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Plitvice Lakes National Parks

I had so many questions when I was planning my visit to Plitvice and couldn’t find all the answers. I would recommend staying in one of the park hotels so you can walk to the entrance and also so you can get a second day of hiking without paying a second time. If you have a pre-paid ticket (print it out to show at gate) you do not need to walk over to the place where they sell tickets (in the opposite direction of the lakes from the hotel). Follow the signs for The Lakes from the hotel to get to the entrance where you show your ticket and walk down to the boat. I only entered at Entrance 2 (stayed at Hotel Bellevue), so I don’t know anything about Entrance 1. We did the Upper Lakes in the late afternoon (4:00-6:00). We took the ferry from P1 to P2. There is about a 10 – 15 minute walk from the hotel down to the ferry. You might have to wait awhile for the ferry, but shouldn’t be too long. Quick ride over to P2. From there we followed the “E” trail all the way to the bus stop (ST3). People talk about this being uphill, but we really didn’t notice too much that we were walking uphill and my husband has hips that are sensitive to uphill climbs. At this time of day this walk was great – not that many other people – very peaceful and enjoyable. I wasn’t quite as impressed with the waterfalls as I expected to be (maybe because it was September? – although there was water flowing) but I also wasn’t expecting just the general beauty of the park. It took us about 1.5 hours to walk from P2 to the bus stop. There is also an option of turning back about half way there and walking back to the ferry stop on a different trail. Either would be nice. Probably about the same amount of time. I think the shuttle bus/train runs every half hour. We entered the park just after 4:00 and caught the 6:00 bus back. We ate dinner at the restaurant that sits by itself near the Hotel Bellevue. There are options for cafeteria style or ‘sit down and order’ restaurant style. The place was virtually empty at 6:30. We opted for the “National Restaurant” because we couldn’t even tell if the cafeteria place was open. It was a decent meal at a decent price.

Be sure to get your ticket stamped by the hotel if you are going out a second day. The next morning we had the hotel prepare us a bag breakfast that we picked up at the desk at 6:45am. I did not realize that the P2 to P3 ferry (or the buses?) do not run until 8:00am, although the park opens at 7:00. If I had known this I would have eaten breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 and then walked down to the entrance. I was able to take the P1 to P2 ferry about 7:15 and did a bit of walking around the upper lakes while I waited for the P2 to P3 ferry at 8:00. It took about 20 minutes for the boat to get to P3. Only a few people on the boat. When I got to P3 I walked up the road to the high trail above the lower lakes. If you walk down this road (keep going past the point where the trail turns to go down to the lower lakes) there are side trails that go off to viewpoints over the lower lakes. Be sure to go to the one with the rock wall for a great view. Eventually this turns into a trail (going away from the “road”) and there is a spectacular view point of the canyon before you go down a long set of stone steps to the big waterfall. The problem with doing this is that I got down to the main trail through the lower lakes later and it was jammed. I don’t know how much better it would have been if I had gone directly there instead of taking the high trail (which didn’t take more than a half hour). The lower lakes are beautiful but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the upper lakes because the trail was so crowded (and this was at 9:00am in mid-September – it probably got worse as the day went on). You could walk back to P3 and take the ferry or go to bus stop ST1 and take the bus back to ST2 (I took the bus – faster I think). It didn’t take me much more than an hour to do the upper and lower trails (at the Lower Lakes only).

Posted by
1888 posts

On the point of when to get to the park: There really is a lot of hype about the overcrowding, to the point that people are simply making decisions to get there early regardless of everything else. Your point that "If I had known this I would have eaten breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 and then walked down to the entrance." is on point. Don't get buffaloes into the idea that the Park is overrun. There are a lot of people there, but so what?

Posted by
1863 posts

We had a positive experience at Lake Plitvice September, 2018. We were on The Best of the Adriatic Tour. We stayed overnight in the Park and started our hike at the upper park 1st thing in the morning. This strategy worked out extremely well. We avoided the onslaught of day trippers who arrived mid morning. We were finishing our hike when they started at the lower lakes. Have to say this was the highlight of our tour. Don't let the "crowds" deter you from this amazing opportunity.

Posted by
3311 posts

Nancy, I really appreciate your post. When I was researching a stop at Plitvice Park for a possible Croatia trip two years ago, it was difficult to find some first-hand information about how exactly to plan our time in the park area with an afternoon stop at the nearby hotel

Posted by
4684 posts

Don't get buffaloes into the idea that the Park is overrun. There are a lot of people there, but so what?

Because it ruins the experience? I am soooo glad I got to the park early - couldn't want to get out of there by the time it got crowded.

I did last time get down to P1 to take the ferry to P2 like Nancy did and hike the upper lakes trails in the morning, so I didn't have to wait until ate to get the long ferry to the lower lakes.

Posted by
16555 posts

I've been to the park multiple times--twice before it was discovered by throngs of foreign tourists and once during a 2015 day-trip. There was a huge difference in the experiences. I will continue to urge people to avoid mid-day visits so others don't have the very disappointing experience I had in 2015.

Threads like this one are extremely helpful in providing highly specific advice about how to get the best out of the park. All I can say is, "Don't do what I did in 2015", which was to bus in from Zagreb on the day of my visit.

Posted by
1888 posts

We visited in 2011, on Croatian National Day. Yes, the park was crowded. Yes, there were sections on which people were being very careful on the wooden walkways.

But I think the hype is over the top about the crowding, to the point where the OP went so early that she missed breakfast, and was actually there before she needed to be. She was a full hour before the boats started running. So, instead of sitting there and having a second cup of coffee, she was waiting for the boat.

So, be there when things open, but not before.

Posted by
4684 posts

Paul, she arrived before the boat between P2 and P3 was running. That's the long boat ride between the upper and lower lakes. She was able to take the short boat between P1 and P2 so she could hike in the upper lakes trails - half of the park. I take it she had already done those trails the previous day which is why she had to wait for the other boat to take her up to the lower lakes side. But anyone else who wants to start at the upper lakes side (like I did, both times I visited the park) would be able to start at 7am, which is when I still recommend people get out there if possible.

I doubt breakfast at the park hotel was something special to hang around for for an extra hour. I stayed at one of the park hotels on my first visit to Plitvice, too - very convenient but nothing special. She got a take-away breakfast anyway. I still think she made the right choice to get out there early.

You are welcome to your own opinion that the crowds in the park aren't a big worry, but numerous posters here have posted to the contrary, that they/we found the crowds at Plitvice unpleasant.

Posted by
679 posts

When we went we took a hike along the boats in the afternoon, stayed overnight and then the next morning went in the back way, had coffee and hiked along the lake. It was lovely and not rushed.

Posted by
16555 posts

Good grief, Paul, you were there eight years ago! The world of European tourism has changed massively since then. Please don't tell people heading for a tourist magnet that they don't need to worry about crowds because your experience was OK in 2011.

Posted by
2288 posts

I was at Plitvice last week, got there around 3 in the afternoon on a weekday. The only place we saw crowds was on the walkways to the big waterfall on the Lower Lakes, and even then they weren't terrible.

Posted by
46 posts

@Nancy, thank you very much for the useful information. We will be visiting Croatia and Slovenia next May and have been trying to figure out how much time we want at Plitvice, and your report is very helpful. Thank you!

Posted by
144 posts

We were just there a couple of weeks ago, and I appreciate the fact that our guide got us out there early. We started at Entrance 2 and took the bus down to Station 3. We then walked to P2 and took the boat to P3, then walked to Entrance 1. Glad we started when we did, because later in the morning it was horribly crowded. So crowded that it was almost dangerous walking on those narrow boardwalks. Hordes of tourists who travel in bunched up groups who stop to take pictures and completely block the walkways. I actually yelled at a couple of groups to walk in single file, and they did.

I would go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Otherwise you are spending more time dodging obnoxious tourists and not enjoying any of the beautiful scenery.

One comment -- make sure you take a good map with you. The paths are not well-signed, and it is easy to get lost.

Posted by
16555 posts

As of 2015 the little shop near the ticket booth (sorry, don't remember which entrance I used) sold a large map for the equivalent of $3 - $3.50 (US). The only thing I received when I bought my park ticket was the minute sketch on the ticket itself, which I think would be useless if you really needed a map. I thought the signs for the lettered walking routes were generally clear, but if you're choosing your own route through the park they'd be insufficient. I'm one for whom a map is sort of a security blanket, because I'm public-transportation-dependent and have to be able to get back to the bus stop at the right time.

Posted by
350 posts

We were there in May of 2016 and, like Nancy, entered the park on our first afternoon around 3-4pm and it was spectacular. People around, but no bad crowds at all. The next morning we left very early to see the rest of the park and at first it was wonderful, but by about 9:30 we could not even make forward progress on the paths, much less see around people or take photos around them. These were big bus tours of people - 30+ per group all bunched together completely blocking the paths - standing still or barely shuffling forward - don't underestimate the impact this will make on your visit. I definitely suggest this strategy of one afternoon and then the next morning, avoiding mid-day unless you are mostly interested in people-watching. The experience with vs. without crowds was, to us, dramatically different.

Posted by
24 posts

We were at waterfalls 2 weeks back and will echo the advice to stay in one of the hotels adjacent entrance #2. We did the upper lakes the first afternoon and lower the next morning. Instead of waiting for the boat to the lower falls, you can walk, it took less than 30 minutes to meet up with the path you take when leaving the boat. It was just 0800, so quite peaceful. By 0900 at the lower waterfall it was starting to pick up, within 20 minutes the groups had arrived. Many seem bound and determined to walk side by side as they are part of a tour.

The lack of commercialism is surprising, between the boat and bus pickup, there is no one selling anything; no T-shirts, water/soda/snacks. Nice, keeps the litter down.

Second, the maps are lacking, even the large boards with the maps of the lake don't have all the trails marked clearly. All the park workers were super friendly and happy to point you in the right direction, or make suggestions.

Posted by
1 posts

Thank you for the detailed information! It is very helpful! We are planning to visit the park next September. We will be driving from Sarajevo and arriving mid to late afternoon and have reservations for the Hotel Bellevue. Since we don't know exactly what time we will arrive (and what might happen along the way) we are hesitant to commit to a specific time for a ticket for that day, and were thinking of buying our tickets to enter early the following morning. I understand that the hotels will extend your ticket for the following day if you are staying there, but does anyone know if they will let you enter the day before what's on your ticket?

Posted by
16555 posts

If you arrive mid-afternoon or later, I think there's a good chance you'll be able to buy a ticket for immediate entry then. The tickets are timed, and I don't think very many people arrive at the park late in the day. I wouldn't count on buying a ticket for the second day and being able to use when I arrived--though I have no information to back up this opinion.

Posted by
22 posts

I don’t know if you could buy a ticket when you arrive in the afternoon. I had the same question because we weren’t sure what time we would arrive. I inquired with the park and they told me to purchase it in advance. Where you would buy the ticket is in a different direction than the entry so it makes it simpler if you already have the ticket. They are not going to let you in late in the day if you have a ticket for the next day. They won’t even let you in (or so they say) if you miss the 30 minute window based on the timed entry on your ticket. We bought our tickets in advance for 4:00. That gave us plenty of time to do Upper Lakes the first afternoon.