Considered one of the most beautiful natural sights in Europe, Plitvice Lakes Croatia plays host to more than 1 million visitors each year. Rightfully so. With tips from our B & B manager and some luck, we explored this park in a different manner.
The trip to this national park was one of the highlights of our two-week trip to Croatia. Read on to find about Plitvice Lakes travel tips, accommodation, entrance fees, how to reach the best viewpoints, walking routes to stay away from the summer crowds and more.
Plitvice Lakes National Park photos offer a breathtaking glimpse into the natural beauty of Croatia’s hidden gem. From cascading waterfalls to crystal-clear turquoise lakes, these stunning images capture the enchanting landscapes and picturesque walking routes that make Plitvice Lakes a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.
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Some facts about Plitvice Lakes
In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register. The National Park covers a total area of 300 square km, whilst the lakes join over eight km.
It is world-famous for its lakes arranged in cascades, that are all interconnected and follow the water flow. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. 18km of wooden footbridges and pathways snake around the lakes’ edges and across the rumbling water.
Plitvice Lakes: Entrance fees, how to reach and accommodation
Ticket prices vary by month and now are priced in EUR (when we visited, it ranged from 110 kunas per adult to 180 kunas). Entry for my 6-year old was free. As of 2023, ticket prices range from EUR 10 to EUR 40 depending on the season. They are priced lower for kids from 7-18 years. If you are visiting in peak season (June, July, August, September), it is best to book entry tickets online. You can also take a guided walking tour and boat ride at Plitvice Lakes national park.
Most people visit the park as a day trip from Zagreb or Split, so beware of crowds especially in summer months between 10 am and 5 pm. If you want to avoid taking a group tour to Plitvice, it is best to rent a car to reach the park and stay the night. There is no train service in the area, but several public buses ply from Zagreb and Split to the park.
It is, however, a tad more difficult to figure the exact bus stops and timings from Plitvice to either Zagreb or Split. During my research, I found out that it was possible to book tickets online on the buses. But the logistics of carrying 3 suitcases with a child in tow dampened the idea of taking a public bus.
We stayed at Plitvice Miric Inn which was perfect, both for location and the room. There are three hotels available inside: Hotel Jezero, Hotel Bellevue, and Hotel Plitvice. Staying inside the park is perfect for those who don’t have a car. There is another huge perk: hotel guests, after having purchased their park tickets once can have it extended at the hotel’s front desk for the entire length of their stay, for no extra charge.
One of the best travel tips for exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is to choose either Plitvice entrance 1 or 2, depending on the desired walking route, viewpoints, and proximity to accommodation options near the park.
Which walking route to take in Plitvice Lakes?
Plitvice Lakes National Park has two entrances, Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. Entrance 1 is more popular and offers access to the Upper Lakes, while Entrance 2 provides access to the Lower Lakes. Visitors can choose the entrance based on their preferred walking routes and viewpoints within the park.
There are 8 different hiking routes – A, B, C, K1, E, F, H, K2 – that cover the entire park. They are not all unique. For example – Route E that only covers Upper Lakes from Entrance 2 is largely a sub-set of Route C (that starts from Entrance 1, Lower lakes area).
Your route choice would depend on the distance you want to cover, easy vs moderate hiking options, whether you want to be closer to the lakes/waterfalls, your desire to be away from the crowds.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by adventurous hikers, who can navigate the scenic trails with the help of the Plitvice Lakes map trails.
Plitvice Upper Lakes: Access from Entrance 2
Having had a late start from Zagreb in the morning, and a leisurely lunch stop en route, we arrived in Plitvice only by 5 pm. Even if we had reached earlier in the day, it was difficult to cover the 8 km loop in one go. We couldn’t have seen both the Upper Lakes and Lower lakes area, in a day, with my daughter.
If you were to explore only the Upper lakes area at a stretch, like we did, it is easy to access from Entrance 2. There are ample parking and a ticket counter (along with a souvenir shop). We got a 25% discount on buying tickets for consecutive days.
Take the overhead bridge to cross the road, and you are instantly transported in a forest that only gets lusher as you walk ahead.
We took the Route E to explore the Upper lakes, this is 5.2 km long and takes about 2-3 hours. It is a beautiful walk, feels very intimate, and meanders around lakes, forests, and short waterfalls.
There were few people on this trail in the evening, and the entire experience was serene. We kept crossing the same set of people – all as pleasantly surprised as us, to have the park to themselves. My daughter was exhausted after the 2-hour trek. Thankfully, there was a bus available to go back to the Entrance 2 parking.
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia offers a variety of walking routes to explore its stunning beauty. From the classic Upper Lakes route to the less crowded K route, visitors can experience the park’s breathtaking waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and lush forests. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the hidden gems along the less traveled Plitvice Lakes routes.
Plitvice Lower Lakes: Access from Entrance 1
You would find the Lower lakes area, very crowded relative to the Upper Lakes. Staying in a hotel within the park, or even within a 5 km radius, would make it easier to come early in the morning to beat the crowds. We reached Entrance 1 only after 830 am. There were already many people around, but the big tourist buses were yet to join.
Most people take the Route A or B from Entrance 1. We ended up doing a combination of several routes.
The cheerful manager at the family-run Plitvice Miric Inn near Plitvice Lakes had marked out the area map for us. It indicated how to take the trails high above the lakes and how to reach panoramic (secret!) spots where few people are to be found.
This meant giving a miss to being close to the lakes/waterfalls, but it suited us fine. Armed with this information, we first headed to Veliki Slap, the tallest waterfall in Croatia (78 m).
How to reach marvellous views at Plitvice Lower Lakes
More to avoid the people admiring this fall than anything else, we climbed the steep, partially broken, uneven steps, located on one side of the waterfall (the park authorities close these steps, at times, especially during rainfalls).
Hardly any crowd up here! You get to a private spot to view the Veliki Slap in shade, without having to jostle with other people for space. We wanted to get to another spot where the entire lower lakes and its cascading waterfalls lay beneath you. The Miric Inn manager had gushed about this Plitvice Lakes secret spot. Some backtracking and much quibbling ensued but we finally reached that secret spot.
Here is what you should do to reach this Plitvice lakes secret spot –
Hike in the forest
While trying to reach this viewpoint, we had crossed 3 men in yellow T-shirts, manning a large table groaning under the weight of many bottles and fruit slices. We got chatting with them and got to know that it was the day of the Plitvice marathon. Only one knew English and played the role of a translator.
The water and fruit, which I had earlier assumed to be on sale, was for the runners. We passed many of the marathon runners, walking down the road, towards Upper lakes. This is part of Route K1 – the lakes are on the left and a lovely, lush forest all around. If you are up for a moderate hike meandering through the forest, with opportunities for stunning vistas, away from the maddening crowds, this route is for you.
The route culminated in Lake Kozjak, where my daughter insisted on taking the long boat ride back to the Upper Lakes. This long boat ride can be taken just once. Our plan was to take the bus back to Entrance 1. Alas, the bus was not operating due to the marathon that day.
No choice but to walk back to Entrance 1. The last leg of the walk around the Lower lakes area was not enjoyable. It was quite hot by now, and the hordes of people in every direction didn’t help. Alas, unlike the waterfalls in Krka River National Park, one cannot swim in Plitvice Lakes to cool off. I was glad to be out of the park by 1230.
The tranquil walk in the Upper Lakes along Route E, and the trail with gazebos high above – in the Lower Lakes area – would be my recommendation to experience the park’s beauty, away from the crowds.
If you can make the time, I recommend staying near Plitvice lakes to enjoy this national park. But many of us can do only a day trip. Check out these tour options for a day trip from Split, Zagreb or Zadar:
Where to stay and eat near Plitvice Lakes?
Plitvice Miric Inn is a great stop for a night stay. They served us a wonderful set-menu dinner – soup, choice of meat/fish/vegetables, followed with dessert. They stock some nice Croatian wines and beer as well. Breakfast spread here was decent, it was all part of a buffet, but nothing was available on order.
Our expectations for Licka Kuca, the restaurant at Entrance 1 where we had lunch, were not high. It was a convenient option right after 4/5 hours of walking. The food turned to be good and service slow.
One of the best meals we had was at Bistro Plum, just before entering Plitvice park area. The homemade ravioli and greek salad were perfect for a warm summer day.
Plitvice Lakes National Park FAQs
Where is Plitvice Lakes National Park?
Plitvice Lakes Natioinal Park is in central Croatia. It is is located at the national route D1 Zagreb–Split between Slunj and Korenica.
How to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park?
You can take a public bus from Zagreb, Split or Zadar to reach Plitvice Lakes National Park. You can also rent a car and drive to this national park.
What is the entrance ticket to Plitvice Lakes National Park?
The entrance ticket fee to Plitvice Lakes National Park depends on the month you are going. It varies from EUR 10 in off-season to EUR 40 in peak-season. Kids under 6 years enter free, and there is a discounted entrance fee for kids between 7-18 years.
What is the best route to take in Plitvice Lakes National Park?
There are 8 different hiking routes – A, B, C, K1, E, F, H, K2 – that cover the entire park. Your route choice would depend on the distance you want to cover, easy vs moderate hiking options, whether you want to be closer to the lakes/waterfalls, your desire to be away from the crowds.
What month is best for Plitvice Lakes?
The best months to visit Plitvice Lakes is from June to September. But note that this is peak season, so expect crowds. Visit the park early in the morning and book your entry tickets online in advance.
How many days do your recommend for Plitvice Lakes?
I recommend 2 days to explore the Plitvice Lakes national park. If you can make time for 2 days, you get to explore both the Upper Lakes and Lower Lakes peacefully. It can be done in a day, but do arrive early in the morning and have a plan to cover the entire park area.
[This post was originally published in 2017, and later updated in 2023.]
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