The Only Guide You Need To Visit Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Updated on January 18th, 2020
Plitvice National Park is one of the most breathtaking and unique national parks in the world. This UNESCO world heritage listed park covers almost 73,000 acres and is the most visited site in all of Croatia! In this guide discover why you need to visit Plitvice Lakes and how to plan the ultimate trip to this national park. Everything is included from planning, getting there, deciding between staying nearby or taking a day trip, entrance information and more.
We had Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park on our bucket lists for some time so it was exciting to finally be able to tick Plitvice off. The unparalleled beauty of Plitvice is something you must experience for yourself. Spend the day traversing wooden boardwalks extending over teal blue waters, look up at magnificent waterfalls and find stunning viewpoint after stunning viewpoint.
With two entrances, so many acres, an upper and lower lakes section it can be hard to know where to start or even how long to spend in the park. That’s why this guide has been put together to answer all of your questions about visiting Plitvice Lakes.
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Where is Plitvice National Park?
Plitvice Lakes National Park can be found in Central Croatia in the Karlovac and Lika-Senj districts, close to the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. We arrived in Zagreb and made our way south by bus to Plitvice.
Zadar is the closest major city to the park and will take 1.5 hours by car and can easily be done in a day trip. Zagreb is less than 2 hours driving to the north of Plitvice. From Split, it will take 3.5 hours driving. Most people who day trip from Split are on organised tours to avoid driving themselves. From Dubrovnik, it is almost 5 hours drive.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park
There are a few options for heading to Plitvice Lakes depending on where you are staying. The easiest way is to rent a car and drive yourself. Driving is very easy in Croatia and much safer compared to other Balkan countries. If you hop on the E65 expressway you’ll barely pass another vehicle.
From Zagreb and Zadar to Plitvice buses run numerous times per day. Expect the journey to take at least an hour longer than if you drove yourself but this is a convenient option which Ben and I did. You can find schedules and prices on Get By Bus.
A third option would be to take an organised tour. This is a great option if coming you only have a day to spare and are coming from Split. Ensure you look at the duration of how long you spend in the park before booking.
Ben and I arrived from Zadar by bus and chose to spend a couple of nights nearby so we could have a full day inside Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Arriving to Plitvice National Park by bus
Local buses in Croatia are very easy to take. Bigger cities and towns all have a central bus station (autobusna stanica). I travelled to Croatia during the springtime and it was unnecessary to book buses online as there were plenty of spare seats. I would, however, recommend booking a ticket online during the summertime. If you have luggage to go under the bus it will cost 7Kn (about 1 USD) regardless of where you are travelling to.
The National Park then has two bus stop outside of it, one at each entrance. A great thing about the park is they also offer luggage storage if you are continuing on to a different destination.
Organised tours to Plitvice National Park
As mentioned earlier this is a great option for people travelling from Split. The total drive time for the day would be 7 hours which for most people to do themselves is too much. Some people may even prefer to do a tour from the closer cities due to the convenience of having everything all organised for them.
- This guided Plitvice Lakes tour departs from Split or Trogir and includes hotel pick up (select hotels).
- If you’re not a tour person but like the ease of getting to Plitvice with a driver, check out this Plitvice Lakes tour departing from Split. Essentially you are just paying for a lift to and from the park – do not expect any information regarding Plitvice on the drive out there.
- Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes day tour
- Zadar to Plitvice Lakes day tour
- Dubrovnik to Plitvice Lakes day tour
Plitvice Lakes entrances and fees
Due to the number of visitors they get each year, Plitvice Lakes is a well-organised park. However, during the summer months, ticket queues can be especially long. To reduce some of the wait time there are two entrances – Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. You can also buy your tickets online to save time. If purchasing online make sure to buy them at least two days in advance.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Entrance fees
The cost of a ticket into Plitvice Lakes is extremely varied depending on the time of year you visit.
Cost for adults
One day ticket
Cost for adults
Two day ticket
|1st November – 31st March||60 Kn (9 USD)||90 Kn (13 USD)|
|1st April – 31st May
1st October – 31st October
|100 Kn (15 USD)||150 Kn (22 USD)|
|1st June – 30th September*||250 Kn (38 USD)||350 Kn (52 USD)|
*During the summer months (June to September) you are able to purchase a discounted ticket for entry after 4 pm. Prices for this ticket must be purchased 2 hours before the park closes and are available for 150 Kn (23 USD). The park stays open until 8 pm from June to August and 7 pm in September.
Plitvice Lakes Park information
Parking is available at both entrances for a fee. Cars are charged at 7 Kn per hour and campervans and buses are 70 Kn for the entire day.
Although the park is open 365 days a year, there are reduced facilities during the cooler months. Pack your own food and drinks if you intend to visit during the winter season. As the restaurants and cafes are closed. You can check this link for an accurate update on what facilities are open.
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Best time to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park
There are pros and cons to visiting the Plitvice Lake park during each season. Ben and I visited at the beginning of March which was probably a little early for certain aspects but we had no crowds in there with us.
Plitvice Lakes summertime – tickets are expensive and there are crowds lining the boardwalks. On the plus side, you will have blue, sunny skies, the surrounding trees will be green and everything is open.
There were many occasions when I thought people must get knocked into the water during the summer. The narrow boardwalks, slow tourists, people taking photos and then the impatient people would not mix well.
Plitvice Lakes Spring and Autumn is probably the best time to visit as the upper lakes are open as are most restaurants and cafes and transport within the park is running. Tickets are still affordable and hopefully, it won’t be super crowded in the park. In addition, springtime sees the highest levels of water.
Plitvice Lakes winter – The upper lakes are closed and I have heard that the ferry does not run. With this in mind, make a plan to see the lower lakes and do a few of the shorter hiking trails down there. In addition to this, many of the hospitality facilities are closed and it can be very cold. So ensure you wear warm clothes. Despite this, you’ll get to experience the park in a totally different way to other travellers – frozen waterfalls and snow!
Private tours can be arranged in the winter to see the upper lakes.
How long should you spend in the park
Most people spend less than a day at Plitvice Lakes which is why a day trip is sufficient for most. When the upper and lower lakes are open and you’re into hiking you will want to spend at least a full day inside exploring. If I was to go back I could easily spend two days inside Plitvice Lakes. Does this sound like you also? If that’s the case I would recommend staying somewhere nearby (see below).
However, if you are only interested in taking a few snaps and ticking the location off your list than a few hours will be enough. This will give you time to see the lower lakes, take the ferry across the river and even some time for a coffee.
What to do in the Plitvice Lakes National Park
As previously mentioned, Plitvice Lakes is divided into the lower and upper lakes. There are 8 marked circular routes, 4 at each entrance all varying in length. In addition to this, there are 4 hiking trails which you can choose between.
When you enter the park, you can ask for a free map/pamphlet your language. There are also maps located throughout the park which better mark the trails.
Within Plitvice Lakes, there is an electric boat ride which takes about 20 minutes and you can take a bus to return you to Entrance 1. Spend as much time as you like exploring the waterfalls and the hiking trails.
Where to stay at Plitvice Lakes
There are a couple of hotels outside the park gates but these can be quite pricey – as is the whole region. Although, to find something a bit cheaper the suburbs Rakovica and Gabrovac are good options. They are about 5 km north of Plitvice Lakes along Highway A1. Unfortunately, you either pay a lot to be within walking distance or you pay for a bus/taxi to the park.
We stayed in Plitvice -room 2 through Airbnb. Rooms are basic but the owners are absolutely lovely. They picked us up from the bus stop on our arrival and dropped us off at the park when we were leaving. Rooms start at $25 USD/night. We extended for a third night while there and were given a big discount. So it may pay to contact them and see if they have availability. The link above will take you to Airbnb, you just need to search for Plitvic -room 2.
How to get to the park from local towns
Firstly, there are a couple of ways you can get to Plitvice Lakes from the nearby towns. The best way to get to the park from the towns mentioned above is by bus. The same buses which come from Zagreb will pick you up on their way past. You just need to flag the buses down from the many bus stops along the way.
A lot of hotels advertise bike hire which I was keen to do. However, I’m very glad we didn’t. Not long after heading south from Rakovica the footpath ends and the road climbs steeply. If you are a skilled rider then this could be an option for you.
Of course, another option, if you do not have your own car, is to take a taxi. Maybe it was because we were there in a slow season but there were not many taxies around. We had to wait over half an hour for one to get us. In order to get the best price barter with the drivers! The driver will start the fare at around 150 Kn and we got the price down to 60 Kn.
Finally, Ben and I hitchhiked back from the park. It wasn’t the quickest to get a lift but we decided to hitch while waiting for the bus. We got a lift before the bus came.
Packing list ideas for Plitvice National Park
|A tripod for
|A hat during the
|Comfy shoes that you
can walk in all day
See the full European Summer Packing List post with a free downloadable checklist. Or just pop your email in for the checklist.