plitvice lakes national park
are you in the mood to see a lot of photos of gorgeous lacy
waterfalls + lakes? if not, i’d click out now…just giving a fair warning.
plitvice lakes national park is one of croatia’s absolute GEMS,
although not exactly a hidden one anymore. if you can plan
around the massive crowds, this place will enchant you with
its magical natural beauty. while walking around the wooden-
planked paths for hours, i kept reminding myself that the sights
i was seeing were real – and not created in some theme park.
we really could not believe the hundreds of lacy waterfalls, turquoise
lakes, butterflies wafting in the air, & greenery laid out in front of us.
does this look like a painting, or what? ^^
i couldn’t stop staring at that water color ^^
**the only disclaimer i have is that visiting in the summer months comes with some major
downsides. there are a few reasons we wouldn’t recommend it. the park is obviously
stunning anytime of year, but i’d say the best times to visit would be spring or autumn.
summer months are unquestionably the worst time to visit (although it is still stunning),
just because the sheer amount of crowds can turn you off from the park. not only that,
but the waterfalls are actually less full during the summer months. we visited during
august because our timing worked that way, but we would definitely tell others to plan
a time in spring or fall. winter is also said to be magical here, though the parking
is more limited & the free park shuttles and boats don’t operate … as an FYI.
park entry prices vary from 180KN in july & august (about $25 USD) to 110 KN in sept/oct
(about $16 USD), and 55 KN from november to march (only about $8 USD). don’t let the
prices fool you into thinking that summer is the best time just because prices are higher.
just for a dose of reality if you visit in the summer: we arrived on a saturday morning
(another mistake to go on a weekend..) and heard that lines just to buy tickets into the
national park were about 2 hours long (!!!!!). luckily we were tipped off to skip entrance 1
and head to entrance 2, then walk past that entry line and down into the park to buy tickets
there where the line was shorter… but we still waited for about 45 minutes. we paid more to
visit during this time as you can see above from the price list, and once we entered we
were slightly appalled at what we found. we were expecting a day full of nature and hiking
after a lot of city touring, but we immediately found ourselves in disneyland- length lines
that never ended … snaking through the wooden planked areas and creating back to back
hiker traffic as thousands of tourists stopped to take photos, nearly clothesline us with selfie
sticks, and take away from the experience. while we were visitors ourselves and glad that so
many have discovered the extreme beauty here, we got pretty frustrated with the situation until
finding some higher trails where the crowds had thinned out and we could actually hike around.
the packed planks, with tourists marching one-by-one :) ^^^
it is actually near-impossible to stop and get a good photo, because
the second you try you hold up the moving line and it ends up being
blurry anyway. we just started to step to the edge of the path and wait
until there was a little break in people so we could snap one. i would
compare it to trying to cross the road when a parade is happening- ha!
^^ here are some failed-selfie attempts with our canon camera.
we don’t own a selfie stick, and there was no point in asking someone
to take a photo with the sea of people … haha so we have these funny ones!
haha! i actually might like these funny pictures better than perfectly
posed ones … we were laughing so hard at the crazy crowds!
for planning: if you want to do the ENTIRE park, it takes upwards of six hours to
explore on foot (plus any time for lines + crowds!) you can also save a few hours by using
the park’s free shuttles + boats. they depart every 30 minutes at no cost. if you go in
entrance 2, you can immediately catch the bus to the top of the upper lake section and hike
back down from there to the largest lake: kozjak. from there you can board a boat to the
lower lakes to see the tallest waterfall in croatia, among many others. you can hike some of
the steeper paths here back up to a bus stop which will take you back to entrance 2. that is about
the route that we did, and it only took about 4 hours with the crowds. if you’re more pressed on
time, the upper lake section can be seen in 2 hours. the lower lakes take a little bit longer (about
3 hours). the park has different routes and times mapped out for you, so to make it easy you can
choose the best route for your time frame and just follow the signs all day. if you don’t end up
using the boat ferries, rowboats can be rented from lake kozjak right at entrance 2 for less
than $8 euro. this can be a great way to escape the crowds since swimming isn’t allowed!
i think plitvice lakes is a great day or half-day trip to arrive in the morning, have
5-6 hours for exploring and lunch, and then head on to your next destination.
there are not many hotels here, and it really can be seen in a day. the earlier you
arrive the better so as to avoid crowds. we came on a bus from zagreb in the morning,
hiked all over, and then continued on to split in the evening. it worked well for us!
after a few hours in bumper-to-bumper people traffic,
we took a path less-traveled and it made all the difference ;)
we were so happy to be in quiet nature and able to explore freely.
i got the deep-in-the-woods feel that i had been craving,
and we found some pretty views high above the planks ^^
we eventually took the shuttle back to entrance 2 to
catch our buscroatia ride heading directly to split.
we ran into a few more crowds (and shuttle lines) on the way back :
and after hours of exploring, we rewarded ourselves very well with
a big homemade croatian streusel treat. we got apricot – ricotta –
cherry…and i would return all the way here just to have it again ;)
i’d recommend packing your own lunch for the day like we did, since the
few food stands available are limited and more expensive. either way– be
sure not to miss these stands near the park entrance with old croatian ladies
selling homemade cheese, berries, and streusel. it’s one of the best parts.
so there’s our (very honest) recap of plitvice lakes!
we would definitely recommend it, but with the
disclaimers and advice we gave above.
what a beautiful country croatia is…
i can’t wait to share more!