It seems far too long since we stood on the timber boardwalks at Plitvice Lakes Croatia, mouths agape and cameras clicking. Where we live it doesn’t rain often (unless it pours) so it isn’t surprising that Plitvice Lakes with it’s lashings of water and verdant foliage blew our minds.
Have you ever been to a place that sets the bar impossibly high?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is that place.
A National Park since the 1949 and it was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 1979.
What You Will Find in This Post
Watch the video here.
My inner voice niggles…
How best to portray all that amazing rushing, spurting, dripping and spraying water?
The very real vivid green of the forest, the unafraid fish and the sound of joyful frogs?
Why Plitvice Lakes are special.
The lakes, around 16 of them at the moment, are separated by travertine rock waterfalls. Made of moss, algae and bacteria, the porous nature of travertine is what makes the whole magical water show happen.
It is not unusual for a Plitvice boardwalk to have reflective pools to one side, a wall of multiple waterfalls on the other, a white effervescent stream beneath and crystal clear water tumbling in between. The lack of rails and the floating effect of the boardwalks (they sometimes sink beneath water level) impart a feeling of walking on water.
The sound of rushing water is constant, until a gravel track leads beneath a canopy of lime green leaves and the stillness takes over.
At times everything, even the water, is green – multiple shades of green – layer upon layer.
I did mention the lakes in the round up of our Ten Weeks in Europe 2015. Here is what I managed to say back then.
Allocate six hours to walk the myriad pathways, luxuriate in the cool blues and greens, the splash of gushing waterfalls, the chorus of happy frogs, the lazy schools of fish and if you have planned well and arrived very early, possibly a moment to enjoy the solitude.
Breeding ground for happy frogs.
We had questions about visiting Plitvice Lakes. Questions like…
Plitvice Lakes Swimming – Can you?
No. But think of this as a positive. Swimming would only activate the lake bottom and spoil the water clarity and colour – a major attraction of Plitvice believe me! I hate to imagine the effect a million people each year splashing around in this pristine environment.
Which Plitvice Lakes trails should we take?
There are eight trails in all. The boardwalks get up close and personal with waterfalls and streams while the gravel paths circle the lakes and probe the forests. And there are steps that lead up and up through a tall cave.
We’d researched the trails and more or less decided to begin at the top of the Lakes and work our way down. I was pleased to hear that the hosts at our family run hotel did the same each time they ventured to the lakes. Hi Five!
It’s called the H trail and it is mostly down-hill.
How difficult will Plitvice Lakes trails be?
While the lack of handrails is great for feeling part of nature, it would be easy to fall into the water if the paths were crowded. The boardwalks are not stroller or wheelchair friendly, so consider using a back pack to carry baby. Raised tree roots criss-cross the gravel tracks in places.
I am of average fitness and found the trails easy.
How to get to Plitvice Lakes?
Rent a Car and Drive yourself.
Drive from Zagreb, spend the night nearby and visit the lakes the next morning. This worked brilliantly for us. We were able to rise at a reasonable time, have breakfast and arrive at the gates by 8 a.m.
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Bus.
The bus trip from Zagreb can take up to 3 hours, with the earliest bus departing Zagreb at 5.45 a.m.
The bus from Zadar takes a similar amount of time. For more bus information from Croatia Traveller click here.
Where will we park and how much will Plitvice parking cost?
For the E,F,K and H Trail use Plitvice Lakes Entrance 2 (7 kuna/hour). Cross the road via the overhead walkway and walk a short distance to the bus stop. A funny little bus that tows a carriage or two behind will drop you at the trail head. It doesn’t have a large capacity and standing in the aisles is not allowed. The gates open at 7 a.m., and the mini-buses to the trail heads start at 8 a.m.
For the A,B,C,K trails use Plitvice Entrance 1.
Car park opening hours 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The mini-bus to the trail head is included in the ticket price and departs every 30 minutes. It is a brisk ten minutes walk from the car park to the bus stop.
Best time to visit Plitvice Lakes?
The Spring weather in early June was perfect. There are over 10,000 visitors each day in peak season of July/August and the trails do become congested. I’ve heard that Autumn is a special time, with few crowds and beautiful colours. From December to February there is even the possibility of seeing the park under snow.
If your itinerary is flexible, juggle your days to be there when the sun is shining.
Can we buy food at Plitvice Lakes?
Yes, there is a sizeable cafe with plenty of seating. On the H trail it is situated after the boat ride across the lake. Their hamburger and chips went down just fine.
Drinks/food can also be purchased near the ticket office at Entrance 2 car park, and possibly at Entrance 1.
How much time should I allow?
It takes 4-6 hours to do H. We took 6 hours. It is imperative to arrive early in the day. There were hardly any people at the top of H early in the morning, but as the day progressed the paths became busier. After an hour or so we started meeting people coming up the trails from the bottom. Arriving early maximises the time spent without two way traffic. By the time we reached the bottom it was difficult to find space at the viewpoints.
If an early morning visit isn’t possible I would consider arriving at about 3.30 p.m. for an evening visit although shadows may impede photography.
Plitvice Lakes Map
We stayed at Plitvice House Pox at Jezerce, not far by car from Entrance 2. Breakfast was included in the 40 Euro price and we purchased an evening meal there as well. We booked on Booking.com where there were other choices available.
The view from our room’s balcony.
Plitvice Lakes Entrance Fee
April May June* September and October. 110 kuna. kids 55 kuna. *Recommended.
July August. 180 kuna. kids 80 kuna.
All other months. 55 kuna. kids 35 kuna.
There are two day tickets (180 kuna in middle season) but we found one day was enough. Two day tickets have the ticket holder’s name printed on them.
Plitvice Lakes Opening Hours
8 am to 9 pm.