Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia Travel Guide: A Natural Wonderland to Explore
If you are looking for a natural wonderland in Croatia, you should not miss Plitvice Lakes National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, attracting over 1 million visitors per year. But don't let the crowds deter you from exploring this stunning park, which covers over 73,000 acres of diverse landscapes, including forests, grasslands, caves and cliffs.
The main attraction of the park is its 16 interconnecting lakes, which vary in color from emerald green to turquoise to deep blue, depending on the mineral content and lighting conditions. The lakes are divided into two sections: the lower lakes and the upper lakes. Each section has its own charm and beauty, but they are both connected by wooden boardwalks that allow you to walk over the water and admire the views from different angles.
The lower lakes are home to the park's largest waterfall, Veliki Slap, which is 78 meters high and creates a spectacular sight. You can also visit Šupljara cavern, where you can see stalactites, stalagmites and cave bear bones. The lower lakes are closer to Entrance 1 of the park, which is more convenient if you are coming from Zagreb or Zadar.
The upper lakes are more secluded and wild, offering a quieter and more serene experience. Here you can see more waterfalls, cascades and caves, as well as a variety of flora and fauna. Some of the highlights include Okrugljak lake, which has a long cave and a waterfall called Labudovac, and Galovac lake, which has a chain of cascades and lush greenery. The upper lakes are accessible from Entrance 2 of the park, which is closer to Split or Dubrovnik.
Besides the lakes, there are also many hiking trails that take you through different parts of the park. You can choose from four hiking trails that are organized into seven different routes, depending on your fitness level and time availability. Some of the trails are easy and flat, while others are more challenging and steep. You can also use the boat or shuttle service to get around the park faster or to skip some sections.
No matter which route you choose, you will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and a chance to witness the rich biodiversity of the park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to over 1,400 plant species, including 60 types of orchids and 800 types of fungi. You can also spot some of the 250 animal species that live here, such as wolves, bears, lynxes, wildcats and sheep. If you are lucky, you might even see butterflies fluttering in the treetops or hear birds singing in the woods.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a place that will make you feel like you are in a fairy tale. It is a place that will inspire you with its natural beauty and diversity. It is a place that you will never forget.
How to plan your visit
Plitvice Lakes National Park is open all year round, but the best time to visit is in spring or autumn, when the weather is mild and the colors are vibrant. The summer months are very busy and hot, so you might want to avoid them if you can. The winter months are cold and snowy, but they also offer a unique opportunity to see the frozen waterfalls and ice-covered lakes.
The park has two entrances: Entrance 1 near the lower lakes and Entrance 2 near the upper lakes. You can buy your tickets online or at the entrance gates. The ticket price varies depending on the season and your age group. The ticket includes access to all trails, boardwalks, boats and shuttles within the park.
You can visit Plitvice Lakes National Park as a day trip from Zagreb, Zadar or Split, but it will be a long drive and you might not have enough time to see everything. If you want to have a more relaxed and enjoyable visit, it is better to stay overnight near the park or inside the park itself. There are several hotels, guesthouses and campsites available for different budgets and preferences.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-see destination in Croatia. It is a place that will amaze you with its natural wonders and charm you with its peaceful atmosphere. It is a place that you will want to return to again and again.
Things to do
Plitvice Lakes National Park offers a plethora of activities and experiences to make your visit unforgettable. Here are some additional things to do while exploring this stunning natural wonderland in Croatia:
Take a Boat Ride: Hop on one of the park's electric boats that operate on the largest lake, Kozjak. Enjoy a leisurely cruise while taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and waterfalls.
Capture the Beauty: Plitvice Lakes National Park is a photographer's dream. Make sure to bring your camera and capture the mesmerizing landscapes, vibrant colors, and cascading waterfalls at every turn.
Explore the Caves: Venture into the underground wonders of the park by exploring the caves. Don't miss the Šupljara cavern near the lower lakes, where you can marvel at the impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and remnants of ancient cave bears.
Discover the Flora and Fauna: The park is home to a rich variety of plant and animal species. Take your time to appreciate the diverse flora, including the beautiful orchids and fungi. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of wildlife such as wolves, bears, lynxes, and various bird species.
Try Traditional Cuisine: After a day of exploration, treat yourself to traditional Croatian cuisine. Indulge in delicious local specialties such as Ćevapi (grilled meat), Peka (slow-cooked meat and vegetables), and homemade pastries. Many restaurants and cafes can be found near the park entrances.
Trek the Hiking Trails: Lace up your hiking boots and embark on one of the park's well-marked hiking trails. Each trail offers unique perspectives and takes you through different parts of the park, allowing you to immerse yourself in its natural beauty. Remember to follow the designated paths to preserve the delicate ecosystem.
Picnic by the Lakes: Pack a picnic and find a peaceful spot near the lakes to enjoy a relaxing meal surrounded by nature. Breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sounds of birds chirping, and savor the tranquility of your surroundings.
Experience Winter Magic: If you visit during the winter months, witness the park transform into a winter wonderland. Admire the frozen waterfalls and lakes covered in snow, creating a magical and ethereal atmosphere. Winter hiking and photography enthusiasts will find this season particularly enchanting.
Learn at the Visitor Centers: Visit the park's visitor centers to enhance your understanding of the unique ecosystems and cultural heritage of Plitvice Lakes. Engage in interactive displays, watch informative videos, and interact with knowledgeable staff who can provide insights and answer your questions.
Relax and Unwind: Take a moment to simply relax and soak in the natural beauty around you. Find a peaceful spot, breathe in the fresh air, and let the serene ambiance of Plitvice Lakes National Park rejuvenate your mind and soul.
Remember to respect the park's rules and regulations, follow designated paths, and maintain cleanliness by disposing of waste responsibly. Enjoy your visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park, and create unforgettable memories in this breathtaking corner of Croatia!
How much time should I allocate for visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park?
It is recommended to allocate at least a full day to explore the park and experience its main attractions. However, if you have more time, you can extend your stay to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the lakes, hiking trails, and wildlife.
Are there accommodations available within or near the park?
Yes, there are several accommodation options available within and near Plitvice Lakes National Park. You can choose from hotels, guesthouses, and campsites catering to various budgets and preferences. Staying overnight allows you to have a more relaxed and enjoyable visit.
Can I swim in the lakes?
No, swimming is not allowed in the lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park. The primary reason is to preserve the delicate ecosystem and protect the water quality. However, you can enjoy the lakes' beauty from the wooden boardwalks and boats that traverse the park.
Are there restaurants or picnic areas in the park?
Yes, there are restaurants, cafes, and picnic areas available within the park. You can enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants or find a serene spot near the lakes to have a picnic surrounded by nature. Remember to follow the park's rules regarding waste disposal.
Can I visit Plitvice Lakes National Park in winter?
Yes, the park is open all year round, including winter. Visiting during winter offers a unique opportunity to witness frozen waterfalls and snow-covered landscapes. However, note that the weather can be cold, and some trails or facilities might have limited accessibility during this season.
Is it necessary to book tickets in advance?
It is not mandatory to book tickets in advance, but it is recommended, especially during the peak season. Booking online allows you to skip the ticket queue and secure your entry. However, you can also purchase tickets at the entrance gates if you prefer.
Are there guided tours available in the park?
Yes, guided tours are available in Plitvice Lakes National Park. These tours provide informative insights into the park's history, ecology, and highlights. You can choose from group tours or private guided experiences based on your preferences.
Can I bring my pets to the park?
No, pets are not allowed in the park, except for registered guide dogs assisting people with disabilities. This rule ensures the safety of both the animals in the park and the visitors.
Are there facilities for people with disabilities?
Plitvice Lakes National Park has made efforts to improve accessibility for visitors with disabilities. There are designated pathways, ramps, and facilities to enhance mobility. However, some areas of the park may still pose challenges for individuals with certain disabilities.
Is there a limit on the number of visitors to the park?
Plitvice Lakes National Park has implemented visitor management strategies to ensure a sustainable and enjoyable experience. During peak times, there may be restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in certain areas. It is advisable to arrive early or consider visiting during non-peak seasons for a more relaxed experience.