If you only have time to do one thing in Croatia, there’s a choice to make. If you’re a lover of history, architecture and crowds of people – head to Dubrovnik. However, if you’re a lover of waterfalls, natural beauty and crowds of people – head to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Hopefully you have time to do both.
Initially, this blog was nothing more than the photos I took of the incredible emerald lakes and towering waterfalls. However, I thought it might be useful to some people to offer a bit of practical advice too. So that’s what I decided to do.
Why visit Plitvice?
This bits easy. It’s beautiful. It’s Croatia’s largest national park and was recognized for it’s beauty when it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1979. It’s got sixteen lakes, interconnected by waterfalls and covers over 300 square kilometers. These lakes all have their own distinct colours; from crystal clear blue water, to magnificent greens, greys and turquoises. You can walk along wooden boardwalks and through rich green woodlands, cross the lakes on electric boat or find your own quiet (ish) spot to sit and do nothing.
How do you get there?
If you’ve got your own car, drive. It’s the easiest way and it means you can get there before the crowds. It only costs about 7 Kuna to park, which is less than a pound. It’s a 2 hour drive from Zagreb, 1.5 hour drive from Zadar and 2.5 hour drive from Split. If you’re heading too/from the capital to the coast, it’s only a short diversion from the main road.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a car or rental, then you can book some transport. You can either take a public bus, or book onto a tour. Usually I prefer to travel as independently as possible (and I can’t think why you would need an actual tour guide through the park) so I opted for something in between – a minibus to take us, let us get on with our own thing all day, and then bring us back. I’m not sure how we landed it, but this actually worked out cheaper than public transport.
En-route we stopped at Rastoke, complete with watermills and picturesque little waterfalls along the Slunjčica river:
How long do you need there?
I spent a day in Plitvice (arriving shortly after 9am and leaving around 5pm). That’s a decent amount of time and meant that we were there before the majority of the tour busses arrived at midday. If you’re on a schedule, a day is enough. If I could’ve been more flexible with my time, I’d have stayed for a day or two – it’s got some hotels and (the cheaper option) campsites and there could hardly be better locations to wake up in.
I’ll definitely aim to return to Plitvice at the different time of year – autumn when the leaves begin to charge or winter, because it looks incredible in the snow (google it).
How busy is it?
I’m not going to bullshit you. It was pretty busy. But it wasn’t that busy. I’m sure it would’ve been unbearable in June, July or August – but in April, it honestly wasn’t that bad. You can easily separate yourself from any slow-walking large groups of tourists and the waterfalls do look their best at this time of year. It’s also cheaper than summer too (entrance was £12, rather than 20 odd).
Overall, Plitvice is a piece of paradise that is definitely worth a visit. Being only a couple of hours from most of the popular tourist cities, it’s easily accessible and a great day trip. If you’ve got longer, stay for longer.
It’s not the sort of place you want to rush through.