Even though we’d seen some spectacular photos of Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvička Jezera) and its waterfalls, it surpassed all our expectations. I mean, the place is magical. I think the relative solitude we had and the mist, made everything more impressive. This is the kind of place where fairytales are imagined.
It was a like Krka National Park on steroids.
We arrived in the evening and only had time to take in the view from Entrance 1. The big waterfall (78-meter Veliki slap), many of the smaller falls, and the boardwalk on Loop B filled our view. We all got very psyched about the next day when we could get down there. We also took a very short walk through some of the old growth beech forest that makes up most of the park.
When we asked about other hikes the next day, the ranger told us “it is impossible” and that we would be eaten by bears and wolves if we walked alone. Fortunately, we come from the land of grizzly bears and wolves and weren’t too worried about it.
Plitvice Lakes is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site that sees more than one million visitors a year. The 16 surface lakes are connected by rivers and waterfalls and separated by natural travertine dams. (See my Krka post for more information on the karst topography and limestone bedrock that forms these parks.)
In summer, the place is packed. From what I hear, there are two single file lines on the boardwalks–one going each direction. Getting off the boardwalk isn’t an option in most places. Even though the weather in Plitvice in December was chilly, we were once again glad to be visiting in the off season.
We started our walk on Loop B the next morning since the ranger told us that was the only place we could go. It was amazing – big waterfalls, cascades, turquoise water, scenic boardwalks between lakes, a cave, so much goodness. We walked the loop for several hours, taking photos every 30 seconds, then stopped for tea, coffee, and hot cocoa at the ferry dock. The ferry took us to a bus stop, and the bus to another stop where we walked back to where we started.
That evening we walked a couple easy miles from our Airbnb rental to another loop of waterfalls. We also figured out that “closed” doesn’t mean inaccessible, only that buses and ferries aren’t running. We easily could have continued from the ferry dock that afternoon to these, and other falls, then walked back to our apartment.
Despite getting there late and only having a short time before dark, we were once again blown away by the falls. Thank goodness we got off our butts (and me up from my nap!), and got out to see this. Again, there were only two other people there and we only saw them for a minute. We had this wonderland to ourselves.
Where to Stay in Plitvice Lakes National Park
We stayed on the edge of Plitvice National Park the next two nights and used Airbnb to make our reservations, but we could have gotten this same apartment on Booking.com. Apartman Yoya had a full kitchen, so we cooked breakfast and dinner there. It was an easy walk into the park or to the bus stop. There was a grocery store and restaurant within a couple minute’s walk.
Where to Eat in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Even in the off season, there are restaurants and cafés open in the park. Plus there are restaurants in the towns at either end of the Plitvice Lakes. We packed snacks and lunch for the day, but could easily have filled up at the cafés scattered throughout the park. Of course, we got hot beverages to warm up while waiting for the ferry.
There is a list of restaurants on the park website.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park
We rented a car, but you could easily do a trip on the bus. Once you arrive, there are frequent buses and boats to move you around the park. Bus and boat rides are included in your park admission and many places you can’t access via a car anyway.
There are companies that do day trips from Zagreb and Split, but you may want more than one day in the park. We spent a full day walking around and never even got to the other sections of the park.
Caveat: In winter there is just one ferry in Plitvice, but the buses were still running and you can drive directly to more areas. Or walk there from your hotel in Plitvice National Park.
Fees for Plitvice Lakes National Park
There are also two-day tickets and parking is extra.
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