National park Plitvice Lakes is a beautiful sight no matter when you visit it, personally autumn is one of my favorite times to visit the park, the colors of the nature are just stunning. The entire National park can be visited in September and October but as of 1st of November only the lower parts of the lakes are open.
In September and October, Entrance 1, Entrance 2 as well as the auxiliary Entrance Flora are open, from 1st of November Entrance 2 and the upper part of the park are closed.
Tips for visiting Plitvice in autumn:
The most beautiful colors are usually found mid September to mid October, the photos in this post are from my visit at the end of October.
If you plan to visit Plitvice lakes during the peak season, you should know that the park is really full (too full), so you will for sure enjoy the lesser crowds when visiting in fall.
In autumn, the regular 180 kn summer entrance fee is reduced; in September and October the entrance fee for adults is 110 kn and in November only 55 kuna. (Entrance fees for students, children and groups are of course also lowered).
From end of October through November snow is not uncommon so make sure to check the weather forecast before going. Make sure to wear adequate warm clothes and footwear; I have seen tourist groups walking around in light jackets and Vans during a winter visit, that’s not recommendable, especially not when there is ice on the trails!
Electric trains (buses) and boats operate until 31st October, after that period you will have to walk around the park. NOTE: If there is snow in October, the electric trains do not operate.
In September and October, several of the restaurants/coffee bars are still open, but in November they are closed so make sure to bring some food and water if you visit the park at that time.
Accommodation near Plitvice is cheaper so you might even be able to find a bargain within walking distance of the entrance to the park.
Getting to Plitvice in autumn:
To travel to Plitvice you basically have three options, either you drive there by car or go there by bus, third alternative is to join an organized group or a private tour.
Plitvice by car: The national park is located in the county Lika, not far from the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the nearest highway exit towards north (Zagreb) or south (Split, Zadar) is located more than 1 hour’s drive from the national park, which means you will drive quite a bit on a country road to get to the waterfalls. The country road part is in good condition, so driving is not a problem, in case snow has fallen you should be really careful, as the road is not always cleaned.
From Zagreb there is a driving distance of about 140 km and a travel time of 2 hours.
From Zadar there is a driving distance of about 130 km and a travel time of 1 hour 40 min.
From Split there is a driving distance of about 260 km which equals to a travel time of about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Plitvice by bus: Reaching National park Plitvice Lakes by bus is also possible in autumn although the number of daily departures decreases the closer you get to winter. The 3 main bus routes to Plitvice are:
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes, driving time by bus is 2 hours and 30 minutes, you can see bus departures here.
Zadar to Plitvice Lakes, driving time by bus for this route is also around 2 hours and 30 minutes, you can see bus departures here.
Split to Plitvice Lakes, driving time is between 4 hours 30 minutes and 6 hours, you can see departure times here.
During September and October you can choose to get of the bus at either entrance 1 or 2; as mentioned above, entrance 2 is closed from 31st October onwards. Personally, I would recommend to get off at entrance 1 as the park entrance is less than 100 metres from the bus stop.
Organized tours to Plitvice: In September you can still find organized day trips to Plitvice from many coastal towns and Zagreb, from October on-wards there might be tours on specific weekdays from Split, Zadar and Zagreb.
If you are 3-4 persons travelling together you can book a transfer to Plitvice e.g from Split and have the driver wait for you there, this might be slight more expensive than joining an organized tour, but the advantage is that you do the tours exactly like you want, also you can arrange with the driver to stop at other places.
Staying overnight at Plitvice Lakes:
As mentioned above, accommodation around Plitvice is less expensive in autumn especially in October and November, which means you can find a place to stay fairly near the park entrance, you could even consider staying at one of the hotels in the national park.