Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes: Ultimate Guide to Visit Plitvice Lakes

November 11, 2023

Croatia’s most famous attraction is undoubtedly the Plitvice Lakes National Park, known for their waterfalls. The park (Plitvička Jezera in Croatian) is visited by thousands of tourists every day of the year. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the oldest and largest national park in the Republic of Croatia.

The national park connects several lakes and waterfalls, creating a seemingly endless network of waterfalls. The lake system consists of 16 named lakes and several smaller, unnamed lakes, cascading one into the next. The beautiful Plitvice Lakes are famous for their unique color, ranging from azure, green and blue to grey.

We believe that a trip to Plitvice Lakes needs to be well considered and organized to enjoy the park in all its beauty. If you don’t travel at the right time or don’t prepare in advance, the trip can easily become stressful and problematic.

We have been to Plitvice Lakes National Park four times so far. During this time we have tried different routes and lengths. We have gathered as much information as possible to help you safely prepare for your trip to Plitvice Lakes.

So here are the things we think you should know before you travel to Plitvice Lakes.

Are the Plitvice Lakes worth a visit?

If you visit Croatia, the Plitvice Lakes are an absolute must-see. It is the most famous tourist destination in Croatia. If you love nature, photography, hiking, being near water, then Plitvice Lakes are a great choice for you.

When to visit Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice Lakes are open to visitors all year round, but only partially in winter. In winter, there are times when the boats and trains are out of service due to the weather. Opening hours are also shorter in winter and it gets dark earlier. For winter photography, the snowy landscapes are the best, but not every winter trip is ideal. Winters in Europe are often gloomy, dark and colorless, not idyllic snowy.

The real hiking season arrives in Europe in the spring, when the weather is already ideal for spending time in the lower mountains. The temperatures are pleasant, there is plenty of sunshine and the colorful vegetation makes the landscape ideal for photography. In our personal opinion, spring is at its best in the Plitvive Lakes around May, when the water flow is at its highest and the plants are already in full color. So the absolute best month to visit the Plitvice Lakes is May. The only thing to expect in May is rain, but that’s not too common either.

Summer is the official high season for all destinations in Croatia. During the peak season, which runs from early June to the end of September, prices are higher, places are more crowded and queues are frequent. The weather is most predictable at this time of year and it is almost always warm. However, due to high ticket prices and huge crowds of tourists, we do not recommend the high season at Plitvice Lakes. During dry summers, lakes and waterfalls can easily dry out and the water flow is only a fraction of what it is in spring, making the landscape less special.

Autumn could still look promising based on the weather. We visited the Plitvice Lakes once in autumn, but we didn’t get to see the park at its best because of the low water flow.

How to get to the Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice Lakes are located on the main road 1 in Croatia. It can be reached from Karlovac and Zagreb from the north or from the coast and Zadar from the south. In both cases, you have to get off the Croatian A1 highway and after about 60-90 km by car or bus along the main road 1, you can reach the park. Travel time by car from Zagreb is approximately 2 hours 10 minutes, from Zadar 1 hour 40 minutes.

We are absolute car travelers, so we recommend using the car to get to Plitvice Lakes. Although road 1 is not top quality and many places are slow, plus parking in Plitvice can be a problem, the car is still as flexible a mode of transport as you may need for traveling to Plitvice Lakes.

Another option is to take an organized bus trip to Plitvice Lakes. This may be cheaper than the car trip, but it is much less flexible. It’s easy because you don’t have to drive on Croatian roads, you don’t have to worry about parking and someone will organize the whole trip for you. No need to drive early or late, no risk. Regarding group bus travel, it is important to note that with pre-arranged tours you probably cannot plan an individual itinerary, so the organizer will decide where you start from and how much time you have for the tour. So for a whole day or weekend, you will be bound to a group and you will have to adapt to them.

The third option to get to the Plitvice Lakes is individually organized bus transport. The FlixBus and websites can help you plan such a bus trip. FlixBus offers 1-2 daily connections between Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes. The website also offers some bus services per day, which are worth checking.

Public transport to other Croatian cities from Plitvice Lakes is almost impossible, so getting to Zadar or Split from Plitvice Lakes definitely requires a car.

How much time is needed to visit Plitvice Lakes?

We recommend one or two days to visit the Plitvice Lakes. In fact, one day may be enough for a complete tour, but then the pace will be relatively fast and you will need to be well prepared. For the smaller tours (e.g. lower lakes), an afternoon is more than enough. The more time consuming ones are the upper lakes, where the distances are longer and it is easy to get lost. So if you have limited time, you should think well before going up to the top lakes.

If you have more time, you can stay at a local accommodation and enjoy a whole weekend at the Plitvice Lakes. In 2 days you can comfortably see all the lakes and have time to relax, take photos and taste the local food.

Tips and practical information about the Plitvice Lakes

Entrance fee

At Plitvice Lakes you can buy a one-day ticket or a two-day ticket. If you are traveling to Plitvice Lakes for two days, it is worth buying a two-day ticket, which gives you access for day 2 at around half price.

Whatever day you arrive, whichever ticket you choose, it is always recommended to buy your tickets online in advance on the official website of Plitvice Lakes National Park. You can show the tickets on arrival by phone or printed out, and they can also be requested later at the boat and train.

Online tickets can be purchased on the park’s official website by clicking here.

The prices to Plitvice Lakes depend on many factors. For groups, students and children, tickets are cheaper. The season also determines prices. In winter, when access to the park and the range of services are limited and there are fewer tourists, tickets are significantly cheaper.

For a few months in spring and autumn, tickets are available at medium prices. We think this is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes, especially in May, when the weather is perfect for a trip to Plitvice and tickets are more affordable.

Summer is the most expensive period from June to the end of September, when tickets cost nearly €40 (price in 2023) for an adult. In summer, you can save money by arriving at the Plitvice Lakes after 4pm, but the light is often not the best for photography and boats and trains are not available for long.

Current ticket prices can be found on the official website of the national park by clicking here.

One more thing: you might be able to enter Plitvice Lakes without a ticket. E.g. in the evening, tickets are often no longer checked, or there are entrances from elsewhere that are not official. However, we do not recommend these, because you can’t travel by boat or train without a ticket, and it is also illegal.

Which entrance is better?

There are two main entrances to Plitvice Lakes, Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. We have tried both and we absolutely recommend the Entrance 1. If you only choose a short hike, you will definitely get the best experience with the tours starting from Entrance 1. If you’re going for a longer hike, then in principle it doesn’t matter which entrance you choose. The advantage of Entrance 2 is that there are more restaurants and hotels at the entrance. However, it’s important to know that there are also photo spots near Entrance 1, so it’s definitely worth walking there. So from Entrance 1 you don’t have to walk far, and you immediately get the Plitvice Lakes experience. It’s easiest to start there and walk up along the lakes.

Parking around Plitvice Lakes National Park

At Plitvice Lakes there are two large parking lots for tourists, one at each entrance. If you are traveling to Plitvice Lakes at a very busy time, you may have to wait for available spaces, but you will find parking sooner or later. There is also plenty of parking for buses, so this is not a problem for bus travel.

Routes in the Plitvice Lakes National Park

Regarding the routes, our personal opinion is that most of the attractions of Plitvice Lakes are to be found at the lower lakes. So it’s worth concentrating on the lower lakes and only if you have enough time and want to see everything, go up to the upper lakes. Of course, the whole Plitvice Lakes National Park is beautiful, but it has its more typically touristy spots.

The routes are best illustrated on the official website of Plitvice Lakes by clicking here.

The most optimal and our favorite is route C, along which you will see almost everything worth seeing in Plitvice Lakes. It is not too strenuous, a pleasant one-day itinerary with walking, boat and train rides. For route C, it should be mentioned that you walk uphill and the train brings you back downhill. So the more strenuous part is on foot.

If you prefer to take the bus up and walk down, take route H. The H route starts from Entrance 2, but can easily be reorganized to Entrance 1. Here, you first take the bus up to the upper lakes, then walk down to P2, where the boat will take you to P3, and then walk down to the lower lakes. At the lower lakes, you have to walk up the hill, either to Entrance 1 or take the bus to Entrance 2.

If you have less time or energy and just want to see the best places quickly, route B is a good option for you. With route B you can see all the lower lakes, most of the most beautiful waterfalls, walk along the wooden paths and enjoy the scenery. The upper lakes have been left out of Route B, as it is a more time-consuming area and, in our own opinion, has less to see.

If you have more time and want to see everything, then Route K is for you. Route K is different from C or H in that it’s a walk and boat ride all the way, over 18 km long, so it’s only recommended for those in perfect physical condition.

Hiking in the area

The Plitvice Lakes area offers many enjoyable hiking opportunities for nature lovers. Above is an overview of the suggested trails.

It should be noted here that it is not recommended to leave the marked routes because of wild animals. So if you want to hike around Plitvice Lakes, choose one of the longer hiking trails on the map and follow it. The phone map and the national park website can also help you along the way.

No special hiking equipment is needed, maybe not even poles. It is important that the lakes are often connected by wooden walkways built on the water, which means you need to wear comfortable, non-slip shoes. So just wear comfortable hiking shoes that don’t slip, and plan to wear comfortable hiking clothes. The photos of the girls in summer slippers and little skirt dresses at Plitvice Lakes were taken only for the internet.

It is easy to get lost in the park, so be well prepared in advance. Always carry a backpack with an extra layer of clothes, a raincoat, food and drink. If necessary, your phone will help, we had signal everywhere in the park.

Be prepared to arrive back at the entrances after 5-6 pm. The last train leaves then, and there is no other mode of transport than to walk alone in the forest in the evening, which is dangerous. So plan your activities only until 5-6 pm.

Electric boat and panorama train

Although it is mostly a walking tour, electric boats are running on the largest lake and a train service on one of the roads beside the lakes. These make it easier to get around the Plitvice Lakes quickly and less strenuously.

You can check the current timetable on the official website of the national park by clicking here.

For both the boat and the train, there are 3 stops called P1, P2, P3 and St1, St2, St3.

It’s worth asking at the boat, as it’s not always clear which two stations you’re going between.

The boat does its best service between P2 and P3. It crosses the largest lake, you can relax a bit and admire the scenery.

The train only runs on the eastern side of the lakes on an asphalt road. It’s actually like a bus, but the locals call it train. They are often very crowded, and the driving can be quite wild, so be prepared for that. However, it is recommended to take the train down from the top lakes (or up to the lakes), as the road to the entrances is very long.

Where there is no boat or train service, only the pedestrian route is available. We would add that the best views are along the footpaths. For example, all the waterfalls are only accessible on foot.

Wild animals

Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to a wide variety of unexpected wildlife. The most real threat is the viper. There are many snakes in the park, many of them are poisonous vipers and unfortunately they are also found near the trails. For this reason, it is not recommended to leave the marked paths and be careful everywhere. Furthermore, there are several places where bears are being warned. There are also lynx in the park, but they do not come near people. Moreover, the area around the lakes is home to a particularly rich variety of bird species.

Extra lookout points at Plitvice Lakes

Honestly, we found these two lookout points ourselves, although we know they are nothing new. The first of these points gives one of the best views of the Plitvice Lakes.

We will mark on the map below that there is a lookout above the lower lakes, on the top of the mountain, which gives the most photogenic spot for tourists.

The easiest way to get here is to drive to the village of Poljanak on the road D42, then turn off at the village on the side road by the restaurant Izletište “Kod Bunara”. After a few kilometres, this side road leads to a crossroads with abandoned houses. Here you can leave your car, and there will be signs indicating where to continue on foot. After a short walk, at the end of the forest path, you will find the lookout.

If you are down at the lower lakes, near the big waterfall, you will see a stairway up the cliff side called “Vidikovac” that leads up to the viewpoint above. However, this trail has been closed in recent years, probably because of its dangerousness. That’s why the only way to get to the upper lookout point is to go for a detour.

And if you continue by car on the side road along the lakes, you will find another lookout point on the map called “Vidikovac 5”, which also shows the Plitvice Lakes from the top of the hill.

Photo spots with the best views

During our previous trips to the Plitvice Lakes, we were able to collect a few places where you can take great photos. It is worth noting that the whole park is a beautiful and photogenic natural wonder, but Plitvice Lakes has some of the absolute best parts. So let’s see the best photo spots at Plitvice Lakes.

Other attractions within driving distance from Plitvice Lakes

Let’s see some of the other places you can visit when you’re in Croatia at Plitvice Lakes.


Zagreb is about 2 hours 10 minutes’ drive from Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is worth a visit as it is the capital of Croatia and offers some interesting sights.


Zadar is a famous Croatian coastal destination, about 1 hour 40 minutes’ drive from Plitvice Lakes. If you visit Plitvice Lakes between May and October, it’s worth driving to the coast to enjoy the beach experience in one trip.

Cetina Spring

The Cetina Spring is a unique-looking spring in a hidden spot in the Croatian countryside. If you like hidden, interesting places, you should add it to your bucket list.

Krka National Park

The Krka National Park is very similar to the Plitvice National Park, with its many lakes and waterfalls set in beautiful natural surroundings. There are also great hiking opportunities here. The exception is that in the Krka National Park you are allowed to go bathing, while in the Plitvice Lakes it is strictly forbidden. If traveling towards the Croatian coast, it is worth making the detour to Krka. It is about 2 hours drive from Plitvice Lakes.


The same can be said of Split, another famous Croatian coastal city. Split is almost a 3-hour drive from Plitvice Lakes National Park. Its coastline is picturesque and well worth a visit.

So much to know about the Plitvice Lakes. With all this information and the details available on the official website of the national park, you have all the information you need to plan the best trip to Plitvice Lakes. The Plitvice Lakes can be a breathtaking experience, so it should be added to your bucket list. Or if you have already been there, the Plitvice Lakes are always a great place for a relaxing break in nature.

Photo Gallery

Want to see more photos?

Check out our photo gallery, where you can find all our photos categorized by country. In the photo gallery you can see photos from 6 years of travel and more than 20 countries. Discover the most beautiful places in the world!

Follow us on Instagram