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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Plitvice Lakes National Park Visit

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

When we visited Croatia in 2015 we were truly impressed with ALL the places we visited – from the waterfalls to the old towns along the Dalmatian coast – we fell in love with the country. However, one of the places that probably stood out the most to us and remained magical in our memories for the past 6 years was Plitvice Lakes National Park. The national park is a mecca of 90 waterfalls and 16 lakes and provided a mysterious and magical feel. When we first started about talking about visiting Croatia again, Plitvice Lakes National Park was the No. 1 place we wanted to come back and visit!

Plitvice Lakes National Park - View of the Big Waterfall - Vielki Slap - and lower lakes from the Entrance 1

Our Second Visit Compared to Our First Visit

When we had visited back in September 2015, it was definitely the start of off-peak tourism season; plus it was rainy and dreary the day we were in the area to visit. However, we had a pretty strict travel schedule, so we didn’t have the flexibility to change our plans and go another day. We just made the best of the weather situation, layered up and headed out to explore the park. I remember there being a fair number of other visitors, but I don’t remember it being packed.

Visiting in early August this year was quite the contrast to that day. We tried to arrive early, but even at 8:45 a.m. in the morning, Parking Lot 1 was getting full. Then the line to get park admission was pretty long – we probably waited about 15-20 minutes to get the tickets. We also think ticket prices likely increased in the last 6 years – it ended up being 250 Kunas (about $39 USD or $49 CDN) per adult to enter the park. Children from 7-18 years old cost 70 Kuna ($11 USD or $14 CDN).

Once we were inside the park, the pathways were full until later in the day when the crowds thinned out or we went off some of the less popular pathways.

Walking along the boardwalk with a steady stream of visitors - Early August 2021

While we were excited to see what the park looked like in the sunshine, I also think the dreariness we experienced in 2015 added a certain mysterious and magical element to it.

Exploring the Park

After entering the Park from the gate located across the road from Parking Lot 1, we took the pathway that headed down to Vielki Slap on the wooden boardwalks and explored the lower lake portion of the park.

The plan was to take Loop C around the Park, as it would be the most realistic for the kids to explore the park; plus there was a bus shuttle that would bring us back to earlier spots in the park. (We didn’t take the shuttle bus back in 2015, but we also had a 22-month-old in the hiking carrier on our back, who was a little easier to navigate with.) Loop C is a total of 8 km. Once we got to the caves on Loop C and climbed up to the top of the caves, we veered off Loop C and ended up taking Loop F for a bit.

The Loop F pathway did thin out the crowds a bit and offered some aerial views of the lakes.

When we got back to the point where Loop F and C connected again, we joined back up with Loop C and headed to the ferry crossing to explore the upper lakes. Because of the crowds we did have to wait in line to cross probably about 20-30 minutes. Luckily, there were several ferries running so it just took a few loads to work through the line and cross Kozjak Lake.

Complimentary Ferry Boat Across Kozjak Lake

Once we reached the other part of the park where the ferry dropped us off, we were off to explore on more of the wooden boardwalks. I remember this area being one of the more memorable areas as it just seemed like there were waterfalls everywhere.

However, the down side to so many ferries running was that there were LOTS of people over in that area. In fact, right before we got to the largest waterfall on Loop C pathway, we came up to a huge traffic jam of people. We ended up waiting in the line up for almost another 20 minutes or so.

Line up on trail right before the Big Falls on Loop C

Once we got to the falls, we realized it was just because everyone was stopping in the same spot to try to get a picture and that’s what caused the congestion. After that, although it was still crowded, the flow at least kept going.

We continued on with Loop C and ended up at Station 3 to grab the bus back to Station 1. They had multiple busses running so it wasn’t too bad of a wait for them. Once we got back to Station 1 we headed back down along the lake to the lower trail of Loop C and took that way back. While there were still people on it, the crowds weren’t as thick as they were in the morning, which made for a bit more enjoyable walk on the way back.

The water was so clear that the kids could see almost everything in it, so one of their highlights were seeing the fish under water, as well as discovering crawfish and a water snake!

Don’t get me wrong, we were happy to be back and exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park and we still think it offers some of the most beautiful scenery and waterfalls. However, in comparing our two experiences, I would highly recommend NOT visiting during peak tourism season, if you have the choice. However, if you can only come to Croatia during the peak season, it’s still worth visiting. There was just something more magical about the place when you weren’t surrounded by thousands of people.

BONUS for Plitvice Area - Rastoke

If you are driving from Zagreb or have extra time in the area of Plitvice, I would highly recommend checking out the town of Rastoke. We completely stumbled upon it by chance by just driving by and looking at the views below. The town is amazing in that they have built the town around the waterfalls, some of the waterfalls even go right below people's houses! It's incredible!

Rastoke, Croatia

If you're coming through during the summer, also check out on the east side of the highway bridge, there is a public swimming area that has jumping boards and a full canal to just swim in and explore.

We had never even planned on stopping here, but we were so glad that we did!

There are also a TON of restaurants along the highway that roast fresh meat and the one we stopped at was delicious. Good thing we decided NOT to order the spaghetti in addition to this Plate for 2. Even with all 4 of us eating it, we couldn't finish it!


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