The most beautiful National Park in Europe!
Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s best-known national park, listed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage sites. It is a popular visiting destination all year round, and must-see for every visitor to Croatia.
If possible, visit the park during the week, there is much fewer people than during the weekend. According to your capacities you will choose a « two hours » , « four hours » or « six hours » ride. Do not worry about the way back, there are shuttles that will bring you back to your starting point.
Plitvice Lakes is located in central Croatia. The closest cities are Zagreb and Zadar. Here are driving distances and times from popular spots in Croatia:
- Zagreb: 135 km, 2 hours 15 minutes
- Zadar: 136 km, 2 hours
- Split: 260 km, 3 hours
- Dubrovnik: 450 km, 5 hours
- Pula: 275 km, 3 hours 45 minutes
It is possible to visit Plitvice Lakes on a day trip from Zagreb, Zadar and Split. However, you will spend a lot of time in the car. If you are doing this in the summer months, you will most likely arrive at peak time when the boardwalks are congested with lots of people.
For the best experience, plan to stay overnight near the park so you can have an early start to your day. It’s worth it!
Plitvice Lakes is the oldest and largest national park in the Republic of Croatia. The park is situated in the mountainous region of Croatia, between the Mala Kapela mountain range in the west and northwest, and the Lička Plješivica mountain range to the southeast. Administratively, the park falls within two counties: Lika-Senj (90.7%) and Karlovac (9.3%).
With its exceptional natural beauty, this area has always attracted nature lovers, and already on 8 April 1949, it was proclaimed Croatia’s first national park. The process of tufa formation, which results in the building of the tufa, or travertine, barriers and resulted in the creation of the lakes, is the outstanding universal value, for which the Plitvice Lakes were internationally recognised on 26 October 1979 with their inscription onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1997, the boundaries of the national park were expanded, and today it covers an area just under 300 km2.
The park is primarily covered in forest vegetation, with smaller areas under grasslands. The most attractive part of the park – the lakes – cover just under 1% of the total park area.
The lake system is comprised of 16 named and several smaller unnamed lakes, cascading one into the next. Due to the geological substrate and characteristic hydrogeological conditions, the lake system has been divided into the Upper and Lower lakes. The twelve lakes forming the Upper Lakes are: Prošćansko jezero, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Veliko jezero, Malo jezero, Vir, Galovac, Milino jezero, Gradinsko jezero, Burgeti and Kozjak. These lakes were formed on impermeable dolomite rock, and are larger, with more indented and gentler shores than the Lower Lakes. The Lower Lakes, consisting of the lakes Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaluđerovac and Novakovića Brod, were formed in permeable limestone substrate, cut into a deep canyon with steep cliffs. The lakes end in the impressive waterfalls Sastavci, with the Korana River springing under the base of the falls.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park offers visitors seven different routes to tour the lake system, and four hiking trails. The park is open to visitors year round. All visitors are required to follow the instructions listed on the information panels, to keep on the marked trails, and to leave no traces of their visit, such as litter, or marking or devastating nature in any form.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PLITVICE LAKES
Plitvice Lakes is a year-round destination. It is open 365 days of the year.
The summer months are the busiest time to visit the park. Expect congestion on the boardwalks and hot temperatures. Water levels tend to be lower during the summer months so the waterfalls may not be as impressive. We got lucky and it rained overnight right before our visit.
Spring and autumn are the best time to visit. Crowds are lower and the waterfalls are roaring during the spring months. In autumn, you can capture the lakes with the fall colors.
Winter is a totally different experience. Crowds are generally low and if you are really lucky you will get to see Plitvice Lakes with a layer of snow.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE PARK
Plitvice Lakes National Park covers over 73,000 acres. There are four hiking trails that are organized into 7 different routes to tour the park. Other than hiking, you can also get around by boat and by shuttle (also called the panoramic train).
It’s easiest to think about the park in three different sections. The lower lakes section includes Entrance 1 and Veliki Slap (the Big Waterfall). From here, you can take a boat or the shuttle to the upper lakes section, with some of the prettiest boardwalk trails and waterfalls in the park. Beyond this is the third section, a trail around Proscansko Lake.
There is another section to the park that is not included on the main routes. There is a road and trail that runs along the western cliffs of the park (labeled Cliff Views on the map below), offering very nice aerial views over the lakes and boardwalk trails. This also includes the Veliki Slap viewpoint for the postcard photo of Plitvice Lakes.
SEVEN ROUTES THROUGH THE PARK
There are seven routes (also called programs) through the park. These are suggested routes depending upon your starting point, your energy level, and how much time you have. With seven options, picking out the best route can be a little overwhelming. At the end of this section, I’ll give you our suggestions.
Programs A, B, and C all start at Entrance 1. Programs E, F and H all start at Entrance 2 and are basically the same as A, B, C only they travel in the opposite direction. Program K is a full day hike through the entire park.
It’s absolutely worth it to visit both the lower and upper lakes if you have the time. In order to do this you will need to do Program C (from entrance 1) or Program H (from Entrance 2).
If you are short on time, you will have to choose between the upper and lower lakes. Which one is better? Both sections feature stunning waterfalls and lake views and you can’t go wrong with either. But I think the waterfalls of the upper lakes are slightly better than the lower lake section.
WHAT TO VISIT IN OUR AREA?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is part of Lika Destination – destination of protected areas and a gastro-destination which offers an unique combination of inland and the sea, where you have the opportunity to experience no less than three climates in an only 30-minute drive, like in few other places, and truly experience this one-of-a-kind phenomenon of contrasts. Lika area covers the area of Lika-Senj, Karlovac and Zadar County, and since nearly 60% of the area covers the NATURA 2000 ecological network, the emphasis is on protected areas of nature. On the surface of 6,796 km2 there are: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Paklenica National Park, Northern Velebit National Park, Velebit Nature Park (Cave Zavratnica and Cerovačke Caves), Grabovača Cave Park, Baraćeva Cave, Croatian Center for Fish and Crawfish in Karstic Waters and Memorial Center “Nikola Tesla” Smiljan. #PlitviceInLikaDestination
In the northern part of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, taste the beauty of the Plitvice valleys – a region rich in the beauty of nature and the diverse past. Experience horseback riding in one of horse ranches and ride through pristine near Plitvice Lakes National Park, visit ranch with wild deers, discover numerous cycling trails, visit old town Drežnik, try adrenaline sports…
In the southern part of the National Park, find the Plitvice Lakes tourist board which, through #DiscoverPlitvice program, wants to show you a rich and varied offer around the world famous lakes. Conquer surrounding mountains on bike or by foot, enjoy beautiful historical places, taste rich gastronomical homemade Lika cuisines.