Pltivice Lakes National Park is not only the oldest and largest national park in Croatia, but it is also part of the UNESCO list of World Natural Heritage sites. Plitvice Lakes consists of 16 lakes, connected through beautiful waterfalls and cascades and surrounded by rich forests. A few steps into the park and you will already feel like you are in a fairy-tale. Here are the top 9 tips you should know before visiting Plitvice Lakes.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes
Getting to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb is quite easy and takes around 2 hours. From Zagreb take the E65 highway to Karlovac. At Karlovac you need to take road D1. At this point there will be signs navigating your way to Plitvice Lakes for approximately 80 km.
There are also buses from Zagreb and Split to Plitvice Lakes. Getting by car, though, is probably the best and most convenient way and will give you flexibility of your visit.
When to Go
Spring!! I am sure that the lakes are absolutely stunning throughout the entire year. I visited in the middle of May and absolutely loved it. The waterfalls and cascades run wildly, thanks to the high water levels of the lakes.
Going in April or May, also means avoiding the peak tourist season and the large crowds. An additional benefit is the ticket price, which during the off season is 150 kuna (21 Euro).
Click here for more information on the park and ticket prices.
One more tip for visiting Plitvice Lakes, is to start the day early. The lakes get extremely crowded between 11:00 – 15:00 and visiting the lakes might be difficult and unpleasant. Try going off the beaten path and exploring the not so well known spots around the lakes.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of choices where you can stay with a wide range of guest houses and hotels in the area. We decided to stay at the Hotel Jezero, which is one of three hotels located at the National Park. The other ones are Hotel Plitvice and Hotel Bellevue. I strongly recommend staying in one of these three hotels because they would validate your ticket to the lakes for another day or two free of charge. This means that you can buy a one day ticket, but still visit the Plitvice Lakes for two or even three days.
The other benefit of staying in one of these hotels is that they are located just next to the entrance, so you do not need to pay for parking. And parking at the Plitvice Lakes costs 7 kuna per hour.
How much time do you need
Well, it all depends, how much time you want to spend at Plitvice Lakes. I would certainly recommend two days, but most tourists manage to cover the lakes in just one day.
Many people decide to do the upper lakes on the first day and the lower lakes on the second. Well, in reality, you need approximately 5 – 6 hours at a normal pace (no rush) to cover all 16 lakes. What we decided to do, though, is the tourist path on the first day and the off the beaten path on the second.
What to Eat
The best idea is to get some food from a local store or pack a sandwich and take it with you. The food in the park is both unimpressive and expensive. It is also possible to end up wasting too much time lining up to grab some food from the snack places in the park as they get extremely busy at lunchtime.
Also, remember to take enough water as you can only buy water from a few spots around the park.
What to Wear
Trainers or Hiking Shoes are a good idea, especially if you are planning on taking the hiking paths.
Make sure you bring a raincoat as rain is often forecast at Plitvice
Lakes. We were lucky that we got only a bit of shower on our first day,
but the wooden paths can still get slippery.
Do not miss the Upper Lakes
A lot of people are mainly interested in visiting the biggest waterfall (Veliki Slap) at Plitvice Lakes, which is located at the lower lakes. That makes the area around the lower lakes extremely overcrowded and it is almost impossible for people to pass each other and the experience of the lakes gets very disrupted.
I personally absolutely loved the Upper Lakes and I believe that this area was the more beautiful one. My favourite waterfall was Veliki Prštavac, even though, this is not the biggest waterfall in the park.
Take the off the beaten path
If you like adventures, hikes and less touristy areas, do not follow the crowd – take the off the beaten path instead. The large maps suggest more than the 8 paths. If you pay enough attention, you will notice there are a few hiking trails. I suggest taking one of them.
From station 2, you can take the main road instead of following the crowds to the small path to the right which leads to the lower lakes. In approximately 5 minutes you will get to a rangers office. If you feel insecure or lost ask them for directions. Keep walking on the main road and in another minute or two, you will notice a small path to the right, which will take you to the hiking trail. There are 5 – 6 viewpoints, where you will be able to enjoy the fresh air, the beautiful views of the lakes from the top and what is more you will not be disturbed by the massive crowds. This trail will take you to one of the most beautiful spots in the park – Vidikovac Sighting Point.
Explore and Enjoy
Plitvice Lakes National Park is truly outstanding and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It made me feel like I am in another world. A world filled with beauty, peace and happiness.
Explore the lakes in your own pace, do not rush and take your time. Stop and take a deep breath of fresh air, enjoy the most outstanding views with crystal clear water constantly changing its colour from turquoise to dark green and from light green to azure.
I got extremely unhappy when my camera lens broke just before the trip to Plitvice Lakes, but after that I realized it may have been for the better. I actually managed to enjoy the lakes to their fullest. Yes, I might not have as amazing photos now, but oh trust me or not Plitvice Lakes cannot be explained into words and cannot be described by photos. Go and see yourself. You will not regret it!
Have you been to Plitvice Lakes? Do you have any other important tips to plan a trip to Plitvice Lakes? Share in the comments section below.