Plitvice lakes national park is one of the most visited tourist attractions in this part of Europe; each year about 1.3-1.5 million people visit the national park. Plitvice lakes has been a national park since 1949 and in 1979 it was added to the UNESCO list of world natural heritage. The 300 km2 large national park is located a bit further away in the county Lika not far from the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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By car: Driving to Plitvice lakes is fairly easy, from the A1 highway (Zagreb – Split) there are clear signs where to exit when you wish to go to Plitvice lakes; if you are arriving from the south e.g Zadar or Split, you will have to exit the highway in Gornja Ploča which is exit nr. 13 , from the exit there are about 50 km to the national park on the country road. The driving time from Zadar is about 1 hour and 30 minutes and from Split about 2 hours and 45 minutes. If you are arriving from the north e.g. Zagreb, you have several exit options, the first one being exit nr. 3 towards Karlovac and Duga Resa, from the highway exit you have additional 80 km on the country road, total driving time from Zagreb is about 2 hours.
By train: Unfortunately getting to Plitvice lakes by train is not really an option, years back some trains were stopping in Rudopolje which is about 10 km from the Plitvice entrance, nowadays the closest train station from where you can continue to Plitvice by bus is Karlovac, from other train stations like e.g Gospic you can only get to the national park by taxi, so in reality train is not an option when travelling to national park Plitvice lakes.
By bus: Throughout the year, there are buses driving to Plitvice lakes, from Zadar, Zagreb and Split, in winter time the number of daily departures is very limited but during the summer months there are lots of daily departures: here you can find more information about buses to and from National park Plitvice lakes.
Daytrips: During the summer season you can find many organized day trips to Plitvice from Zagreb and many cities on the Adriatic coast. In addition to the organized trips, you can also (in most cities) find companies offering individual trips.
There are 3 official entrances to the national park: entrance 1 (Rastovača), entrance 2 (Hladovina) and the entrance Flora (Entrance 3). Due to the “easy access” and the large parking areas, the vast majority of visitors use entrance 1 or 2.
Personally, I recommend people to take entrance 1, as it is located directly at the country road, parking is very close and the bus stops are within sight of the entrance, so it doesn’t get any easier; the downside of entrance 1 is that it is the most used entrance so in the summer months there can be a bit of waiting time.
The entrance prices are usually changed every year (thus increased), the price list for 2017 looked like this:
|Kn – HRK||1 Jan – 31 Mar and 1 Nov – 31 Dec||1 Apr – 30 Jun and 1 Sep – 31 Oct||1 Jul – 31 Aug|
|Child 7 – 18||35||55||80|
Children below 7 years of age accompanied by adults has free entrance all year around.
For adult and student groups larger than 15 persons, group discount tickets are available.
Guide service: In addition to the entrance fee, it is possible to pre-book a guide service (has to be paid extra) for groups larger than 15 persons; the guide service is available in various languages.
Inside the national park, there are 8 well marked walking trails with a duration of 2 to 8 hours, by each entrance you have a sign looking similar to the one on the photo below, as you can see on the photo it contains information and a map illustration of different trails.
If you have enough time, I would for sure recommend seeing as much as possible of the national park, both the lower as well as the upper lakes are very beautiful and quite different from nature’s perspective so seeing both is a good idea. If you lack time or do not feel like walking all the way around, you should take one of the trails in the lower part of the lakes.
Majority of the trails are covered in solid wooden planks, but in some parts there are tiles or smaller rocks, however, all of them are easy to walk on if you have proper footwear.
Boat: On lake Kozjak there are two boat routes, one longer one between P3 and P2 as well as a short crossing between P2 and P1, the boat ride is included in the entrance ticket.
Electric trains (buses): If the walking gets too much, you have electrical trains / buses which run between St1 (Entrance 1) and St2 (Entrance 2) as well as to St3 which is at the end of the upper lakes.
Having visited Plitvice lakes more than 15 times, I can for sure say that the place is a beautiful sight all year around, the only thing which I personally dislike is the huge crowds in summer, but that of course has nothing to do with the beauty of nature. If I were forced to pick a favorite time of year to visit it, that would probably be in autumn, the nature’s colors at that time are just amazing.
For out-of-season visits you should know that other opening hours apply and in winter time some parts of the park are closed.
- Good solid footwear, and by that I do not mean flip flops. In fall / winter the wooden trails can be a bit slippery so hiking shoes or boots are the right footwear.
- For a late spring / summer visit, some protection against mosquito bites is not a bad idea.
- Also, at that time of year sunscreen is recommendable.
- A backpack with some water and snacks is always a good idea to bring.
- A good camera obviously
- A raincoat and some extra clothes in case the weather forecast is not looking too good.
You are allowed to bring your own sandwiches or other food; at the boat piers and the electric trains stations there are places where you can sit and eat. Make sure to clean up after yourselves.
If you don’t feel like dragging food with you, you also have several restaurants and fast food places inside the park area, so you should not worry about getting your lunch. If you are staying overnight, in the surrounding area you will also find plenty of restaurants serving traditional food as well as pizza and pasta dishes.
Staying overnight at Plitvice is for sure something to consider, in the vicinity of the national park there are lots of apartments and B&B’s offering fairly cheap accommodation. If money is not an issue you could also choose to stay in one of the hotels operated by the national park. If you like camping, you have an option to stay at the Camp Korana where you, in addition to camping lots, also have bungalows available.
Till now I have stayed in 5 different places near the national park, all being nice places in beautiful nature surroundings; my absolute favorite was when I stayed in Korana, a small village with maybe 10 houses and fast streams from Korana river running under and between them.
Important: If you are not with the car, you should pay attention to how to reach the accommodation from the national park. Lots of places are not within walking distance of the entrance, and public transportation is in most cases not an option, so you might have to take a taxi to reach your accommodation.
Bike riding: In the Plitvice area there are several bike trails of different length and difficulty, you can check out this website (Croatian language only) where you can find maps of all the routes. Alternatively you can book a guided bike tour which is offered by several companies in the area.
Hiking: In addition to the hiking inside the national park, there are also trails in the outer area of Plitvice, you can find maps of hiking trails here.
Visit national park Una: About 40 km from Plitvice NP you can visit the Una national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina; this national park is a great place for a nice hike in beautiful nature, and it is also a place where you can do wild water rafting. Here you can find more information about getting to Una from Plitvice.
Rastoke: 25 km north of Plitvice (in direction towards Zagreb) you can find Rastoke, which is the old town centre of the city Slunj. Rastoke is built on several river branches flowing over cascades and small waterfalls that eventually end up in bigger waterfalls going into Korana river.
Barac Caves: about 28 km from the national park, you can visit the very interesting Barac caves which were re-opened to the public in 2004. At the Barac caves you will have a guided tour which lasts about 60 minutes.
Other activities available near Plitvice: Horseback riding, Zip lining, paintball, fishing, just to mention a few. During winter you can also go skiing at the nearby Mukinje ski center.
Q: I am in a wheelchair. Can I visit Plitvice lakes?
A: I cannot recall any part of the national park where the trails seemed suitable for a wheelchair, but check with the national park administration, they should know for sure.
Q: Can I enter without paying?
A: Well, as the national park covers a large area, and there is no fence around it, it is of course possible to enter without using the official entrance, but this is of course illegal and you will get fined if you are caught in the act! Bear in mind the entrance fee is an important contribution to preserve this unique piece of nature.
Q: Can I bring my dog?
A: Yes, you are allowed to bring your dog, but it has to be kept on a leash at all times!
Q: Should I buy a ticket upfront?
A: For individual visitors there is no need to buy tickets upfront, but if you are in a group of more than 15 people, you can call the sales office of the national park and reserve tickets.
Q: Can I buy the entrance ticket online?
A: The national park is currently working on a solution for online sale of tickets, once implemented you will find information on the national park website
Q: How much does the parking cost?
A: Parking at the official parking lots of the national park costs 7 kn (1 Euro) per hour.
Q: Can I swim in the lakes?
A: No, swimming is prohibited.