If you’re vacationing to Croatia, visiting Plitvice Lakes National park is a must!
Reigning as the oldest National Park in Europe, Plitvice is a wonderland of monstrous waterfalls, extensive trails, teal waters with immense transparency, and sights that your eyes shouldn’t miss.
While vacationing in Zadar, we took a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, about a 1.5 hour drive to the northeast.
The drive to Plitvice was stunning, as you see the landscape transform from pebble beaches to countryside, from jagged mountains to lush forest.
As you read, use this map as your reference. It highlights our journey through Plitvice.
Equipped with only the map on the back of our tickets and no knowledge of where we were supposed to go, we headed over a wooden bridge and made our way down a grassy hill by a hotel and a small cafe.
A small boat dock and the starkest-colored water greeted me after a short walk down a hill. If this view a hint for what we were about to be in for, my socks were truly already knocked off.
We piled onto the 40-person ferry-like boat and they took us from P1 to P2 (see map). We only noticed one direction to go in and one exit to come back out. By this time, people were beginning to pile in all around us.
We walked up an empty trail in the opposite direction of where the crowd was going and were astounded by the view we found!
When we reached this point we then realized that we didn’t prepare for a hike like this and decided to go back down. We headed towards Trail #2 and were greeted with a swarm of pedestrians.
We followed the pack around a small winding path that hugged Gradinsko Lake, warmed with pristine teal waters and outlined with free-flowing waterfalls.
By the time we were ending our exploration of Trail #2, the queues for the small ferries were filling up so we hopped back on the boat and head towards P3 (see map).
Upon arrival, we smelled the sweet scent of hamburgers and hot dogs and couldn’t be happier! There were a couple of small concession stands located at the beginning of P3 and, in 100 degree temps, we were very gracious for that.
After a quick refresher, we began our climb towards Veliki Slap, or “The Great Waterfall”. We walked for a couple of hours that really only felt like minutes because of the magical fairyland-feel.
The trek to “The Great Waterfall” was most definitely my favorite part of Plitvice.
Although it was my favorite part of Plitvice, the trek towards “The Great Waterfall” can get pretty frustrating because of the large crowds. The paths are super narrow so everybody walks in single-file lines. On top of that, people are constantly stopping to take pictures and it’s impossible to go around them (we got really good at “snapping on the go”).
Although it was incredibly crowded, The Great Waterfall was a fitting grand finale at our visit to Plitvice.
We felt a bit too crowded at the base of the falls and, after looking to our left, we saw a steep and narrow stone-made stairwell on the side of the mountain. Climbing up, we found the best views of “The Great Waterfall.”
6 QUICK TIPS ON VISITING PLITVICE:
1. Avoid Summer Months like July & August
- The crowds will frustrate you and it is extremely hot!
- If you can’t avoid going during these months then avoid the weekends
2. Wear The Right Clothes
- If it’s hot, dress cool
- Bring the right shoes to walk in. I noticed people in flip flops and I couldn’t imagine navigating through the park without walking shoes
3. When You See a Restroom Use It
- They are far and few within the park and finding privacy to do your deed is unrealistic
4. Don’t Litter, Touch the Water, or Harm the Landscaping
- Plitvice is recognized as a UNESCO Heritage sight so big fines can incur if you break these rules
5. Pack a Lunch!
- Although there is an option for food when arriving to P3, one thing I wish we would have done was pack a backpack with drinks and lunch. We passed many people having picnics in front of the waterfalls and I was envious
6. Take Lots of Pictures but Don’t Inconvenience Others
- We became skilled at walking and snapping pics but some people would stop in the middle of the narrow walkways to pose for pictures. Half of our time at Plitvice was spent being inconvenienced by other people
Plitvice Lakes National Parks should truly be on every traveler’s bucket-list. After visiting 20 countries, it’s still one of my most-treasured destinations.