The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction, was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. The National Park is located roughly halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast and is a natural marvel, covering a total area of 116 square miles or 300 square kilometres.
The beauty of the National Park lies in its sixteen terraced crystal clear lakes, inter-connected by multiple waterfalls, and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species.
There’s a steep altitude difference between the highest point at 4200 ft (1,280m) and the lowest at 1250 ft (380m). Veliki Slap, the largest waterfall, is 230 ft (70m) tall.
How to get to the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Before you plan any international trips, get an update from the US Department of State’s COVID-19 page.
There are restrictions in place affecting U.S. citizen entry into Croatia. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Croatia.
Read the country information page.
If you plan to travel to Croatia specifically to visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park, you should fly to Zagreb or Zadar airports.
Most visitors will take a holiday in Croatia by visiting the most popular spots and from there, travel to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
- From Dubrovnik, there’s no public bus as it’s too far away. If you travel from Dubrovnik, the most convenient but more costly way, would be to book a full day tour like this one offered by Viator. But be prepared for a very long day…
- From Split, the full day tours are much cheaper, check out the various tours options here and you can opt for a small group guided tour like this one or private tours. You can also take a public bus from Split to the National Park. The travel time from Split is 3.5 – 5.5 hours.
- From Zagreb Airport, you can take a connecting bus outside the terminal building to the main bus station in Zagreb. From here, you can then take one of the numerous buses to the Plitvice Lakes; journey time is about 2 hours 20 minutes. You can book tickets on the Zagreb Bus Terminal website.
Public buses to the National Park should stop outside both Entrance 1 and Entrance 2 – Just ask the driver to make sure.
If you’re driving to the Park, there is parking at both entrances. It costs 7 Kuna per hour for cars.
Note: Croatian currency is Kuna, and the exchange rate is around 7,6 Kn per 1 €, 6,2 Kn per 1 US$, and 8,5 Kn per 1 £.
Visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Park is open daily all year round, with longer opening hours during summer (usually 7am to 8pm). The entrance fee for adults it is 80 Kuna (£9/€10.50/$12) January to March and in November and December; 180 Kuna (£21/€24/$27) during April, May and October; and 300 Kuna (£34/€40/$45) for June to September. This fee contributes to the Park’s upkeep and protection.
Tickets are discounted (200 Kuna) if you visit after 4pm in June, July or August, or after 3pm in September.
The entrance is free for children under 7 years old. Children aged 7 to 18 have cheaper tickets. There’s also a discount for students and groups of 15 or more. Full details of ticket prices can be found on Price List page of the Plitvice Lakes National Park website.
2-day tickets for the Park can also be purchased, with a slight saving.
There are two entrances to the Park – Entrance 1 for the lower lakes and Entrance 2 for the higher lakes. Entrance 2 (and therefore some of the park) is normally closed in winter (November to April).
When is the best time to visit?
Plitvice Lakes are a stunning place to visit any time of the year. In Spring/Summer, the Park is green and lush. In Autumn, the foliage takes on rich and sumptuous colors. The winter creates magical scenes, covered in snow and ice. Even during rainy days, the park can still be wonderful to explore as the water takes on a dramatic effect… During winter the Entrance 2 is closed but there’s still plenty to explore around the Entrance 1.
Our visit occurs in May, when the weather is gorgeous, and the park is open for longer hours.
How to get around the Plitvice Lakes National Park?
Since the Plitvice Lakes run along a canyon, there are some natural limitations to how you can circulate. Throughout the park, there are three main means of getting around: walking, by boat, and the “Panoramic Train”. Most likely you will use a combination of all three.
The National Park information center recommends seven Programs to walk around the Park. The best programs are Program C (if you enter through Entrance 1) and Program H (if you enter through Entrance 2) and each takes around 4 to 6 hours. The shortest circuits will take 2-3 hours, while the most extensive route can take up to 8 hours to complete. There are walking trails running along the edge of the canyons, offering sweeping views of the lakes below.
As part of your ticket to the park, you can take a gentle cruise on Lake Kozjak, the largest and deepest of the lakes, across from one end of the lake to the other. Using an electric boat, this trip is referred to as P3 to P1 on timetables and maps. Technically there are two boat rides, but the second – P1 to P2 – is a short shuttle which actually takes you from the shore out into the middle of the waterfalls and onto the rest of the Upper Lakes.
By Panoramic Train
The Panoramic Train is ideal for visitors who prefer to get around the Upper Lakes of Plitvice without walking. The Panoramic Train, an electric shuttle bus service, is also included as part of your ticket and makes three stops on its route. The first, ST1, is at the northern end of Lake Kozjak’s eastern bank. It then heads south to ST2, part-way between the ferry point P1 and several park hotels. The final stop over at ST3 is close to the three highest lakes, ideal for getting back after you’ve walked your way up.
Which Entrance is better, 1 or 2?
It’s a matter of personal preference but the key point is to have an early start as soon as the Park opens (at 7 or 8 am depending on the season), as it gets really busy from 10 am. Most visitors favor Entrance 1 as you face the waterfalls as you walk. We prefer Entrance 2 to go against traffic and it has worked out really well for us, and it doesn’t bother us at all to turn around to admire the waterfalls as we walk. We have largely followed Trail H (4-6 hours – 8.9km – moderate) which starts with a bus ride to the starting point. From there, we walk the upper lakes then sail across lake Kozjaka, to stroll around the lower lakes, and climb to a high vantage point for a better view – then take the shuttle bus back.
The Upper Lakes
From Entrance 2, follow the boardwalk trail that crisscrosses through the gorgeous lakes, admire the magnificent scenery.
Keep following the trail toward the largest lake in the Park, Lake Kozjaka…
You will come across magnificent waterfalls and turquoise water.
You can rent a small row-boat for 50kn/hour. Sorry, but swimming is not allowed!
Ferry ride across Lake Kozjaka (the largest lake in the park), to go from the Upper Lakes to the Lower Lakes (and vice versa).
The Lower Lakes
From Lake Kozjaka, follow the trail leading to the Lower Lakes.
Spectacular view of the Lower Lakes…
Take the trail down to the lakes and walk the boardwalk trail. Then take a short detour to Veliki Slap, the Big Waterfall.
We climb to the Supljara Cave, and follow the trail to the upper level of the cliffs to have a panoramic view of the Park.
It’s worth climbing up the stairs next to the Veliki Slap to have this bird’s eye view of the spectacular Lower Lakes!
From here we catch a shuttle bus back to the entrance / exit of the Park.
Where to Stay in Plitvice Lakes
If you plan to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park as a day trip from Zagreb, Zadar or Split, you don’t need to worry about accommodation but you won’t have time to fully enjoy this magnificent place. The best way to spend a whole day in the Park is to stay overnight, close to the Plitvice Lakes.
In order to enjoy early access to the lakes, consider staying inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, or in the nearby villages the day before, so you can be at the entrance when the park opens.
1. Staying Inside Plitvice Lakes National Park
Expect to pay a higher price for the convenience of staying at the Park’s doorstep, and book well in advance as the accommodations are sold out quickly.
- Combining location and comfort, the rustic B&B Plitvica Lodge is a great pick as it’s within walking distance of Veliki Slap waterfall.
- Right by the park’s Entrance 2, the 3-star Hotel Jezero offers a tasty breakfast and two restaurants, and also boasts a gym, wellness center, and spa.
- Plitvica Selo is the most expensive option. Consider to stay instead at B&B Villa Plitvica, which is also within walking distance from the Park. Simply furnished with lots of wood, this bed and breakfast rooms have a balcony with a view.
2. Staying Outside Plitvice Lakes National Park
Stay in a Sobe (similar to a B&B) instead of a hotel to save money and enjoy a more intimate, authentic experience.
- Villa Sumrak – 15 minute walk to the Great Waterfalls and lakes in the park, friendly host family, great home cooked meals upon request. With only 3 rooms, book early.
- Villa Verde Guest House – minutes from the park entrance 2, owners are friendly, newly refurbished, and has 6 rooms.
- Villa Lika – 15 min walk to the park, bigger with 16 rooms, great hosts.
- Bungalows Korana (Campsite) – minutes drive to the park, stay in wooden bungalows with shared bathrooms, offers a restaurant on site, has 47 rooms.
Tips for Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park
To fully enjoy your visit, here are some tips.
1. Arrive Early
I would highly recommend you to stay nearby the night before, so you can arrive at the National Park early to beat the crowd, especially during the high season. If you can’t stay overnight, it would be better to go to the Park in the early afternoon.
2. Follow the Park Rules
To help preserve the park and keep guests safe, please follow the park rules such as staying on the paths, respect the nature and not to disturb the wild life. Do not litter and importantly, do not swim in the lakes.
3. Things to Pack
As you’ll spend a full day in the park, enjoy a good breakfast before going to the park. Bring a refillable water bottle and some hiking snacks. There’s only one supermarket in the neighboring village of Jezerce so do plan ahead. Of course, you could have lunch at one of the park’s hotels but it’s more costly and it takes time away from the park’s enjoyment… It’s a good idea to pack a light rain jacket, sun lotion, sun glasses and a hat, and to wear walking shoes.
If you travel with babies or toddlers, be prepared to carry them in a bjorn or baby carrier as you won’t go far with a stroller on some wooden boardwalk.
Recommended Restaurants near the Park
Most villages are 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 km) away from the National Park, so unless you drive, it’s a challenge to go dining or shop for groceries. The town of Slunj, while further away, has a proper bus stop on the route from Zagreb to Plitvice.
The best meal we have enjoyed in the area is at Bistro Vila Velebita, which is in at the foot of the mountain Plješevica, only 6 miles (10 km) away from the national park.
Read about our Game of Thrones adventure in Dubrovnik here.
From Plitvice Lakes National Park, we drive to Split before flying off. Hop to this post to read about how to make the most out of a visit to Split and Trogir.
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