With its emerald-green lakes, rocky caves, and cascading waterfalls framed by soaring dolomite cliffs, ancient woodlands, and fields of wild orchids, Plitvice Lakes National Park is the natural playground of Croatia. The UNESCO World Heritage site has over 73,000 acres (20,500 hectares) of unspoiled landscapes, boasting 16 lakes and 90 waterfalls linked by a network of hiking and biking trails.The Basics
Most visitors opt to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park on a day trip. Tours run from a number of Croatian cities, including Zadar (the closest), Split, Zagreb, Trogir, Rijeka, and even Dubrovnik. A Plitvice Lakes tour typically takes in the best viewpoints and boardwalks, while an entrance ticket includes an electric boat ride around the lakes and a ride on the park’s panoramic train. It’s possible to take in the highlights in two hours, but for a more comprehensive visit, book a full-day tour.
How to Get There
- Restaurants, snack bars, and restrooms are located near the park visitor center.
- Regular shuttle buses run between the park’s main attractions.
- Bring comfortable shoes, sun protection (in the summer months), and plenty of water.
- Park buses accommodate wheelchairs, but due to uneven terrain, some of the lakes and park attractions are inaccessible for wheelchair users.
- Ticket lines can take over an hour in peak season—book in advance to save time.
The closest airports to Plitvice are in Zadar, 80 miles (130 km) southwest, and in Zagreb, 85 miles (140 km) northeast. Buses run regularly from both cities to the national park in summer, but it’s far more convenient to visit with your own vehicle or as part of a group or private tour. Most day tours include round-trip transport, while those coming from further afield often offer the chance to end your trip in a second destination—for example, being picked up from Split and dropped off in Zagreb.When to Get There
Plitvice is open year round, and while summer is the most popular (and busiest) time to visit, each season brings its own highlights. Spring and autumn are ideal for photographers with fewer crowds, colorful foliage, and high water levels, while the frozen landscapes of winter are unforgettable—although boat trips won’t be possible. To avoid the crowds, plan for an early arrival or stay until sunset.How to Photograph the Plitvice Lakes
The natural beauty of Plitvice National Park is undeniably photogenic, and there are photo opportunities around every corner. Follow the boardwalks between the Upper Lakes (Gornja jezera) and the Lower Lakes (Donja jezera), then climb up to the most dramatic viewpoint—a lookout over the limestone canyon of Veliki Slap, meaning ‘big waterfall.’