recommend packing a picnic and bringing it along. There are plenty of places throughout the park to have lunch.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of food options nearby. We ate at a place similar to a truck stop (sorry, I don’t remember the name) with a lunch buffet, but my sister recommends Licka Kuka which offers traditional Croatian cuisine within the park (located at Entrance 1).
Looking for more Croatia content? Don’t miss our posts about best things to do in Split, what to do in Dubrovnik, Day Trips from Dubrovnik You Won’t Want to Miss, and where to see the Game of Thrones sites in Croatia.