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The Complete Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Croatia is a beautiful (and underrated) country home to some of the best natural sites in the world, including Plitvice Lakes National Park. You should add a trip to Croatia to your bucket list for numerous reasons. From relaxing on gorgeous islands and sailing on the Lagoon 46 catamaran to strolling through Roman-era cities to enjoying seafood dishes like black risotto, there is something for everyone in this Mediterranean country. 

If there is one experience you should prioritize while visiting Croatia, it's taking a trip to see the natural wonder of Plitvice National Park. In this article, you'll discover insider tips about planning your visit to the park, the best time to go, and a secret viewing point where you can take arguably the best photo in the entire park.

Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Waterfalls

What Are the Plitvice Lakes?

The Plitvice Lakes are an astounding natural wonder. They consist of 16 terraced lakes connected by many waterfalls, each flowing into the next lake. You will see this sight nowhere else in the world. The UNESCO site has been transformed into a highly organized and efficient national park, hosting 1.3 million visitors annually. In the park, you'll experience crystal blue lakes, rushing waterfalls, and vibrant greenery as you walk along the wooden boardwalks touring the park. 

Where Is Plitvice Lakes National Park Located?

As mentioned above, Plitvice Lakes National Park is in Croatia, a European country located in the Mediterranean. While many visitors stick to Croatia's coast, the Plitvice Lakes are inland, close to the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The park is two hours from the country's capital, Zagreb, or an hour-and-a-half drive from Zadar. I'll explain more about getting to the park later, though. 

If you've never heard of or considered Croatia a destination in your travels, then now is the time to change your mind! This country boasts unique coastal cities, national parks, and exciting experiences. Because so many people desire to make the country their home, the government introduced the Croatia digital nomad visa, allowing remote workers to live there for one year. Now, that says a lot about this beautiful destination. 

When Is the Best Time to Visit?

The weather is quite ideal throughout Croatia, so you have a large window of opportunity to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park between April and October. Visit the park in May or early June if you want blossoming flowers, sunny weather, and a comfortable temperature. Of course, the park is most enjoyed during the summer. However, be aware that swimming is prohibited, and this is peak tourist season. 

If you love autumn weather and seeing the leaves change colors, consider visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park towards the end of September into October. Dress warmly, though, as the temperatures begin to drop during this time of the year. Overall, the best time to visit Croatia is between May and October.

July to August is the peak tourist season, with higher prices and more crowds. If you want to visit during the shoulder seasons, I suggest going in either May/June or September/October. 

How To Get to Plitvice Lakes National Park

Enjoying the view at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park

There are three main ways to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park. The first way to get there is to drive. It's pretty easy to drive yourself in Croatia as the roads are well-maintained, and the highways are easy to navigate. Be aware of paying tolls (which you can pay by card or cash) when using the highway. There are two parking lots available on the site, which you can expect to pay a few euros for the entire day. You'll want to arrive early to get a good spot, though. 

Bus routes will take you directly to the park if you are uncomfortable driving or want to rent a car. Taking a bus from Zagreb takes about two and a half hours and costs between 5€ and 11€ one way. Lastly, you can book an organized tour that facilitates the transportation and tour of the park, or you can book a private villa nearby for convenience. You can reserve tours easily online or at a local tourist office in Croatia.

Where to Purchase Tickets

You can purchase Plitvice Lakes National Park tickets online through the park's official website. However, you cannot reserve same-day tickets; you must buy them at least a day before. Because only a certain number of people are allowed in the park daily, I recommend purchasing a few days in advance to ensure availability. Ticket prices fluctuate depending on the season. A one-day adult ticket ranges between about $12 to $30. Two-day tickets are available, but one day is plenty of time to see the park.

What to Bring With You

Boardwalk
Boardwalk

There are restaurants and food stands within the park, but I recommend bringing water and snacks with you if you get hungry during your hike or tour. If you forget, a convenience store is in the parking lot. Concerning what you should wear to the parks, bring comfortable walking shoes. Sneakers are best if you stay on the boardwalk and dirt paths. Avoid wearing open-toe sandals as you may trip. Be sure to dress for the weather, too. You'll also want to pack your camera or free up some storage space on your phone. There are plenty of photo opportunities, and you won't want to miss them!

Choosing Which Route to Take

Rowboat on one of the lakes
Rowboat on one of the lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park spans 184 square miles (296.8 square kilometers), so it's pretty big. There are eight different routes throughout the park, ranging in difficulty and length from two to eight hours. Plenty of signs throughout the park and the paths help you follow your desired route and stay on course. It's important to note that the park has two entrances, Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. Each entrance has four routes you can take.

When you purchase your tickets, you'll choose your preferred entrance. From there, you'll take a panoramic bus to the starting point. No matter which entrance you pick, you'll see everything along your chosen route as it goes in a circle. It just determines where you'll begin and end.

Other Activities While Visiting the Park

While visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park, you can participate in numerous activities. If you're a more active soul and want to do more than tour the park, you can take hiking or cycling routes to see these great lakes. You can also rent a rowboat and experience life on one of these incredible lakes. You'll pass small waterfalls flowing into the lake, see fish swimming beneath you, and have some time to relax and soak in nature.  

Where to Stay When Visiting 

If you purchase the two-day tickets or don't want to drive after a long day of walking, there are plenty of places to stay in and near the park. Four hotels offer packages inside the park, including tours and lake tickets. You can rent two campsites with rustic cabins on the grounds. 

Since Plitvice Lakes is such a popular tourist attraction, there are plenty of hotels and independently-owned bed and breakfast places within minutes of the site. I used Booking.com to find adorable accommodation with a fantastic breakfast and gorgeous views just 15 minutes from the park. 

Secret Photo Spot at Plitvice Lakes National Park

Overhead view of lakes and waterfalls
Lakes and waterfalls

When many of us travel, we like to capture memories by taking photos of what we're experiencing and seeing. So, I will share a secret place where you can get the absolute best picture of the Plitvice Lakes. Search “Veliki Slap” in Google Maps, which translates to “big waterfall.” It will take you to a road with the ruins of a building.

Park here and find the sign that says “Rent a bike/Rent a quad,” and turn left down a dirt path. Keep walking down the path for a couple of minutes. You'll find a lookout point on the right-hand side with an incredible view overlooking the terraced lakes and numerous waterfalls. This spot is relatively unknown, so you can escape the crowds and get a crystal-clear photo of Plitvice Lakes.

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