You may have seen mesmerizing photos of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia with cascading waterfalls and idyllic lakes. So, is Plitvice Lakes worth visiting? Absolutely yes, without question this magical place in Croatia is worth seeing for yourself!
Personally, I found visiting Plitvice Lakes one of the prettiest destinations in the world for its unusually high number of waterfalls that seem straight out of a fairytale or a fictional movie set. There is nothing like it anywhere else…
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of eight and Croatia’s most famous national parks for good reason.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has over 16 lakes, 90+ waterfalls with trails, and picturesque boardwalks to wander.
Although these gorgeous Croatia waterfalls are the highlight of visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park, there is a lot more to do in the park such as hiking, taking a boat ride, and enjoying a picnic.
Plus, it is a photographer’s dream with an abundance of nature surrounding the crystal-clear lakes and waterfalls.
I spent two days exploring the best things to do in Plitvice Lakes National Park and have put together this guide to provide all the essential info and tips for you in anticipation of your own trip.
You might hear people say visiting is overrated or not worth seeing but I politely disagree. Most of the time they are not timing their visit right and encounter too many crowds.
Keep reading to find out why a trip to Plitvice Lakes is a must when in traveling in Croatia!
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Is Plitvice Lakes Worth Visiting? Yes, Complete Guide On Why
Where Is Plitvice Lakes National Park?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s first and oldest national park located in Northern Dalmatia.
It is nestled in between the coastal mountains and the border of nearby Bosnia. Located in the northern inland region, Plitvice is about 2 hours south of the capital, Zagreb.
What really surprised me about the drive to Plitvice Lakes is that it is at a much higher elevation than the coast.
I soon realized that we were heading up into the mountains noted by the cooler temperatures. It is a very lush landscape with a forest of alternating scenes of farmland, small villages, and forests.
Note: Croatians have a deep respect for nature and do their part in making sure to preserve it for future generations. Plitvice is incredibly clean, the trails well maintained, and top-notch in the preservation of the lakes.
So, please help out and make sure to keep it clean by disposing of trash only in wastebaskets or carrying it out with you.
Plitvice Lakes Hotels
Definitely consider staying overnight so that you don’t have to hurry your visit and miss out on seeing any areas of the park.
One of the biggest cons of visiting Plitvice Lakes are the mid-summer crowds. For this reason, staying the night allows you to maximize your time in the park around those crowds!
Getting a hotel at Plitvice Lakes is extremely peaceful and a terrific place to get away into nature.
Staying in or on the outskirts of Plitvice Lakes National Park is the best location so that you are just minutes from the park entrances.
Some hotels near Plitvice Lakes National Park are even close enough to walk to the Plitvice waterfalls!
- Hotel Degenija – Has an incredible restaurant regardless if you stay here or not.
- Ethno House Plitvice
- Rustic Lodge Plitvice
If you won’t have a car and are coming by bus, stay at one of these three hotels as they are inside the park and closest to the trails.
If camping is more your style, there are two areas designated for camping. Autocamp Korana is off of the Korana River and 6 km from Entrance 1 of Plitvice Lakes National Park. They have both spaces for tents, campers or you can rent a cute bungalow.
The other camping area is Camp Borje which is further away at 15km from Plitvice Lakes. This is only for camping and no bungalows to rent.
Tips For Visiting Plitvice Lakes
- Stay overnight so that you get to see the entire park without having to rush.
- Arrive at the park early and be there when the park opens.
- Bring very comfortable walking shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking!
- Tour the Lower Lakes early and then when the crowds start filling in, go up to the cliff views where there won’t be any crowds.
- Consider bringing a wide-angle lens to get some great shots.
- If you want to avoid the lines at lunch, bring your own and enjoy a picnic.
- Make sure to have a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Bring water! There are only a few places in the park to get water, so make sure to bring your own reusable water bottle with you.
- Carry a light rain jacket as the weather is different from the Croatian coast and showers can appear even in the summer months.
- If you are visiting during the peak summer months, purchase your tickets online prior to your trip. They do limit the number of tickets sold daily.
- Make sure you go to the bathroom at either entrance before you start. There are not a ton of restrooms so you don’t want to take off having to go!
- If it gets hot and you don’t want to carry your jacket, attach it to your backpack or purse with this handy travel clip!
- If you see a group tour, hurry and do whatever you can to get around them (safely). You will be thankful to stay ahead of the tour.
- Overall have patience, especially if you are visiting in the middle of the summer. You will need it with the crowds!
How To Get To Plitvice Lakes
The easiest way to get to Plitvice Lakes is by renting a car as it is far from all major cities. Plus, the drive is quite scenic, allowing you to stop whenever you want and time your visit as you wish.
I rented a car and found it extremely easy drive in Croatia. In fact, the roads are nicer than many back in the United States.
Distances to Plitvice Lakes:
Split – 255 km (158 miles), about 2.5 to 3 hours
Zagreb – 135 km (84 miles), about 2 hours
Zadar – 134 km (83 miles), about 2 hours
Dubrovnik – 435 km (270 miles), about 5 to 6 hours
If you want the freedom to go on your own schedule but don’t feel comfortable driving, you can hire a private transfer in a car or small shuttle.
If you are coming by bus, check the bus schedule from your departing city to find out departure times and cost.
Taking a bus is an economical option but you will be limited to when you can leave. There are usually 3-4 times per day that buses arrive in Plitvice. Expect it to take 4 to 5 hours by bus (from Split).
Note: When driving on your own, always take the toll roads! Just make sure to have some cash and change on you as you will save a lot of time and the roads are excellent.
Plus, there are rest stops where you can gas up and take a break in the cafes or restaurants if needed.
How Long To Spend At Plitvice Lakes?
Wondering how much time you should dedicate to exploring Plitvice Lakes?
I would recommend spending 1.5 to 2 days and would avoid a day trip if you can.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is quite large and to really do it justice and cover both the Upper and Lower Lakes regions, you need more than a half-day.
I recommend 2 days for a few reasons. First, the drive from most cities is 2 – 5 hours away and unless you are willing to have the longest day of your life it will be exhausting.
Instead, spend a night to allow ample time to see the area and not feel rushed.
Second, the waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes are like nothing you have ever seen, and a visit here shouldn’t be hurried. If you made it here, take a little time to enjoy its magical beauty!
Third, if you are going in the summer, the crowds can be intense and overwhelming. It can get so crowded that you can barely move along the paths and boardwalks. And that isn’t an exaggeration…
To have the best experience possible with the least crowds, visit Plitvice from 7 am to 10:30 am and then again from 4 pm to 8 pm.
These blocks of time are the least crowded because they are before and after the tour buses and day-trippers visit.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Tickets
Once you pay the entrance fee to Plitvice Lakes National Park, you will have access to the entire park.
Your ticket fee also includes bus shuttles between Entrance 1 and 2 and ferry boat ride. Don’t toss your ticket as you may need it later!
If you are going during the summer months, book your ticket ahead of time to make sure you can get in. They will cap the number of tickets per day so don’t assume you can get a ticket mid-summer at the gate.
Adult Ticket Prices (one day)
January, February, March, November & December: 10 Euros or $11 U.S. dollars
April, May & October: 23 Euros or $25 U.S. dollars
June, July, August & September: 40 Euros or $43 U.S. dollars
If you plan on visiting on two separate days, you can purchase a ticket at a discount if you buy a 2-day pass. There are also discounts for students and children.
It doesn’t really matter which Plitvice Lakes entrance you park at because you can easily take a shuttle between the two.
But if you are visiting over 2 days, park at Entrance 1 on one day and Entrance 2 the other day.
There are pretty forested walkways and glimpses of the falls that vary between the two entrances. That way you can experience both!
I didn’t notice any difference between the two entrances as far as the crowds go. They were about the same. You will likely encounter Entrance 2 first and if you continue on for a few minutes you will encounter Entrance 1.
Note: There is paid parking available at both Entrance 1 and 2 and the cost depends on how long you stay. Grab a ticket when you enter and take your ticket with you. You will pay at a kiosk before returning to your car.
Plitvice Lakes Opening Hours
If you can, get to Plitvice Lakes right as they open to beat the crowds and enjoy the peacefulness first thing in the morning.
The park is open 365 days a year, so you are able to see the landscape in every season.
Each day, Plitvice Lakes National Park opens at 7:00 am but closing will vary depending on the time of the year anywhere from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
During the winter and after heavy rains, the Upper Lakes will be closed.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes Essential Info
Plitvice Lakes Park is extremely large and can’t be fully covered in a day. But if you are focusing on the areas of the famous Croatia waterfalls then you can see them in 1-2 days.
I highly recommend seeing it over 2 days as mentioned above!
An important thing to know before you get to Plitvice National Park is that you will do a ton of walking and there will be some hills and inclines involved.
Once you arrive at either entrance, walk down to where the footpaths and boardwalks start. That means that you will be walking uphill on the way back! Luckily the walk is beautiful and full of many photo opportunities every few steps if you desire.
It should also go without saying that you must have comfortable shoes and be prepared to do a lot of walking.
Luckily all the paths, walkways, and boardwalks are very well maintained and easy to move on. Wandering the park is a nature lover’s dream as there are so many types of flora and fauna, and birds to see.
The easiest way to see the Plitvice waterfalls is to break up your time between the Upper and Lower Lakes.
Each lake region has numerous waterfalls, lakes, and walking paths for you to view. If you are there for two days, you can focus on the Lower Lakes one day and the Upper Lakes the next day.
If you have limited time such as a half-day, then I would recommend seeing the Lower Lakes as the largest waterfall is located here. Keep in mind, you can’t go wrong with either section!
Best Time To Visit Plitvice Lakes
Surprisingly, you can visit Plitvice Lakes any time of the year. If you are brave enough to venture out in the winter, then you will likely have the place to yourself.
I have seen photos of the park covered in snow and it is lovely. Do expect the park to have shorter hours of operation during the winter months.
I have heard of many people hating their experience that went in July and August because the crowds were so overwhelming and made it very difficult to move about the park.
For that reason, the shoulder seasons are best as you get good weather and fewer crowds. That would be the months of April/May and September/October.
Try to time your visit for getting to the park right at opening time or later in the afternoon to closing time. These are the periods of the day when you will see fewer crowds.
Why do I keep emphasizing going at times with fewer crowds?
Well, a good portion of the walking you will do will be over boardwalks that are going across the lakes and waterfalls. There are no railings or enclosers with just enough room for people to walk single file each way.
It’s very easy to get knocked into the water if you are not careful (I spoke with someone that this happened to!). It can also be frustrating when you want to walk faster but can’t because you are in a long line of people.
Is it still worth going? Definitely!
Plitvice Lakes Routes To Take
There are various Plitvice Lakes trails or routes that you can take as you explore the park.
Each Plitvice Lakes walking route is clearly labeled and noted by a letter from A – K which I think is really helpful. There are signs throughout the park that help guide you to the next letter or route.
There are 7 routes labeled A, B, C, E, F, H, K, and range in distance from 3 km to 18 km. Route K is the longest of the seven and goes around the entire park. Route A and E are the shortest of the itineraries.
Entrance 1 is a starting point for routes A, B, C and K and Entrance 2 is a starting point for routes E, H, F, and K. Here is a breakdown of the 7 routes:
The shortest of the routes, it begins at Entrance 1 and covers only part of the Lower Lakes. It does cover the largest waterfall, called the Great Waterfall (Veliki Slap).
Veliki Slap is definitely worth seeing, so make sure that whichever route you choose, it includes this magnificent waterfall. The distance for this trail is 3.5 km (2.2 miles) and is considered easy.
This route is longer than A as it covers the entire Lower Falls meaning it is route A (includes Veliki Slap) plus a little bit more. It also includes taking the boat ride and the shuttle. The distance of this trail is about 4 km (2.6 miles) and pretty easy like A.
Route C is longer than route B and is route B (the Lower Lakes) plus the Upper Lakes. This trail also includes the boat ride and the shuttle bus. The trail is about 8 km (5 miles) and considered fairly easy. It is a good route if you are only able to visit in one day as you get to see both the upper and lower lakes.
This route starts at Entrance 2 and covers the Upper Lakes only, the boat ride and the shuttle. The distance of this trail is 5.5 km (3.4 miles).
This route covers a section of the Upper Lakes, a variation from E and includes the boat ride and the shuttle. The distance is 4.6 km (~ 3 miles) and considered easy.
Starting at Entrance 2, take the shuttle up to the top of the Upper lakes. Walk through the Upper Lakes then take the boat across the lake to the Lower Lakes. Tour the Lowers Lakes and then take the shuttle back to Entrance 2 when complete. Route H is about 8.9 km (5.5 miles) and is considered moderate in difficulty.
This route is the longest route as it encompasses the entire park but does not include the boat and shuttle. Instead of giving your feet a break on the boat and shuttle, you get to walk instead! In total, the distance for K is 18 km (11.2 miles). So be prepared to get a ton of steps in!
Note: If you plan to visit the park in one day, I recommend Route H which covers both the Upper and Lower Lakes.
If you are visiting over 2 days, then follow route B one day and route E on the second day. Those two routes combined will cover both the Upper and Lower Lakes as in H.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Map
Upper Plitvice Lakes
Why is this area of the park referred to as the Upper Lakes? Well because it is at a higher elevation than the Lower Lakes by a significant amount.
The difference between the highest point of the Upper Lakes and Lake Kozjak (where the Lower Lakes begin), is 100 meters or 328 feet.
There are 12 lakes that make up the Upper Lakes with the main waterfall to view is Galovacki buk (25 meters or 82 feet).
Also keep in mind that during the winter or after heavy rains the Upper Lakes will be closed. Usually, flooding is prevalent and it’s not safe to walk on the boardwalks at these times.
Lower Plitvice Lakes
There are four lakes that make up the Lower Lakes. You will notice quickly that the terrain changes with steep cliffs made of limestone and karstic rock.
The views from any spot of the Lower Lakes is stunning. You will be in awe and question whether what you are seeing is real! But yes, it is real so take a moment to capture the view.
The highlight of visiting the Lower Lakes is the Great Waterfall (Veliki Slap). You will likely hear the Great Waterfall before you come upon it.
Because Veliki Slap is so “great”, do expect a crowd here as this is the busiest section of the park.
Veliki Slap stands an impressive 78 meters (256 feet) and is the tallest waterfall in Croatia.
Most of the Plitvice waterfalls are formed from water spilling over from the Upper Lakes down to the Lower Lakes. But Veliki Slap is formed by the Plitvica Potok River above it.
No matter the time of year, be prepared to get wet as you get close to Veliki Slap! The mist that the waterfall creates makes is intense.
It is nice to have a light rain jacket and cover up any nice camera gear. I took a few shots quickly and then put my camera away and used my GoPro the rest of the time.
Best Viewpoints For Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls
Depending on the time of year or whether it is sunny or cloudy, you can see various shades of emerald green, turquoise, and blues.
A lot depends on the amount of sunlight hitting the water and combined with the water running through the limestone, varying vibrant colors can be seen.
The views throughout the park are amazing, but if you want to get even better views then you need to go up!
No, not in a helicopter or via a drone (they are prohibited by the way) but hike up to the top of the cliff to get a birds-eye view of the falls. This will add on both distance and time to any of the lettered routes above.
From The Cliffs Above
There are a few ways to get up to the cliff, the first is to take the staircase up from the Great Waterfall (Veliki Slap). You can’t miss it if you are at the base of Veliki Slap.
Once you get to the top, you can take several gorgeous shots of Veliki Slap without all the mist spraying you.
Next, you have two options, either left or right. You will cover both, but for now, go right. Walk a few minutes on an asphalt road and when you see a small bridge, turn after it to your right.
In the photo below, you can see in the upper right corner a tiny rock platform or balcony. You have basically walked behind and around the Great Waterfall. Head down the trail to the most breathtaking scene!
It is at this viewing platform that you will get to see the Lower Lakes and falls in all their glory.
After taking some time to enjoy the views, head back the way you came. Instead of going back down the steps, continue on the road.
There are several places where you can walk through the foliage and take in views of the Lower Lakes and falls.
Eventually continuing down the road, you will encounter a small entrance booth. Just show your ticket and you can continue on down into the park.
As you get to the bottom it will be clearly marked where to turn left and take you to Lake Kozjak. It is here that you can get something to eat and catch the ferry boat.
Where To Eat In Plitvice Lakes
When you are visiting the park, there are 3 main locations to get food. There is an area in the Lower Lakes near the ferry boat dock where you can purchase something to eat.
At this spot, there is a large grass area that you can picnic at or just take a break from all the walking you are doing! Don’t expect to get a great meal, it is pretty typical of food at any tourist location.
At both Entrance 1 and 2, there are a number of casual restaurants where you can grab a quick bite to eat. Now after saying that, I would recommend eating an early or late lunch to avoid the long lines.
If you are lucky enough to eat outside of the park, then there are several delicious restaurants that will leave you more than satisfied.
Restoran Degenija – This was my favorite meal while visiting Plitvice with excellent food and service. Restoran Degenija offers local Croatian, European, and Italian food that is the perfect way to end a day of exploring and seeing the Plitvice waterfalls. The restaurant is 5.9 km from Park Entrance 1.
Bistro & Caffe Plum – A great choice to dine with Croatian, European, and Mediterranean food as well. It just happens to be next to Restoran Degenija.
Lička Kuća (the house of Lika) – A great restaurant for Croatian and European food. It is located directly across from Entrance 1 and is a good spot to get lunch. But make sure you make a reservation if you want to eat lunch here. The large tour groups can dominate and fill up the restaurant quickly.
Gear To Pack
There are some key essentials that you definitely want to pack and bring with you to Plitvice Lakes. The most important item to have is a good pair of shoes that you know are comfortable to walk in.
This isn’t the time to test out new shoes as that will likely lead to blisters and an unhappy day. Because you are in and around water, it does help if your hiking boots or walking shoes are moisture-wicking and dry fairly easy.
I also like to carry a GoPro to take video and not worry if it gets wet. Near the waterfalls, I like using the GoPro for this reason.
For a sturdy and compact tripod, you can throw this awesome travel tripod in your backpack!
To make sure you have your hands free to take a million photos, have a good day pack to carry all of your stuff. I particularly like this day backpack which is comfortable, breathable (for those hot days) and can carry everything you need for the day.
And no matter the time of year wear comfortable clothes to walk in and dress in layers as the weather can change without notice.
Read More: Top Travel Gear For Hikers & Adventurers
FAQ About Visiting Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes is famous for its gorgeous and over-the-top views of countless waterfalls, lakes, and boardwalks. It is the first and largest national park in Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You may be wondering which is better, Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park. They are both worth visiting on any trip to Croatia.
Krka Falls is much smaller with fewer waterfalls but still amazing to see. You’ll get different experiences from each one but if you can only choose one on this trip, I would pick Plitvice Lakes as there is more to see.
No, unfortunately you can no longer swim anywhere within the park at Plitvice Lakes. You used to be able to swim at Plitvice Lakes but that hasn’t been the case for a while now.
If you can, spend between 1 and 2 days to allow enough time to walk all the various routes, viewpoints, and take plenty of photographs. Although many try to visit in a half day, I think it isn’t worth seeing in less than a full day.
I don’t think either entrance is better than the other as they each offer different viewpoints of the waterfalls below. For that reason, if you are staying 2 days, I recommend starting one day at Entrance 1 and the other at Entrance 2.
But if you only have one day to visit, start at Entrance 1 as it ranks a little higher for the views and puts you right into the Lower Lakes.
So, is Plitvice Lakes worth visiting? Yes! Get ready to see breathtaking waterfalls unlike anything else.
But Before You Go…
If you love seeing outstanding beauty, natural wonders, and unique places, explore unforgettable day trips from Split that includes visiting Krka Falls!
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Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.