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The Heart of Croatia: Plitvice National Park - California Globetrotter

The Heart of Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park

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There is a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation which states that there was once a Croatian Queen named Barbara who was so beautiful that her beauty consumed everything around her, therefore earning her the nickname the Black Queen. There was a devastating drought and the local people, animals and plants were in dire need of water, so they called upon the queen to use her magical powers to help them survive. The Queen took pity on them and used her magic to create huge gusts of wind that brought storm clouds and endless torrential rainfall. There was so much rain that the lakes formed and one after the other creating Plitvice Lakes.

Have you ever visited somewhere that you have been dying to visit for many, many years and have only stared at beautiful pictures, dreaming of what it would be like when you got there?

Have you ever finally made it there and it was a million times better than you could have ever imagined?

Well I just did! And let me tell you, there just aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe how wonderful it was to be here in person finally. It was simply the most wonderful place in the world I have ever visited. It absolutely took my breath away and its hard to find the right words to describe the beauty of this place!

IMG_4136When traveling to Croatia, it is essential to visit the dreamy, well-preserved national park of Plitvice Lakes (Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera). Located in the heart of Croatia, it covers 115 square miles with 16 lakes that flow one into another and dense forest and cascading waterfalls to be explored by wandering the wooden footbridges over waterfalls and along the shores of lakes.

The national park was founded in 1949, making it one of the oldest national parks in Southern Europe and it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. Today, it is ranked the world’s 129th best travel destination must-visit places to see in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places to See… Ranked

When traveling to Croatia, everyone asked if I was going here and I finally understood why. It is a top priority day trip that must be had! Everyone and their mothers seemed to have been here at the same time as Hans and I.

Once nearing the park, we decided to enter from Entrance 2, which in my opinion was better than Entrance 1 because you start from the lakes and work your way down to the cascading waterfalls and end at the Big Waterfall near Entrance 1.

IMG_4160Immediately, we had to buy our tickets prior to entering the park and we paid 180 Kuna/27 € per person. There was a long line to wait in order to buy your tickets, but don’t be put off by this as the lines move very quickly. Even though it was the end of July in Croatia, it was relatively cold at Plitvice Lakes, so I highly suggest bringing a light jacket! I unfortunately didn’t pack one!

Afterwards, we just followed the other tourists and made our way down to where electric boats were waiting to take tourists across the lake from P1 to P2. This boat ride was only about 1-2 minutes long.

From there you have the option of walking around the waterfalls and small lakes in this area called “Stubica” or continuing on to the next boat from P2 to take you all the way across the lake “Jezero Kozjack” to P3. I suggest walking around P2 though before getting on the boat to P3 and work your way down from the larger lakes to the smaller ones.

We decided to walk around P2 for a while, checking out all the different little waterfalls and lakes in this area. It was a little nerve-wrecking to walk along the wooden pathways over and across lakes and waterfalls and up along the sides of the mountains, looking over the falls. It was absolute serenity here with butterflies fluttering hither and tither and beautiful black and blue dragonflies buzzing around.

Immediately though, you are just blown away by the clearness of the water. You can see all the way to the bottom and see old trees laying the bottom of the lake. You can see endless amounts of fish swimming against the currents.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia - California Globetrotter

Further back than we walked up is a lake called Prošćansko Jezero (Gypsy’s Lake), which is said to have been the first lake to be created here. Legend has it that it was created by the Black Queen and that a gypsy drowned here while fishing.

After walking around this part of the lakes for about an hour we continued on and went back down to the docks to wait for a boat to take us across the lake to P3. Before we knew it though, we were swarmed by hundreds of other tourists all standing on this small dock. Luckily, they had a boat coming every 10-15 minutes.

Croatia is currently being advertised as “the new-must-see” place to visit in Europe. I knew it would be crowded because it was the first week of summer holiday, but never in my life had I thought it would be soooo crowded! There were just people everywhere and children running around on these small wooden pathways.

I was so overwhelmed by the amount of people I decided to entertain myself with the fish and birds in the water. Never in my life have I seen such clear water and so many fish swarming around hoping to be fed. Even the bird was hungry and kept trying to peck at the fish.

Finally, the boat came to take us across the lake to P3. The boat ride across the lake took about 15-20 minutes and it was so enjoyable to sit back and relax and enjoy the unspoiled views. There are no houses or shops along the lake. Its just pure nature for miles.

Once arriving here, you are greeted with a large picnic area where you can stop and enjoy your own picnic or buy something from one of the stands. But be prepared to wait in some long lines! I highly suggest bringing your own lunch and snacks.

From here you continue walking and make your way around, up and over the different lakes in this part. This is the part that is truly the most beautiful and offers the most picture perfect pictures! Every shot came out so great! I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. And I couldn’t stop saying “I’ve never in my life seen water so blue!” It was so crystal clear you could see forever into the lakes. It seemed so unreal and I had to keep checking myself that I was really here. I had dreamed for so long about visiting this place, I almost didn’t believe I had finally made it here!

The whole time I just kept thinking to myself, this is what it must be like to visit Greece or somewhere tropical. I have never seen such endless gorgeous, bright baby blue-turquoise green water before. I just couldn’t stop staring at it!

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia - California Globetrotter

Finally, we made it to the Big Waterfall which is near Entrance 1. To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with it as compared to the endless crystal clear lakes we had just walked over. But once there, there were plenty of people taking pictures in front of the Big Waterfall and feeling the mist from the cascading waters.

From here, we hiked up the trail heading back to Entrance 1 where we could catch a shuttle bus back to Entrance 2. I highly suggest this because walking back to Entrance 2 would take an eternity with the crowds coming in the opposite direction as well as walking slowly on the wooden pathways. Plus, walking up the hill to Entrance 1 offers some pretty amazing views over Lake Milanovac and Gavanovac.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia - California Globetrotter

Overall, walking the entire park took us about 4 1/2 hours. We went pretty quickly though it as it was pretty cold and without a jacket we were freezing. But who would have expected that while in Croatia and the weather report says 90*F+ for the entire week!?

Things to know before going to Plitvice Lakes!!!

  • IMG_4153The summer traffic driving into Croatia is HORRENDOUS! Most of the traffic heads towards Croatia via Zagreb. I highly suggest NOT doing this! Even though Google Maps will tell you it is faster, it does not include the traffic!
  • I suggest taking the winding background through small villages. One, less traffic and two its pretty interesting to see small villages practically left abandoned and destroyed from the Croat-Bosniak War. BUT, stick to the paved roads and don’t stop unless you absolutely need to. While I am sure it is relatively safe in Croatia, it is just better to stick to paved roads because there are still possibilities of finding landmines or things left over from the war. (Not to frighten you or anything!) We had no problems and found it very interesting!
  • So, we came from the direction of Ljubljana, Slovenia and took the back roads from the A2 to the 216/917/218 to the E71/A1 to the 41 before finally reaching Plitvice Lakes.
  • Once crossing the Slovenian/Croatian border at Jurovski Brod, you will pay 16 Kuna/2,13€ for the toll road.
  • MAKE SURE TO HAVE PLENTY OF GAS PRIOR TO HEADING TOWARDS THE PARK as there are not very many gas stations in this part of Croatia. (We nearly ran out but thankfully there was one gas station not far from the park)
  • Start from Entrance 2 into Plitvice Lakes as it has you start from the upper lakes and work you down to the lower lakes.
  • Parking costs 7 Kuna/5 € per hour for a car. – It took us almost 5 hours to see half of the upper lakes and all of the lower lakes costing us 35 Kuna for the entire afternoon.
  • Prices vary depending on when you visit the parks, but if you visit during peak season in July/August you will pay 180 Kuna/ ~23 € per person which includes the boats and shuttle buses! Children will be 80 Kuna in July/August. For more information of prices click here.

Tips for visiting the park!!!

  • Bring a light jacket even if it is the middle of summer!
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks to enjoy throughout your walk/hike in the park!
  • Try to avoid visiting the park in July/August as you will pay more for entry into the park as well as have hordes of tourists which slightly kills the beauty of the park.
  • The wooden pathways are not very easy to maneuver around on, therefore, strollers are not recommended. I did see a few people pushing strollers around, but I have to be honest, it slowed down the flow of traffic and made it difficult for the rest of the tourists as the wooden pathways are not very wide or stable!
  • Tennis shoes are the best for walking around the park as you will be doing a lot of hiking and the wooden planks start to hurt after a while!

If you’re looking to visit Croatia this summer, I highly suggest buying the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Croatia (DK Eyewitness Travel Guides) to help you navigate through this beautiful country! These books are my travel bible that I resort to for every vacation!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!

For more blogs about Croatia:

Zadar

Krka National Park

Split

Dubrovnik

Zagreb

and a detour side trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina!

Be sure to check out other blogs from this adventure:

The “Alpine Pearl”: Lake Bled, Slovenia

The Land of Dragons: Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Author: California Globetrotter

At 14 I started traveling the world with my parents and was hooked! By 21 I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. By 26 I sold all of my belongings and bought a one way ticket to Germany to teach English. Little did I know, I'd meet the love of my life and end up traveling to the most romantic and idyllic towns in Europe and becoming a long-term expat in Bavaria! My name is Lorelei and I'm just your typical CaliGirl, Sunset Chaser, Fairytale Dreamer, Dress Lover, Traveloholic, Beer Drinker!

49 thoughts on “The Heart of Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park

  1. Pingback: The Land of Dragons: Ljubljana, Slovenia | California Globetrotter

  2. Pingback: The “Alpine Pearl”: Lake Bled, Slovenia | California Globetrotter

  3. Yay so glad you loved it! Being of Croatian descent, Im biased towards Croatia so its great when someone else has the same view that it is such a beautiful country. I’ve never heard of the legend of Barbara, so I’ve learnt something new🙂 Looking forward to your remaining posts about Croatia.
    PS Plitvice is best visited in early spring- although cold, the waterfalls are most spectacular at this time due to the winter snow melting.
    You will enjoy Krka as well, I absolutely loved it and found it easier to walk around- there were a few steps at the start but not as many as Plitvice. Although the crowds there will probably also be crazy!

  4. Great tips!! I am dying to go so you just made me very jealous😛 Stunning photos.

  5. I love Croatia never been to Plitvice Fall but been to Krka such a beautiful place. Maybe next time il visit there.

  6. I need to visit this place! The water is stunning and the lush grounds are just beautiful! It looks like it might get crowded so I’d probably get there first thing in the morning!

  7. Thanx for bringing back some good old memories😀 We ended up here while hitchhiking. No idea where we were actually, but it was so beautiful!

  8. My friend visited these lakes a few years back and I’ve been lusting after Croatia ever since. I’m definitely going next year. It was interesting to read more about the area!

  9. Looks like a great place to visit. My grandparents were from Croatia. I honestly never thought about it being a place to visit, but as I see more and more posts about it, I want to go.

  10. WOW! This is breathtaking, I cannot wait to visit these next year🙂
    Simone | The Aussie Flashpacker

  11. What a fantastic discovery! I have been learning more and more about Croatia and it is inching its way higher on my list! I had not heard of these lakes, but they look phenomenal and you introduced me to them in such a beautiful way! Thank you and Cheers!

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  14. Amazing photos, the colour and clarity is almost unreal! They are on our bucket list for sure. Glad you had a great time when you finally got to see them.

  15. Wow, reason #145506 to visit Croatia!!!! The color of that water is insane. Just beautiful.

  16. Pingback: The Glory of Krka National Park, Croatia | California Globetrotter

  17. the water looks beautiful! great tip about leaving strollers at home!

  18. I definitely want to visit Croatia! Your photos are wonderful, and though we were going to head immediately to the coast, I will put the lakes a the top of my list now!

  19. Amazing photos! Everyone I know who has been there told me that I need to visit asap and now I want to go even more.😀 Croatia is on my list for 2016.😀

  20. Pingback: Diocletian’s Palace: Split, Croatia | California Globetrotter

  21. Looks amazing! Need to make plans to visit one day.

  22. Pingback: YOL-2015-O | California Globetrotter

  23. Wonderful! I have heard so much about this National Park (and Croatia in general) that I really want to visit it when I go back to Europe! I did not imagine that it would be so crowded in July/August… it seems it’s getting a popular destination! Thanks for the tips🙂
    #MondayEscapes

  24. Pingback: To Go or Not to Go?: Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina | California Globetrotter

  25. Yes yes, I felt the same way when I finally made it to the Maldives😀
    Ohhhh these lakes are amazing, I have to visit them next time in Croatia. I’m happy that you guys had a great time in your road trip, you’ve seen a looot!! And the pictures are amazing!

    #MondayEscapes

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  30. Such a beautiful place, right? We went there in late August and arrived at 7:30 am. No lines and no crowds until about 9:30 when the tour buses showed up. Then it was mayhem. Get there early if you can for a few hours of serenity.

  31. Wow! This place looks absolutely stunning. Croatia is on our Bucket List so we will get there one day and this will definitely be added to the itinerary. Great tips and some sage advice for future visitors. Thanks! #WeekendWanderlust

  32. You always look so nice in your travel photos.🙂 Unlike me – I look exhausted and am always in leggings!

  33. Your photos are gorgeous! I can’t believe how bright the water is. I’m sure it was even more beautiful in person. #WeekendWanderlust

  34. The colour of the water is incredible! What a beautiful place. I am now kicking myself we didn’t make the detour when we were travelling through Croatia in 2011. Next time!

  35. I really love this! I had heard of the Plitvice Lakes but had no idea it was so beautiful. Definitely adding to the list for when I visit Croatia, which will hopefully be soon! I pinned this for later because you gave some really good tips. Thanks for linking up with #theWeeklyPostcard!

  36. We have just spent some time in Croatia on a cruise and we really enjoyed it and would like to return. This is a really useful post of visiting stunning part of the world so thanks for that. ~ Carole

  37. Oh, I’d love to visit this national park and Croatia. I lived next door to this beautiful country for 30 years and never had a chance to visit. Now I’ll have to cross the ‘pond’ to get there.

  38. On my gosh these photos are so beautiful and I so regret not visiting this national Park when I was in Croatia last month! I like Croatia but I missed out on so much by not going on this tour. If I am ever back in the country I will surely visit this area after reading your post!

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