Plitvice Lakes (Plitvička jezera) is a Croatian National Park that preserves the amazing natural beauty of this lake region. Conveniently connected by roads and public transport buses with Zagreb, Zadar, and Split, Plitvice is one of the most popular National Parks to visit while holidaying in Croatia and definitely one not to be missed.
Plitvice Lakes at a glance
There National Park covers 16 lakes, connected in between by either streams or waterfalls, and divided into two groups – Upper and Lower lakes aka Gornja and Donja Jezera. The most popular and busiest is Lower Lakes as they are closer to both entrances. Plitvice’s Lower Lakes consists of four lakes while the Upper Lakes group includes 12 lakes with the most popular among them being Proscansko and Kozjak Lake on which you can take a boat ride.
Numerous waterfalls connect all sixteen lakes. Depending on the weather and seasons, at different times of the year, the sizes of waterfalls change. Sometime in the dry summers, smaller ones almost completely vanish while in the cold, freezing winters, they completely freeze. The most popular and well-known waterfalls are Velik Slap, Sastavci, and Veliki Prstavac all located in the Lower Lakes. In the above photo, you can see Sastavci and Veliki Slap waterfalls, both situated close to the entrance of the park.
When to Go
The best time of the year to visit Plitvice is in spring and autumn, from late March to late June and September to October. These are the months that are less crowded here as opposed to summers – July and August – when the area gets busy with people and families on the summer holidays. Freezing wintertime is also lovely here, however, the traveling is more complicated due to possible road closures due to fog and freezing road conditions.
The first time I visited Plitvice was years ago – I was just 9 years old at the time when we went for a short holiday in the lakes. Since then, I have been visiting this lovely region on numerous occasions and whenever I have a chance, I spend a day or two enjoying nature here at any time of the year. Whichever time you choose you will not be disappointed.
Weather in Plitvice
The weather in Plitvice Lakes obviously depends on the season – summer days can be pretty hot with temperatures of high 30°C although the nights are often much cooler and you need a light jacket to walk around.
Springs and autumns are colder often with an overcast sky and can be pretty wet with showers, rain, and hail. Winters are freezing cold with a lot of snowfall. Average temperatures in the winter often fall way below 0 °C. At this time of the year, some parts of the park are closed due to ice and snow on the paths. Usually, Lower Lakes are open while remote parts of Upper Lakes are kept closed.
How Long Should You Visit
These stunning lakes, considered among the most beautiful in the whole world, are ideal to visit for at least one day as a part of a day trip from either Split, Zadar, or Zagreb. The park is just 1 hr 30 minutes away from Zagreb, about a 2 hours drive from Zadar, and just under 3 hours drive from Split (see details here).
I would say that the minimum visit is at least one whole day but if you choose to stay here two or three days that would be ideal to explore the wider area of the Park including all lakes, surrounding woodlands, hills, villages, and paths.
A week or even longer is ideal for people who are looking for outdoor activities that are plenty on offer in this truly breathtaking natural environment. That includes hiking, walking, mountain bike, horse riding, swimming, or fishing in nearby Slunj, Rastoke, and similar. So, you’ll need at least a day to do it justice but two or three days are much better.
Best hikes and walks
Hiking and walking along the lakes and on above hills and woodlands is considered as the best thing to do here. There are numerous hiking routes in the wider area while in the park itself the eight distinguished routes are easy to follow and well signed.
Depending on how much time and energy you have, you can just do short and easier routes along the Lower Lakes (Kaludjerovac and Novakovica Brod lakes) and that also includes walking near Veliki Slap ( Large Waterfall) and Sastavci Waterfalls. This walk can be done in just a few hours.
If you have more time (4-5 hours) then you can include visiting Milanovac and Kozjak lake and walking further along that route. For people who are fitter or have another day to explore, hiking along all sixteen lakes and waterfalls is the ultimate route. Some people can do all lakes in one day but for the rest of us, to walk along all lakes, two days of hiking should be just fine. To explore further (local caves, villages, and woodlands) add another day or two.
Where to Stay and When to Make Your Reservations
The choice of where to stay in Plitvice Lakes is pretty wide. The Park is very touristy with accommodation on offer ranging from a couple of hotels that are situated in the heart of the Park to cottages, private rooms, chalets, and campsites that are a bit further away in the surrounding villages.
Obviously, if you are looking to book the best places to stay, do it as soon as you can. That particularly applies for June to September which is the main tourist season. For the rest of the year, a last-minute booking is fine. As I rarely visit the Park in the high season to avoid the crowd, I usually book my room last minute, just a few days in advance and it always worked well for me. It is less but still enough choice.
If you are not traveling by car, make sure you check how to reach the accommodation from the entrances of the national park. You will find lots of places to stay that are actually not within walking distance of the entrances nor to bus stations (the only public transport available) so these should not be the best options unless you prefer to rely on a taxi.
My favorite village to stay in is Plitvica Selo – For the best offers and the closest accommodation to the Park, check what is currently on offer.
You can also choose to stay within the Park if money is not an issue – then one of the hotels owned by the National park is a good option – check here
Getting to Plitvice Lakes & Day trips to Plitvice
Plitvice Lakes has no airport so you would need to fly either to Zagreb, Zadar, Split, or to Dubrovnik. From there, you will take the most convenient transport option that includes buses only, as there are no trains to Plitvice, or self-drive (car hire).
The alternative to public transport service is private tours or day trips from Zagreb, Zadar, or Split. Click to see what is on the offer. If you need a detailed description of how to get to Plitvice check also this page.
You can zoom in on the above map to see the detailed location of these lovely lakes.
GPS Location coordinates: 44.88526, 15.61907 / 44°53’06.9″N 15°37’08.7″E
Have a look at this lovely video that shows drone aerial footage of the National Park, waterfalls, and lakes. It is shot on the bright and sunny summers day and covers parts of the Upper Lakes and the rest is mainly Lower lakes, including Large (Great) Waterfall and wooded paths.
For a much detailed guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park, hiking trail descriptions, photos, maps, and many more check the dedicated site https://www.plitvice-lakes.info