A Walk in the Croatian Woods: Lake Plitvice National Park Top 5 Tips

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Waterfall in the upper lake loop.

Lake Plitvice is one of the oldest parks in Southeast Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park is a series of lakes and cascading waterfalls that have a distinct color palette, from irresdecent blue, azure and green hues due to the mineral content in the water.

We had the park pretty much to ourselves until about 10am, and we’re thankful we got up early. Since so much has been written about the Lake Plitvice, I’m going to list 5 things that surprised us and 5 that’s that we learned and would do differently next time.

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View from trail descending down in lower lake area

Five things that surprised us:

1. Walk Times to Entrance 2

The walk from Parking lot 2 took about 15-20 minutes before we got to the main gate 2 entrance.

2.  Park Signage

Signage is not that great at the park. At times, it was difficult to figure out where we needed to go. Case in point, after the boat ride we could not figure out where to pick up trail “H”, so we had to trust our instinct on where to pick the trail back up.

3.  Fish, Flora and Fauna

There are a ton of fish (we saw mostly trout), butterflies, dragonflies and beautiful flora and fauna, including orchids along the path.

4. One of the most Beautiful Places on the Planet

Even though we had seen a lot of photos and videos about the park, it was so much more diverse and stunning in person. We rank it as one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

5. Taking Photos

It’s impossible to take a “bad” photo here. Every single angle, every vista looked incredible, even though we were only shooting with iPhones.

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Wooden plank trail

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Lake Plitvice Brown Trout

Five things that we would do differently:

1. Stay in the Park

We stayed in an Airbnb near the park, but next time we would book in advance and stay in the park. It would have been roughly the same price. That way you wake up and you are there. No need to pay to park or drive anywhere. Just roll out of bed and get going.

2. Beat the Crowds, Arrive Early

if you plan on visiting the park in April through October, get up early. Gates open at 7am in June 2017, we arrived at 7:30 and missed the first bus up the mountain. We should have gotten there before 7am to catch the 20 minute ride up the hill. It’s important to get there early because the park gets very busy after 10am. That’s when bus loads of tourists arrive from Zagreb.

3. Start at Entrance 1

Don’t be tempted to start at entrance 2. We did and we regretted it. The most stunning views are in the lower lakes, and by starting at gate 2 we had the views to our back at the end of our hike. You miss the “wow factor” of approaching the lakes head on, and by the time you get there – if you elect to do the full hike of loop H – it will be busy. It’s much harder to get great shots if you are rubbing elbows with dozens of others trying to get the same view. If we had it to do over, we would have picked loop B.

4. Pack a lunch: Life is too Short to Eat Bad Food

Pack a lunch and carry enough water. We had the water part down, but we did not have time for breakfast and just carried energy bars in our backpack. We should of packed a lunch because the restaurants near the souvenir shop are terrible and overpriced.

5. Best Trail: Loop A or B

If you have limited time, the best loop is the lower lake trail A or B. It’s around 2-3 hours, and it makes beating the crowds much easier. Recovering from a recent foot injury, loop H really pushed my threshold.

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Lower lake view

other practical info:

Park hours (check the park site for most up to date hours)

9am – 4pm in the Winter
8am – 6pm in the Spring & Fall
7am – 8pm in the Summer
Daily ticket prices depend on the season. Ticket price includes a boat ride on the lake, and the tourist train to take you back to the Park entrance.

55 kn/ $8 USD (Jan 1 – Mar 31 & Nov 1 – Dec 31)
110 kn/ $17 USD (Apr 1 – June 30 & Sep 1 – Oct 31)
180 kn/ $27 USD (July 1 – Aug 31)
Parking is hourly and costs 7kn/hour (approx. $1). Make sure you have enough small change.

There are two entrances to the park – There are 4 different hiking routes starting from each entrance, look at hiking notes below for more information.

A Day trip from Zagreb or Zadar takes 2 hours by car or 2.5 hours by bus – the best way to access the park if you have limited time.

Trail options from Entrance 1:

Trail A (2-3 hours – 3.5km – easy) lower lakes only as it starts and ends at Entrance 1. Walk to the Great Waterfall and to Kozjaka Bridge.
Trail B (3-4 hours -4km – easy) similar to Trail A but includes sailing on lake Kozjaka.
Trail C (4-6 hours – 8km – moderate) extended Trail B including a visit to the upper lakes.
Trail K (6-8 hours – 18.3km – difficult) Explores the whole park

Trail options from Entrance 2 (south gate-Upper Lakes): 

Trail E (2-3 hours – 5.2 km – easy) upper lakes to Proscansko Jezero starting with a short boat ride across the Kozjak Lake.
Trail F (3-4 hours – 4.6km – easy) walk the upper lakes and sail across lake Kozjaka, then visit the lower lakes – take shuttle back
Trail H (4-6 hours – 8.9km – moderate) starts with a bus ride to your starting point, walk the upper lakes then sail across lake Kozjaka, to the lower lakes – take shuttle bus back.
Trail K-2 (6-8 hours – 18.3km -difficult) like Trail K-1 – explore the whole park.

 

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