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Zagreb to Split via Plitvice Lakes

My husband and I will be traveling in early May 2019 to Croatia. We are trying to figure out the best way to go from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes to Split. Should we rent a car and do this over a couple of days. Should we hire a private driver to pick us up in Zagreb, stop in Plitvice for a few hours and then drive us on to Split? If private driver, do you have any recommendations?

Thank you.

Posted by Cro on the go
Istria, Croatia
78 posts

Avoid super expensive private drivers and get hire car. Best to be in the park very early and spend at least half day there.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2805 posts

Driving is easy in Croatia and this drive is pretty easy (I've never driven into downtown Split however) - but it may not be cheap for a one-way one day car rental. Price it out for yourself for this year - but maybe for September to get a good idea of long-term rates. (Try the Sixt website for example.)

One other option is a company I've seen (google for them, I haven't used them) that does a transfer from Zagreb to Split or vice versa, with a stop for a few hours at Plitvice. Might not cost less if any than just renting a car and doing it yourself but might be easier.

Be warned that crowds can get big in Plitvice by mid-morning - it's a very popular park, and it gets a lot of tour groups. You may encounter lines for boats and a lot of people on the boardwalks and trails. May might not be awful (I was there mid-May 2015 and it was not empty but not awful by noon). But if you can possibly swing it, overnighting at the park so you can enter the park as soon as it opens in the morning lets you explore it for a few hours before it gets too busy. At 7am it's still pretty empty and peaceful. FYI, if you did it this way, and stayed at one of the (overpriced but convenient) park hotels, you could do it by public bus. The latest public bus (last time I checked, who knows by next May) left Plitvice for Split relatively early in the afternoon, though. You can get the gist of the park in 6-7 hours though.

Posted by Paul
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
941 posts

Consider Flixbus from Zagreb to PL on the day before and then PL to Split on the afternoon of the next day. From Z to PL - 13 E. From PL to S - 22 E. Now that is cheap. We took Flixbus from Zagreb to Zadar - comfortable, nice - pit stop on the way - very pleasant. The busses do not seem to run every day, so you may need to select your dates carefully. I was able to go to the Flixbus site, and get open dates listed. The bus stop is easily accessed from the tram in Zagreb.

Posted by backbones
23 posts

We just returned from 12 days in Croatia and did the drive you are thinking of doing. Driving on the roads in Croatia is a pleasure in April/May. The main roads are unbelievably well-kept with beautiful services along the way. I'm not used to seeing such clean rest stops and well stocked markets on the highways. You can see much of Plitvice in only a few hours (crowds in April/May are not that huge) though you certainly wont see it all. We stayed at an Airbnb in Split which had a parking lot across the street (you could pay for a full days parking in the morning and just leave the car if you needed). We used our car to get from city to city and really never drove within the city.