When people travel around Europe, Croatia is often overlooked. But I don’t know why, because Croatia is a hidden gem with beaches, historic cities and national parks a plenty.

When I visited Croatia, I rented a car with my parents and hit the road for Croatia. We didn’t want to spend forever driving, so we chose to visit the Plitvice Lakes and spend a few days near Zagreb. Located in the middle of the northern part of the country, Plitvice Lakes is a wonderful National Park with 16 karst lakes and many waterfalls.

Natural wonders, beauty and life abounds – it’s enchanting and an experience you’ll never forget.

How to get to Plitvice Lakes

The best way is to drive. It’s about 1.5 -2 hours from Zagreb or Zadar, or 9 hours from Krakow in Poland, which is where we were headed from. Croatia isn’t the only place you can drive to though – discover these epic ways to explore Europe without flying.

But if driving isn’t an option, you can always fly into Zadar, Zagreb or Split and take the bus from there. If you’re spending time in one of Croatia’s cities, you could also check out a day trip tour to Plitvice Lakes as an alternative.

Where to stay in Plitvice Lakes

We were driving from Krakow, so we decided to stay the night near the lakes and start sightseeing early the next day. Pin the park on a map and check out the local accommodation options – there are plenty to choose from when using sites like Booking.com.

We spent the night in a lovely small guest house with a very nice host. She was an older woman who didn’t speak any English, but using Google translate, we got by.

Visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park

Where to park

You know how it goes sometimes when you’re travelling. You think you have everything planned, but when you arrive everything looks completely different. Well, that was my experience when we began exploring Plitvice Lakes.

Finding a parking spot wasn’t a problem. We got to the national park entrance 2 quite early and it was busy already. It took us about 10 minutes to walk from the parking spot to the ticket office. The prices for the park change with seasons so here are current prices with an option to book your ticket online. 

Choosing your route

We picked up the map and headed in the same direction as the crowds to start with. Having parked at entrance 2, we got to station 2 for the bus, which took us up to station 3. This is called route H. The road was very steep and high and the journey gave me a little panic attack.

I wanted to make sure we experienced the sights we’d driven nine hours for, like the Great Waterfall, but knowing my dad had had hip replacement surgeries, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to manage the walks.

Here is a link to an official website where you can check out easier and harder routes. We went for program H and I think we chose the best one.

Exploring Plitvice Lakes

At the top, we jumped off the bus and hit the trail. It was very easy to follow and well signposted, so there was no risk of going off track or accidentally joining another route.

As we walked, we passed the first lake and many wonderful waterfalls. It was so magical and so beautiful. You can walk, you can sit down, relax and admire different shades of greens and crystal clear water and then continue your way down. Take your time and soak up the atmosphere, and keep your camera handy.

Half way though we jumped into a free boat to take us to the other side of the lake. This is a gorgeous spot where you can stop for lunch. Make sure you have plenty of water with you too, as that was the only place we saw to pick up more. We tucked into burgers, but they weren’t great, so a packed lunch is a great idea too.

The second part of the hike was shorter and moderate but we were already pretty tired. The trail ends with a little hill to see the Great Waterfall from the top – a breath-taking vista looking down at the tumbling falls. Then it’s back onto the bus to put your feet up and return to your parking area.

Would I recommend visiting Plitvice Lakes?

Despite my worries early on, I was really pleased with the route we chose. The trail took in stunning views, crashing waterfalls, beautiful water and vibrant tree canopies. It was probably the longest trip my parents have done for a very long time. But, they were very excited and satisfied by the end.

Whether you visit Plitvice Lakes in Croatia for a day trip or a week of hiking, you’ll be blown away. Croatia’s natural beauty doesn’t stop there though. Check out five of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which mean that if you choose to book through it I earn a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support to keep this site up and running!

8 COMMENTS

  1. Croatia is been on my radar for a long time and Plitvice Lakes is the first thing that has drawn me to the area. I have seen so many pictures of the boardwalk along the wall of waterfalls, I must see it in person. I did not realize there are other things to do, like the Great Waterfall or the boat ride. Thank you for the information!

  2. I completely agree with you. Croatia is definitely ignored. But glad that you are posting about it. It’s full of natural beauty. The Plitvice Lakes is an amazing place. The green foliage and waterfalls make it so beautiful.

  3. Croatia is on my travel bucket list, having done much of the popular Western European cities. I’d love to go on trekking trails along the Plitvice lakes and the fact that it’s close to Zagreb is a great plus. So cool you got to see waterfalls with plush treeline along the way that too alongside your parents , how lovely!

  4. Croatia is definitely on our list for a return visit. Plitvice Lakes looks like a lovely spot to visit. Those waterfalls are stunning. Good to know there are places to stay nearby so we could enjoy a long park visit. We would definitely check out the park map online and pick a route that worked for us. Saving this for future reference!

  5. Plitvice Lakes has always been on my list of places to visit. I would love to go to Croatia sometime to see these spectacular waterfalls and landscapes. I have seen so many pictures of that place and I know how pretty it is. I was not aware that one can stay close to the park, something I will remember when I am planning to visit.

  6. I was planning for Croatia before covid struck and have to postpone my plan. It is good that from your post, I have a great virtual tour. Plitvice Lakes really looks like a wonderful National Park as it has 16 karst lakes and many waterfalls. This place really looks magical with turquoise green water and forest all around. It is good you have given route selection tip.

  7. The view from the tops is really amazing! Plitvice Lakes is high in my list since I saw pictures from my friend traveling there. Good to know that the are choices of tour that you can take. I wonder if you can wander as long as you want.

  8. I haven’t been to Croatia yet, although I have been dreaming about it. I hope I will visit it after COVID. Plitvice Lakes are on my bucket list. I love taking pictures of water and waterfalls so that I will stay there for a few days. It is an exciting post, lots of useful information which helps plan a trip.

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