I understand clearly, after much research, how crowded the walk ways at the Lakes seem to get. Does anyone know if it is bad mid October? We have a place to stay October 19, see the National Park on the 20th and back to spend the night at our lodging to get rest before heading to Split. ( we are driving). We are not fond of crowds AT ALL, so wonder if we should plan something else, other than Plitvice, although we would love to see it.
We were there in 2014 and did not have the ease of having a car. It was not a fun ride there on the bus, nor a convenient trip out of there on a bus, as we had to be at the bus stop around 6AM as I recall. But we would not have missed it. It rained a good deal of the time we were there, but the beauty of the park and waterfalls were something we loved and we were glad we stopped. Even for all the inconvenience it was to get there. It was crowded, but it is like Yosemite. No matter how crowded it is it doesn't detract from the beauty that is there.
I visited in early October but some years ago. I'm guessing you will still see a lot of people in October but nothing like the summer months. Still, best strategy is to get into the park early in the morning at opening time (7AM? That is opening time in high season - not sure about October, probably.). If you do that, you shouldn't see many people for an hour or two, and even by mid-afternoon it may not be that crowded in October. I doubt I'd want to visit Plitvice in the summer, but in October I'd do it for sure, if I could stay over at or close to the park and get in early.
Since these lakes are in Croatia you might want to post this question in that forum for more answers. :)
If you get yourself into the park right as it opens, I think it won't be bad. If you happen to reach the park area by about mid-afternoon on the 19th, you might consider seeing part of the park then, assuming you have enough time to make that worthwhile before dark and the park's closing time. I believe there is a 2-day ticket available, and I've read references to inside-park hotels endorsing 1-day tickets for second-day use, but I've no experience with that myself.
Don't expect a backwoods, wilderness sort of experience, and I believe you will be fine. The park is lovely, and you're doing everything you can to see it at its best. In addition, I'm pretty sure there are some pathways within the park that are not part of the network of labeled routes. If the weather's good and you want to spend all day inside the park you'll have time to get onto some of those trails, where I think there won't be many people.
There was a little shop near the ticket booth at the entry I used. It sold a large-scale park map for something like 3 euros (in 2015), and some very basic food. I assume it has bottle water. Once you get into the park there are few places to grab a snack, so I recommend taking something with you.
Thank you, everyone. You are right, Anita, I forgot I was on Slovenia site instead of Croatia, but believe I have enough answers for us to carry on with our plans. We will be staying overnight the day before and night after walking the Lakes, only about 4 miles from the entrance, and will get there around 7:30 am. Appreciate the replies.
The park opens at 8:30. Staying local overnight is the best idea. There are the hotels. We were traveling with 5 (3 kids and us parents), and so we found a full house to rent for the night. It didn't seem expensive at the time. I wonder how crowded the park will be - Oct 20 is a Friday. I would think that it would be less crowded. We went on Croatian National Day (June 25) in 2011, and while crowded that day, it was only bad after 12 noon. We finished the park about 2, and drove to Split that afternoon, arriving about 6 PM. We got there when the park opened. It's a great stop - it was one of our favorite days on our trip.
The park opened at 7am when I visited in May 2015. The park website is vague about when hours change during the year; currently, it says the park opens at 8am but that the parking lots open at 7am. I'm pretty sure the park will open at 7am again starting in May - not sure if that will continue through October or not. I don't think the park technically ever "closes" but facilities do and the boats and trams only run at certain hours.
When we visited, on the RS Eastern Europe tour, we started our walk at the top of the route, so we missed a lot of the crowds. I don't know how complicated it is to start there if you don't have the ease of a bus and guide taking you there, but it was a pleasure to start the visit with no crowds at all.
In 2011, we visited on Croatian National Day (in June). Needless to say, by 11, it was pretty crowded, with people on all the walkways. We got there at opening time (8:30 AM), as we had stayed in a sobe 1 KM away. We parked in the parking lot, and waited for the train to go into the park. The attendant kept saying "everyone will get on the train", but it was pretty obvious that all 400 people would NOT get on the train. So, we walked in. It wasn't far. People are advised to take the train to the top and walk down, so we walked to the top, and took the train down - going against traffic often means that your option is less crowded. It was overall a wonderful stop, and I would not miss it. I would think that in October the crowds would be low, but you can always send a message to the Croatian tourist board to ask. I would also guess that, at that time of the year, weekdays would be quite light, but weekends might be heavier in terms of visitors.