Have you ever been in a place so magical you can’t even believe it exists? Well, I have been, and she’s called Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, and she’s a real beauty beyond words, and usually, I’m good with adjectives, but this time I am not so sure if there’s a word in English I could use to describe this majestic place.
However, I will try to give my very best on writing my Plitvice Lakes National Park experience and show you its majestic beauty through photographs.
I haven’t been hiking that much in my life; I’m a city girl with no survival skills in the wild. I’ll most likely not survive hiking Plitvice Lakes National Park without my trusty guide, Thomas, who has hiked this said National Park numerous times. I did not give up because honestly, the hike at its longest, can only take half a day. How pitiful will I be if I don’t make it till the end?
I initially thought of skipping Plitvice Lakes because I was extra knackered from my earlier trip. Plus, I was staying in Zagreb for only a few nights en route to Budapest, Hungary. So, I was torn between spending those days in Zagreb or cutting it short and leaving one day for the hike.
Obviously, I chose the latter and boy was I was not disappointed! Besides, I wouldn’t mind the calorie-burning activity since I ate so many amazing foods during my stay at Bela Krajina where BIG BERRY did a great job spoiling me.
Nevertheless, the hike itself is satisfying and not difficult at all. Thomas mentioned how he’d seen several seniors hiking the trails with no problem, heck I even saw one lady with freaking high-heels paving her way around the National Park as if it is fashion week and she’s on the runway! I never had so much respect for someone till I saw that chica. She’s a daredevil, and I wonder if she made it till the end.
Note: Don’t wear high heels when hiking! Especially in Plitvice Lakes, it gets pretty slippery. Unless you want a unique adventure for a full-on Plitvice Lakes National Park experience, well, that’s up to you entirely. Stay safe always!
However, if you’re still interested after my neverending blabber, here’re a few facts and tips you might want to remember before visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park or if you’re looking for a little push if you have to add this beautiful place in your Croatian or Balkan adventure or not.
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Table of Contents
- 1 GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT PLITVICE LAKES
- 2 INSIDER TIPS TO REMEMBER FOR A BLISSFUL HIKE
- 3 IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE YOU HEAD OVER TO PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
- 4 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT PLITVICE LAKES
Basic information about Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site from 1979 and Croatia’s largest national park which was founded in 1949. The national park is well known for its beautiful crystal blue lakes, waterfalls, and cascades.
That said, this National Park has 16 crystal lakes which are naturally crafted through a series of terrains and about 90 beautiful waterfalls connecting them. So no wonder why over one million people are visiting this natural wonder each year, it has some of the world’s unique views you’ll ever see in your entire life. Seriously.
Ways to travel from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes
There are few ways to get to the National Park from Zagreb and here’re few of the options you can choose from:
- Go on an organized day trip, and they’ll handle all the transportation for you and as well the tour. Plus, a little extra!
- Hire a car and drive there yourself, you can check this website for information about parking.
- Take public transport – by far the cheapest option but also brings tons of hassle since it is not flexible. You can check bus schedules on this website!
You can also travel to Plitvice Lakes from Split or Dubrovnik! You just need to decide which city is the best for you.
Related post you may interested: Day trips from Dubrovnik
Opening hours and the best time to visit
The best time to visit and see Plitvice Lakes depends on you! However, apart from the obvious, high-season is always crowded and it is usually around summertime in Croatia, and that’s normally from mid-May to early August.
I visited in Autumn, and it was gorgeous! The trees start to change hues from green to different beautiful shades of orange and yellow; the lakes were clear, and the weather in Plitvice Lakes at the time was chilly but warm – perfect for hiking! Plus, it was not crowded at all!
Nevertheless, we shall not forget about winter! Plitvice Lakes in winter, at least from what I heard, turns into a magical white paradise where the lakes freeze and there’s snow everywhere. The whole national park turns into a mystical wonderland! The good news, the park is open during winters, as well! How cool is that?
It is indeed a place to visit all year round depending on when you want to go. It is always open to you! Now, if you’re interested in going, here are the Plitvice Lakes opening hours to cater your interest:
- Plitvice Lakes National Park is open every day including Sundays and holidays
- Opened from 8.00-16.00
Entrance fee to Plitvice Lakes National Park
It highly depends on which way you decide to do the trip. If you hire a tour company then the entrance fee will be included in the tour, and you can channel your energy on exploring and admiring the sceneries without worrying about running out of time. However, if you’re either driving or coming in without a tour then the prices vary depending on the season.
For a little breakdown, here are the flat-out prices just to get in the National Park, no transportation or tours included whatsoever:
- 55 kuna on low season (~ 7.5€)
- 110 kuna on the mid-high season (~ 15€)
- 180 kuna on high season (~ 24€)
- 45 kuna on low season (~ 6€)
- 80 kuna on the mid-high season (~ 11€)
- 110 kuna on high season (~ 15€)
However, if you do decide to go on a budget then expect to stress a little on timing, but there are also hotels and hostels in the area where you can stay cheaply for a night, so you don’t have to worry too much about the timing.
An organized Plitvice Lakes tour, on the other hand, for a day tour including the transportation, the guide and as well few extra pit stops along the way will cost you about 110€ and the tour will last about 9 hours (including travel time from Zagreb and back). Again, it highly depends on what you want, and your budget so always takes that into consideration! I enjoyed my tour since it was in-depth and informative and if you know me, I’m very curious, and I enjoy learning about every backstory of each place I visit.
If you’re interested in hiring or joining an organized tour, I recommend *Zagreb Tours!
How long it takes to hike Plitvice Lakes National Park?
There are eight programs for you to choose from and each one is determined by the amount of time you’ll spend on hiking around the national park and as well which entry point you’ll start, here’re the eight programs and the time it will take you to finish each one:
- Program A – 2-3 hours (starts at entrance 1)
- Program B – 3-4 hours (starts at entrance 1)
- Program C – 4-6 hours (starts at entrance 1)
- Program E – 2-3 hours (starts at entrance 2)
- Program F – 3-4 hours (starts at entrance 2)
- Program H – 4-6 hours (starts at entrance 2)
- Program K – 6-8 hours (starts from entrance 1)
- Program K – 6-8 hours (starts from entrance 2)
We took Program C, and it took us about 5 hours at a chill pace to get around the regular route of the national park, and we were in no rush at all. Granted, heaps of people were hiking as well but it wasn’t crowded or anything, there was still enough space for everyone without nearly pushing each other (though I almost fell few times, or at least it felt like I was falling!).
I thought it was a good hike, but I saw people walking the routes with the longest trail when we crossed the lake via a boat and I’m sure it is fun, and I’d be happy to go back and explore the longer routes and perhaps stumble upon beautiful, barely seen, sites of the park.
Also, keep in mind that if you’re going on a day tour from other cities such as Zagreb and Split, there’s usually a schedule and you most likely hike the shorter trail such as program C, E or K.
However, don’t worry because you’ll still get to see the pure beauty of Plitvice Lakes and without a doubt, you’ll fall in love with it as I did.
INSIDER TIPS TO REMEMBER FOR A BLISSFUL HIKE
Things to remember to bring with you!
To have a pleasant Plitvice Lakes National Park experience, you must bear in mind a few things to remember to bring with you. That said, it is rather important that you also think yourself what else you’ll need to cater to your needs because what I’ll mention below are the basics and people are different from each other, some have more needs, and some have less. Nevertheless, here are the basic things you should remember to bring with you:
- Refillable water bottle
- Filling snacks such as nuts, granola bars, or healthy energy bars (I had chocolate bars because I’m naughty)
- Cash – in case you get hungry, there’s a pit stop along the way where there are restaurants that sell basic lunches
- A backpack, if possible waterproof!
- Comfortable pants. I was actually wearing my waterproof and windproof running leggings for this hike!
- Comfortable shirt
- Comfortable shoes
- A waterproof jacket
- A fleece jacket, in case it gets a bit chilly if you visit during Spring or Autumn (Winter is another story!)
- Your photography camera(s), for that epic Plitvice Lakes captures
- Your giddy happy vibes
Again, note that these are the basics that you’ll need! If you have special conditions or in need of something more than what is listed here, then please bring those if you think you need them!
However, these are the basic things that I brought with me since I knew I would not need more than whatever is listed and that’s because I did not want to carry too much.
How to dress for this hike?
Now, this is quite the thing everyone approaches differently! I’ve seen many people during my hike, and many have the proper hiking attires while others have, well, I don’t know how to say… Not prepared?
As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve witnessed a lady who was wearing high heels while hiking Plitvice National Park and I don’t care what she’s wearing since I’m no expert myself when it comes to hiking. However, I do find it important to at least give few bits of bits of advice on what to expect and you can craft your “outfits” around it.
- It is muddy as to how you’ll expect nature will be.
- It will be wet and slippery, but I think you get that already since this national park has lakes and waterfalls. But in case you don’t, there you go.
- You’ll probably be hiking for good 3-8 hours depending on what route you choose. So opt for comfort!
- You’ll be sweaty. You’ll be hiking, remember?
- Want picture-perfect outfits? Well, good for you. Just remember what I mentioned above and keep those in mind when choosing what to wear!
Other than these, I’ll have to say my two cents: traveling is not always about how you’ll look in pictures that you’ll share on your social media. It is about the experience! Remember that and think if you need to wear that cute shoes or that nice jacket if in return you’ll need to cut your hike short because you didn’t wear the proper shoes for long walks or because you’re freezing because your jacket is not warm enough. These are only a few things to remember and again, there’s always a way to look good without suffering!
How to avoid the crowd?
I’m going to say it now, more and more people want to have a Plitvice Lakes National Park experience thus this place is starting to be popular each year – this is now getting over one million visitors each year! That said, crowds are inevitable at a certain point, but there’s always a way to avoid huge crowds, so you’ll have a pleasant experience. Here are few pointers to remember to avoid bigger crowds:
- Visit during low seasons (Spring, Autumn, and Winter)
- Be an early bird, start as early as 8.00 in the morning when the national park opens!
- Start from Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1 and walk up till you reach Plitvice Lakes Entrance 2 where you can take a bus back to Entrance 1. You’ll mostly be walking up, but you’ll be avoiding most people since almost everyone starts from the very top! Plus, it’s easy to ascend, trust me!
- There are many routes so if there are big tour crowds, just go around them since they tend to be in one place only blocking a huge chunk of the way.
Few notes to remember for your safety
The wooden trails are often a bit too narrow that it is a bit scary to fit two people walking side by side and sad to say that there will always be people who would fight their way and truthfully, which means danger for either you or that person. Also, as I mentioned above, the trails are wet and slippery so be wary of that!
Note, as well, that many people are wandering busy looking at their surroundings (most likely taking photos) and sometimes they are not expecting people behind or in front of them while they are walking or taking photos, therefore, watch out also for people who are not paying attention! We don’t want either them or you to get into an accident.
All that was mentioned above are things to be wary about to ensure yours and other’s safety, but then again – we really can’t control the fact that some people are jerks. Some will fight for their way around the park, so there’s only one way to do this and that is for you to be the smart one, here are few notes to remember to stay safe and dry:
- When someone’s heading towards you, either stay put or walk slowly. Either way, you’ll reach the end of the trail. No need to be in a hurry!
- Watch out when you’re taking photographs or if you’re holding your gadgets on your hands – some people might just walk pass by, and you get startled and, well, shit might happen.
- Watch out for people who are taking photographs for the same reason as the tip above.
- Always be the careful one, I’ve heard stories of people falling in the water because it is slippery and possibly too many people. It doesn’t hurt to be the careful one!
- Don’t go about and walk unclear pathways that are clearly not part of the trail. You’re either getting yourself lost or in trouble – this national park is protected and has tons of flora and fauna that are not meant to be disturbed.
- Follow the signs! If the signs say you can’t go beyond the trail, then don’t go beyond the trail. If it is for a picture-perfect photograph, use your zoom instead of risking falling into the water.
- Since this is mother nature we’re talking about, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious to your surroundings – branches or rocks might fall, etc.
So, stay safe and cautious but do not ever forget to absorb all the beauty you’ll experience while hiking this beautiful national park! Again, it doesn’t hurt to be the person who gives way.
IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE YOU HEAD OVER TO PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
The garbage bin is there for a reason
I think, in general, that this national park is clean and well maintained so to keep in mind, the carers of this place are doing a great job at keeping Plitvice Lakes as it should be. However, we can’t avoid the fact that there are people who just don’t care as we still saw few plastic water bottles, snack wrappers, and other junks that are not meant to be wandering around the park (which we took and chuck in the bin, by the way). I felt ashamed for the people who left those behind!
To be a responsible tourist, there are many things to keep in mind, and one thing is always to clean after ourselves. We have to remember, as people, that mother nature does not appreciate our garbage laying around and that we also have to think about how other people will perceive our actions in the future.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with “Monkey do, Monkey sees, Monkey do” a saying we often use in the professional kitchen to justify that we should always think before we act. Because whatever we do, someone is watching, and if we do stupid things, that person watching will end up doing the same stupid things. So that said, please always think before you act.
I know you’re a wild child but mind these rules and follow them
There are few rules that need to be followed if you’re visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park and these rules should always be kept in mind while hiking the trail. Remember, these rules are made for a reason and not just mumbo jumbo which the rangers created just for fun.
- Do not feed the animals and that means the fishes in the lake and anything you encounter.
- Do not leave any garbage behind
- No walking off the track
- Swimming in Plitvice Lakes is prohibited nor getting on the water!
- Do not damage the trees, or pick the flowers or plants.
- No loud noises so no shouting or playing loud music
- No camping is allowed within the national park zone
- No fishing!
How to be a responsible tourist overall
You might have seen those articles circulating social media about a few tourists ending up almost ruining some protected areas because, well, they don’t care? For example, these young kids who possibly didn’t read the rules about not getting off the trail at Yellowstone National Park and risks of damaging a park that has been kept under protection for so many years.
Truthfully, we don’t want to be that sort of tourists because, in the end, we might be the person who will force the area to limit its access only to certain places – or worse, close it down for the public to experience. We’re not giving mother nature any favor by ruining these places so let’s responsible overall and follow the rules. Besides, rules are made to follow – not broken.
All in all, I must say that my Plitvice Lakes National Park experience was bliss, and never I fell in love with nature as much as I did in that majestic place. I’m sure you’ll equally love Plitvice Lakes, Croatia for that matter even!
Thomas, my guide, was excellent and he showed me around and handed me useful information such as the ones I’m giving you now. Also, it was an incredible opportunity for me to visit this national park during Autumn as it was possibly the best time to see the transitioning of the season from above looking over the beautiful forest.
If ever you plan ahead, I highly suggest checking out Zagreb Tours if you want an organized day tour! Otherwise, I wish you all the fun when you visit!
NOTE: The tour was complimentarily arranged by Zagreb Tours but all photos, guides, and experiences are all my own. As always, this is written with honesty and I won’t recommend a company I don’t agree with nor trust. Transparency is what I aim for.