The Plitvices Lakes, a first breathtaking trip to Croatia. A mix of landscapes with emerald and turquoise colours surrounded by a big forest. A beauty which is so exceptional that it seems unreal!
This site was on my bucket list for a long time, because of its breathtaking landscapes and its wonderful and unique waters. The site is by the way classed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Plitvices Lakes area is considered as the most beautiful natural park in Europe. Located in the mountainous region of Lika, halfway between Zagreb and Zadar, the Plitvices Lakes National Park is Croatia’s most visited site. It’s a natural phenomenon made of 16 interconnected lakes and more than 90 waterfalls.
Which airport to choose and where to stay?
This is the first question to ask! I have searched for the easiest and most effective route to visit this park for a long time. The Plitvices Lakes are located in mountainous region, the two nearest airports are Zadar and Zagreb (2 to 3h drive).
I chose after several months of thinking to land in Zadar and rent a car. It was for me the best solution to avoid the crowds of tourists. Many people visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park for just a day and come from these two big cities (organized trip with big buses packed with tourists).
My choice was to stay a few kilometers away from the park in a small hotel a bit wild. It enabled me to be among the first visitors and avoid any sort of queue (parking, ticket purchase, shuttle etc) and to take beautiful pictures alone.
What’s the best season to visit the park?
I hesitated between April and October. I think spring and fall are the best two seasons to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. The water level is high and waterfalls and streams run at high speed.
During spring, the trees are beautiful, the fauna and flora wakes up and you can admire fishes, ducks and other animals. During fall, the colour of the trees starts to change and it’s to me a very beautiful season too. In any case, avoid July & August (too hot & crowded)
I finally chose mid-April and I wasn’t disappointed. There wasn’t so many people and I saw that nature had just got a new look. A real haven of peace.
Which entrance and which path to choose?
There are two main entrances to the Plitvice National Park. The northern entrance (No. 1) is located just above the lower lakes, it’s the best known and so full of tourists. I chose the second option, the south entrance (No. 2) which is located near the upper lakes.
The park offers many routes depending on your abilities and the time you can devote to it. There are up to 8 different hiking routes (four at each of the two main entrances). The shortest takes 2 to 3 hours and the longest until 8 hours. All circuits are marked and easy to follow. Each visit includes a boat ride inside the Park as well as shuttles.
Circuit H was the one that suited me the best. It enabled me to visit the upper and lower lakes. The departure is from entry number 2 with a walking duration from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the time you spend on taking photos and resting time. This circuit is 8,9km long and allows you to visit all the lakes without difficulty since the climb is done by shuttle and the descent made by foot.
Course of the H trail
Trail H includes a bus ride to the Studovac site near Lake Proscansko. This allows you to start hiking along the upper lakes. The first meters really blows you away! The landscape is beautiful and the colour of the water exceptional.
Then, you advance in the middle of dense vegetation on wooden pontoons perfectly integrated into the landscape. You cross forests, lakes, streams and then discover the waterfalls. The water is totally transparent and its colour varies from turquoise to emerald.
I was as amazed as a child, it was hard to know where to look at! The rays of sun passing through the waterfalls made the place even more magical.
The descent goes through wooden pontoons until the Lake Kozjak, which is then crossed by boat to reach the lower lakes. This is where you will thank me for having advised you the entry number 2. You will be able to see a crowd of tourists waiting to take the boat in the other direction to join the part you just visited peacefully.
The large waterfall is located at the bottom of the park, the panels are very rare and quite small, so don’t hesitate to ask your way. It would be really stupid to miss it!
A few tips :
I was surprised to see that there was no shop in the first part (before the boat). So plan on getting enough water and some food.
Go early to avoid crowds and start from entrance number 2 to start at the top of the park.
Choose on the board at the reception the route that suits you the best and take a plan, it may be useful.
Little more, pets are welcomed as long as they are kept on a leash.
I hope I made you want to visit this majestic place or have helped you plan your visit. Tell me if The Plitvices lakes are on your bucket list or if you have already visited it!