We're visiting Plitvice in mid-September. We're staying at Hotel Plitvice (near entrance 2) and plan to arrive mid-afternoon (day 1), hiking for 3-4 hours. We'll hike again on day 2 first thing in the morning, leaving around noon. Lots of advice out there on which routes to hike to see all the sights, while avoiding at least the worst of the crowds - but it's all a little confusing. Any suggestions on a plan of attack for 2 half days of hiking? Would it make sense to do lower lakes on day 1 when hopefully the crowds will start thinning out late afternoon? Thanks in advance.
You are over-thinking this. The park is not that big, and covering all the routes is pretty straightforward. We spent a total of 6 hours there, and did pretty much the whole park, amazingly enough on Croatian National Day.
When I went on RS tour (Sept 2022) we strategically stayed in the park and were on the first shuttle to the upper entrance in the am. I highly recommend this for your morning time. We thoroughly enjoyed the upper lakes areas without crowds and it was a lovely experience. About the time when we reached the shuttle boat dock across the lake, I started to notice full boats coming our way from the other entrance.
I stopped for a short break at the restrooms and cafe at the other end of the lake and began to experience the full force of the crowd coming from the lower entrance. This was not as enjoyable. The boardwalks are not that wide and do not have railings. It works if everyone walks single file each direction. Many groups going the opposite direction would fill the entire boardwalk oblivious to those coming toward them. I had a few uncomfortable moments and began to worry about my safety if they kept plowing through me like that. Fortunately a family group on my tour saw my predicament ( they were also experiencing it) and “adopted” me into their group. We lined up single file with the Dad lead blocker and the rest of us following close behind. He was imposing enough that people would finally move to single file. This worked, but it wasn’t the same quality experience I had first thing in the morning.
Long story, but I was so glad to have seen the Upper Lakes first thing!
I also second what Carol said. The upper section starting at the top (take their train/bus to the top) was such a wonderful experience as the first people in the park. I spaced myself back from some of our group, and I could hear the sounds of the frogs & birds for a full sensory experience - wonderful!
By the time we reached the mid-point with the boats, it was busy.
Both sections of the park are amazing and whichever way you go will be a winner. It’s a tough call. Depending on how late you visit the lower lakes, getting back to the hotel can be part of the equation. The shuttle boats stop running later in the afternoon, and missing the tram would stink. Still, my personal experience, I walked down from the hotel to the upper lakes entrance in the morning and was literally the first person in the park. I got the first shuttle boat with one other gentleman who immediately took off on a jog. I had the entire section of the park to myself while most people were still in bed! So, I kind of have to vote upper lakes for the morning.
The previous three posts are right on the mark. EARLY is the most important. Once you run into the crowds as Carol noted, your outdoor, waterfall, park experience will be ruined because it will then be all about trying to get through. Think tripods, dogs, strollers, endless groups.
I am surprised that people don’t regularly fall off the walkways into the water.
Plus any photo taking will be compromised completely. You may not even get to the bottom of a falls because of crowds. Think imstagrammers all over everywhere all the time.