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Zagreb vs. Platvice Lakes?

Planning a trip to Croatia in September and find we have a gap in our itinerary of one or two days between Dubrovnik and the Istrian peninsula. We we're planning to go to Platvice Lakes but we're now leaning towards Zagreb. Thoughts on one over the other? Thanks.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3080 posts

That's a personal preference - city vs. nature - that no one else can answer for you. Can't do both Plitvice AND Zagreb?

Plitvice is amazing but very touristy and sometimes crowded mid-day (worse in season - probably worse early September vs. late September). Zagreb wasn't my favorite, but some people here love it. Maybe you will too. Even if you do - still have to choose, city vs. nature.

Posted by Gerard OP
Seattle, WA
3 posts

Thanks Andrew. Unfortunately, doing both doesn't seem feasible due to other travel arrangements although we did consider it. Usually nature would win out but I've read so much about the crowds which is why we're rethinking the visit to the lakes. And I can experience nature at home...although maybe not so spectacularly!

Posted by Jennifer
Tunbridge Wells
2226 posts

Try Krka National Park, which isn’t as crowded as Plitvice if you want nature. Only you can make the choice about city vs nature.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2938 posts

I’d stop in Split/Trogir or Sibenik/Krka on my way. Zagreb is not my thing, but I thought Plitvice was an all time travel highlight for me, but we were there in April with no crowds.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
9874 posts

I'm a big fan of both but would choose Plitvice. As long as you don't expect a wilderness experience, I think you'll be very happy with it if you spend the night before your visit in or near the park and get in there the moment it opens. If you can manage not to be there on a weekend, that may also help a bit. A lot of the visitors the day I was there in 2015 were Croatians.

If you'd have to commute to the park from Split or Zadar or like your nature unencumbered by other visitors (good luck with that in Europe), Zagreb is a better choice. Ask the tourist office for its museum brochure. There are many, and you'll need to choose based on your own preferences. A number of the smaller museums are very conveniently located right in the historic district. Naive Art (upstairs and I think no elevator) is small but has a great collection, and Broken Relationships is a lot of fun.

Posted by Gerard OP
Seattle, WA
3 posts

Thanks everyone for your helpful comments and advice! Platvice Lakes is back on the itinerary.

Posted by shanda72
12 posts

I just came back from lake plitvice and zagreb on Sunday. In my opinion lake plitvice is a complete waste of time. If you want a good hike by all means go but I was not impressed AT ALL.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3080 posts

Care to elaborate, shanda72? I thought Plitvice was one of best things I have seen in Europe not just Croatia. The dozens of littler waterfalls - a new one at every turn of the path - the lakes of turquoise-colored water filled with huge trout - made it seem like an exotic wonderland to me. I've visited on two different trips. I respect differences of opinion, but I am not sure why you disliked it. The biggest complaint I hear about Plitvice is the crowds.

Did you spend the night so you could explore the park early in the morning/late afternoon to avoid the crowds? I'd guess that on a Sunday afternoon in July, Plitvice would be very crowded, almost like Disneyland. I'd never want to visit at a time like that.

Posted by Nancy
281 posts

We did Plitvice, Krka and Zagreb two years ago on our drive up to Ljubliana. I loved the National Parks. It was late July, hot and crowded. We stayed overnight in Plitvice (within walking distance) and went there late in the afternoon and then early morning. We also went during the day (very crowded) but the other times were very manageable. I really enjoyed Krka but again it was crowded but gorgeous. Zagreb was nice and we enjoyed our couple of days there. The city center was very walkable and friendly. So if you can't do it all, which you may find you can, it all boils down to nature vs town. I would pick something you haven't done. Been to a few cities, go with nature. Will be doing some hiking, go to the city. Zagreb is different than Dubrovnik, much more germanic feeling, I found. Good luck

Posted by shanda72
12 posts

Sure Andrew, first thing we went to the park in the first week of July. And with my best efforts I could not get to the park before 9 AM.

There were people ever where.
The waterfalls I had envisioned in my mind were almost like iguazu falls in South America. The turquoise water was fine and all, but not worth the hassle of so many people. My kids were troopers( 6,7) we did a hike of about 10 miles. They pooped out in the middle of the upper falls.

I suppose the good part of this park is that the nature part is still maintained vs. being over built like Niagra Falls.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
9641 posts

"The waterfalls I had envisioned in my mind were almost like iguazu falls in South America."

No wonder you were disappointed and upset.

I've never been to either the Plitvice Lakes or the Iguazu Falls, but just from having seen pictures and videos of them, they don't look similar at all. It's sort of like expecting Lake Havasu City to be like New York City, just because they both have three parts to the name and the last part is "city."

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3080 posts

shanda72:

Sure Andrew, first thing we went to the park in the first week of July. And with my best efforts I could not get to the park before 9 AM.
There were people ever where.

That only confirms again that July is maybe the absolute worst time to visit Croatia and the park. I'm guessing it would have been a little better for the first two hours at 7am, though. When I visited in May 2015, as I said on your other thread, when I got out there that early, and walked down to the P3 boat launch, to take the short boat ride across to P2 at the upper lake falls trails, I had to wait ten minutes on the boat because I was the ONLY one on the boat! They didn't want to take just one person across, but finally they did. That's how uncrowded it was in May at that hour.

Posted by Mary
Reno, NV, USA
759 posts

We went to Plitvice on the RS Adriatic tour. We loved it. Get there as early in the morning as you can. Some other tour members were in Zagreb before the tour and they were very disappointed.

Posted by nevadasteve
18 posts

Best way to see Plitvice is get there late afternoon 4-5 pm see half the park that evening, spend the night and get there when it opens at 7am and see the other half. Leave by 10am when all the bus tours get there. God made the Garden of Eden then used it as a blueprint for Plitvice.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
3111 posts

Lots of good advice and insights above.

To the OP: your trip is in September. When in September?

Later September would be better than September 1, but even in early September I'm sure the experience will be different than what you would find in mid-July. Still, follow the advice above: arrive at the park mid-afternoon, check in to your hotel. Do a few hours in the park later in the afternoon, stay the night in the park, get up early, be out there when it opens, do a few more hours, then check out and move on when the crowds show up (if they do...later in September, there may be few or none).

You will be glad you went.