Some background on Plitvice

What are the Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice Lakes () is a Croatian national park which is centred around a chain of 16 lakes which are connected by countless waterfalls – and set in famously beautiful surroundings.

The national park, which is one of Croatia’s most well-known and popular tourist attractions, covers an area of about 300km² and also includes many caves and other highlights.

Visiting Plitvice Lakes national parkVisiting Plitvice Lakes national park

Which part of Croatia is Plitvice in?

Plitvice is located in the Lika region of Croatia, which is in central Croatia's rugged karst region, near the Bosnian-Herzegovina border and about 20km from the mountain Plješevica.

The nearest cities to Plitvice are Karlovac (85km) and Zadar (145km) in Croatia, or Bihač (35km) in Bosnia. The easiest ways to get to Plitvice as a visitor are by car or bus.

Origins & recent history

In acknowledgement of its prominence as one of Europe's most outstanding natural wonders, the Plitvice Lakes were declared to be Croatia's first national park on April 8, 1949, following the end of World War II.

For its "outstanding natural beauty," the park was included on UNESCO World Natural Heritage List in 1979.

Insider tip: Croatia has 8 amazing national parks!

Check out our guide to Croatian national parks, which contains information on each park's location, what makes it unique, what you can do during your visit … as well as some Croatian vocabulary to learn and practice if you're interesting in learning some Croatian!

Should you visit the Plitvice lakes?

Plitvice is an absolute “must see”

As a national park, Plitvice Lakes entirely lives up to the hype, and really is as impressive as the photos make it seem. As with much of Croatia, the landscape and scenery is breathtaking, and Plitvice is an experience that many visitors will never forget … if they plan their visit right.

Speaking from personal experience, we can confirm that a trip to Plitvice can be a truly magical experience, however we can also confirm (also from personal experience) that the experience can easily be marred by a handful of (easily avoidable) issues that many face when visiting the park.

But it’s not all good ...

Be sure to think about the following before planning your visit:

  • It gets busy and crowded: with over 1 million visitors each year, Plitvice can get really crowded and busy – in particular during the peak tourist season. If you plan to arrive in the afternoon, be prepared to share the park with throngs of like-minded visitors.
  • Parking can be a real problem: the combination of crowds and Plitvice’s remote location mean that almost all visitors arrive by car or bus, and in the high season parking can be a real challenge (and sometimes not that well organised).
  • In summer it gets hot: a typical summer afternoon in Croatia can be relentlessly hot and dry, and as we wrote in this post, visitors aren’t allowed to swim in the Plitvice Lakes … although you can swim nearby (see the "Insider" box below!).

Insider tip: What do the locals say?

During a historical period of drought, locals petitioned the magical Black Queen for assistance, and she answered by building the Plitvice lakes. The lake Prošćansko Jezero was thought to be her first creation!

On a hot day, the Korana river, which flows through Plitvice Lakes National Park, can be just as appealing as the park itself. To make it easier to swim, villagers have built a small ladder next to a tree just outside the village of Korana.

Make sure to plan your visit!

Four seasons: four experiences

The majority of visitors to Plitvice visit the park during their summer vacation in July and August. If you have the chance, we recommend paying a visit to the park during the other three seasons.

Depending on how you time your visit you can enjoy the colours of autumn, the wintery touch of snow and ice, or the beginning of a new season in spring. Not to mention that the national park is far quieter at any time other than in the heart of summer.

Snow in Plitvice LakesSnow in Plitvice Lakes

Choose your route & entrance

Be sure to look at maps of the park before you set off, or perhaps on your way there: there are 8 official routes through Plitvička Jezera: providing tourists with four alternatives from each of the park's two entrances.

The walking trails are laid out in a figure of eight pattern, circling around the upper and lower lakes. You'll be walking over the waters on a boardwalk for a good amount of any path, which is just wide enough for two individuals to walk side by side comfortably.

If you visit in summer, get there early!

During the summer months the park opens each day at 7am, and – if you don't mind making an early start – we strongly suggest arriving at the park as early as you possibly can.

As an "early bird" you'll find it far easier to find a parking space, the air temperatures will be cooler and more pleasant, and you'll be sharing the park with far fewer visitors.

... so, set your alarm clock for as early as you can manage and you'll have a much better day! :-)

Further reading