Plitvice Lakes National Park
One of Croatia's most impressive natural wonders and the most notable attraction in the country's Adriatic hinterland is the Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is an expansive area of forested hills and turquoise lakes. The national park is heavily forested and contains 16 sparkling lakes that cascade into one another through waterfalls and cascades. The mineral-rich waters carve through the rock, creating tufa formations that are continually changing. Above the 11 miles (18km) of wooden footbridges and pathways that wind around the edges and across the rushing water, clouds of butterflies can be seen drifting.
This place is incredibly beautiful. Unesco declared it a World Heritage Site in 1979 because of its stunning scenery. However, the name may be misleading because it's not the lakes that are the main attraction but rather the numerous waterfalls that connect them.
From Entrance 2, the southern entrance, stroll down to the 2.5-mile-long (4km) Kozjak Lake and P1. Kozjak is the biggest lake in the park and serves as the boundary between the upper and lower valleys. Steep, forested slopes surround it with a small, oval travertine island. A well-marked path runs along the lake's eastern shore, leading to the breathtaking lower lakes with forests, grottoes, cliffs, and waterfalls. Alternatively, you can take one of the regular free boats. After Kozjak Lake, you'll come across the emerald Milanovac Lake, followed by the path below the cliffs beside Gavanovac Lake. Above is the open-topped cavern of Šupljara, which offers a picturesque view over Plitvice's lower regions. A wooden walkway crosses to the north bank, passing reed-fringed Kaluđerovac Lake and two towering sets of waterfalls. The second set, Veliki Slap, is Croatia's tallest waterfall, plunging 255ft (78m) down.
If you want to explore the upper section of the lakes, you can return to P1 and follow the trails that will lead you to Gradinsko Lake. The lake is surrounded by reeds which make for a natural habitat for nesting wild ducks. Gradinsko Lake is connected to Galovac Lake via a series of cascades. The abundance of water in Galovac Lake has formed a series of ponds and falls. A set of concrete stairs, which were constructed long ago, has been covered by travertine. This has resulted in even more falls, which offer a spectacular panorama. The area has several smaller lakes, which the more oversized Okrugljak Lake tops. Two powerful waterfalls supply this lake. If you keep going upwards, you'll reach Ciginovac Lake and, finally, Prošćansko Lake, surrounded by thick forests.
Depending on your fitness level and time, you can choose from various options like boat rides, road trains (tourist buses with carriages), and hiking. The tickets have a map that is quite helpful, and the information booths are operated by amicable staff.
The park is a stunning sight year-round, but spring and fall are the ideal seasons. The falls are abundant with water in spring and early summer, while autumn offers a dazzling display of colourful leaves. Winter is also a beautiful time to visit, although access may be limited due to snow, and the free park transport may not operate. It is advisable to avoid seeing the park during the peak months of July and August as the falls reduce to a trickle, parking becomes problematic, and the sheer volume of visitors can cause lengthy waits for the buses and boats that transport people around the park, turning walking tracks into a conga line.
Tickets and other practicalities
To visit the park, please purchase your tickets online at least a day before. The park is a magnificent natural wonder that is worth spending an entire day exploring. However, if you only have half a day, you can still see a lot by taking a trip from Zadar or Zagreb. It's essential to walk a fair distance to enjoy the park entirely. If you need more time, the upper lake section can be covered in two hours. The lower section takes about three hours, but it's best to start with the bus ride and end with the boat ride to avoid a steep climb. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed in any of the lakes.
Hotels and campsites near Plitvice National Park
Four hotels in the national park are situated right on the park's borders for convenience. However, there may be more charming places to stay. Alternatively, two campsites are available for those who prefer a more natural accommodation experience. If you're looking for something more atmospheric, there are excellent guesthouses within walking distance in nearby villages. One such village is Korana, situated by a gurgling stream and can be reached via a narrow road north of the Korana bridge. Private rooms in this idyllic village are also available for those who prefer more private accommodation.