Plitvice National Park : Beautiful Lakes in Croatia
The Plitvice National Park is a forest reserve in Croatia, and it has been on my bucket list for some time as I keep seeing gorgeous pictures of the lakes.
Like with a lot of tourist destination I visit it wasn’t quite like the photos I have been seeing on social media, which have been edited but it was still really impressive. I would definitely say you should visit The Plitvice National Park if you are in Croatia. Actually I would recommend visiting Zadar and making a day trip to the Plitvice Lakes as it is great short break destination from the UK.
Plitvice National Park is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is becoming a more popular destination in Croatia to visit. It was my main reason for visiting Croatia for the second time as it just looked stunning.
What is Plitvice National Park like
Plitvice Lakes is the oldest and largest national park in the Republic of Croatia. The park is situated in the mountainous region of Croatia, between the Mala Kapela mountain range in the west and northwest, and the Lička Plješivica mountain range to the southeast.
Plitvice lakes is a series of 16 mountain lakes that were formed by a special kind of limestone which accumulates from calcium carbonate rich surface waters on the surface of living moss, forming growing barriers, and creating a chain of lakes and waterfalls.
In an epic race, on a timescale of many thousands of years, the water wears away at the underlying limestone at the same time as the travertine barriers grow at pace of up to 1cm per year, creating an ever morphing, growing, reducing landscape. (source Atlasobscura)
There are more than 16 lakes in the park, but these are currently the only ones that are large enough to be named. When you walk around Plitvice you will also see some lakes that have now dried up as the flow of water changed.
It is all quite interesting which is why I would suggest having a guided walking tour around the Plitvice national park which I will explain later so they can point out some of the things you will see whilst walking on the trials.
How to get to Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park tours are avaialbe from several destinations in Croatia including Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb and Zadar.
Whilst doing my research for visiting Plitvice Lakes I read that Zadar was the easiest destination to travel to the park and that is why I added Zadar to my Croatia Travel itinerary.
Read about my 2 Days in Zadar
There are several options on how to get to Plitvice National Park. You can hire a car which would be a great way to explore the area and more of Croatia. I don’t have the confidence to drive in another country so the best option for me was an escorted group tour.
I was travelling solo and I didn’t want to get to the park and not know where the highlights were and miss something vital. Also due to my mobility limitations I sometimes find it hard to travel independently to a destination if it involves a lot of walking. However, after my visit, I think it would be quite easy to get to Plitvice by yourself. I noticed a bus stop just outside entrance 2.
Getting into Plitvice National Park
The tickets office looked easy to buy tickets and lots of people were queuing up to buy them there is even an ATM at the park in case you don’t have enough money. Bus are cheap making it a great budget way to get to Plitvice National park.
The Park is well sign posted inside for various routes you can walk so you can’t really get lost. I did route H which was 11.5km walk. You can also hire a guide once you get to the park.
They now only let a certain number of tourists into Plitvice National Park per day I think it is 600 as 20,000 were visiting daily at peak times and it was just ruining the experience in the park and causing damage. If you are going to travel to Plitvice on your own, then purchase your ticket online a couple of days before if you want to guarantee you will be able to get in.
Tour agencies have several tickets allocated to them which is why I still think this is the best option, but it is quite expensive. I got there around 10am and it was busy. Our tour guide said it is normally at capacity at 9am and then people must wait for other tourists to leave the park before they can enter and sometimes, they must wait until about 2pm which is the average time people start leaving the park. We finished our walk just after 3.30pm and we didn’t rest much.
If you are going to choose a tour, then I would recommend looking at Get Your Guide this is where I get my tours from. You need to make sure that the tour is meeting your requirements though as some don’t include a guide, some don’t include the entrance ticket. The tour I chose was £59 and the entrance fee was 250 Kuna (about £30) which makes it a very expensive tour, but it was on my bucket list.
Luckily the tour I chose was small there were 7 of us and the tour guide. I was really impressed with the tour and I would recommend. Our guide said that he normally has bigger tours and then he cannot spend as much time with the group as its too big but we all stuck together and as we were walking round he was explaining the different lakes and the flora and fauna we were seeing.
I only had one spare day so I wanted to make sure I got the best out of the tour.
You can even stay in the park at one of the hotels so you can visit the lakes before the crowds or in the evening when most of the crowds have left.
When is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes
July and August are so hot and very busy I would advise avoiding visiting the park then. I visited at the end of September and it was cooler, and I was still sweating. It was a little overcast when I visited but the sun did pop out every now and then and you could see the colours of the lakes better when the sun was shining on them.
Autumn is the changing of the colours of the foliage and the birch trees will have oranges and golds making it a pretty time to visit Plitvice Park. The leaves were starting to turn when I was there but they will be more vivid reds and oranges in autumn.
In the winter if it is snowing then the Park looks like something out of a fantasy magazine.
I visited during dry season and the tallest waterfall should have been 50 times more powerful. People are normally drenched standing anywhere near it. But it was still stunning when I saw it. This is where the most people were gathered and lots of people were trying to get the perfect selfie.
I liked the time of year I visited but would also love to see it when there is more water and snow.
Getting around Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park is huge but you can actually only explore a small part of it. There are a number of trials you can follow, you can find more details here. There are also two entrances so bear this in mind when arriving at the park depending on which walk you want to do.
I don’t normally do hikes, but I really wanted to see Plitvice Lakes and the only tours I could find were walking and it looked like this is the only way to see the lakes.
We did route H which was 11.5km and I was so proud of myself for managing it. It wasn’t until the end that my legs started to turn to jelly and I started struggling. But considering I have mobility limitations I managed to get around OK.
I was having a good day I had rested a few days before I had taken painkillers and I was able to just about do the walk. Its uneven ground and steps and paths made of logs with rocky paths that made it sore on my feet and ankles. To be fair I didn’t have the right shoes I had walking sandals and could feel every stone most of which made their way into my sandals, so I had to keep stopping to get the stones out.
There are land trains/bus that drops you off at other points in the park. We got the bus from station 2 which took us up a hill so meant most of our hike was then downhill which was good. Others were coming in the opposite direction and going uphill but I liked the route we took it meant that the biggest waterfall was at the end of the tour and this is one of the highlights, so it is good to save the best until last.
Try and sit on the right-hand side in the bus as you will then get glimpses of the lakes on the journey, but you are only on the bus for about 5 minutes. They do fill up quickly and at peak times you will have to wait longer for the buses but now they have limited the number of tourists entering Plitvice this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
It was just so beautiful that I was determined to get around. I sometimes travel with my mum who has COPD and she would have really struggled as the ground is uneven, some of the paths are made from logs which make it difficult to walk on and easy to slip into the water which does happen so you need to pay attention to where you are walking. There were a few benches along the way to have a little rest. You walk so close to the water and is so clear. You can see to the bottom in some places and you might also spot some of the fish in the lakes.
A short boat ride is included in the price of the entrance ticket, the boats hold 100 people and they leave when they are full but we didn’t have to wait long for the boat to fill up and then we left. It was only about 5 minutes ride and then we were at a base and this is where we stopped for lunch.
There are bases where you can go to the toilet and this is where you can buy food in Plitvice. The food for sale wasn’t that overpriced, but we only had a 30-minute break and was told it can be quite slow to get served.
We had been given a breakfast box on our tour so I ate that, but you can bring your own snacks. A lot of people were having a rest and a snack on one of the many benches around the park. There were even ice cream stalls at the bases. You could also get some souvenirs at a base or at the entrance.
Due to us walking down hill in the park we then had to go uphill in order to leave and when I saw the path I thought there is no way I am going to be able to do that, if you can see in the picture below on the hill is a path it was about 5 lengths and wasn’t that steep, it was hard going and I could have done with someone with me giving me a push but there was a hand rail I used to pull myself up and we stopped a couple of times to take some photos.
Everyone in my group were fast walkers but to be fair it was only this bit that I started to struggle and ended up a little behind but a couple were further behind than me so that was OK. But the views from the top were so worth it.
The following is prohibited in the National Park:
- Collection of plant materials, or taking any “souvenirs” of natural origin
- Feeding the animals
- Swimming in the lakes
- Disposal of litter along the trails or elsewhere, except in the garbage bins installed throughout the park
- Straying off the marked trails
The Lakes at Plitvice National Park
The main attraction at Plitvice Park is the lakes and the waterfalls. I love waterfalls so I was in heaven waking around which is why I don;t think I even minded walking as around every corner there was something spectacular to look at.
The 16 main lakes have a board with the name and depth.
Here are some of my favourite photos of Plitvice National Park. They are nothing compared to the real thing but these should make you want to book a trip if they don’t wants wrong with you!!
There are many places to get lovely selfies but please stick to the main paths, I saw tourists climbing over fences just to get a selfie or standing on the edge of a ledge its so not worth injuring yourself just to get a photos.
Apart from the lakes what else will you see in Plitvice
There are others things to see in Plitvice. I liked looking at the trees it was nice to be exploring the wilderness if there weren’t people around you could imaging you were in the middle of nowhere. There were marshy areas so it is important to stay on the trials.
I was actually surprised to find out that the park is home to bears. Now so many people visit Plitvice the bears no longer come down to the tracks so it is unlikely you will see one, but it was still exciting to know they were pretty close.
Also, in one of the caves white scorpions were discovered. These are albino scorpions and apparently, they have not been found anywhere else in the world. You can go into the cave and explore.
There are lots of butterflies, fish in the lakes and several birds to spot. Most of the trees are birch and fir but we saw a lot of other plants and some flowers along the trials.
Interesting Fact : If you drive 20 minutes from the lakes you will find the most expensive things to be built in Croatia and what was once known as Yugoslavia. It was a £8billion underground military airport completed with nuclear bunker. It was built 1 km underground in a mountain and the entrances are in the shapes of airplanes. It had 5 runways fitting in 100 planes, a hospital and enough beds and food for 300 people for 3 months. It was built during the cold war, but it was bombed in 1992 and it is now abandoned making it an eerie place to visit. Our guide was telling us that he visited earlier in the year and got 30 metres inside when the police came and stopped him. But they were not stopping him because you are not allowed to go inside but because a mother and her cubs had recently entered so it wasn’t safe. He said that you need a very strong light if you are planning to explore and its pitch black. There are plans to turn it into a war museum over the coming years.
PIN IT FOR LATER!!