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If really exists a paradise with luxuriant nature, crystal clear water that shines with its own light and a boundless beauty, I can say that I have already seen it in this land. Or at least, something very similar: its’ called Plitvice Lakes Nature Park.
The one of the best preserved and most beautiful natural environments I have had the pleasure of seeing so far. I fell in love at first sight as soon as I crossed the gate.
After the wake-up call at dawn, the bus hours, the change in a rickety bus station, the row at the ticket office … I finally look out and see a canyon that sinks down around me, full of water, trees, waterfalls and beauty.
I had not checked anything this time, I did not have an already planned itinerary, I had not studied the site map. This time I wanted to find out step by step, and I would have been fascinated. I descend down the path that leads to the throat of the smaller lower pond and walking on the wooden walkways I see around me crystal clear water, of a color as intense as I’ve ever seen!
I was entering a paradise!
How to get to the Plitvice lakes
This is now one of the first tourist attractions in Croatia. This means that they are connected to the major cities of the country. I was in Pula, Istria, so not really a stone’s throw away. Looking for information on the internet many advised the organized tours that departed from Pula itself, but they had exaggerated prices for my budget.
So I decide to do my own thing and use local transport. I ask the bus station and give me a chance to reach the Plitvice lakes with two buses with change in the city of Karlovac. Of course, the duration of the journey is a bit ‘long (5 hours bus + 1 hour change), but I spent less than half of what they asked for organized tours.
Outward \ Return: Pula – Karlovac
240 kn (32 €)
Outward \ Return: Karlovac – Plitvice Jeezera
92 kn (€ 12)
Total: 332 Kune = 44 €
My mistake was to arrive late at the entrance to the park. We left with the first bus of the day (at 5 am) and arrived there at 11.30 am in the middle of the confusion. The park has two entrances and the bus stops in both.
Most people stop at the first entrance and indeed really long queues are formed. So, if you want to enjoy the park with more calm and time you could do as many who stop the night before to sleep in the area or if you travel by rental car try to get there as soon as possible. Especially in August it’s too crowded!
This paradise can be reached by bus from other major Croatian cities:
- Zagreb: 2 and a half hours
- Zara: 2 hours
- Split: 5 hours
The best routes for a Trekking to the Plitvice Lakes
The Plitvice Lakes Park is divided into two parts: the lower lakes and the upper lakes.
There are two entrances and both have ticketing, services, restaurants, bars and ample parking. To optimize the times, the recommended visit starts from the upper area, reachable by a small train, and then descends on foot to the lower lakes.
From Entrance 1 you will immediately find two paths, one that descends towards the gorge of the lower lakes and the other that climbs along the canyon from above. It is a circular path, in fact the two paths are reunited later. In fact, you can choose whether to first pan or go down to touch the water.
The first leads down into the gorge, crosses the lake and runs along the other side with all the wooden walkways on the water that give a scenic touch to the trek. I could not stop looking at the intensity of the color of the water! The second route instead makes you admire the whole canyon from above giving you the opportunity to admire the whole area at a glance.
Length Route A: 3.5 Km
Duration: 2-3 hours
In short: To visit both areas of the park optimizing the times this is the best route. Entering from Entrance 2 (always less crowded) you avoid the crowd that focuses on route A and you immediately go up to the upper lakes with a free train. Once there, descend along lakes and waterfalls to the pier where the boat that crosses Kozjak Lake leaves and takes you to Route A to visit the lower lakes.
The upper lakes can be reached by a train (included in the ticket price) or on foot. The train leaves from point St.2, which is very close to Entrance 2. In a short time it takes you to point St.3 and from there you can start the descent calmly enjoying the beauty of unspoiled nature. The trail wiggles between the various lakes and waterfalls until you reach point P2 from where you can take a ferry (price included in the ticket) that leads to the area below of point P3.
The part of the lower lakes can be visited through well-marked paths and wooden walkways on the water that lead you to descend from the top of the canyon to the lakes below with small enchanting waterfalls and water of a color never seen before.
Length Route B: 8 km
Duration: 4-5 hours
Prices, tickets and best times
Admission to the Plitvice Lakes varies according to season and age:
In high season it costs 150 kn (20 €) for adults. It is not possible to buy online but only upon arrival at the ticket office. That’s why I suggest you arrive very early because long lines are always formed. I had to wait for a nice full hour!
You can find all the information you need on the official website of the Park.
The best time to visit the park is certainly the low season. I had the chance to go there only in August and I felt the inconvenience due to the crowd. In recent years it has become one of the major tourist attractions in Croatia and therefore is literally stormed.
The ideal time to enjoy this paradise is certainly the spring or the month of September. For the bravest you can also visit it in winter with a completely different snow-based show. But always check accessibility on the park site.