Before you do anything else, you MUST add Plitvice Lakes National Park to your bucket list! Even better, add “in autumn” because the fall colors here will blow you away. Don’t believe us? Scroll through this post to see some of the pictures we took on our trip!
Boardwalks over turquoise lakes, hundreds of waterfalls, endless breathtaking views. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Croatia and a UNESCO world heritage site. We spent one day exploring Plitvice and are going to share with you all you need to know for your visit!
Planning to travel in 2022? Check out our Tips for Traveling this year + some helpful resources!
Our Trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park
While staying in Istria, we rented a car and drove 4 hours to our accommodation outside of Plitvice Lakes National Park. The drive was so pretty which made up for the length! We arrived in the evening, got dinner, and had an early night. We wanted to make sure we slept early for our exciting next day.
Exploring the Park
In the morning, we woke up before sunrise to get ready. As soon as we saw light outside, we walked from our accommodation to the entrance of the park and bought our tickets. It was a cold morning, but we were too excited to care! We headed to the trail and were taken aback by the first view of the falls (pictured left).
Sam basically started running down the trail to get the next full view of the falls. Our first stop was the Big Waterfall and we ran into a family from Minnesota that were sweet enough to take our picture for us.
Alone in Plitvice
We continued our walk on the boardwalk, gushing over the views around us. Not only was the water beautiful, but we lucked out and ended up in Plitvice Lakes National Park during peak fall time. The reds, oranges, and yellows, complemented the turquoise waters so well. We don’t know how we got so lucky, this place was truly amazing.
Because we arrived to the park so early, we had most of the trails to ourselves. In the first two hours, we only saw 6 people (including the Minnesotan family of 4). The park was so quiet, all we heard were the birds singing and the water rushing around us.
We walked through the path, admiring views like these:
A New Little Friend
While waiting for the shuttle to cross the lake, we made friends with a cute little pup. We gave him the honorary name “Scrappy” since we never got his name from anyone. And when we say “made friends” we mean that this little guy followed us for 3 hours as we walked through the park.
Scrappy took the shuttle across the lake with us and when we got off he followed. We checked twice with employees about him, worried someone would be missing their dog.
Both times we were told that he’s a local dog and knows his way around the park. The first employee even said that Scrappy would head back to the ferry after an hour or so. “Okay, then” we thought and continued our way through the park.
Can you spot him in the picture?
Well, he did not head back after 1 hour, or 2, or even 3. Scrappy stayed by our side for MILES and only stopped because we got on the shuttle at St. 3 and he wasn’t allowed on!
This little pup walked down steep banks to get a drink from the waterfalls, he wondered the trails like he owned the place, and always came running back to us if he walked to far ahead.
He made us laugh so much and definitely added to our experience in Plitvice. If you ever get to meet him, give him lots of love! And, if anyone ever finds out his real name, we’d love it if you told us.
Views from Above
After we got off the shuttle, we still had a short walk back to the exit. This path walked along the ridge with views looking down at the lakes. It was such a beautiful walk and the sun had finally come out.
Before we exited the park, we went back to the first viewing point of the falls. It was so breathtaking and we needed to see it one more time to truly take it all in.
Visiting Plitvice National Park – The Details
Where is Plitvice Lakes National Park?
This otherworldly gem is located in Croatia, 2 hours south of Zagreb and just under 2 hours north of Zadar. When looking at a map of Croatia, we describe its location as right near “the inside of the bend”. One of the closet towns is Jezera, and is home to our accommodation recommendation below!
How much does it cost to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park?
Tickets can be bought online beforehand or at the entrance to the park. The price varies based on the season. We are listing prices both in USD (based on the exchange rate at time of this post) for 1 adult entrance ticket. The park offers discounts for children, students, people with disabilities, and 2 day passes.
Jan -May: $12.30 June: $23.06 July: $30.75 August-Sept: $38.44 Oct: $27.67 Nov-Dec:$12.30
Parking Cost: 10 Kuna or $1.54 per hour if you park in the park’s lots. If you stay where we recommended above, you don’t have to worry about paying for parking!
Shuttles: There are shuttles, or “Visitor Trains”, that operate in the park and this is included with your park ticket. Depending on the entrance you choose and the route you hike, the shuttles can be very useful in helping you reach one end of the park or the other.
Electric Boats: Also included in your entrance ticket, the electric boats or ferries can take you across Lake Kozjak to the other side of the park if you choose not to walk it.
Where to stay?
We are not earning anything from sharing the information below, it is completely our experience and opinion:
There are tons of accommodation options to choose from near Plitvice Lakes National Park. We recommend staying in Jezera, as this is a town super close to the entrance.
We stayed in the charming guesthouse House Flora, a 10 minute walk away from the park. Our room was a simple double bedroom with a private bathroom and it had a RAIN showerhead.
Not only was our room great, it was SO nice to be able to walk to the park entrance to avoid paying for parking. Also, our hosts were so kind and let us keep our car on their property while we enjoyed the park after checking out.
There are other great guesthouses in the same location as House Flora, such as The Krizmanic Family B&B and House Katarina.
Which Entrance Should You Choose?
Entering Plitvice Lakes National Park through Entrance 1 means that during your entire walk, you will almost always have a waterfall in front of you. Although we haven’t visited the park through Entrance 2, our route through Entrance 1 was beautiful the whole way through.
If you were coming from Entrance 2, you would be coming up from behind them. The views would still be great, however, entering from Entrance 1 means you will almost always have a waterfall in view.
What to do in Plitvice Lakes National Park?
Hike, explore, be amazed. There are many miles of trails through the park and over 100 waterfalls.
Following the trails throughout the park is super easy! The park has 8 different routes, or “Lake Tour Programs” as named on the website.No matter which route you choose, getting lost is not something to worry about. There are maps and signs posted throughout the park to guide you.
You can choose which route to follow based on how much time you have, how much you want to see of the park, and the entrance you chose. Below, we have given a very brief description of each route as this information is easily accessible on the park’s site.
Route A: Lower Lakes from Entrance 1. Time Needed: 2-3 hours. Distance: Just over 2 miles
Route B: Lower Lakes + Lake Kozjak from Entrance 1. Time Needed: 3-4 hours. Distance: 2.5 miles
Route C: Lower Lakes, Lake Kozjak, and Upper Lakes from Entrance 1 with shuttle and electric boat. Time Needed: 4-5 hours. Distance: 5 miles.
This is the route we took, and we were so happy with everything we experienced. This route took us 5 hours (including all the stops we made for pictures and to have lunch). We experienced both sides of the park, Lake Kozjak, and took the shuttles once on our way back to the entrance.
Route E: Upper Lakes + Short Boat Ride from Entrance 2. Time Needed: 2-3 Hours. Distance: Just over 3 miles
Route F: Lower Lakes + Lake Kozjak from Entrance 2. Time Needed: 3-4 Hours. Distance: Almost 3 miles
Route H: Similar to Route C except from Entrance 2. Upper Lakes, Lower Lakes, and Lake Kozjak with shuttle and electric boat. Time Needed: 4-6 hours Distance: 5.5 miles.
Route K: From Entrance 1 or 2. Similar to Route C and H except, instead of taking the shuttle and long electric boat ride this section is walked. You will only take one short boat ride on Lake Kozjak during this route. Time Needed: 6-8 hours. Distance: 11.4 miles
For more details on the routes, click here
Want to experience more? Although most people come to Plitvice to enjoy these routes along the lakes, the park also has hiking trails that take you through different regions of the park. Sadly, because our time was limited, we did not get to them but we have added it as #342 to why we MUST return to this beautiful place. You can find all the information for hiking these trails here.
Not too far from the park you will find Fast Food BBQ. This cute, quick service restaurant has outdoor seating (with heaters + blankets when it’s cold). The food was delicious and the best part…THREE vegan options!
Need more inspiration for a visit during fall? Check out these colors!!
Our trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park was something we will remember forever. We hope the information we shared helps anyone planning to go. Don’t forget to look out for Scrappy too!
Sam and Ty