Nested in mountainous Lika region, half-way between the coast and the capital Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park is, along with Dubrovnik, the single most visited site in Croatia. Plitvice Lakes became protected national park back in 1949, and since 1979 the place is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This wonderful natural phenomenon consists of 16 interconnected lakes and over 90 waterfalls of different size.
Contents For Complete Travel Guide To Plitvice Lakes National Park
- 1 Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park
- 2 Best time to visit Plitvice Lakes
- 3 A visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park
- 4 Accommodation near Plitvice Lakes
- 5 Where to eat in Plitvice
- 6 Things to do around Plitvice Lakes
- 7 Recommended Tours
Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Many people visit Plitvice Lakes National Park for a day either from Zagreb or from Split and Zadar. While this is a viable option to experience the lakes, you might also consider staying in the nearby villages for easier and early access to the lakes.
You can rent a car, take a public bus, or join an organized group tour.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb
From Zagreb head to Karlovac, a town 40 km southeast of Zagreb. From Karlovac take a state road D1 direction Slunj, Grabovac, Plitvice. You’ll see lots of signs for Plitvice. Plitvice is about 80 km south of Karlovac.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes from Split
From Split/Zadar take a motorway A1 direction north (Zagreb/Rijeka). Take a highway exit Gornja Ploca. Continue on a state road D522 to Udbina. From Udbina take D1 road to the Plitvice Lakes.
It takes about 2 hours by car to reach Plitvice Lakes National Park either from Zagreb or Zadar, and about 2.30 h on bus.
You can take a bus to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar main bus station. A one-way ticket cost around 80 Kn. You can book it online here.
You can also choose an organized private or group tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park. We highly recommend using Viator when booking your tours and activities online.
Best time to visit Plitvice Lakes
The lakes are worth visiting at any time of a year, because they are so different with every season. However, in summer months (particularly in July and August), lakes get really crowded, that it is even difficult to move around. Also, in summertime the level of water is lower.
Spring is a nice time to visit Plitvice Lakes National park because the level of water is really high, and waterfalls and streams run wildly. Autumn is also good time to visit as there aren’t many people around, and trees start changing colors. In winter, waterfalls look like a scene from a fairy tail, but only when they are covered with snow.
A visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park
The national Park covers an area of almost 73.000 acres. It consists of 16 lakes, over 90 waterfalls, many caves, caverns, and forest. Lakes are divided in two groups: 12 Upper and 4 Lower. The Upper ones are larger than the Lower ones.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is accessible on foot via dirt paths, and walkways. Shuttle buses run every 20 minutes along designated areas of the park. A visit also includes a boat ride.
The highest point of the park is Seliski Vrh (1279 m), and the lowest point is the Korana Canyon (367 m). Lakes lie on altitude between 503 m and 636 m.
Plitvice Lakes Park, for us, is one of the most wonderful places we’ve ever visited. The colour of the water, changing from emerald green to aqua blue, is simply mesmerizing. And it’s so clear that you can easily see through, and spot many small fish.
Plitvice Lakes Map
Arrival to Croatia Plitvice
There are two main entrances to the Croatia Plitvice park open to public, and an additional auxiliary entrance Flora. North entrance, known as Entrance 1, is just above lower lakes, while the south entrance, Entrance 2, is next to the Upper Lakes. An auxilary entrance Flora is a bit off the main routes, but it’s also the least crowded.
There are plenty of parking spaces even in a high season. In high season you’ll perhaps have to park a bit further from the entrance.
There are as many as 8 different hiking routes (actually four different routes for each of two main entrances). The shortest rout takes 2 to 3 hours, and the longest up to 8 hours. All routes are marked, and easy to follow.
This route starts at the north entrance to the park (Entrance 1), descending down to lower lakes, and leading to the Great Waterfall. You return a bit, and then continue along lower lakes to the Kozjaka Bridge. From here you walk uphill back to the Entrance 1. You can also take a shuttle back. This route is 3,5 km long, it takes 2 to 3 hours, and it isn’t physically demanding. However, you only get to see the lower lakes.
Similar to the route A, but it continues across Kozjaka Bridge where you take a boat across the Kozjaka Lake. Once you get off the boat, you can walk back to the Entrance 1, or take a shuttle back. This route is 4 km long, it takes 3 to 4 hours, and a hike is easy.
The C route is actually extended route B. The first part is the same, but instead to return to the Entrance 1 after boat crossing of the Kozjak Lake, you continue the hike along other three lakes to the southernmost Proscansko Lake. The route C is 8 km long, it takes 4 to 6 hours, and a hike is moderate.
The longest route to take starting at the Entrance 1, route K includes also a hike around the Proscansko Jezero. The route K is 18,3 km long, it takes 6 to 8 hours, and a hike is demanding.
The shortest route of all starting at the south gate – Entrance 2, route E takes you along the Upper Lakes, all the way to the Proscansko Jezero. You start a visit with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake. You can come back with a shuttle bus, or on foot. The route is 5,2 km long, and it takes 2 to 3 hours.
Route F takes a different direction than the route E. You start a vidit with a longer boat ride across the Kozjak Lake. From there you continue a visit across the Kozjak bridge, and slong the lower lakes to the Great Waterfalls. On return, you’ll need to walk up to arrive at the shuttle bus stop. The route is 4,6 km long, and it takes 3 to 4 hours.
Route H includes a bus ride to the Studovac site near the Proscansko Lake. Here you start your hike along the Upoer Lakes to the Kozjak Lake that you cross by boat. After a boat ride, you continue walking along the lower lakes all the way to the Great Waterfall. You return to your starting point by shuttle bus. The route is 8,9 km long, and it takes 4 to 6 hours.
Similar to route K1, K2 route gives you an opportunity to explore entire lakes section of the park. The hike starts at the south entrance – Entrance 2. The route is 18,3 km long, and it takes 6 to 8 hours.
Working hours, Prices & Contacts
Park is open a year around but certain parts of park can have a limited access due to the weather conditions. Shuttles and boats operate from April through October.
Working hours are as following:
Entrance 1 | Nov.-March: Daily, 8 am-4 pm | April-June, Sept.-Oct: Daily, 7 am-5 pm | July-Aug: Daily, 7 am-6 pm
Entrance 2 | Nov.-March: closed | April-June, Sept.-Oct: Daily, 7 am-5 pm | July-Aug: Daily, 7 am-6 pm
Entrance Flora | July-Aug: Daily, 7 am-6 pm
Parking | Daily, 7 am-8 pm
Boat | 8 am-6 pm, every 30 minutes
Shuttle | 8 am-7 pm, every 30 minutes
Daily tickets are as following:
Nov.-March | Adults: 55 kn | Children (7 to 18): 35 kn | Children below 7: free
April-June, Sept.-Oct | Adults: 110 kn | Children (7 to 18): 55 kn | Children below 7: free
July-Aug | Adults: 180 kn | Children (7 to 18): 80 kn | Children below 7: free
Parking costs 7 kn per hour.
National Park Plitvice Lakes | t: +385 0 53 751 026 | e: email@example.com | Website
Other tips on visiting Plitvice Lakes
- Go to the gate 2 and buy your tickets from the little booth just across the wooden bridge, not in the car park as the queues here are very long.
- Take plenty of water and enjoy it at your own pace.
- Take a look at the boards to decide which route to take but expect it to take a little longer than stated.
- Get there early in order to avoid crowds.
- Swimming isn’t permitted in any of the lakes here, but you can hire a small row boat for only 50 kn per hour.
- Dogs are allowed in the park, but must be kept on leash at all times.
Accommodation near Plitvice Lakes
Majority of accommodation in the vicinity of the park consists of vacation homes and apartments. There are also a couple of hotels near the south gate (walking distance to the lakes), and in a nearby villages.
Hotel Jezero, conveniently located near the south entrance to the park, gives you a head start to visit the lakes. So if you just want a bad, shower, a roof over your hrad, and a decent breakfast in the morning, hotel Jezero can be a good choice.
A small 4-star hotel Degenija is located only 4 km from the north entrance to the park. The hotel is modern and clean with spacious rooms, good buffet breakfast, free parking, and two on-site restaurants.
Ranch Jelov Klanac
A ranch Jelov Klanac is located off the main road, in a magnificent natural setting. Accommodation is provided in two chalets featuring 4-bed and 6-bed apartments. This is an excellent place to stay if you like a seclusion, peace and quiet, slow pace, and if you don’t mind to drive a bit to reach the park.
Holiday home Fairy Land
A wonderful detached wooden cottage, a holiday home Fairy Land is warm and cozy with a nice fireplace, a small kitchen, and a porch. The cottage can accommodate up to four persons.
Villa Verde Guest House
This brand-new villa offers modern and spacious guest rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Located only few kilometers from the lakes, villa Verde is surrounded with greenery. A breakfast is excellent, it even includes eggs from their farm free chickens. Owners are very attentive and friendly.
Located only 15-minute walk from the Big Waterfall, Villa Sumrak offers studio apartments, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments. Owners are super friendly, and you can also arrange to have home-cooked meals at the Villa.
Where to eat in Plitvice
If you’re a foodie, you might be disappointed with a food offer in and around Plitvice Lakes.
Many restaurants here are big, adapted to receive large tour coaches. In a high season it doesn’t really matter, but in low season you can feel quite intimidated when alone or with just few others in such a big restaurant.
Many restaurants here work only from April to October. If the choice of restaurants is already limited, then in winter is almost non-existent. It’s a bit better since reopening of the Licka Kuca, a restaurant near the north gate to the park.
The food offer here is heavily based on meat, often fried or roasted.
If you drive around a bit, along the road you’ll encounter locals selling cheeses, and typical pastries from the area, like cheese or apple strudel.
If you decide to stay at Plitvice Lakes, you can also arrange with a host family to prepare your meals. This can be a hit and miss game, because the food depends on culinary expertise of your host family, but more often than not you’ll eat better than in any restaurant around. Such a meal usually costs around 20€ per person, and it consists of a starter, a main, a side dish, a salade, a dessert, and a 1/2 l of a table wine and water.
So here is the list of restaurants to consider trying out if you are in this area:
The restaurant Licka Kuca is located right at the north entrance to the park. It’s been recently reopened, after it disappeared in fire back in 2012. It’s a big restaurant that can accommodate up to 270 people. The restaurant is run by the state owned company that is also in charge of the entire park, so the service can be a bit grumpy. Food is good, and the ambiance is convivial.
Located within the hotel Degenija, a restaurant Degenija serves everything: grilled meat, pasta, trouts, pizza, you name it, they’ve got it. Not my kind of a place, but a decent place to have a meal in Plitvice.
A cafe/ bistro Plum also belongs to the hotel Degenija, but it offers a simplified menu featuring burgers, club sandwich, risottos, tortillas, and alike.
Things to do around Plitvice Lakes
Besides a visit to the national park, there are a couple of other interesting activities to do in this area.
Many places around Plitvice offer horseback riding experience, including half-day and full day horseback riding trips, and riding school. You can also book entire horseback riding holidays around the Lakes.
Expect to pay around 30 kn for a 10-minute ride with a guide, or 150 kn per hour for a filed ride.
Equestrian Center Rastoke | a: Brocanac 39, Rakovica | m: +385 99 871 8181 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
Ranch Terra | a: Irinovac 156, Grabovac | m: +385 95 911 0544 | e: email@example.com | Website
Ranch Jelov Klanac | a: Jelov Klanac, Rakovica | t: +385 47 811 919 | m: +385 98 704 | 612 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
A visit to Rastoke
At the entrance of Slunj, just 15 km north of Plitvice Lakes, you’ll find an old village of Rastoke. It consists of well-preserved mills surrounded with lovely waterfalls, and rapids. Bring sandwiches and have a picnic while enjoying the beauty of Rastoke. There are also a couple of restaurants and cafes with terraces above and at the edge of water.
White water rafting
With so many rivers, streams, and rapids going through this kars region, white water rafting is, besides hiking, one of the most popular activities to do at Plitvice Lakes. The best rafting here is on rivers Korana and Una (in Bosnia).
Expect to pay anywhere between 25€ and 45€ per person depending on the route.
Mirjana & Rastoke | a: Donji Niksic 101, Slunj | t: +385 47 787 205 | m: +385 98 214 658 | e:email@example.com | Website
Bijeli Sport | a: Kokot – Pecikovici, Bihac (BiH) | t: +387 61 138 853 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
Read our full post on white water rafting in Croatia.
Tesla Museum is located in a village of Smiljan, 65 km from the Lakes. The museum, or rather a park, consists of a inventor’s birth house, a Serbian Orthodox Church, a multimedia center, an old barn, and a children playground.
Try to schedule your visit with a start of a guided tour (every two hours). The tour shows a couple of experiments, and a video about Tesla.
Working hours | Apr-Oct.: Tue-Sat, 8 am-7 pm; Sun, 9 am-6 pm; Monday closed | Nov-March: Tue-Sat, 8 am-2 pm; Sun, 10 am-2 pm; Monday closed
Prices | adults: 50 kn | children, students, seniors: 20 kn
Contacts | t: +385 53 746 530 | e: email@example.com | Website
Quads, Paintball, Archery & Nordic walking
The Active Vacation, an association of outdoor enthusiasts, organizes various outdoor activities for visitors to this area, including a off road quad rides, paintball games, archery, and Nordic walking.
Expect to pay a 100 kn per person for an hour of paintball (100 balls), or 70 kn per person gor 30 minutes of archery. A 5 km trail on a quad will cost you 90 kn (single use) or 70 kn (double use).
Active Vacation | Brocanac 45, Slunj | t: +385 98 856 516 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
6 | Cycling
Unfortunately cycling within a national park isn’t allowed any longer, but it’s extremly popular in the area surrounding the park.
If you plan to cycle in this area, we highly recommend that you book an organized cycling tour with some of the local companies.
These guys know the area inside-out, and will provide the best sightseeing and routes you might otherwise not be able to access yourself.
Expect to pay around 40€ per person for a guided tour.
Huck Finn | t: +385 1 6183 333 | e: email@example.com | Website
Raftrek | t: +385 1 6521 666 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
Hiking in Plitvice is an obvious thing to do. However, besides hiking within well-known routes of the national park, you can spend days in this area hiking.
Check trekking and hiking routes within the park here.
At the northern edge of the national park, there is a zip line across the Korana river canyon. The line is 300 m long, and it picks up speeds of up to 60 km/h.
Price is 120 kn per person.
More info here.
Located in a village of Nova Krslja, just few kilometers from the lakes, the Barac caves were first open to visitors back in 1893, but soon forgotten following the WWII.
A 45-minute guided tour takes you through this underground world.
Prices | adults: 60 kn | children (7-18): 30 kn | children below 7: free of charge
Working hours | Jan, Feb: closed | March: Fri-Sun, 10 am-4pm | April, Oct: Daily, 10 am-4pm | May, June, Sept: Daily, 10 am-6 pm | July, Aug: Daily, 9 am-7 pm
Contacts | a: Nova Krslja bb, Rakovica | t: +385 47 782 007 | m: ++385 98 432 720 | e: email@example.com | Website
If you plan to visit the lakes, you can do so in your own arrangement. Most of people visit Plitvice on their way from Zagreb down to the coast, or vice versa. However, if you stay for a couple of days in one place, be it in Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik or Zagreb, without intention to travel from one town to the other, consider joining one of the organized group or private tours.
We’ve gathered for you the most popular tours to Plitvice lakes departing from Zadara, Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb.
Plitvice National Park Full-Day Tour from Zadar
This 8-hour tour departs at 8.15 am from the centrally located meeting point in Zadar. It takes about two hours to reach the lakes. A guided tour of the lakes lasts about four hours. While a stop for lunch is planned after a visit to the lakes, the lunch isn’t included in the price of this tour. It costs an additional 10 euros.
Small-Group Plitvice Lakes Day Trip from Split
This group tour takes you to Plitvice Lakes from Split. A pick up and drop off location is at selected hotels in Split. Transport to the lakes is with a minivan. This full-day tour takes 12 hours. The tour takes lots of walking within the park. Price includes a transfer, tickets, and a local guide. Lunch isn’t included.
Private Tour: Plitvice Lakes Day Trip from Zagreb
This private Plitvice Lakes tour from Zagreb gives you a lot of flexibility to adjust an itinerary to your own likes. The tour includes a pick-up and drop-off at your hotel, a transfer to the lakes, entrance tickets, and a driver/ guide. If you travel with a large party, don’t worry, as transfer can be organized by a mini bus as well.
We hope that our travel guide to Plitvice Lakes was handy in planning your visit to this wonderful natural site. As always, if you have any question, comments, or suggestions, please leave it in the comments below. Happy travels!