PLITVICE LAKES

The sheer extravagance of beauty that nature can conjure in all its audacity is showcased exquisitely at the Plitvice National Parkin in Croatia. It is no wonder that the Plitvice Lakes (pronounced PLIT-vits-uh) area and the national park that encloses it are considered one of Europe’s most beautiful sights.

There are 16 lakes that are interlinked inside a large forest complex that creates an unparalleled visual pleasure that cannot be experienced elsewhere and prompted UNESCO to declared it a World Heritage site way back in 1979.

Located a stone throw away from the Croatian border with Bosnia, it presents a sharp contrast to the rugged interior regions of Croatia.

Termed as Europe’s most exotic hike, there are 16 terraced lakes strung together by waterfalls and intertwined together with pleasing wooden plank walk ways that gives the entire National Park a mesmerising ambience.

The National Parks have many deer, bears, wolves’ boars and many rare species of birds that inhabit the vast expanse of woodland that covers a total area of about 300 square kilometres and encompasses the enchanting lakes and its waterfalls, which themselves join together over a distance of over eight kilometres.

Even though the height difference between the lakes themselves is only 135m, the National Park area itself has an altitude that ranges from 1280 meters at its highest to the lowest point at 380 meters.

The largest waterfalls in the Park is Veliki Slap that is almost 70 m tall.

The mineral-rich water carves through the rock, depositing tufa (a variety of limestone) in ever-changing formations. One can have a pleasant walk over the 18 km long intermingling wooden footbridges and pathways that snake around the edges of the rumbling water and thundering waterfalls presenting you nature at its best all around you.

Exploring the entire area by foot takes more than six hours. From April to October, there are free boats and buses run by park that departs every 30 minutes, which can reduce the duration by half.

From the Entrance No.2, take the bus to the top of the upper lakes and then walk back to the Lake Kozjak, which is the park’s largest lake, at about 4 km in length. From here, you can take a boat to the lower lakes, ending with the Veliki Slap, the tallest waterfall in Croatia. Climb up the steep path, enjoying the beautiful views, until you reach a bus stop from where you can get a lift back to the Entrance No. 2.

If time is of a constraint, then the upper lake section can be explored in two hours and the lower section in three.
To avoid a climb, take the bus ride first and then end it with the boat ride.
There are rowboats that are for hire from the shores of Lake Kozjak near Entrance No. 2, for KN 50/hr. Please note that swimming is not permitted in any of the lakes.

Though Plitvice Lakes National Park is open throughout the year for visitors and offers plenty hiking trails as well as two educational trails, the daily tours on offer are at the mercy of the season and weather conditions on that particular date. Even the opening time schedules could vary accordingly. Hence, would suggest that you equip yourself with current information about the available tours prior to your visit.

Also, it would be prudent to note that there are numerous steps to be climbed as there is an altitude difference of 135 m between the first and the last lake (Lake Prosca and Lake NovakovicaBrod).
The touring zone only covers the area around the lakes and the waterfalls.

WHEN TO GO

Plitvice Lakes can be visited any time of the year, each season painting the Park in vivid colours– be it lush green and multi-colours of the flowers in full bloom during spring and summer to shades of beautiful brown in autumn or the enchanting white of the snow and ice in winter.

The park is a beautiful place to explore during rainy season when the rain drops falling on the lakes have a dramatic effect.

Plitvice can get very busy during summer. Hence a spring or late summer visit would be ideal , when the weather is good and the park is open for longer hours.

The Entrance No. 2 is normally closed in winter, but then you have plenty to explore through Entrance No. 1 too.

OPENING HOURS

In summer, the Park is open for longer hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The entrance fee varies depending on the season, costing from a low of 55 Kuna (for adults) from November to March when there are partial closures to be expected due to the weather, to 110 Kuna from April to June and in September to October during the shoulder season, and a hefty 180 Kuna in July and August, which is the peak summer and holiday season.

The entrance feescontribute to the upkeep and protection of the Park.

Tickets are cheaper for children between the ages of 7 and 18. Children under the age of seven can experience the Park for free. There are discounted entry tickets for students. Groups of more than 15 also get discounts.

There are two-day tickets that offer some savings on the cost.

Four-hour guided tours for a minimum of 15 people, are available in English, French, German, Italian, Croatian and Spanish, which can be booked at an additional cost.

Entrance No. 1 is for the lower lakes and Entrance No. 2 for the higher lakes. Entrance No. 2 is closed in winter (November to April).

HOW TO REACH PLITVICE LAKES

Though there are no airports that serve exclusively the Park, if you are visiting Croatia only for the Parks, then Zagreb or Zadar Airports are the nearest airports.

Though most visitors visit Plitvice National Park as a part of their overall trip to Croatia, they do not mind the extra travel to Plitvice, as the very glimpse of the gorgeous lakes are worth their efforts.

GETTING TO THE PLITVICE LAKES FROM ZAGREB

Zagreb Airport is the nearest airport though it is 140 km away. There are always connecting buses available to Plitvice National Park from to the main bus station in Zagreb city. The journey would take 2 hours and 20 minutes. You can also book the tickets on the Zagreb Bus Terminal website.

Considering the travel time and the plentiful bus schedule, it is possible to take a day trip on a public transport from Zagreb to the Plitvice Lakes.

GETTING TO THE PLITVICE LAKES FROM ZADAR

Located about 130km away, Zadar Airport is technically the closest to Plitvice. Many airlines operate flights to this airport. From here, a connection bus to Zadar bus station will help you board the bus to Plitvice, the journey taking 2 hours.

Buying a return ticket from Zadar bus terminal to Plitvice Lakes is advisable.

GETTING TO THE PLITVICE LAKES FROM SPLIT

Though it is not possible to make a return day trip day from Split to the Plitvice Lakes using public transport, there are direct buses connecting the two places. You can check out the schedules from the Split Bus Terminus website.

As most visitors make it a point to visit other cities in Croatia and not only visit Plitvice Lakes and to make your travel through Croatia less of a chore, it would be advisable that you travel from Zagreb to Split, with a stop off at the Plitvice Lakes.

The route recommended is Zagreb – Plitvice Lakes – Zadar – Split.

GETTING TO THE PLITVICE LAKES FROM DUBROVNIK

The best option would be to take one of the frequent daily buses from Dubrovnik to Split and then take the connecting bus from Split to the Plitvice National Park. The distance is about 450km in total.
Approximate bus travel times from various cities in Croatia to Plitvice Lakes:

• from Zagreb: 2 hours 20 minutes
• from Zadar: 2 hours
• from Split: 5 hours 50 minutes
• fromVarazdin: 4 hours 20 minutes (one bus per day)
If you are traveling from any other place in Croatia, it would be prudent to take a connection to any of the above cities that are nearer to you and then proceed from there to the Plitvice Lakes. Buses stop at both Entrance 1 and 2.

DEPARTINGFROM PLITVICE LAKES

There are no bus terminals in Plitvice. The small wooden huts near either of the Entrances No. 1 or No. 2 act as temporary bus shelters where you can wait for your buses. The bus schedules can be found here. If they are not posted, you can also check at the entrance of the Park. If you do not have a ticket purchased from Zadar or Zagreb, buy your tickets from driver when you board the bus.

EXPLORE PLITVICE

The Park displays maps and directions for a variety of sightseeing walks of varying distances that can be taken from either entrance depending upon your stamina levels and keep in mind the difference in elevation between the lakes which could be up to 135 meters.

Please note that swimming or any kind of water activity is not allowed anywhere in the Park thus ensuring that the water is kept clear, clean and pristine.

EXPLORING THE PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK – ENTRANCE 1

Stunning sceneries await you everywhere throughout the Park, but for great photo opportunities, it is Entrance No. 1 that you need to head to. Being on a higher altitude, you get wonderful views of the lakes below.

Take the winding gravel path that heads down to reach the wooden walkways which will help you cross the lakes, and from where you get an excellent view of the expansive lakes.

As you walk down through the wooden walkways, you can see Veliki Slap, the largest waterfall to your right. There are many such waterfalls and wonderful nooks and corners that provide stunning views and great photo opportunities.

If you need to explore further, trace the wooden walkways to explore the entire stretch of the lakes.
Supljara Cave is also an interesting place that offers a view to the unique fauna that inhabits the National Park area. You will have many more spectacular sights as you walk up further through the cave.

Exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park – Entrance 2

From Entrance No.2, you have choice to take either the boat or a panoramic train (a shuttle bus in reality) to explore the Park. You can take the train to access the higher altitudes of the park.

It is a good option to take the train first and travel up the Park and then walk down the walkways, which would take around two to three hours and reach the largest lake, Kozjak, from where you can take the electric boat back to Entrance No. 2.

The entire walk would present wonderful waterfalls and lakes with pristine clear water with plenty of plant and aquatic life with submerged trees that provide a truly mesmerising experience.

ACCOMMODATION AT THE PLITVICE LAKES

There are three hotels closely clustered near Entrance No. 2. There are also campsites that offers accommodation facilities. Camp Korana contains bungalows or space allowing 500 camping units that is 7 km from Entrance No. 1. Camp Borje is another campsite 15 km away from Entrance No. 2. Hotel Grabovac is located 12 km north of the Park.

A wide range of private accommodation is also available in the region. Besides accommodation options close to the park, there are other choices in towns and villages (like Slunj) en route to the Park. If you don’t have your own vehicle, picking the accommodation closer to the Park, is a better option. Some accommodations may provide transfer options.

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