Plitvice Lakes the ultimate guide 2021
Plitvice Lakes, a place where the sky shines in thousands of crystal drops and nature exude life and serenity. Each of us has at least once wished to visit this beautiful place that leaves no one indifferent. Protected species of flora and fauna, centuries-old canopies of slender pines, but also crystal blue waterfalls that overflow a series of 16 lakes are certainly just some of the charms that every visitor to Plitvice Lakes wants to experience.
Over the years, Plitvice Lakes have become one of the most popular destinations in Croatia, and every year at least a million visitors visit. In order to spend your vacation on Plitvice Lakes as well as possible, we have decided to do a travel planning for you. In our Plitvice Lakes the ultimate guide 2021 is everything you need to know about Plitvice Lakes, how to buy tickets, which locations you should not miss, where to stay, what food to try… all this follows below.
Plitvice Lakes – general information
Plitvice Lakes are the oldest and most visited national park in Croatia, and they were declared a national park on April 8, 1949. Plitvice Lakes are located in central Croatia, Lika-Senj and Karlovac counties and cover an area of 29,685.15 hectares. Certainly the most attractive part of Plitvice is 16 lakes that take your breath away with their blue-green color and clear water. People often make the mistake of thinking that Plitvice National Park is just lakes and waterfalls. Plitvice Lakes are also made up of numerous protected plant and animal species, which each of us can explore. One thing is for sure, you won’t see any of them anywhere else in the world. Another feature of the park are travertine barriers that were created ten thousand years ago. The trademark of the park is the brown bear, but we’ll talk about that later. Winters in this mountainous area are harsh and cold, and summers hot and steamy, although even in summer in the late evening it is advisable to have something to wear. We will not focus too much on geological-historical information because we believe that all those who are interested will easily find it on the Internet or in guides.
How to get to Plitvice Lakes?
Plitvice Lakes are located in central Croatia, and are well connected by road to the north and south of Croatia. One option is to rent a car, which would be an extremely good decision in this area. If you have a car, you are flexible, and you can find accommodation near one of the entrances to the National Park. By car you can also visit local resorts and restaurants, but also visit some of the more hidden parts of this beautiful park. Another option is to arrive by bus. During the tourist season, buses from Zagreb, Split and Rijeka run quite often. Bus stops are located at entrance number 1 and entrance number 2 in the National Park, and from the entrance to the final destination you can walk or take a taxi which can be easily found at the bus stop. We would not recommend the train as an option because we honestly don’t even know where the nearest train stop is. The nearest airports are Zagreb, Rijeka and Zadar. Keep in mind that Plitvice Lakes are located on a large area and that you will definitely need some form of transport during your Plitvice adventure.
When to travel to Plitvice?
Every season on Plitvice is different and special. The national park is open 365 days a year, so it’s up to you to choose when you want to travel. The peak of the tourist season is certainly July and August. There are indeed visitors to Plitvice all year round, although the winter period is somewhat calmer. If you visit Plitvice during the winter, keep in mind that part of the park may be closed, it is possible that the water level in some parts of the park will rise so the hiking trails will not be operational. In this area, snow usually falls in winter, and a lot of snow, and temperatures can drop to -15 degrees Celsius. For all eager adventurers and all snow lovers, don’t worry, the park is open even then. If you go to Plitvice during the summer, keep in mind that it is the busiest then, but the greenery and nature are still enchanting. We recommend a visit to Plitvice in spring and autumn. Then the air temperature is pleasant, the crowds are not too big, and nature leaves you breathless.
Tickets for Plitvice Lakes
There are 3 entrances to the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Entrance 1, entrance 2, and auxiliary entrance Flora. Entrances 1 and 2 are located on the main state road D1, which connected Zagreb and Split before the construction of the highway. Auxiliary entrance Flora is located in Plitvice village, a small village which is 8 km away from the main road, there is not too much traffic at that entrance and if you stay in accommodation in that village, you can walk to the entrance to the park. Since a few years ago, tickets can also be purchased online, which we definitely recommend because there is a daily limit of tickets for sale. Online tickets must be purchased at least 1 day in advance. If you want to visit Plitvice today, and you do not have a ticket, then you can buy it at the points of sale at the entrance no.1 and entrance no.2.
The working hours of the park depend on the season and this information is best checked on the official website of the National Park, but the working hours are mostly from 08:00, ie, from 07:00 during the season. The park is open until 16:00 in winter, or until 20:00 in summer, and tickets can be purchased until 2 hours before closing. The ticket price also includes a boat ride and unlimited panoramic train rides. Pro tip: don’t stay in the park after dark; it probably won’t happen to you, but keep in mind that the bear is a trademark of Plitvice. When asked if you will see a large brown bear, the answer is probably no. As Plitvice became more and more visited, the animals retreat deeper and deeper into the forest, but some 10 years ago it was not uncommon to see the mother of a bear with cubs.
Why stay in Plitvice village?
Plitvice village, where the Etno Garden is located, is a small traditional village where you can truly get to know Plitvice, but also the old customs and excellent food that it offers. Plitvice village is located within the zone of the National Park and is great for a holiday in nature, without the city crowds and waiting in line when entering the park. Etno Garden is only a few minutes walk from the auxiliary entrance Flora, and you can leave your car in our parking lot. If you want to visit Plitvice, and at the same time you do not want to waste time in long lines, if you want a vacation in nature and if you want to get to know the tradition, people who have lived here for years and try homemade Lika food.
How many days does it take to visit Plitvice Lakes?
In short, it takes a minimum of 2-3 days. To visit Plitvice Lakes, it is possible to buy a two-day ticket, which is better paid than buying two separate tickets. There are 16 lakes and more than 90 waterfalls in the park, as well as 22 km of hiking trails that lead around the lake. There are also 36km of trails that are further away from the lake, but with which you can discover this magical forest world. There are also numerous bike paths. If you stay in the park for more than 1 day, you will have time to explore all the trails, and you will be able to visit the park during the part of the day when there are less crowds in the park. While we believe you will spend all your time exploring all the beauties and hidden places of this park, there are many more places and attractions you can visit.
What to do on Plitvice if you have already visited the lakes?
Although we would recommend you to sit in the garden, try homemade cheese and bacon, drink a few drops of wine and brandy, we understand that some of you like to explore new areas and like active holidays. There are numerous locations you can visit. The first thing we would recommend is to visit Rastoke. Rastoke is a small place built on the waterfalls of the river, charming and friendly, and is only a 30-minute drive from the Etno Garden. If you are a fan of caves and the underworld, then we would recommend a visit to Barać’s caves. For adrenaline lovers, there are also adrenaline parks and a zip line, which is the longest in Europe. You can also go to Smiljan, the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. Animal lovers can go to the nearby village of Kuterevo where there is a volunteer bear sanctuary. There are many other locations that only locals know about, and we will be happy to reveal them to you when you visit us.
Which route to visit Plitvice?
There are many routes by which you can visit Plitvice Lakes or some of their parts. Our recommendation to visit the park: no matter which entrance you enter, we will take the Fauna entrance as a reference point for the simple reason that it is closest to us. After passing the ticket control, go down to the lake (the same goes for all entrances). Entrance 1, entrance 2 and the auxiliary entrance Flora are located in the part of the park called Donja jezera (the other part of the park is called Gornja jezera). Follow the sign for The Great Waterfall. Along this route you will see a large number of lakes and waterfalls that will splash on your feet in some places. Veliki slap is the most famous waterfall on Plitvice, and it is specific in that it is the highest. From that point, head to train station no.1. Then you have the opportunity to ride from the lowlands to the highest point of Plitvice Lakes, but you can also walk that part. The last stop of the train takes you to the top of the Upper Lakes, from where you walk back to the largest lake Kozjak. Even we, who have visited the lakes many times, stop every time and admire the natural beauty of this world phenomenon. At the end of the trip you can take a boat ride and enjoy the stunning views of untouched nature. If you visit the park in 2 days, we suggest that you visit the Upper Lakes one day and the Lower Lakes the next. If you’re wondering how you’re going to orient yourself inside the park, it’s actually pretty simple. Train stops are marked with ST1, ST2 and ST3, and the ship stops with P1, P2, P3. If you have a map with indicated stops and main entrances, navigating is easy.
Swimming, fishing, animals and parking on Plitvice Lakes
Swimming in the park is prohibited for nature conservation as Plitvice is a UNESCO protected property, but swimming is possible in the village of Korana near entrance 1. Fishing is also prohibited. Pets can enter the park but must be on a leash. Parking is located at each entrance and is charged. In summer, at the peak of the season, it is sometimes a problem to find free parking.
Photo, video and drone on Plitvice Lakes
Photography and filming is allowed within the National Park if it is for non-commercial purposes. Flying a drone is prohibited and it is necessary to obtain a special permit to operate it. The best places to paint are perhaps the lookouts above the large waterfall because they offer an impressive view of the entire Lower Lakes.
Food and drink
We definitely recommend bringing a backpack with water and food. Within the park there are fast food restaurants where you can find a quick meal. In the Etno Garden restaurant we can prepare fresh lunch packages with which you can refresh yourself. Also in our restaurant you can try many traditional dishes such as veal under the oven and taste a variety of homemade brandies and wines. We believe that food is a very important segment of every trip, and we are guided by that when preparing every meal.
For everything else, see you at Plitvice and we will be happy to explain everything to you. Bring goodwill and an adventurous spirit, and we will take care of everything else.