PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK - A QUICK GUIDE
Apart from its scenic coastline and rocky beaches, Croatia is also popular for its national parks - or at least it should be, as it counts approximately a dozen of them.
The one that we visited is called Plitvice and is maybe the most well known national park of Croatia. Not sure if it's also the prettiest one, as we haven't been to the rest of them, but it's beyond spectacular and impressive for sure!
It all started about a year ago, when we stumbled upon some pictures from the park on the Internet and thought to ourselves that this place was almost too beautiful to be true or at least too beautiful to be visited by us. But hey! We were wrong. And we are now happy for that.
We got to Plitvice Lakes by car from the croatian town of Zadar, where we were staying for 2 nights. It took us 2 hours to arrive and the road was in a very good condition, not to mention that signs to Plitvice were almost constantly showing us which way we should go. We also used the GPS, just in case, but even without a navigation app it's quite easy to find your way.
The park can also be reached by Zagreb or Split, within 2-2.30 hours, while from Istria or Dubrovnik the road is much longer.
The National Park of Plitvice Lakes has two entrances. The first one (Entrance 1) is closer to the so called lower lakes, while the second one is next to the upper lakes. On our way from Zadar to Plitvice, the Entrance No 2 was the first one we met and after a few minutes of driving on the same road, we also found Entrance No 1.
No matter which entrance you wish to access the park from, you can leave your vehicle in the parking area.
To enter the park, we paid 180 Kn (24 euros) for an adult ticket and 110 Kn (14.7 euros) for a student one, but entrance fees may vary depending on what time of the year you visit the park. You don't need to book a ticket in advance, but be ready to wait on long queues, especially if you visit the park during July or August, when it's really crowded.
Also take into consideration that Entrance No 2 remains closed during winter (Nov-Mar) due to the weather.
Inside the park
Once you enter the park, you'll notice big maps with marked routes. In total, there are 8 routes you can follow (four for each entrance), depending on how much time you wish to spend in the park, how much of it you want to see and what your stamina levels are like. The routes consist of both wooden walkways and dirt paths and are in general easy to be walked and tracked. On specific spots in the park, you'll also find some restaurants, cafes souvenir shops and even grocery stores, in case you need to take a break or buy something.
Apart from walking inside the park, you can also profit of the shuttle bus and boat, which are also included in the price of the entrance ticket. Renting a boat and rowing it on your own though is not included but consider doing it, if you wish to feel even closer to nature.
We chose route B from Entrance No 1, which takes about 3-4 hours and the hike was easy from the beggining till the end. We also used a boat to cross Kozjaka Lake.
Both inside the park and in the area all around it, you'll find several hotels and BnB places. Many people decide to spend at least one night at Plitvice, so that they can wake up early in the morning and visit the park before the hordes of tourists arrive. As mentioned above, we visited Plitvice Lakes while staying in Zadar and did not spend any night there, we have therefore no suggestion or review regarding the accommodation.
Honestly, be prepared for everything! Let us explain ourselves : we visited the Plitvice Lakes National Park in mid August and to our surprise we had to cope with the not-so-fair temperature of 10 degrees celsius plus some rain at the end of our hike.
So, make sure to pack a sweater or jacket inside your backpack and get an umbrella with you, in case it rains, even if you visit during the summer. We can only imagine how cold it would be in winter months, so once again make sure to dress appropriately.
You can always buy umbrellas, sweatshirts and plastic waterproof jackets at the (souvenir) shops inside the park, but as you can imagine they're quite pricey.
In a nutshell
Try not to miss Plitvice Lakes while in Croatia! You'll get mesmerized by the park's emerald waters, its rich fauna and of course the breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls.
Avoid visiting the park in the summer, if you dislike the crowds or at least try to start your hike before 10 am, when most tourist buses arrive (the park opens daily at 7 am).
Be appropriately dressed and remember to take plenty of water with you, to keep yourself hydrated during the walk. Last but not least, keep in mind that no matter how tempting it is, swimming is not allowed in the Park, which is protected as an UNESCO's World Heritage Site.