Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is located just north of the center of Croatia and is a UNESCO heritage site. It is a park with 18 interconnected lakes and is listed as the number one tourist attraction in Croatia. 

We managed to explore this wonderful national park over 2 days with the second day being significantly more enjoyable having learnt from the mistakes we’d made on the first .

On our first day a few annoying issues we encountered were: having to queue for tickets (30 minutes) because tour guides get first preference and 3 of them happened to be there collecting 30+ tickets, being stuck behind hoards of tourists on the footpath trying to take photos of waterfalls and having to line up for nearly 45 minutes for a ferry. Essentially we were just getting irritated because there were just far too many people in the national park! Thankfully on the second day we didn’t encounter any of these issues. For most of the day we managed to find mostly empty paths and managed to enjoy some spectacular views for ourselves. 

So here are our top tips to getting the most out of your Plitvice Lakes Adventure.

How can I avoid queuing for tickets?

Enter via Entrance 2 (entrance 1 is the busiest) and get there as early as you can, mainly to get ahead of the tour groups. We would recommend no later than 7.30am (earliest is 7am)

Should I buy a map?

Your national park ticket had a very small map printed at the back which gives you basic info about entrances, ferry stops and toilets but if you want to know more info about the actual hiking trails its worth buying the map which you can get at the same location where they check your tickets. Hiking trails are labelled A to K and ferry stations ST1-3.

What is the best time of year to go? 

Peak period is Summer (June to August) which also happens to be the most expensive and also when the most tourists will be around. We DON’T recommend this time of year.

Instead we’d recommend September-October as this is when the prices of tickets drop, the weather is still warm and whilst it can still be busy, there are far less tourists than in Summer.

Which trail is the quietest?

If you arrive at 7am all the trails are pretty quiet till about 10am. However we found that the quietest trail was the ‘K trail’ starting from Veliki Slap (The Big Waterfall) to P3 then to P2 (you have to cut out of the K trail for the final part to get to P2).

Where are the best views at Plitvice Lakes?

In our opinion there are two fantastic view points, both of which are near impossible to find unless you know where to go as they are not signed.

Viewpoint 1

This is the view that you see in most pamphlets and advertising material. We arrived here at about at about 9am and it was pretty sunny so if you want great pics you may want to aim to get there closer to 12pm. We stayed there for about an hour and only saw about 10 other tourists there in total.

To get there:

– head towards Veliki Slap (The Big Waterfall)

– just before you reach the waterfall you will notice a steep staircase on your left hand side (if you are facing the waterfall) – walk up these stairs (strenuous  5-10 mins)

– once you get to the top you will see a hut, take the path on the immediate RIGHT of it and continue walking until you reach a road

– turn RIGHT onto the road and walk for about 3-4 minutes until you see a small wooden footbridge

– turn RIGHT immediately after the footbridge and follow the path down for a few minutes and there you have it – an incredible view if the lakes!
Viewpoint 2

To get there (same beginning part as Viewpoint 1):

– head towards Veliki Slap (The Big Waterfall)

– just before you reach the waterfall you will notice a steep staircase on your left hand side (if you are facing the waterfall) – walk up these stairs (strenuous  5-10 mins)

– once you get to the top you will see a hut, take the path on the immediate LEFT of it 

– continue walking on this path for about 10 minutes until you reach the road

– just before you reach the road (approximately 30 metres) you will see a path veering to the left and there you will be able to see 2 stunning views of the lakes

What should I bring?

You can’t swim there so leave your swimwear and towel and home. Main things to bring there are:

– packed lunch and snacks

– camera and accessories

– sunscreen and glasses

– sturdy walking shoes or sandals

How do I get there?

Most people who don’t have access to a car arrive by bus from either Zagreb (~2 hours) or Split (~4 hours). The buses stop and entrwnce 1 and 2 so make sure you know which one you want to get off at. To book your journey click here.

How long should I spend there?

We spent 2 days there which we are really glad about because the first day involved us taking the normally touristy path and the second day we went more ‘off the beaten track’. You definitely can do it in one full day as long as you start pretty early (there are usually buses that arrive at around 7ish).

Where should I stay?

If you are looking to do an overnight stay I personally would recommend booking a hotel located within the park itself. We paid €70 for Hotel Bellevue. The convenience meant we could eat our breakfast and head straight into the park to be one of the first people there. Also the great thing about staying at these hotels is that you don’t have to buy a ticket for your second day, the hotel reception can simply stamp your ticket which will validate it for another day. If you are on a budget there are a few hotels outside the park which are between 20-30 minute walk to the entrance and they are usually much cheaper (~40-50 euros).

What other activities can I do there?

You can hire a row boat for 50kr per hour, definitely worth doing if the weather is right. You can do this from ST1.

So all in all we had a great time despite the first day of hecticness. We have been to plenty of national parks and this would easily be in our top 3 so make sure you add it to your list!
Til next time

Ann & Jason xo

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