Plitvice lakes, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a unique National Park in Europe. It is known for 16 terraced lakes, 12 upper and 4 lower lakes that are joined by cascades & waterfalls. The highest waterfall Veliki Slap, at 78m-height is located at the lower lakes.
The wooden walking footbridges and pathways are built across the Park for an easy walk and to experience the incredible nature of the Park. The water of the lakes is incredibly clean and varies in colour.
We spent a day exploring Plitvice, it is absolutely amazing and pristine with long and easy (flat) hikes but incredibly overcrowded.
Plitvice is located in central Croatia near the highway between Zagreb and Zadar. It is easily reachable from nearby popular cities, here are some distances and driving times
There are regular buses from big cities and airports. Check the website of Buscroatia (website) for booking and timings.
We visited at the end of October. It is outside the high season but still, it was very crowded so I can't imagine how it will be to visit in summer. Try to stay as close to the park as possible and reach the park early to avoid the crowds. The Park is opened between 7 am and 8 pm. The opening hours can be found on the park website.
It will be a long day and there is no place inside the park to buy food so pack your lunch to eat along the way.
The park has two entrances, four routes start from entrance 1, marked in green on the info boards and four routes from entrance 2, marked in orange. The detail of all the routes can be found on the park official website
From route A to route H, all the routes have similar easy difficulty levels, pathways are mostly flat. It is absolutely worth visiting the upper and the lower lakes, it all depends how much time you have to explore.
Before going to Plitvice, I researched a lot on the internet to try to find a good route and decided to do route H which I think is the best route to explore both upper and lower lakes but you can decide whether to start from entrance 1 or 2.
The advantage from starting entrance 1 is you will walk down the hill and have views of the big waterfalls of lower lakes in front of you but its only worth if you are at the entrance 1 before 7 am so you don't have crowds walking in front of you. Almost all the guided tours start from entrance 1 that makes it very crowded and long lines to take the electric boats.
We decided to go further to entrance 2 and it was worth starting from there as it was less crowded. The pathways weren't crowded and almost no one came from the opposite direction for at least 2 hours and getting on to the electric boats was easy as well but on the opposite site, there were huge lines of people coming from entrance 1 waiting for boats.
We parked the car at entrance 2 and after a short walk, we reached the train station 2. There are regular trains after every 30 minutes to the start of the trail at station 3. The train ride is hardly around 10 minutes. From here the section of the upper lake starts
Here are some of the pictures from the upper lakes section of the walk
This section near the big waterfalls of upper lakes was very crowded and to get the pictures without people I waited 30 minutes. The wooden pathways shake when people walk on them and the pictures were blurry using a tripod.
To reach the lower lakes, you have to take a boat ride across Lake Kozjak. For photography, the lower lakes have amazing waterfalls and there are so many spots where you can take great pictures along the way.
One of the best viewpoint for taking pictures, overlooking the lower lakes is reached by climbing a series of very slippery steps through the cave. To get there, see the below picture, from here you can turn right enter the cave and climb up to the viewpoint. I tried to reach the viewpoint but it was closed due to heavy rain.
This is probably the best viewpoint, also known as the Postcard view. Walk towards Veliki Slap, a 78-m high waterfall there are numerous signs directing you to the fall. This section is the most crowded section of the park. When you reach the waterfall on the left you will see stairs going up, take the stairs and go up, from here the views are not spectacular so continue walking towards the small road, you will be out of the national park but don't worry you can come back again from the same path. When you join the road turn right and continue walking on the road, after 5 minutes you will cross a small bridge. Right here you will see a path on the right side, take that path and you will see a signpost Vidikovac Sightseeing point. It will take you another 5 minutes of walking on the path to reach the viewpoint.
Take the same path back to the Veliki Slap waterfalls and then climb up to the entrance 1. The next two pictures are taken from the viewpoints along the path leading to entrance 1.
From entrance 1, to get back to entrance 2, follow the signs to the train station, it is around 10 to 15 minutes of walk along the upper cliffs of the lower lakes with some spectacular views along the way. From the station take the train back to station 2 and walk back to the car park.
Plitvice Lakes National Park can be visited all year round. But the best time of the year is autumn with fewer crowds and beautiful autumn colours. Try to avoid the peak summer months. Even in November, it was incredibly crowded.