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Plitvice Lakes vs. an island

Help me make a difficult choice...

If you had to choose between a day at one of the more popular islands (Hvar, Mlet, Korcula, etc.) OR a day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, which would it be?

Posted by
4870 posts

Plitvice as the islands deserve more than a fleeting day trip. It depends on where you are staying as Plitvice is someway north of any of the islands that you have mentioned. How are you planning on reaching these various places and when are you traveling?

Krka is worth considering as an alternative to Plitvice. Not as busy.

Posted by
4941 posts

The question cannot be answered without knowing if you are seeing some other island or historic town. The two experiences are not directly comparable, since one is a nature attraction and the other is primarily an urban history, architecture, and local-life experience.

I wonder if you mean, "I'm staying in Dubrovnik. Do I need to see one of the small historic coastal cities to say that I've seen Croatia?"

Posted by
4700 posts

Plitvice is an amazing park, but it's something that can be explored - once you get there - in only about 5-6 hours. On the other hand, it's a busy, crowded park in good weather, and it's really best seen early in the morning before the mobs of tourists arrive. (It's not exactly a virgin natural area; there are boardwalks and plenty of infrastructure for tourists.) So I recommend people stay over at or even in the park so they can get in close to 7AM when the park opens to have an hour or two without the crowds on the trails. But if you don't have much time, staying over at Plitvice takes even more time. A rushed day trip might not feel very satisfying if you have to drive for hours only to find mobs of people on the boardwalks and trails ahead of you.

Seeing an island could be a lot more relaxing but that depends on the island and where you go. The only one I've been to is Korcula, which was really nice, but I was there in October at the tail end of the season, and Korcula Town was almost like a ghost town (and it had started raining). In the summer or even September I'll bet it would have felt more lively and enjoyable, but for me, Plitvice was a much more fun, memorable experience. I'm glad I did both, though.

Posted by
28 posts

@ Tim

Yes, I realize this is an apples-oranges question. You can still note which one you'd prefer to eat : )

It doesn't have to be a direct comparison.

Some context: Doing a 2-week trip. This includes a brief stint in Venice, 4-5 nights in Istria, and a road trip to Dubrovnik (3-4 nights there). Between Istria and Dubrovnik, we are still working out the details. Currently planning to drive from Rovinj to Zadar in a day. After seeing some of Zadar and spending the night there, we drive to Split and spend a 2-3 nights. Plitvice is not currently part of our itinerary, but a number of friends and respondents in this forum have strongly suggested that we go. We are also considering using one of our days in Split or Dubrovnik to see an island (perhaps overnight), but it's unlikely we'd make such an excursion if Plitvice were included.

So - we may tack one of these onto our itinerary, but it's unlikely we'll do both, lest things get overly cursory.

Posted by
28 posts

@ Jennifer

Krka sounds interesting - reading more about it now. Thanks.

I quite agree that these places deserve more than a "fleeting day trip." We will be driving the coast between Istria and Dubrovnik (see previous response to Tim in this thread), and I hadn't included either largely because things start to seem hectic/cursory. However, we've managed to add a couple days to our initial trip, so I'd like to explore one of these options...or perhaps Trogir or Krka.

We will be traveling in late May.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks for your thoughts, Andrew and Kaeleku.

Keep 'em coming!

Posted by
4700 posts

If you are driving from Istria to Zadar, I would seriously consider stopping overnight in Plitvice. Make it easy: stay at one of the park's overpriced but convenient hotels. You can arrive late in the day from Istria and walk into the park first thing, spend 5-6 hours in the park, then move on to Zadar. If you get in early enough from Istria (longer days in May), you can explore the park late in the day then go back in the next morning without paying another entrance fee - get your ticket stamped at the park hotel's front desk (one advantage of staying at a park hotel). Although you will be on vacation, do push yourself if you can to get into the park as early as possible (opens at 7am) to avoid the crowds.

There isn't much of a town at Plitvice, almost no restaurant options. I think you can eat dinner at the hotels. There's also a pizza place nearby in the building that rents ski equipment. Don't arrive from Istria expecting to relax at a nice restaurant for dinner or something.

Krka is a nice park, but it is not really a substitute for Plitvice (though on your itinerary it would be a lot easier to fit in, less of a detour than Plitvice). It's more spread out and doesn't have the "waterfall at every turn" appeal of Plitvice, but there is one amazing cascading waterfall, Skradinski Buk, that dwarfs anything you see at Plitvice. Krka may be less busy in May than Plitvice, because one feature of Krka is that swimming is allowed (e.g. below Skrakdinski Buk) but not allowed at Plitvice; late May could be still too cold to invite much swimming I was there in early May and it was way too cold - only a few brave souls were swimming in the cold water. I'll bet in August it is full of swimmers.

Posted by
4941 posts

Now that you have described your whole trip, and mentioned Zadar, I will endorse Plivice. Be sure to make an advance reservation for the trout restaurant for formal-rustic lunch.

I would add that other cities, like Korcula for example, provide a different experience than Zadar. No stop in coastal Croatia is a waste of time.

Posted by
1118 posts

I just posted on your other post.

Any place you go in Croatia will be wonderful - we spent a delightful 2 weeks in Slovenia and Croatia last May and loved it all !

But, we just stayed one night in Rovinj - we loved it, but we did not allow any more time for the Istrian coast….MAYBE a mistake, but we WANTED to get to Plitvice - all you need is to arrive the night before, and walk the park EARLY the next morning and leave by 2 (we are active hikers and walked EVERY boardwalk) AND go to Hvar.

So that was our choice to be on an island AND enjoy Plitvice.

Maybe you can do BOTH an island and Plitvice if you drop Zadar and one or two days from the Istrian coast.

Whatever you decide, it will all be amazing - we were totally enthralled with Croatia !

Posted by
4700 posts

We all have different opinions of these places we visit, obviously. I spent two nights in Rovinj and loved it (could have skipped the Pula day trip). I also spent a long afternoon exploring some of the Istrian hill towns. A couple of the towns were really nice, but overall, it felt like a lot of time investment just to see some small areas. I did not find the scenery in Istria especially amazing, though the view down from the towns is pretty nice, probably amazing on a clear day. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably see Grožnjan (by far my favorite town) and maybe nearby Motovun (nice but very touristy) and not waste much time meandering though the countryside to sample every town on the map. I probably could have done with just Grožnjan but after you put in the effort to get there, you might as well see Motovun...

Point is, my Istrian hill town adventure was nice but not the highlight of my trip, personally. (Maybe I'm saying that to help Carla feel better!) I wouldn't rank "Istrian hill towns" near Rovinj, Plitvice, Korcula, or Dubrovnik in my list of "favorite spots in Croatia." (I also enjoyed a stop in the beautiful town of Sibenik north of Split.) Zadar was nice too (spent a night) but for some reason it didn't really grab me. Sometimes, though, you have to see these places for yourself no matter what other say, to see if you like them for fear you are "missing" something amazing that you would be passing near, anyway.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks so much, everyone - this is really helpful. We are definitely adding either Plitvice or Krka.

@ Carla & Andrew
Our extended stay in Istria is mostly for food (a BIG draw for us). We've had our eye on that region for years. Frankly, if we had to cut our trip to a week (the horror), it would focus primarily on Istria and Dubrovnik.

re: Zadar
I played in a band for years, and I've always wanted to see the sea organ. So...it seemed like logical place to stay the night as we meander south.

Ultimately, I suspect what Tim says...

"No stop in coastal Croatia is a waste of time."

...is quite true.

Thanks again, all.