How to Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park Like A Pro

Plitvice Lakes National Park

The first stop on our trip to Croatia was Plitvice Lakes National Park, and did we start out with a bang! This waterfall-filled paradise really did live up to reviews we had read and was perhaps even the ultimate highlight of our holiday. Plitvice is a UNESCO listed site and a very popular destination for tourists.

We stayed about 10 minutes away at a lovely apartment, ‘Apartment Pavlic’. The owner was very hospitable, flexible and happy to have a good chat. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough! Alright so on to Plitvice- here are a few tips and learnings from our day trip.

Time

While photographers could spend several days (weeks?!) at Plitvice Lakes, your regular time-restricted tourist should leave a full 5-6 hours carved out for this adventure. We started out early, bright eyed and bushy tailed, waiting for the 7 am opening.

This decision was likely the largest contributing factor to the days’ enjoyment…space and freedom to take in the scenery! From 11am the crowds were insane, and it made us appreciate the advantage of having arrived at daybreak.

Drive Yourself

Drive yourself…being part of a tour group means you will be there with the masses, unable to easily stop, relax and enjoy the breath-taking scenery in all of its glory.

Most of the paths are strictly 1 lane in each direction and do not allow for people to stop… it just becomes a marching line of thousands of people with the true beauty of the location somewhat overshadowed by the impatience of the many other tourists.

Parking

We parked at entrance 1, where the most iconic falls can be viewed within metres of walking in. We got to enjoy them in the early morning light, and again at the end which leaves you on such a high starting out and ending your trip! Despite seeing ‘the best’ falls first, the rest of the park seemed to build on this, not fall short.

For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to just use the map/billboards along the walk rather than grabbing a map at the beginning- big mistake!

There was a lot of confusion on the signs between entrance 1/2, P1/P2/P3 (boats within the park) and St1/St2/St3 (buses, which were referred to as visitor trains).

So P’s did not stand for parking, and buses were referred to as trains…we couldn’t keep it straight and the images on the signs weren’t as intuitive as one might think. Grab that map from the get-go!

Trekking

So now for the trekking. We did the full walk/boat around and left feeling like we’d do it the same if we were to go back. It worked really well starting at Entrance 1, as each corner you rounded seemed to have a new waterfall square in view.

The latter section of the walk (from St3 back) was less scenic, however by this point, the crowds had started to arrive and we were just happy to be on the way out, rather than with the hoards of people coming in!

A couple of interesting observations along the way. Dogs were allowed in the park, and we saw several along our walk. Not sure how common this is in other UNESCO world heritage centres, but was a huge surprise for us.

Also, we saw a number of people bring prams and young children. I personally wouldn’t recommend this as a parent unless you can keep the little kiddos attached to you in a bag or carrier. There were many high lookouts without adequate railings and busy boardwalks without barriers!

Enjoy

Regardless of when you go, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a place that will fail to disappoint.

Hopefully a few of these tips can you help you on your way, and don’t forget to check back as we’ll be posting more blogs on the various other locations we visited in Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia!

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