Europe is known for its well-preserved historical cities with their beautiful architecture, cobbled streets and charming road-side cafes. There are some natural sights in Europe that will amaze you and numb your senses. The Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is one such place. With its system of 16 interlinked lakes, waterfalls and colorful flora and fauna it makes for one of the most spectacular natural sights on the continent. It lies almost mid-way between Zadar and Zagreb and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
How to get there?
You can fly into any of the big cities – Zagreb, Split, Zadar or Dubrovnik. From there you can take a bus to the park. The journey from Split and Dubrovnik to the park is much longer than the journey from Zagreb and Zadar. Buses to Plitvice ply from the main bus stations of each city. You can also choose to take a taxi from one of these cities or hire a car and drive down yourself. It takes around 2-3 hours to get to Plitvice from Zagreb and Zadar.
The bus service from the park to Zagreb, Zadar and Split is infrequent in the off-season. It’s a good idea to get the schedule of the bus when you arrive or, you’ll have to spend the night there.
For information on roads and assistance in Croatia, visit: http://www.hak.hr/en
For information on buses from Zagreb, visit: http://www.akz.hr/default.aspx?id=260
For information on buses from Zadar, visit: http://www.liburnija-zadar.hr/kolodvor/index.php
Is a day trip enough or should you stay overnight at the park?
You can make a day trip to the national park from Zagreb or Zadar but it will be rushed. It’s a good idea to stay one night to explore the park at peace. You can stay at one of the hotels near the entrance of the national park like Hotel Jezero, Hotel Piltvice, Hotel Bellevue or, Hotel Grabovac. You can also camp at one of the campsites in the nearby town of Korana (8 km). There are other private accommodation options like BnBs as well. Staying the night will give you the option to explore the park in the evening during summer when the day-trippers head back. You can also book a tour with a tour operator in your base city.
What to do & how to get around?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is among the most beautiful places in Croatia and is known for its numerous waterfalls. Many of the lakes are connected by waterfalls which make for stunning views. The color of the water in the lake varies from turquoise blue to sea green because of the different mineral compositions and fauna. The main attraction in the park is of course walking through it. There are different trails in the park that you can take based on level of difficulty and time required. A complete run through of the park can be done on trail H and can take up to 5 hours.
The paths are very well maintained and it’s an absolute joy to walk through the park. If you’re tired of walking you can take the free boat and bus transfers offered on some trails. A quick tip to avoid crowds is to walk in the opposite direction of the trail. You won’t meet crowds for a long time.
There are two entrances to the park – entrance 1 and entrance 2. Entrance 2 closes in October and re-opens in late March or April. There is a daily ticket and a two-day ticket available for the park. Prices for entry tickets during off-season are much lower than the peak season. You can use a credit card to buy tickets. There are guided tours for groups of 15 or more but need to be booked in advance.
For the latest price list, visit: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&Itemid=55
Best time to visit
Every season has its own charm and of course pros and cons. The peak season is summer (July & August in particular) when you’ll run into more people than you want to but the park is colorful and a delight to walk through. Temperatures are high during the day (up to 30 degrees Celsius) but the breeze is cool. In the autumn, the leaves are changing color, the number of tourists are less but it’s colder. In winter, the lakes and waterfalls freeze and make for stunning views but it’s very cold and you won’t be able to walk around a lot. In Spring the park is wet but still beautiful. If you go just at the beginning of Spring, you can see the snow melting and water flowing into the lakes. Take your pick!
Next time you plan a trip to Croatia, a visit to the Plitvice Lakes National Park should be a must on your itinerary.
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