How to Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park

When the opportunity arose for my family to move abroad, I began dreaming and making our list of Top Places to Visit around Europe, and Croatia was on the very top of that list.  If you’ve googled Croatia, then you know it’s not only a sought-after destination for Game of Thrones fans (ahem…don’t judge me, lol); but the country itself is also known for its beautiful, turquoise, blue/green waterfalls, and lakes.  It was the waterfalls and lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park that sold me on visiting Croatia and let me tell you, you haven’t visited Croatia until you’ve been here!

 

** Updated May 2021

***If you prefer, you can use the Table of Contents if you wish to skip around or skim through quickly***

About Plitvice Lakes National Parks

  • Now, I’ll save you the embarrassment of saying the name wrong like I did.  The proper way to say Plitvice, I learned, is Pleet-veet-sa.”  Not “Plit-Vice” as I thought, I was definitely off!  
  • Did you know this is the most visited, largest, and oldest National Park in Croatia?
  • Located in the central mountain region of Croatia, it is halfway between Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) and Zadar (a fun coastal city.)
  • The Park is 115 square miles of lush-covered valleys with miles of wooden plank walkways laced with various cascading lakes (16) and more than 90 waterfalls and caves, caverns, and of course, its vast forests.
  • The park became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979 and is one of Europe’s Top National Wonders.

Arriving at the Park

  • Plitvice National Park was our first stop in Croatia for our EPIC Croatia Spring Break Roadtrip. 
  • After leaving Ljubljana really early (it’s a 3-hour drive to Plitvice), we wanted to arrive a little before the park opened to beat the tour buses. 
  • It’s been recommended to arrive as early as before 0800; the parking lot opens at 0700. 
  • There are two main parking areas for the park (I’ll get more into that in a bit); we parked at the North Entrance aka Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1. 
  • During our visit, parking was free as South Entrance 2 was closed.  

*** Update 2021: There is a parking fee currently; see their online site for details.  Parking information can also be found here.

  • Luckily, we had already purchased our tickets online in advance and printed our receipts  (just in case). 
  • We paid 300 kunas (Croatian currency) for my family of 4; it cost us about $45.19 USD.   
  • We were the first few people there; it was early April, so not really the high season for visitors.  

 

 

  • After checking in at the Ticket office, we grabbed a free map and headed our way. 
  • By this time, we were starting to see the tour buses parking (this was an hour after opening), so we hurriedly started our walk around the park. 
  • The rain caught up with us, so we had a small drizzle; luckily, we had our umbrellas and rain jackets ready.  I envisioned Rick Steves telling me, “There’s no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” 

Hiking Through Plitvice Lakes

 

Lower Lakes

 

  • There are several routes you can take to hike through the Park.  You can read the options here. 

  • We chose to take Route C from Entrance 1. 
  • Entrance 1 takes you from the lower lakes to the upper lakes and was recommended by Rick Steve’s.  In my opinion, any recommendations from Mr. Steve himself is always a good one, lol. 
  • But of course, if you start at Entrance 2, you’d be starting from the upper lakes, working your way down to the lower lakes. 
  • Either entrance you start at, you will still get the many views of the lakes and waterfalls just as well. 

  • Starting at the beginning of Route A-C at Entrance 1 (they’re the same route, but C is the longest of the three), I grabbed a quick photo of the Big Waterfall (Veliki Slap) view from above. 
Now, you’re starting to see why this place is a really Must See! Big Waterfall (Veliki Slap) view from above.
  • You can’t miss this big waterfall; it’s literally the first one you see as you make your way down the trail.
  • Once you get to the lower part of the trail and start your walk along the wooden plank walkway, there will be an intersection where you can either continue on the trail or take a quick detour towards the Big Waterfall (Veliki Slap) and grab some photos and admire it before you retrace your steps back to the intersection and continue on Route C.  I failed to do this, thinking we would be heading back on this trail. 
  • From then, we followed the wooden plank walkway and used the map as needed the entire way.   
  • You’ll also find signs along the way directing you which route is which.

  • Walking along the wooden walkway, watch your step if it’s raining; we were careful not to slip. 
  • There are no side rails in certain areas for support, so keep an eye on your little toddlers who may love to try to jump into the water. The water is so beautiful; it makes you want to jump in (albeit, it is not allowed).

  • Since it was just us, it was a peaceful walk along the wooden plank-way as we zig-zagged our way, admiring the lakes and many small waterfalls and green, beautiful, gushing water in the rain. 
  • Route A, at some point at the end of the lower lakes, will then turn to a high trail to head back to Entrance 1; we didn’t take this route; we kept following the trail to P3 for the boat. 

 

 

 

Boat Ride

  • After admiring the green lakes and waterfalls for several miles, we followed the signs for P3, where the boat is located, to take us across the Jezero Kozjak Lake. 
  • The boat ride is already included with the entrance fee.
  • Once you are on the boat, there are two stops (P1 and P2). 
  • For those wanting to continue on Route C, as we did, we did not get off P1 (the first stop). 
  • P1 will take you to the shuttle (ST2) that will take you back near Entrance 1. (If you take this route, you’ve just completed Route B)
  • The boat will then continue to P2, where we got off.
  • Once the boat docked at P2, we started our walk towards the upper lakes and falls. 
  • The boat ride was less than 30 minutes.
  • It was a peaceful ride and a nice break to rest our legs and eat our snacks before our next hike to the upper lakes.  

 

 

Upper lakes

  • From P2, we followed the wooden walkway and laced our way around the Upper Lakes, following the signs for ST3.

  • The upper lakes are where the scenery and views get really, really good!
  • I think I took too many photos and videos to count!  I really can’t describe the beauty of the lakes and falls here. 
  • I appreciated the fact that we started from the lower lakes to admire the prettier views of the upper lakes with the waterfalls (in my opinion).  I will say, Rick Steve was right to recommend this route so far. 

 

  • If I had to describe the upper lakes, the lakes are clear green and blue as a swimming pool with cascades of waterfalls in varying heights.
  • The backdrops of lush greeneries and the wooden walking planks add a nice finishing touch to the scenery. 
  • It almost felt like I was walking into an enchanting forest but with lakes and waterfalls. 
  • Because I’m a terrible wordsmith, I’ll post some of my many photos here for you to enjoy. 

 

 

  • The route to the upper lakes eventually becomes a slight climb at the end of the waterfalls and lakes as you near ST3.  It’s nothing steep, but there are some small, hilly ascents. 

  • We rushed through the end because my youngest had a sudden urge to use the bathroom, so we quickly ran to the nearest rest area by the ST3 Shuttle Pick up (also included in the entrance fee.)   

*** Tip, be sure to use the bathroom before the hike; restrooms are only located near the Boat dock P1 & P2, and Shuttle bus pick up locations, ST1, ST2, ST3***

  • After the bathroom fiasco, we boarded the shuttle bus at ST3, and we were dropped off at Shuttle stop ST2 near Entrance 2. 

  • We followed the pathway that would take us back to Entrance 1. 
  • This walking pathway offers the perfect opportunity to capture an aerial view of the lower lakes from above as well as the Big Waterfall before the trail takes you back to Entrance 1. 

 

 

Things to Know Before Your Visit

  • Arrive before 0800 (when the park opens), the parking lot opens at 0700
  • The summer tends to be the busiest season, so expect a crowd (we went in April, so the crowd was very minimal)
  • The prices differ with seasons; expect summer prices to be higher than Spring or Fall.  Find the price list here.
  • Grab a free map from the visitors center or buy the printed map that I hear is much better.
  • We found that Route C was the best out of Routes A-C.  We wanted to make the most of our trip for the day. 
      • The route took us about 4 hours to complete, but we already had carved in time for the day to do this.
      • Route B & C are typically the same routes, but route C is the longer version; I didn’t want to miss a thing.  
      • Route C was overall an easy hike for my family of four (my youngest being 6 years old) and the one recommended by most. 
      • Don’t forget to check out this link and this link (update 2021) for route comparison. 
      • This link also gives a good map of the route.
      • Updated 2021: I’ve included a map below

https://issuu.com/plitvicelakes/docs/eng_-_de_web (source)

 

  • Bring a lightweight jacket for April, it was still cool, and I hear it’s recommended to bring it in the summer as well.
  • Wear comfortable hiking or walking shoes 
  • During my research, it’s been mentioned that bringing a stroller is not recommended, especially in the summer when it tends to get busy.  The narrow, wooden planks are hard to push wheels on and can cause traffic to back up, so I recommend bringing a hiking or baby carrier. 
  • Super bummed for this, but swimming is not allowed in the park
  • Dogs are allowed in the park but must be kept on the leash
  • Make sure to use the restrooms at the entrance before your hike, as restrooms are limited around the park.  The boat docks (P1 & P3) and shuttle stops (ST1 – ST3) have WC (bathrooms) located at each stop.
  • Bring drinking water and snacks, the hike can be a long one, and there were no snack stations open along the trails during our visit.
  • Plitvice is the perfect day trip if you’re coming from Zadar, Zagreb, and/or Split.
  • The park is open 365 days/year, so you can’t go wrong when you want to visit (although summer is their high season)
  • The best tip I can give you is to EXPLORE this park (only through the routes that are provided, of course)

Park Information 

 

  • Entrance Location

    • Entrance 1 (Plitvice North Entrance)

      • GPS link can be found HERE or 44.906086 15.613242
      • Address: Rastovača Plitvice Entrance 1, 53231, Rastovača, Plitvice jezera, Croatia

         

    • Entrance 2: (Plitvice South Entrance)

      • Entrance 2 coordinates Here.
      • It’s also just a 5-minute car drive down the road from Entrance 1 

 

    • Update 2021: There is another Auxiliary entrance called Flora Entrance (not really advertised) close to the Hotels Plitvice, Bellevue, Jezero, and some restaurants nearby.   But reading reviews, it’s an entrance close to Entrance 2.
      •  
  • Entrance Fee

**Ticket prices vary depending on the season, expect to pay more during peak season (June-September)

 

    • Jan. 1- May 31 & Nov. 1- Dec. 31

        • Adults: 80 Kunas (about 10,61 Euros)

        • Children 7-18 years: 35 Kunas (about 4,64 Euros)

           

    • October 1-31
        • Adults: 180,00 Kunas (about 23,92 Euros)
        • Children 7-18 years: 50 Kunas (about 6,65 Euros)
  •  
    • June 1- September 30 Before 4p:
        • Adults: 300 Kunas (about 39,87 Euros)
        • Children 7-18 years: 120 Kunas (about 15,95 Euros)

 

    • June 1-September 30 After 4p:
        • Adults: 200 Kunas (about 26,58 Euros)
        • Children 7-18 years: 70 Kunas (about 9,30 Euros)

 

    • ** Children under 7 years of age is Free

 

 

    • Advance Online ticket purchase is recommended at this time; you can purchase your online tickets HERE.

 

  • Parking Fee for Cars

    • Between April 1- May 31 & October: 8 Kuna/hr or 1,06 Euros/hr
    • Between June 1- September 30:  10 Kn/hr or 1.33 Euros/hr
    • More prices here

 

  • Hours

    • All Entrances: 08:00 – 17:00
    • Parking Lots Entrance 1 & 2:   07:00 – 19:00
    • Ticket Sales Office: 0800- 1500 (emphasis on ticket office hours)
    • The National Park is open 365 days/year

 

  • Map

 

Park Rules

  • Don’t mess with the trees, plants, or rocks around the area
  • No littering
  • Don’t walk outside the marked pathway
  • Yelling is not allowed; you want a peaceful walk, not a loud one
  • Don’t disturb or feed the wildlife
  • No swimming is allowed in the National Park
  • No fishing is allowed
  • No fires are allowed
  • Camping is not allowed in the Park
  • Dogs are allowed but have to be on a leash
  • Bikes are not allowed

Final Thoughts

Plitvice Lakes National Park is absolutely spectacular and a must-see!  If you haven’t been here, then did you really visit Croatia?  If you plan to visit Zadar, Split, and or Zagreb, this is a good day trip from one of these cities.  I hope you get to experience this stunning location and see why it’s one of my favorite natural wonder spots in Croatia!  Until next time adventurers!  Do sljedećeg puta avanturisti!

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: