COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLITVICE LAKES
If you’ve heard about Croatia, you’ve probably heard one of the following: the Blue Cave, Game of Thrones, Golden Horn Beach, or Plitvice lakes. And today we’ll talk about the most famous National Park in Croatia – Plitvice Lakes. As we’we already written generally about the lakes, you check out 10 Things you should know about Plitvice Lakes. So welcome to the Complete Guide to Plitvice Lakes!
This guide will help you with an overview of the Park – how to get there and what to do there. And we’ll give you a little bonus at the end with places around Plitvice that are worth visiting. Keep in mind that despite what some guides might say, the guide is not all that well organized. You won’t get lost, but it isn’t easy to get around without preparing beforehand.
If you’re going on a tour, they’ll take care of everything so you don’t have to worry about anything. But our recommendation is to go with one that starts earlier than 8 am. Otherwise, rent a car, start early, and find a parking spot in front of the entrances.
How to get there
Depending on where you are, the easiest way to get to Plitvice Lakes is by car. Buses are not the most reliable and fast method of getting there. And what you want is to get there as fast as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting in line for a long time to get your entry tickets. To get there from Split, just head on the highway, and it will take about 2 hrs 40 minutes to get there. But keep in mind that you need to pay for the highway. You can even go on local roads, which would be faster, but somewhat tricky to navigate. Once you get there, you also have to pay for the parking. The price depends on the season/ year, but it’s less than 2 € per hour usually. You can also pay a daily rate.
There are a few entrances into Plitvice Lakes. Entrance 1 is located near the highway and is also close by to the Veliki Slap (translation big waterfall), one of the big attractions. It is also the way to go if you want to go to the biggest lake, Kozjak. If you’d like to explore another part of the park, there is a bus service that goes every 30 minutes to Entrance 2. The bus service runs from April to October.
Entrance 2 is the most time-consuming part of the Park. It’s the place where there are a lot of falls going down from the highest lake, Pročćansko jezero. Which makes it one of the most impressive parts of the national park. Because going through the whole part of Entrance 2 really is almost impossible if you want to do both Lower and Upper lakes, we suggest you take a shuttle to another part of the park. You don’t have to pay for the shuttle, as the price is included in the price of admission.
Entrance 3 is less used, simply because it isn’t as convenient for the guests.
How to get around the park
There are quite a few walking trails around the park. They range anywhere between an hours trek and an 8-hour trek. If you’re thinking of going through most of Plitvice lakes, keep in mind that it isn’t an easy undertaking. You’ll need at least 10 hours there, so it’s better to do it in two days. In the next part, we’ll touch a bit more on the accommodation that is available for that.
There are 8 walking paths that you can take while in the park. Some are closed from October until April, so check that out before planning your trip. They range, time-wise, anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours. And that doesn’t include boat rides, bus rides, snack stops… According to that, you should plan your time in the park. We won’t go into the detail of all the trails, as that would make this piece far too long. You can check them out on the following link: Plitvice Lakes tour paths.
If you’d like to experience the park full, we suggest you mix the walking paths with the bus/train & boat tours. The bus/train and the boats are included in your entry ticket. The buses take you from entrance to entrance, but you get to see quite a lot that way. In the summer they run every 30 minutes. There are 2 boat rides inside the park. They are located on Kozjak lake, with different time lengths. The longer one is between entrances 2 & 3, and the shorter one is between entrances 2 & 1. If you’re on a regular tour from Split, you probably won’t have time for these. Those tours spend about 4 hours in the park, which is not enough time for bot a walking tour and the boat ride.
Also keep in mind that during the offseason, the buses and boats don’t run. A big part of that is the frost and cold weather. But Plitvice Lakes are so gorgeous during wintertime that you just have to experience them just the same.
Plitvice Lakes National Park has been running for a long time, and as such has relatively good amenities. In and around the park you’ll find several restaurants, apartments, hotels, and camping areas. To see all the park approved accommodation, check out their Hotels & Camps page. And for restaurants/cafes, check out their Hospitality page.
Regarding food, expect everything to be expensive, and sometimes not all that good. That is just an accepted part of the Plitvice Lakes experience. You’ll pay 25 kuna for 2 pieces of bread and a hamburger patty if you don’t research beforehand. Lička Kuća restaurant seems to be an exception to the rule, but it also isn’t inside the park itself, but just outside it. And if you’re looking for a place to eat deep inside the park, you won’t find it. The restaurants are mostly located near entrances and bus stops. Our advice would be to bring a picnic with you and find a nice place to relax. But, you have to keep in mind that this is a National Park and a UNESCO Heritage site, and the park should be kept clean.
As far as accommodation goes, we’ve already written about the places you can stay inside the park. Those are official park accommodations, but there are many more outside the park itself. Those houses/apartments are usually built in the manner of traditional houses in Lika. They are also somewhat cheaper than the places inside the park.
Spots around the Park
There are places you should visit around the Plitvice lakes as well. For example, if it’s raining, you can check out these places.
- Ranch Deer Valley – located very close to Plitvice Lakes, it’s a must see for any lovers of nature. To get in, you have to announce your arrival beforehand. This places takes care of deer and even breeds them. To enter, you have to pay a fee, and with that, you get a guided tour and a chance to feed the deer. This place is truly impressive, so go check out their website and gallery – Ranch Deer Valley
- Tesla Museum – located about an hour from the lakes, this museum is dedicated to the greatest inventor in Croatian history. This is something that you have to visit if you’re in the area. The sheer amount of the genius will astound you!
- Cave Park Grabovača – this is the only cave park in Croatia, and it contains the forth of all protected speleological places in Croatia. This is a complex that is not well known to tourists; all the better reason to visit it. Check out their offers on the Official Website. And best of all, it’s not just caves you can visit – but mountain paths and ecological workshops as well.
- Adrenalin Park Plitvice – opened from 1.4. until 1.11, this place is the perfect escape from the busiest times to Plitvice Lakes. The main attraction is the 300 meters long zipline located over river Korana canyon. Check them out at Adrenalin Park Plitvice!
- Barač Caves – located about 10 kilometers north from Plitvice Lakes, they’re a fun way to spend an hour. There are 3 caves, of which only the highest is open to the public. It isn’t necessarily the most spellbinding experience, as there is just about 200 meters of the cave available for public access. But the guided tour (about 50 minutes) are really fun.
The most important thing to remember about Plitvice Lakes is that it’s a natural wonder. And visitors should keep it as such. There will be a lot of people there during summer months, so be equipped for long waits.
For the best experience of the Plitvice lakes, check out these guys: https://www.croatia-dream.com/
They’ll sort you out, whether you’d like a one day visit or a multi-day tour.