Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s biggest single natural attraction.The Park, was decided UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. Located approximately halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast, the lakes are a exact must-see in Croatia.
The exquisiteness of the National Park lies in its sixteen lakes, consistent by a series of waterfalls, and set in deep woodland inhabited by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species. The National Park covers a totality area of 300 square kilometres, whilst the lakes join together over a distance of eight kilometres.
There’s also quite an altitude dissimilarity – the highest point is at 1,280m, the lowest at 380m – even though the total height difference between the lakes themselves is only 135m. (Veliki Slap, the largest waterfall, is 70m tall.)
If you’re undecided about whether or not to visit Plitvice Lakes, take a look at any photo album of the Park and that will definitely rock you! The official Plitvice Lakes website has a fantastic effective tour that features some truly stunning scenes.
How to get there
The park is located about 118 miles south of Zagreb, but it’s still probable to go as a day trip. Each way is about two hours and fifteen minutes, although that depends on the bus company, as does the price. For the shortest trip, try Croatia Bus since it makes fewer stops than the other companies and it’s a bit more obvious when you should get off. (Hint: Do not expect the bus drivers to speak English well.) There are many buses to choose from per day, but if you’re thinking about just doing a day trip, you’ll need to get a bus early in the morning to see as much as possible. The latest bus goes back at 6:40pm, although the buses don’t run as frequently throughout the year. You can also get to Plitvice from Zadar, which is about 99 miles south of the park. Day trips are possible, although the buses don’t run as frequently as the ones to Zagreb.
The best time of year to visit the Plitvice Lakes
There’s in fact never a bad time to go, even though each season has its pros and cons. In the winter, the snow-covered falls and frozen lakes are said to be spectacular, but walking around for hours outside in the cold might not be very inviting to weather pansies (I include myself in that group.) In autumn, the changing leaves and the fewer numbers of fellow tourists would leave you with a serene experience, but again, you’ll have to bring a heavy jacket with a hood because it will probably rain. In the spring, the park is wet, but that didn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you either. If you go in the beginning of spring, you’ll see the snow melt to pump even more gorgeous water into the 16 lakes. In the summer, the weather is sure to be ideal for hiking, but it’ll be overloaded with tourists, July and August being the park’s peak months. I recommend going to Plitvice during any other season, but the downside to not going in the summer is the hordes of school groups that pass through the park, ignorant of the universal rule of civilized societies: In a crowd, we walk single file on the right hand side so as to let others pass. These children, and many adults here too, seem to have missed this important life lesson.
Where to stay
I went to Plitvice as a day trip from Zagreb, where I stayed at a hostel in the center of town for a polite price, but alternatively you can extend your view of the lakes a few days and stay in one of the many hotels the park and the neighboring areas offer.
Final words of wisdom
If you’re a vegan, bring your own food or the only thing you’ll be consumption will be a pastry filled with cheese and lots and lots of French fries. Do not wear high heels. You’d think that would be obvious, but it wasn’t to many women I saw who nearly twisted their ankles. Bring cash. You can pay your entrance fee (80 kuna, or $15.60, for students) with a card but no bus, not even at the station, will accept anything other than cash.