Our tips for visiting the fairytale Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is, without a doubt, the most feature of natural interest in Croatia. The park extends over 29,000 hectares, where almost 22.000 are forested, and the water covers 217 hectares. Tucked away in this fairytale’s landscape are 16 lakes with blue and green colours, one underneath another. The most exciting thing is that the lakes are linked together with roaming cascades and pounding waterfalls that make the park unique in its kind.
HOW TO REACH THE PARK
The best way to reach Plitvice National Park is to rent a car upon your arrival at the airport; the Park is only 120 km from Zagreb and 230 km from Split.
Another option to reach the Park is to take the bus from the Zagreb bus station (Avenija Marina Držića) to Plitvice Jezera. For example, with the Flixbus company, there are 3 daily rides (duration 2 hours and 30 – about 12 euro/USD). The AP Varazdin company (duration about 6 hours, cost 21 euros) and the Promet Makarska company (duration 4 hours, cost 23 euros) operate 1 daily ride from the Split bus station.
Alternatively, you can book a guided tour and other activities in the Park through the web platforms such as Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com, which sponsor the various excursions offered by local tour operators.
TIME TO SPEND IN THE PARK
Walking through the Park is very easy; all paths are clearly marked. Plitvice National Park is divided into 2 areas: Lower Lakes and Upper Lakes. To visit both areas with the due calm takes 1 day and a half, so if you have only one day available, visit the Lower Lakes area because it is definitely the most beautiful and scenic.
Let’s say that, indicatively, the visit of the lower lakes takes a whole day, the visit of the upper lakes a half day. For fit hiking lovers, the Park can also be visited on a full day. Anyway, we suggest not to do that because it is so beautiful that you would not enjoy it to the full.
Our trip: we spent 1 day and a half in the Park, visiting the Lower Lakes on the first day and the Upper Lakes the following half-day. Click here to read about our trip to the Park.
PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK TRAILS GUIDE
As we said, the Park is divided into Lower lakes and Upper Lakes. Entrance 1 gives access to the Lower Lakes, and entrance 2 gives access to the Upper Lakes.
Park boasts different beautiful sightseeing programs named A, B, C, E, F, H, and K. The programs A, B, C, and K start from entrance 1, whereas the programs E, F, and H start from entrance 2. Basically, F and H programs are the same as entrance 1, but they are done oppositely.
Programs starting from the entrance n.1
1. Program A details
It’s a circular walk, 3500 mt long, and it takes pretty much less than 2 hours. The trail starts from Entrance 1 and covers waterfalls and lakes in the Lower Lakes area of the Park.
It’s an easy walk, where you will see Veliki Slap (Great Waterfall), Sastavci and Milanovacki Falls, Novakovića Brod Lake, Kaluđerovac Lake, Gavanovac Lake and Milanovac Lake.
At some point, after passing the Milanovac lake, you’ll arrive at a small bridge crossing over Kozjak Lake (on your right side). Going on a bit and turning left, you’ll see the signs indicating the last part of trail A. The path climbs up the mountain until it becomes flat when it reaches the top. Walking on the top of the mountain is terrific because you can admire the Lower Lakes from above. The last part of Trail A is about 1400 metres long.
Trail A is beautiful but short, so don’t go back and continue your tour crossing the bridge to get to the docking area (called P3) on Lake Kozjak. The lake can be reached in 10 minutes and here there is a large dining area with two restaurants, toilets, a small bar and a souvenir shop. This short stretch from the small bridge to the lake area is part of Trail B.
2. Program B details
It’s a circular walk, 4 km long, and it takes 3-4 hours. The trail includes a boat ride on Kozjak Lake and the shuttle train to go back to Entrance 1.
The trail starts from Entrance 1, and the first part is the same as trail A. Once you get to the small bridge, cross it towards Kozjak Lake and proceed to your left, walking to the docking area named dock P3. In this area are 2 restaurants, toilets, a bar and a souvenir shop. Trail B continues by taking the boat from dock P3. The scenic journey across Lake Kozjak is relaxing, takes about 30 minutes and disembarks at the docking area called P1, which is located not far from entrance 2. During this pleasant ride, you will see the green and lush surrounding hills and the small island of Štefanijin in the middle of the lake. From pier P1, after a slightly steep climb, you arrive at entrance 2.
Here, you can take the shuttle train to entrance 1. The shuttle does not stop in front of entrance 1 but at the beginning of a short panoramic path (which is the last part of Trail A) from where you can see the lower lakes from the top of the mountain before arriving at the exit. If you don’t want to take the shuttle train and still have energy, there is a 30-minute path from pier P1 to the small bridge over Lake Kozjak that runs along the lake itself (2 km long). Before reaching the bridge, you will find the sign for the last part of Trail A, which first climbs up the mountain and then become flat before returning to entrance 1.
Before catching the electric boat at dock P3, it is possible to take a beautiful walk (about 1 hour and a half) outside the paths of the park to see the lower lakes from the top of the hill up to a viewpoint on the “big waterfall” and the stunning viewpoint on the lakes Novakovica and Kaluderovac (pic nr. 1). The path is easy; the first part of getting out of the park is uphill, then completely flat. Please read the article about our visit to the park where you will find everything explained in detail.
3. Program C details
It’s a circular walk, 8 km long, and it takes 4-5 hours. The path includes a boat and a shuttle train ride. Trail C covers both the Lower and Upper lakes.
Starting from Entrance 1, it comprises trails A and B, but after crossing the Kozjak Lake by boat and disembarking at dock P1, you have to catch another boat to reach the dock name P2. The last part of Trail C (called E if you start from entrance 2) begins from the dock P2 and follows the footpath through the upper lakes (Burgeti, Gradinsko, Galovac, Butinovac) to the edge of Proscansko Lake. Once you arrive at the edge of Proscansko, you’ll find a cafè-bar, the toilets and the shuttle train stop (named ST3) to go back to Entrance 2 and then to Entrance 1. If you like to walk, from the stop ST3, you can follow the path on the west side of the Upper lakes that lead you to the boat dock P2 (2500 mt long).
4. Program K details
It is the longest path in the park with its 18 km, certainly the hardest and most tiring of all, and takes at least 8 or more hours to complete it.
The difference is that this route does not include the crossing of Lake Kozjack by boat from piers P3 to P1 and not even the shuttle trains, but first it follows a path that runs along the upper part of Lake Kozjak, then a path in the middle of the forest to see the upper lakes from various viewpoints up to Proscansko Lake. From here, return to pier P1 on foot and on the way back, starting from pier P1 along the lower part of Lake Kozjak until arriving at entrance 1.
Programs starting from entrance nr. 2 – Upper Lakes
5. Program E details
It’s a circular walk, 5500 meters long, and it takes 2-3 hours. This program is a walking route in the higher area of the Park and includes a boat and shuttle train ride.
Starting from Entrance 2, the walk covers waterfalls and lakes of the Upper area of the Park. After a short boat ride where you cross Kozjak Lake from dock P1 to P2, the footpath stretches to the higher elevations, along Burgeti, Gradinsko, Milino, Galovac and Okrugljak Lakes all the way to the edge of Proscansko Lake. The trail is delightful, easy to follow, featuring the beautiful Veliki, Mali Prstavac and Galovacki Buk Waterfalls. Once you reach the edge of Proscansko Lake, you’ll find the shuttle bus stop named ST3 to get back to Entrance 2 or Entrance 1
6. Programs H and F
Starting the tour from entrance 2, you can still enjoy all the tourist programs we have listed, obviously doing them in the opposite direction. Program B (which comprises program A) is named F, program C remains C, while program H is practically similar to program C, differing only in the last part of the path to the Upper Lakes. If you see the photo below, program H starts with the shuttle train up to the stop ST3, and from here, it visits the upper lakes downhill, passing at the beginning on the opposite side to route C (E).
Next to the ticket office at entrance 1 and next to entrance 2 there is an information centre where you can buy the map and know all the information you need to enjoy the park and get the most out of it. There is also a currency exchange shop, a mini-market and souvenir shops. Click here for more information on the park, opening times and rates.
FACILITIES IN THE PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK
There are restaurants near the main entrances and at the P3 docking area. Bars and toilets are at the main entrances, at the P3 docking area and at the ST3 shuttle train stop. You won’t find anything along the paths, so remember to bring a supply of water with you.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK
The Park’s surroundings offer a wide range of accommodations, above all in the nearby towns like Bellevue, Plitvice Jezera, Plitvica Selo, Jezera, Poljanak and Grabovac. We slept in Grabovac at B&B Helena.
WHERE TO EAT
You’ll find restaurants in those towns as well or along the road. If you are not tired, we suggest having your dinner in Slunj. The beautiful tiny historic city centre (called Rastoke) is a very peaceful and relaxing area with restaurants and accommodations along the Korana river. We had a great dinner at Petro Restaurant.
Have you visited Plitvice National Park? Did you like it, and do you want to share your experience or suggest more tips? Leave us a comment below!