How to Visit Plitvice National Park, Croatia

Plitvice National Park is the most beautuful national park in the whole of Croatia. And visiting the Plitvice lakes should be right on the top of your Croatia bucket list. However, despite the fact that it is indeed Croatia’s number 1 tourist atraction, with over 1 million visitors per year, it’s also true that the huge numbers how visit Dubrovnik and Hvar rarely make the effort to check out the gorgeous Plitvice lakes.

So to try to put an end to that madness, and to ensure you guys get to check it out, here a guide to visiting the Plitvice lakes.

If you want to book a day trip to the Plitvice Lakes, you can do it here:

Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes

The Plitvice Lakes

The most beautiful spot in Croatia. The Plitvice Lakes and the Plitvice national park is made up of 16 lakes. These lakes are split between the Upper Lakes and the Lower lakes, with a combined 92 waterfalls dotted around to add to the beauty.

The reason the Plitvice National Park is so famous is due to the mineral content of the 16 lakes. This means that the lakes range from deep turquoise to electric blue, it’s spectacular. And the Croatian authorities have built a wonderful network of paths and walking trails, so you get to explore the whole beauty freely

The Plitvice National Park is also a UNESCO world heritage site (since 1979), so that draws even more tourists. If you visit in the the European summer, expect crowds!

Visiting the Plitvice Lakes
Visiting the Plitvice Lakes

Where is the Plitvice National Park?

The Plitvice National Park is a little awkward to get to, truth be told. BUT it is GORGEOUS. So it’s worth the effort. about 230km

  • Split is 240km away so around 2.5 hours driving.
  • From Zagreb it’s 130km, so 2 hours driving, or less
  • Zadar is 130km away, so again about 2 hours.
  • From Dubrovnik it’s 5 hour drive one-way, and therefore not viable as a day trip

How to get to the Plitvice National Park?

You generally visiting Plitvice from 3 places. Zagreb, Split and Zadar. You can visit either independent or by booking a tour.

Tours to Plitvice

Day tours are possible from each of these destinations, and are the best way to visit Plitvice.

From Zadar, a day trip to Plitvice is about $69. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE.

From Zagreb, a tour to Plitvice is about $130. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE.

And from Split, a tour to Plitvice is about $110. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE.

Independent travel to the Plitvice Lakes

I didn’t book a tour. I was broke. So I rented a car and drove here from Split. By the time I rented the car, paid for petrol, and paid the Plitice National Park entrance, it would have probably been cheaper for me just to book a tour. Schoolboy error.

Can you visit Plitvice Lakes from Dubrovnik?

In a word, no. It’s 5 hours driving each way, so it would be 10 hours in the car or bus alone!

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Plitvice National Park; An overview

First of all, it’s big! So wear proper footwear, and get ready to get some steps in. As I mentioned earlier, the easiest way to think about Plitvice is where it’s divided into the upper section and lower section (and then with a 3rd section walking around Procasnsko lake).

There are 4 official trails within the park, and they’re divided into 7 programmes (confusing, I know). The map will show you these when you enter, and it’s all a little stressful to be honest. You don’t want to miss out so it’s tough to choose. Don’t worry. I’m here!

The programmes are broken down like this:

  • Starting from Entrance 1: Programmes A (3.5km 2 hours), B(3 hours and 4km) and C (5 hours and 8km).
  • Starting from Entrance 2: Programmes E (2 hours and 5km), F (3 hours and 5km) and H (5 hours and 9km). NOTE: These are A,B,C in reverse).
  • K is a hike of the whole park. 18km. This means no shuttles and no boat.

A,B,C E, F and H are one-way walks. With each walk you can then choose to take the boat or shuttle back to the entrance (or walk!). With K you choose to walk the whole thing.

The best route?

Ideally, you want to see the whole thing. So K is best!

If you don’t want to do a 18km trek. Then program C from Entrance 1 then H from entrance 2. You can use the shuttles and end up with not too much more than 10km.

If you’re pushed for time, you’re going to have to choose between the Upper Lakes or Lower Lakes. If you have to choose, then go Upper.

Places not to miss when visiting Plitvice National Park

The Veliki Slap waterfall itself

The Veliki Slap viewpoint

Plitvice Lake viewpoint
Plitvice Lake viewpoint

How much does Plitvice National Park cost:

Tickets for Plitvice vary depending on when you visit.

  • January to March: 80kn ($10USD)
  • April/May: 180kn ($25)
  • June to September 300kn ($40)
  • October to December 80kn

Plitvice Lakes Opening Hours:

Like the Plitvice ticket prices, the Plitive National Park opening hours vary according to the season.

  • Summer; 7am – 8pm
  • Winter: 8am – 4pm
  • Autumn (Fall): 8am – 7pm
  • Spring: 7am – 7pm
Visiting Plitvice Lakes
Visiting Plitvice Lakes

What’s the best time to visit the Plitvice Lakes?

This is a tricky one! The best time to visit the Plitvice National Park, in terms of beauty, is the European summer. BUT with that you get tens of thousands of other people too! The walkways are jam-packed, the weather is hot AND the rainfall is lower so the waterfalls aren’t as impressive.

All those things considered, as often is the case, the best time to visit the Plitvica Lakes is ‘shoulder season’. That’s the seasons that connects the Summer to Spring and Fall. Spring in particular is great for the water levels for the waterfalls.

Also, winter can be spectacular too. Chilly, but you may get lucky and see a layer of snow over the whole park. Beautiful.

Plitvice lakes croatia
Me at Plitvice national park

Which entrance do I use?

If you book a tour to the Plitvice lakes, then you don’t need to worry about this. But if you go here independently, then there are 3 entrances to the Plitvice National Park.

Entrance 1, Entrance 2 and the Flora gate

Which entrance is best?

If you book your tickets in advance, you must collect them at entrance 2 regardless. Then you can enter wherever you want. The best entrance is Entrance 1. The way the viewpoints and walkway system works means that you’ll have a better experience entering that way.

Can you swim at the Plitvice Lakes?

No. You can’t swim at the Plitvice lakes. BUT you can swim at when you visit the Krka National Park, so go there!

Which route to take on the the Plitvice Lakes:

Once you’re in the park, you have to choose which route to take.

Essentially you have 3 choices:

  • The east route ‘E’ (2-3 hours):
  • The west route ‘F’ (3-4 hours)
  • Or you can combine them both (5-6 hours)

East Route:

The eastern choice is more intricate, more personal. You have lots of walkways that meander through smaller waterfalls. You walk around huge colourful lakes and throughout the route you’re up close and personal with nature.

big waterfall plitvice

West Route

The western choice, ‘F’, is more about grandeur.

You get views from higher points, overlooking massive lakes. Here you get to see the largest waterfall in the lake. Generally, the views are more awe-inspiring but without the up-close and personal feel.

plitvice waterfalls

The best route at Plitvice?

My advice would be to do both, ‘E’ first then ‘F’ after.

Although the park suggests that it will take you 4 or 5 hours, if you’re ready to sweat then you can do it in about 3 hours or so. And still have time to take in the breathtaking scenery.

Just get your march on when there’s nothing around! It was an exhausting day, but one of the best days of my European adventure so far. A real highlight of Croatia.

How long should you spend at Plitvice Lakes?

You should allocate half a day for the Plitvice National Park.

If you do the double route, the park suggests 4-5 hours. For me, I was faster. The reason I went so fast was that I ambitiously wanted to see both Plitvice and Krka national park in one day, so with my 4 hours in the Plitvice National Park that meant I was out by 2pm off to Krka!


Final thoughts on visiting the Plitvice Lakes?

Visiting the Plitvice lakes was the highlight of my time in Croatia. There are so many things to do in Dubrovnik but it’s so so crowded. Whereas Plitvice blew my mind. I did it all independently, and it was a bit of a mistake. I should have booked a tour and removed the stress. You guys can do the same here. Enjoy:

Book a tour to Plitvice lakes here:

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