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Plitvice Lakes in Croatia: A Natural Wonder to Add to Your Bucket List

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Welcome to one of the most beautiful wonders of the Balkans, Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. A series of turquoise lakes and cascading falls fills an enormous park, where you could spend hours upon hours exploring  (but we'll cover that later).

When we first planned on going to visit Plitvice Lakes, we truly had no idea what to expect. It wasn't anything like we thought, and we discovered many things that no one told us. 

That's why we're here to share with you all about the experience of visiting Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. Let's jump right in!

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Where are Plitvice Lakes in Croatia?

Plitvice Lakes are located in the north central part of Croatia, close to the top north east corner of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is just several kilometers away from the border, and stretches over 296 square kilometers.

The two largest cities near Plitvice Lakes National Park are Zadar and Zagreb, which are both great places to do day trips from. Zadar is about 120 km away from the park, and takes between and hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes to reach from the city. Zagreb is about 150 kilometers from Plitvice Lakes, and the drive is a little under two hours.

where are Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Plitvice Lakes are located in the north of Croatia near the border of Bosnia.

Getting to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The easiest way to get around in Croatia in general is by renting a car. Not to mention, that the nature is so stunning everywhere, that it's nice to have flexibility in your schedule.

While driving is definitely the easiest way to get to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, you can also get here from both Zagreb and Zadar with a tour.

Want to book a tour to Plitvice Lakes from Zadar? Here are a few options:

Want to book a tour to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb? Here are a few other options (with different drop offs too!):

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How Long Do You Need to Explore Plitvice Lakes in Croatia?

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia are much bigger than we could have imagines! There are a total of 16 lakes, 12 upper lakes, and 4 lower lakes. You can take 7 different trails, the longest being between 6 and 8 hours of walking.

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We visited for 6 hours in total, and found that it was a great amount of time to hit a lot of the highlights, and see a ton of beauty in the park.

Some people stay in the area to do a few days, and we definitely think if you want to do it slow, or experience some other activities in the area, two days would be perfect. However, if you only have one day like we did, you really can do a lot here.

Plitvice Lakes waterfalls
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

There is so much to do in the park, that you could easily spend a full day here.

When is the Best Time to Visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia?

When we talk about the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, we are not only going to mention the time of year, but the best hours to visit as well.

The Best Time to Visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia: The Best Time of Year

When it comes to the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, we believe every season has its beauty.

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The Best Time to Visit Plitvice Lakes For Warmth and Sunshine

If you'd like to experience the warmest temperatures, and sunniest days, then July and August are the months. However, it's very hot at this time. Being that you can't swim in the lakes (yeah we were bummed to find this out too) we wouldn't suggest coming in these months, especially because this is the most crowded and expensive time to visit.

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The Best Time to Visit Plitivice Lakes in Croatia For Better Weather & Less Crowds

If you'd like warmer temperatures but less crowds, then June and September are the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. We visited in the end of May, and it was pretty cold, and rained all day long, which of course didn't help.

Plitvice Lakes weather

We visited in May, and there was a lot of rain.

The Best Time to Visit Plitivice Lakes For Photographers

We think that October and early November, as well as December and February. From Late September you can start experiencing the stunning fall colors contrasting the deep turquoise waters, making it (in our opinion) the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.

In addition, the winter time snows a lot here, and the cascades freeze over, turning the area into a true winter wonderland. We think early December and late February are the best winter times, as they are cold enough to snow, but the temperatures are not quite as cold as January.

The Best Time to Visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia: Time of Day

In our opinion, the earlier the better! We came as soon as they opened, so that we could beat the crowds, and it was such a beautiful experience. It may be a bit early for some, but we decided the night before to sleep in the area, and go to bed early to be awake first thing in the morning.

If you're not an early bird like we are, then we suggest going a little later and staying until they close. The busiest time at the park is from 9 am to 12 pm, when all of the tour groups start flooding the place.

If you opt for a tour then of course you won't be able to beat the other tour groups. This is why we highly suggest going on your own to enjoy the beauty of Plitivice Lakes in Croatia to its fullest. 

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia waterfall
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
bes time to visit Plitvice Lakes

The best time to visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is early to beat the crowds.

Tickets for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The hours and prices of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia vary greatly depending on quite a few factors.

Reservations for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Reservations in advance are not obligatory, but are definitely recommended. This is because you must book a time slot, and there are only a certain amount of spots per time slot. It's important to note that you must not show up early. Once you enter you can stay as long as you'd like. 

If you want to reserve in advance it has to be more than one day before. If you don't have a ticket though, you can still check how many tickets are left, and then know what time you might be able to secure a spot.

In our case, we wanted to go as early as possible, and luckily for us, this isn't a popular option. The night before we saw that there were still 544 tickets left for 7 am! The time slots from 9-12 were sold out, and the later times had more tickets available. If you are going in summer though, we would say better safe than sorry, as it's a very popular day trip from both Zadar and Zagreb.

Prices for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

There are different prices for minors, students, and adults, whether you are getting a one or two day pass, and even the time of year.

Tickets for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia in the Summer

The most expensive ticket is for adults in the summertime, which costs 450 kuna for two days, and 300 kuna for one. In the summer students pay 200 for one day, and 310 for two days. Finally, kids 7-18 pay 120 for one day, and 170 for a two day pass.

Tickets for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia in the Winter

Tickets for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia are much cheaper in the winter. The cheapest ticket is just 35 kuna for a child for one day, and 60 for a two day pass. Students pay 50 for one day, and 70 for two. Adults pay just 80 kuna for one day, and 120 for a two day pass.

Tickets for Plitvice Lakes in Croatia in the Spring & Fall

Now that you know the prices for winter and summer, you can only assume that the prices are somewhere in the middle, which is exactly right.

Adults pay 180 kuna for one day, and 300 for a two day pass. Students pay 110 for one day, and 170 for two. Children pay 50 kuna for a day, and 80 for two days.

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Parking at Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

There are two main parking lots that you can enter the park from. Entrance 1 and 2 both have large lots, and you can pay by the hour or for the full day. We stayed for 6 hours, and paid 40 kuna, which is about $6 USD.

If you don't want to pay for parking, you can actually park for free near some of the hotels right outside the park. We discovered some of our favorite views and areas of the park by going to this spot.

Simply put "Plitivica Selo"in your google maps, and at the end of the road you can park on the side for free. Here there is an entry, although we're not sure if you can also purchase tickets here as well. Keep reading to learn about the free trail you can check out here!

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Getting Around Plitvice Lakes

Now let's talk about getting around Plitvice Lakes. Walking the park can definitely be done if you start from one end and spend the whole day. However, the park is enormous, and there are other options to get around.

Unfortunately you can't drive within the park itself, so you'll have to park outside, and walk once your inside.

There are a few different areas that are around the park that are connected to the other via ferry and shuttle. These services are built into the price, so you don't need to worry about paying extra. The ferries run about every 30 minutes, while the shuttles run more frequently.

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia ferry
shuttles at Plitvice Lakes

The different areas of the park are connected by ferries and shuttles.

Our Experience at Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

We decided to start our journey at Entrance 1 of the park, and work our way around from there. We found it to be a great way to start exploring, and can definitely recommend you do the same.

When you first enter into the park, you are immediately welcomed with a beautiful view of some of the falls on your right hand side. Walk a little further and you will reach a fork. If you walk to the right, you will go down the stairs to the bridges that go across the lakes. If you stay to the left, you'll stay high up overlooking the lakes below.

first viewpoint entrance 1 Plitvice Lakes

The first viewpoint is on the right once you enter through Entrance 1.

Ps- this is how you see all of those shots that appear to be drone shots. Drones are strictly prohibited throughout the park. But there are plenty of platforms and trails that go high up to see different views of the lakes.

Birds eye view of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

There are many high viewpoints where you can get a birds eye view of the park.

Great Waterfall

One of the biggest highlights of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is the Great Waterfall, also known as Veliki Slap. This is the highest waterfall in Croatia, and is visited by all of the big tour groups that visit Plitvice Lakes.

To get here, you just have to follow the signs from Entrance 1, going across the boardwalks of the lake. Once you get here you won't be able to continue, and will just have to turn around to see the other trails that the park has to offer.

The Great Waterfall, Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The Great Waterfall is one of the highlights of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. (There is usually more water).

The Second Area: P3

Next you can continue the trail that goes along the series of lakes. It will take about 45 minutes to an hour, before arriving to the next area.

The wooden boards wind around the turquoise pools, and are surrounded by greenery, making for a very scenic walk.

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The trails along the lakes are super scenic.

Here you'll find the first section that connects to the other areas, called P3. You'll find bathrooms, a restaurant, souvenir shop, and an information booth. You can keep walking along the upcoming trails, or you can opt to take the ferry to the next station.

The ferry goes pretty slow, but is scenic, and will be a nice break from walking. 

ferry Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

The ferry dock in the second area.

The Third Area: P2

Now you have arrived and can either take a very short ferry to Entrance 2 (also known as P1), or you can continue along the trails that lead to St3. We definitely suggest walking the trails, as there are many other waterfalls, and some of the most beautiful lakes over here. 

Because it was raining we were walking quite fast, so we did the trail in 45 minutes. However, with stopping and walking leisurely it'll probably take you closer to an hour.

Plitvice waterfalls
Plitvice waterfalls
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia waterfalls

There are several sets of waterfalls through this trail.

The Next Shuttle (From St3)

Now you'll arrive at your next rest area, called St3. Here you'll find another bathroom, as well as a restaurant with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. When we went, the restaurant was closed, but thankfully the bathrooms were open.

picnic tables Plitvice

St3 has plenty of picnic tables to have a bite.

From this area you can grab the shuttle to Entrance 2. Also known as St2, this is right by P1 (the pier), which is around 10 minutes (maybe a little less). Here you can find as well a restaurant, information, and a few trails. There is also a shuttle here that goes further to Entrance 1, or back to St3.

Finishing Our Day at Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

We really wanted to see a certain viewpoint of the park, and were under the impression it was at Entrance 2. Once we found out it was in fact outside of the park, we decided to simply hop on the shuttle to grab our car from Entrance 1 (it drops you about 15 minutes from the parking lot). You can also walk which takes about 45 minutes, and is much more scenic.

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We ended up leaving the park around 12, and enjoyed a full 5 hours inside the park. We definitely could have spent another hour or two, but the weather was not on our side, and we were happy with what we saw.

On top of that, we had another set of views to appreciate Plitvice Lakes from! Keep reading and you'll understand why this was our favorite part of the area.

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia map
trails of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

There are many different trails that you can do throughout the park.

Other Things to Do Around Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

While the park itself is enough to spend a full day, there are in fact a few other things to do at Plitivice Lakes in Croatia worth checking out.

The Row of Viewpoints

Okay, this isn't the official name, but we decided to call it this, because here is a full set of beautiful views- 6 to be exact.

We parked right near "Plitviko Selo" outside the park entrance, and walked from there. On the side of the road is a trail that goes through the woods, that has six different viewpoints over Plitivice Lakes.

The trail took about 15 minutes to complete, and finished right across from B&B Nena. Right after the building on the right side (where there is a sign of no entry), you will find a trail that you can in fact take. Here you will find one more beautiful viewpoint.

The Hidden Viewpoint

The viewpoint that we actually wanted to find was actually no longer a trail, and it looked like it was one that was blocked off later with a piece of wood. 

There are signs saying wrong way, but we were told by a local that it is still accessible, so we went for it. We wouldn't suggest this trail though, as it's very dangerous! We had one of the most stunning views, but we can see why it's not one that is maintained anymore.

hidden view at Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

This is a special viewpoint we found outside of the park.

Activities Around Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Not only can you enjoy the park and the viewpoints around it, but there are several fun activities to let you enjoy the beauty of the rest of the area of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.

You can find many companies that offer zip lining, ATVing, and water activities along the river. We didn't have a chance to do any of them, but they all sounded super fun, and definitely suggest looking into them if you have the time!

Food & Drink at Pltivice Lakes in Croatia

Inside the park itself, there are limited options when it comes to food & drink. In each main area where you will find shuttles, or outside the entrances, is where you will find the restaurants and coffee shops.

The coffee kiosks are pretty basic, while the restaurants offer simple food such as sandwiches and burgers, or desserts like strudel, cake, or muffins.

Restaurants are surprisingly card only, so you can put your cash away for this one. 

restaurant in Plitvice Lakes National Park

There are a few restaurants with basic menus around the main stations at the park.

Hotels Near Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Being a very touristic destination, there are actually plenty of hotels in the area. Make sure to double check the distance before hand, as we stayed in a place that claimed to be 3 km away, but realistically was almost a half hour drive away.

If you need to check the location, don't simply put "Plitvice Lakes" as many different destinations can come up. Rather look up Entrance 1 or Entrance 2 (depending on where you plan on starting).

Other Things to Know About Visiting Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Now that we've covered almost everything there is to know about visiting Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, here are a few other things to keep in mind when visiting.

  • There aren't many trash cans. Bring a plastic bag to stash your garbage, and dispose of it after.
  • Bathrooms are far and few between, so go as soon as you see one.
  • It is much cooler here than other areas of Croatia.
  • Check the weather and be prepared, whether it be bringing an umbrella, sunscreen, or an extra layer.
  • St stands for a shuttle station, and P stands for pier (not parking). Double check with staff by using full words so you don't get lost. We tried going to the parking at entrance one, and thought it was P1, sending us in circles.
  • You cannot swim in the lakes! This is to preserve their beauty, as natural oils from our skin destroy the compounds inside the lakes.
  • The wooden planks can get slippery, so bring sneakers or walk carefully.
Plitvice Lakes Great Waterfall
Waterfalls at Plitvice
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

You cannot swim in Plitvice Lakes, as it destroys the natural compounds.

We hope you enjoy your time at Plitvice Lakes in Croatia! Despite having terrible weather, we definitely think it was worth the trip, and recommend adding it to your Croatia itinerary.

Plan on visiting other areas of Croatia? Stay tuned for more articles about other great cities in Croatia coming soon!

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