Thanks to Slovenia’s compact size, it’s fairly easy to cross the border and enjoy Croatia’s famed Plitvice Lakes National Park. The distance between Ljubljana and the park is just 128 miles (206 km), so going by car—rental or private transfer—is the fastest and most convenient option with a three-hour journey time.
The bus is a budget-friendly option, although it does require a connection in Zagreb. Alternatively, you can take the train from Ljubljana to Zagreb, then switch to a bus. Keep in mind that the bus runs on a limited schedule to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Once you’re in Zagreb, however, it’s quite common to book a private transfer to the lakes, allowing for more flexibility.
Note that Plitvice Lakes National Park is a major tourist destination and can get quite crowded at peak times, especially in the summer. These tips can help you avoid the masses and have a unique experience. If you have more time to extend your trip, you might enjoy this 8-day tour.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 3 hours
The drive from Ljubljana to Plitvice Lakes National Park is fairly straightforward. To start, you’ll follow the A2 highway out of Ljubljana before transitioning to the two-lane Road 105 at Novo Mesto, an excellent stopping point for a meal or coffee.
Once you cross into Croatia, the road changes to D6. Keep in mind that you’ll have to stop at the border to show your papers, which may require an additional fee from your rental car company. The border crossing should only take about 10 minutes or so, but it can take longer depending on the time of day and season.
Eventually, you’ll connect to the E65/E71 highways and join D42 all the way to the lakes. The journey is quite scenic, treating you to many views of small villages and expansive countryside.
If you’d like to visit Zagreb along the way, you can easily stick with the A2 highway and switch to E70 at the border. This only adds 10 minutes to your journey time and also serves as a great alternative if you prefer multi-lane highways.
Another interesting stopping point is Karlovac, home to the Croatian War of Independence Museum. Alternatively, the small village of Rastoke is quite picturesque with a series of mills and waterfalls.
Duration: 4.5-5 hours
The bus is a budget-friendly alternative, but requires a connection in Zagreb. The fastest route is via the private company, Flixbus, which offers numerous departures from Ljubljana to Zagreb. If possible, it’s best to take an early bus as these tend to fill up as the day goes on. Once in Zagreb, you can continue with the same company, or opt for the regional bus. Private transfers are also available and allow more flexibility.
If taking the regional bus from Zagreb, keep in mind that there are two entrances to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Many opt for the second entrance to help avoid the summer crowds.
By Train (+ Bus or Private Transfer)
Duration: 4.5-5 hours
There are five daily train departures from Ljubljana to Zagreb, with journey times between 2-3 hours. Once you get to Zagreb, you’ll switch to a bus or private transfer. Note that the bus and train stations are not connected, requiring a short 5-minute taxi or 15-minute walk. From there, catching a bus or transfer will get you to Plitvice Lakes National Park in another 2.5-3 hours.