Plitvice lakes

Plitvice Lakes – A True Wonder Of Nature

Plitvice Lakes – a place of unique beauty
Plitvice Lakes – a place of unique beauty
Photo: Dennis Jarvis

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of those places that is better in real life than on any picture or a video you might come across. It’s also the oldest and largest national park in Croatia, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Along with Dubrovnik, Plitvice is the most visited site in Croatia. More than a million and seven hundred thousand people have visited this unique site back it in 2017, according to Wikipedia.

Countless waterfalls, cascades, rivers and streams offers breathtaking moments, with more than 300 square kilometers that feed the 16 blue terraced lakes tumbling one into another. Surrounded by a thick and cool forest, its home to bears, wolves, deer and other wildlife. Words are often lacking when describing the views of pristine blue, green, turquoise water. The sound of crystal clear lakes and spectacular waterfalls will simply overwhelm your senses in the best possible way. Offering moments of peace, there are lots of beautiful walks alongside the lakes, hiding away in the shade. An incredible experience for all your senses.

The Plitvice Lakes Natural Phenomena

Plitvice Lakes travertine barrier
Plitvice Lakes travertine barrier
Photo credit: Michał Lech

The Plitvice Lakes are a combination of biological, ecological, and esthetic uniqueness that changes through permanent biodynamics. Abundant water, rich forest, karst hydrogeology, various types of mosses and algae, and microclimate conditions in the park differ from those of the surrounding areas. The particularities of Plitvice Lakes are lakes and waterfalls, divided into two systems – the upper lakes and the lower lakes.

The fundamental phenomena of the Plitvice Lakes is sedra or travertine. Running through rocks, karst water dissolves calcium carbonate that settles and sticks to everything in the water like a silver layer. Deposits of calcium carbonate builds dams, which is how lakes, cascades and waterfalls are created. In some places there’s even a abundant deposition of oxygen. Calcium carbonate crystals also stick to the mucus secreted by bacteria and blue-green algae living on the threads and leaves of mosses. That is plant-formed travertine. Travertine is the soul of Plitvice Lakes, making them a fragile structural complex. The barriers are very sensitive to draining, changes in water chemical composition, and physical influences. Wooden bridges and paths above the travertine barriers make sure that travertine formations remain protected from possible mechanical damage.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2080378/

Plitvice Lakes Location

Plitvice Lakes on the map of Croatia
Plitvice Lakes on the map of Croatia
Photo: Google Maps

Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in mountainous Lika region, roughly halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast. It’s also very close to Croatian border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and just couple of hours drive from either Zagreb or Adriatic coast.

Getting to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb

From Zagreb head to Karlovac, a town 40 km southeast of Zagreb. From Karlovac take a state road D1 direction Slunj, Grabovac, Plitvice. You’ll see lots of signs for Plitvice. Plitvice is about 80 km south of Karlovac.

Getting to Plitvice Lakes from Split or Zadar

From Split/Zadar take a motorway A1 direction north (Zagreb/Rijeka). Take a highway exit Gornja Ploča. Continue on a state road D522 to Udbina. From Udbina take D1 road to the Plitvice Lakes.

Getting to Plitvice Lakes from Istria

There are several routes from Istria, none of them particularly straightforward. The fastest is to get on the E751 heading north towards Karlovac. Then exit at Bosiljevo and head south on the E71 following signs for Split, Ogulin. Take exit 7 and take the D42. Driving time from Rovinj is about 3 hours, less from Opatija.

Useful information

From both Zagreb and Zadar you can either take a public bus or rent a car to get there. There are no trains that go to Plitvice not there are any airports nearby.

It takes about 2 hours by car to reach Plitvice Lakes National Park either from Zagreb or Zadar, and about 2.30 hours by bus. You can take a bus to Plitvice Lakes from the central bus station from either town. If you’re arriving by public bus here are some links you might find useful and check out the detailed bus schedules:

Alternatively, you can also choose an organized private or group tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Plitvice Lakes bus station – Entrance 2
Plitvice Lakes bus station – Entrance 2
Photo: Plitvice Lakes tourist board

Arrival

Once you get to this true gem of nature, the first thing you’ll experience is the natural environment surrounding you, the flow of fresh air and an abundance of tourists from all around the world. These reflect the unique beauty and magic of the Plitvice Lakes National Park in all of its breathtaking beauty. If you want to effectively soak up the natural beauty and serenity of the place, you will need to come up with a plan.

Upon arrival, you’ll notice that there are two main entrances to Plitvice Lakes National Park open to the public, and an additional auxiliary one. These are namely the southern and northern park entrances, while the auxiliary one is located a bit further. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

North entrance, known as Entrance 1, is just above the Lower Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes – Entrance 1
Plitvice Lakes – Entrance 1
Photo: Plitvice Lakes tourist board

The south entrance, Entrance 2, is next to the Upper Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes - Entrance 2
Plitvice Lakes – Entrance 2
Photo: Plitvice Lakes tourist board

An auxiliary entrance Flora is a bit off the main routes, but it’s also the least crowded.

Plitvice Lakes - an auxiliary entrance Flora
Plitvice Lakes – an auxiliary entrance Flora
Photo: Dennis Jarvis

There are plenty of parking spaces even in a high season. In high season you’ll perhaps have to park a bit further from the entrance. The parking costs 7 kn per hour.

Plitvice Lakes - Parking 2
Plitvice Lakes – Parking 2
Photo: Plitvice lakes tourist board

 

Hiking trails

There are as many as 8 different hiking routes and sightseeing programs, which amounts to four different routes for each of two main entrances. The routes are signed and highlighted with different letters and colors depending on what yours starting point is. While the shortest route takes about 2 to 3 hours, the longest one will take you up to 8 hours. All routes are very well marked, making it easy to get around. Offering a variety of unique choices, each one provides an unforgettable experience for those looking to relax.

Plitvice Lakes wooden board sign
Plitvice Lakes wooden board sign
Photo: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Route A

  • Duration – 2 to 3 hours
  • Trail length – 3 500 m
  • Difficulty – Easy

This route starts at the north entrance to the park, Entrance 1, descending down to lower lakes, and leading to the Great Waterfall. You return a bit, and then continue along lower lakes to the Kozjak Bridge. From here you walk uphill back to the Entrance 1, or take a shuttle back. This route isn’t physically demanding, however, you’ll only get to see the lower lakes.

Plitvice Lakes route A
Plitvice Lakes route A
Photo: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Route B

  • Duration – 3 to 4 hours
  • Trail length – 4 000 m
  • Difficulty – Easy

Similar to the route A, but it continues across Kozjak Bridge where you take a boat across the Kozjak Lake. Once you get off the boat, you can walk back to the Entrance 1, or take a shuttle back. This route is an easy hike.

Plitvice Lakes route B
Plitvice Lakes route B

Route C

  • Duration – 4 to 5 hours
  • Trail length – 8 000 m
  • Difficulty – Moderate

The C route is actually extended route B. The first part is the same, but instead to return to the Entrance 1 after boat crossing of the Kozjak Lake, you continue the hike along other three lakes to the southernmost Prošćansko Lake.

Plitvice Lakes route C
Plitvice Lakes route C

Route E

  • Duration – 2 to 3 hours
  • Trail length – 5 100 m
  • Difficulty – Easy

The shortest route of all starting at the south gate – Entrance 2, route E takes you along the Upper Lakes, all the way to the Prošćansko Jezero. You start a visit with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake. You can come back with a shuttle bus or on foot.

Plitvice Lakes route E
Plitvice Lakes route E

Route F

  • Duration – 3 to 4 hours
  • Trail length – 4 600 m
  • Difficulty – Easy

Route F takes a different direction than the route E. You start your visit with a longer boat ride across the Kozjak Lake. From there, you continue your visit across the Kozjak bridge and along the lower lakes to the waterfall appropriately named Veliki slap. On return, you’ll need to walk up to arrive at the shuttle bus stop.

Plitvice Lakes route F
Plitvice Lakes route F

Route H

  • Duration – 4 to 6 hours
  • Trail length – 8 900 m
  • Difficulty – Moderate

Route H includes a bus ride to the Labudovac site near the Proscansko Lake. Here you start your hike along the Upper Lakes to the Kozjak Lake that you cross by boat. After a boat ride, you continue walking along the lower lakes all the way to the Big Waterfall. You return to your starting point by shuttle bus.

Plitvice Lakes route H
Plitvice Lakes route H

Route K

  • Duration – 6 to 8 hours
  • Trail length – 18 300 m
  • Difficulty – Hard

Starts at the both entrances, Entrance 1 or Entrance 2. This walking tour gives you the opportunity to explore the whole lakes section of the Park. If you have enough time and energy this route is highly recommended.

Plitvice Lakes route K
Plitvice Lakes route K

Plitvice Lakes – route K from Entrance 1

Photo: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes route K 2
Plitvice Lakes route K 2

Plitvice Lakes – route K from Entrance 2

Photo: Plitvice Lakes National Park

 

Working Hours and Prices

Park is open all year, but certain parts of park can have a limited access due to the different weather conditions. The entrance tickets include electric boat and panoramic train rides, visitor insurance and VAT. Working hours are as follows:

Entrance 1 | Nov.-March: Daily, 8 am-4 pm | April-June, Sept.-Oct: Daily, 8 am-5 pm | July-Aug: Daily, 8 am-7 pm

Entrance 2 | Nov.-March: closed | April-June, Sept.-Oct: Daily, 8 am-5 pm | July-Aug: Daily, 8 am-7 pm

Entrance Flora | July-Aug: Daily, 8 am-7 pm

Parking | Daily, 7 am-8 pm

Boat | 8.30 am-6 pm, every 30 minutes

Shuttle | 8.30 am-7 pm, every 30 minutes

Daily tickets are as following:

Nov.-March | Adults: 55 kn | Children (7 to 18): 35 kn | Children below 7: free

April-June, Sept.-Oct | Adults: 150 kn | Children (7 to 18): 80 kn | Children below 7: free

July-Aug for visits until 4 pm | Adults: 250 kn | Children (7 to 18): 110 kn | Children below 7: free

July-Aug for visits after 4 pm | Adults: 150 kn | Children (7 to 18): 50 kn | Children below 7: free

Parking costs 7 kn per hour.

Note: For more information about ticket prices and possible updates, check out the Plitvice Lakes National Park’s official website – http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/

Useful Tips When Visiting Plitvice Lakes

Check out some tips and tricks to get the most out of your time at Plitvice:

  • Take a look at the signs and maps to decide which route to take
  • Take a plenty of water and enjoy it at your own pace
  • Wear good walking or light hiking shoes as the boardwalks can be uneven, flip flops are not recommended!
  • Swimming isn’t allowed in any of the lakes here, but you can hire a small row boat
  • Dogs are allowed in the park, but must be kept on leash at all times
  • Go to the ‘secret viewpoint’, where you can capture images above the falls – it is around a 15-20 minute drive from Entrance 1
  • Taste some of the traditional local food and beverages
  • It is possible to take a dip near the village of Čatrnja at the camping site Korana
Plitvice Lakes – walking pathway along the lakes and waterfalls
Plitvice Lakes – walking pathway along the lakes and waterfalls
Photo: Michael Rehm

Is swimming in Plitvice Lakes allowed?

Swimming is not allowed in Plitvice Lakes National Park. Uncontrolled tourism and water pollution caused by waste water from hotels and agricultural activities in the surroundings of the lakes led to a higher rate of eutrophication of the lakes, increased concentrations of organic substances within the water. For the sustainable formation of travertine, it was imperative to protect the very fragile ecosystem from excessive human influence. Therefore, since 2006, swimming isn’t allowed.

Accommodation Near Plitvice Lakes

When planning your trip to Plitvice Lakes, one of the main things you need to think about is accommodation. There are many hotels, holiday homes, private rooms and camping sites available in the vicinity of the park. If you stay in one of the hotels within the park, your second day entry to the park is covered by your overnight stay. Just have the hotel validate your ticket. These hotels are literally at the gateway to the park.

You can consider of staying in one of the private hotels or hostels, as well.

Alternative to hotel accommodation, there are dozens of private rooms and apartments to choose from, or several well organized campsites as Camp Korana, Kamp Turist Grabovac and Camp Borje. Private rooms are basically a cheap B&B. The campsites have good facilities, restaurants, shops and bungalows to hire.

Accomodation, guiding service, transfer, excursions

Assuming you have a car, it doesn’t matter how close you stay to the park, because you’ll be driving your car to one of the park entrances anyway unless your host will drive you there or you are close enough to walk in to it.

 

Plitvice Lakes – A Definite Must Do in Croatia

If you are thinking of going to Plitvice Lakes then do not think anymore, just go! Nature lover or not, you won’t cease to be amazed at hundreds of waterfalls in this park. So much to see, its a place of breathtaking beauty. Plitvice Lakes are one of the most magical and surreal places on Earth and definitely not something you want to miss out on in your lifetime.

Veliki Prštavac waterfall
Veliki Prštavac waterfall
Photo: ahundt (pixabay.com)

 

Plitvice Lakes - beautiful quote by Chief Seattle at the entrance of the Park
Plitvice Lakes – beautiful quote by Chief Seattle at the entrance of the Park
Photo: https://livelavida.com