Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park

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One of the first things I noticed when traveling to Croatia was that there was a concentrated effort by their tourism board to move visitors from the popular cities of Split and Dubrovnik to more inland cities.

While I didn’t get the memo when I booked my hotel stays, I did make sure to book a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

There are two National Parks that are popular day trips from Split- Plitivce Lakes National Park and Krka National Park. Although both are known for its beautiful waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes National Park is larger and has more to see, making it worth the longer drive for us.

Krka National Park, on the other hand, is located nearly equidistant between Zadar and Split, making it an easier day trip for those who aren’t looking to spend as much time in transit. Once upon a time, visitors were able to swim in Krka, but that activity has since been banned for the past several years in order to preserve the park.

We had an early start on our tour to Plitvice, so we made sure to grab a pastry from a nearby bakery before we started on our journey. The drive takes about two and a half hours, helped greatly, our guide mentioned, by the relatively recent construction of the highway we were traveling on- though extreme winds would occasionally force the tour to take the older, more winding roads. The weather apparently always seems a little questionable with fog and wind on the way to the park, but generally clears up closer to the park.

There was a quick stop at a gas station for bathroom breaks and breakfast, so our bakery run earlier wasn’t totally necessary- though it didn’t stop us from getting second breakfast!

Upon arrival to the park, there was enough time for a quick bathroom break before we were quickly ushered on to the park sightseeing “train”- several passenger cars attached to a big truck. Sit on the right side of the car for the best views on your way up! The tour we booked had the park tickets included, so we didn’t have to worry about entry, but tickets can run from 10-40 Euros, depending on the season of the visit.

According to legend, the lakes in this park were created when, during a period of great drought, the local inhabitants called on a magical queen to help them and she did, with intense rainfall creating Prošćansko (Crave Lake) from which every other lake emerged.

The park has sixteen named lakes divided into an upper and lower cluster, all connected by rivers and waterfalls. I found the waterfalls to be very unique- almost all of them seemed to be smaller torrents making up a larger waterfall than the huge fountain of water I’ve seen in most other waterfalls. The lower lakes area includes Croatia’s largest waterfall- Veliki Slap, which falls 78 meters into the lakes below.

The star of the show for me, however, was the spectacular colors of the water. Ranging anywhere from blue to green to gray, these crystal clear waters can change color depending on the minerals in the water and the angle of the sun.

Our guide decided to have us start at Entrance 2 and take the scenic train over to the upper lakes to start our trek back down to Entrance 1 at the lower lakes. I’m inclined to agree with her judgement as she mentioned that she does this tour nearly every day in the high season and likes to save some of the best views for last. Entrance 1 also has a spectacular overview of the lower lakes so it was a nice way to wrap up the trip.

The trails are very well maintained and a pretty wooden boardwalk continues the trail over the lakes to make sure visitors get the best views without entering the water. There usually is no guardrail along these points, so make sure to watch your step! While there was a longer route around the lake by foot, we took a shortcut across the Kozjak by boat. There are two boats that travel back and forth across the lake at regular intervals, so it’s easy to hop on and enjoy the view. This trip takes about a half hour since the boats do their best to minimize any waves.

When we’d finished up with our hike through the park, we hopped back on the bus and headed over to a farm to table restaurant called Vila Velebita for lunch. It seemed to be popular with fellow visitors to the park since it was quite crowded, but the service was good and meals came out quickly. I found the food to be delicious and really reasonably priced. We had just enough time to eat our meals, but not quite enough time to order dessert (though one of our tour-mates had the right idea when she ordered dessert to go).

There was one more bathroom break on our way back to Split, from which we saw the most incredible sunset. Apparently sunsets like these are very common in Croatia.

We’d gone on this trip in early November, and it really seemed to be the very end of the tourism season in the city- our guide said that we were the last tour she had scheduled for the year! I’m very glad we were able to squeeze this tour into our trip because I had such an incredible time! The cities of Croatia are beautiful, but this tour is a must for those looking for a little bit of nature- or just a break from the Game of Thrones fans.

You can book the same tour here:

10 thoughts on “Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park

  1. I have often admired this stunning national park, and I’m so glad you got to share your experience with us! It’s just as pretty as I thought it would be. Your photos show it off beautifully. I wish we could call upon a magical queen to end our drought here in Texas!

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