367 – 1279 meters
11-24 euros (80-180 Kuna) depending on the season
Enchanting visitors with countless waterfalls and no less than sixteen lakes that cascade beautifully into one another, Plitvice is Croatia’s most popular national park. It’s also one of the most photographed natural sights in Europe.
Follow the 18 km wooden footbridges alongside the body of constantly flowing rivers and natural dams, with lakes ranging from dazzling turquoise to steel grey and pea green. Surrounded by glorious mountains, dense with beech and fir forest, the color palette is complemented by its chalk rock and moss.
Plitvice National Park
Cascading down karst rock, the highest waterfall in the park – and in the whole of Croatia – measures up to 78 meters high. The Veliki Slap leaves you feeling insignificantly small, while other waterfalls such as the smaller Labudovac matches its beauty with a height of “only” 20 meters. Rent a rowing boat or take a boat ride on the lakes to get as close as you can. Just don’t forget to put your valuables in a waterproof case.
Once you complete your chosen loop of wooden pathways around the lakes, hike any of the four additional trails that take you to 800-metre-high peaks, through 700-year-old beech forests or valleys abound with wildlife and butterflies. Enjoy the panoramic views on the steep cliffs, colorful lakes and glimmering streams or rivers that snake through the lush forests.
With the lakes covering only 1% of the park, the Plitvice Lakes National Park also allows skiing and snowboarding at the ski resort in the village Mukinje. With trails of around 400 m in length and a gentle slope gradient (the average is 15%), this is a suitable winter getaway for beginners, recreational skiers and children. The ski resort offers rentals of skiing and snowboarding equipment, as well as sleighs, snow saucers and toboggan sleds for sliding down the slope.
With both Zagreb and Zadar a 2-hour drive away from the entrance to the national park, a visit can be a nice day-trip on your holiday in Croatia. When starting in the popular Dubrovnik, the national park requires a drive of at least 5 hours.
Plitvice Lakes National Park has two entrances from which the trekking loops around the lakes start. Since the main entrances are about 3 km apart, it’s advised to plan your visit in advance.
There are also bus stops, built as small log cabins, at both entrances that connect the park to Zadar (2h) and Zagreb (2h20). Check the timetable of the Zagreb Bus Station or Zadar bus station online. Plan ahead so you don’t get stuck when coming back!
Wildlife and plants
With the surrounding mountains cooling the coastal Croatian temperatures, this region has its own wonderful mixture of Alpine and Mediterranean vegetation. The different soils and altitude levels create unique microclimates with abundant fauna and flora. There are 55 species of orchid, of which a crimson-and-yellow variety, the lady’s-slipper orchid, is a protected species.
Look closely for signs of life at the lakes and you might be able to spot the European pond turtle in between the fish. This semi-aquatic species is dark in colour and can live up to 60 years. The bright woods around the water is home to a vast array of wildlife such as lynx, deer, wolves and brown bears. The sound of woodpeckers will accompany you on your forest hike, while a soundtrack of frogs and hooting owls announce the end of the day. The Eurasian eagle-owl roams the night as one of the largest of the owl species.
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels inside the park and even more hotels, B&Bs and appartments for rent within walking distance from the entrance.
Whilst camping within the boundaries of the park is strictly forbidden, there are some camping opportunities in the vicinity of Plitvice National Park. All of them are at least 7 kilometers from the entrance itself, with the large Camping Bear and Camping Korana being the closest.
Activities in the park
When should I visit the park?
The park is crushed with tourists – and influencers – from June to September. If you plan your visit in spring or autumn, you’ll arrive at the best times for bird and wildflower spotting.
Do I need to stick to trails?
Absolutely. You are not allowed to walk outside the marked footpaths. Weather conditions in the national park are prone to change rapidly, and therefore, individual trails may be temporarily closed.
Can I go wild camping?
Wild camping is prohibited within the boundaries of the park.
Can I bring my dog?
Yes, but keep them on the lead at all times. You can also take your dogs on the shuttle bus and ferry within the Park.
Is the park wheelchair accessible?
The trails are not accessible for wheelchairs. Wheelchair users can visit the viewpoint to the Great Waterfall, located just a few meters from Entrance 1.
Where do I park?
Car parks are next to the entrance and charge 8 Kuna/hour (€1) for regular cars and 80 Kuna/day (€10) for vans. Motorcycles and bicycles park here for free.
National parks in Croatia
There are eight stunning national parks in Croatia: Plitvice Lakes, Paklenica, Risnjak, Mljet, Kornati, Brijuni, Krka and Sjeverni Velebit. Together, they cover only 0,5% of the territory of Croatia.