Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s most popular attraction with over 1.1 million visitors in 2015 and even more visitors expected this year. Its popularity is no surprise, since Plitvice is a unique natural wonder with its 16 terraced crystal clear lakes and 90 waterfalls. In the summer months the park and its trails can get busy, but with the tips in this article you can avoid most of the crowds.
Park is open all year round but the best time to visit is in the Spring or Fall off-seasons. The Spring is a great time to visit because the water levels are high from the melting snow. The Summer (July & August) is very hot, and it is the most crowded time of year. In addition, the water level is lower than other times in the year. The Fall is a beautiful time of year to visit when the leaves are changing colors. The winter is also when the park is the quietest and beautiful when covered in snow and the lakes freeze.
Park hours - check the site for most up to date hours
- 9am - 4pm in the Winter
- 8am - 6pm in the Spring & Fall
- 7am - 8pm in the Summer
Daily ticket prices depend on the season. Ticket price includes a boat ride on the lake, and the tourist train to take you back to the Park entrance.
- 55 kn/ $8 USD (Jan 1 - Mar 31 & Nov 1 - Dec 31)
- 110 kn/ $17 USD (Apr 1 - June 30 & Sep 1 - Oct 31)
- 180 kn/ $27 USD (July 1 - Aug 31)
Parking is hourly and costs 7kn/hour (approx. $1). Make sure you have enough small change.
There are two entrances to the park - There are 4 different hiking routes starting from each entrance, look at hiking notes below for more information.
A Day trip from Zagreb or Zadar takes 2 hours by car or 2.5 hours by bus - the best way to access the park if you have limited time.
Hiking In the Park
There are 8 different hiking routes, the shortest being 3 hours. The longest takes up to 8 hours. So bring plenty of water and wear comfortable hiking shoes.
- Trail A (2-3 hours - 3.5km - easy) lower lakes only as it starts and ends at Entrance 1. Walk to the Great Waterfall and to Kozjaka Bridge.
- Trail B (3-4 hours -4km - easy) similar to Trail A but includes sailing on lake Kozjaka.
- Trail C (4-6 hours - 8km - moderate) extended Trail B including a visit to the upper lakes.
- Trail K (6-8 hours - 18.3km - difficult) Explores the whole park
Trail options from Entrance 2 (south gate-Upper Lakes)
- Trail E (2-3 hours - 5.2 km - easy) upper lakes to Proscansko Jezero starting with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake.
- Trail F (3-4 hours - 4.6km - easy) walk the upper lakes and sail across lake Kozjaka, then visit the lower lakes - take shuttle back
- Trail H (4-6 hours - 8.9km - moderate) starts with a bus ride to your starting point, walk the upper lakes then sail across lake Kozjaka, to the lower lakes - take shuttle bus back.
- Trail K-2 (6-8 hours - 18.3km -difficult) like Trail K-1 - explore the whole park.
For a moderate hike, we recommend Trail C from Entrance No 1. You’ll visit both lakes, and you’ll start the trail uphill through the park and end at the top of the upper lakes where you can eat your packed lunch at picnic tables
#1 - Avoid the Crowds
Arrive early (before 9am) as most of the tourists come around mid-day. And plan to leave by noon to avoid traffic. OR arrive in the afternoon when most tour groups have finished their guided walks.
#2 - Picnic!
Plan ahead and pack a picnic lunch overlooking the scenic lakes. Food inside the park is overpriced and not high quality. Or, plan to eat your meals outside the park.
#3 - Make It An Overnight Trip
In order to enjoy early access to the lakes, consider staying in the nearby villages the day before so you can go right when the park opens.
Stay in a Sobe (similar to a B&B) instead of a hotel to save money and enjoy a more intimate, authentic experience.
- Villa Sumrak - 15 minute walk to the Great Waterfalls and lakes in the park, friendly host family, great home cooked meals upon request. With only 3 rooms, book early.
- Villa Verde Guest House - minutes from the park entrance 2, owners are friendly, newly refurbished, and has 6 rooms.
- Villa Lika - 15 min walk to the park, bigger with 16 rooms, great hosts.
- Bungalows Korana (Campsite) - minutes drive to the park, stay in wooden bungalows with shared bathrooms, offers a restaurant on site, has 47 rooms.
#4 - Don't get caught behind Tour Groups
Pick your own trail before you get there so you can start hiking right away - No need for the guided tours in the park as the routes are easy to follow.
#5 - Walk a trail route in reverse
If you come across a big group at the start of your trail consider walking the trail in reverse. You’ll be walking uphill most of the time but you will see fewer people on the trail.
#6 - The upper lakes tend to be less crowded during peak season
#7 - Explore the park's surrounding
If you decide to spend a few days in the area you can enjoy an abundance of outdoor activities outside the park:
- For guided tours check out Raftrek
- Cycling - spend the day cycling around the Plitvice Park area
- White water rafting along the Una or Korana Rivers
- Spend a day at the Mrežnica River - bring a picnic and go swimming here
- River kayaking
#8 - Rent a boat
Sorry to you swimmers out there, but there’s no swimming allowed because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you can rent a small row-boat for 50kn/hour
#9 - Bathrooms
Check where the bathrooms are on the map, as there are not many bathrooms along the hiking trails.
#10 - Traveling with Small Kids
If you have small kids, bring a baby bjorn or be prepared to carry your little ones. With a stroller, you won't be able to go far on the wooden boardwalks.
Conclusion: Maximize your experience at the amazing Plitvice Lakes
By following the tips above you can improve your experience at Plitvice Lakes and avoid most of the crowds, even though visitor numbers are expected to rise even further as the word about this beautiful place gets out.