Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
148.00 m (485.56 ft)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
8.00 km (4.97 mi)
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Plitviče (pronounced PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes is the largest and oldest (and most popular, for that matter) of Croatia’s eight national parks. This incredibly unique place consists of a limestone canyon carved out by the Korana River, with a network of boardwalk trails meandering up a chain of 16 turquoise-blue terraced lakes joined together with stunning waterfalls. It’s no surprise this national park, and, since 1979, UNESCO World Heritage Site, often finds itself on “Must See Places” lists, and now sees upward of 1 million visitors per year.

Park Topography

From the uppermost lake to the lowermost, a distance of about 8 kilometers, the water of the Korana River drops from 636 meters to 594 meters of elevation. Fun fact: Since the basins for the lakes are all made of limestone, same as the cliffs surrounding the park, the constantly flowing water is actually contributing to the continual growth of the basins, meaning it gets a little taller each and every year.

The park is divided into roughly two sections, the 12 Upper Lakes and 4 Lower Lakes, separated by the largest lake over which you can take an electric shuttle boat to get from one section to the other. In general, the Upper Lakes are more condensed and intimate while the lower lakes are more open, with rising cliffs and dark, yawning depths that beg to suck you in from the boardwalks. As tempting as the deep teal waters are on a hot summer day, no swimming is permitted within the park. In general, the best vistas are found in the Lower Lakes section of the park.

However, depending on the season, this section is also subject to flooding and some trails may be closed, though park officials are not strict about enforcing these closures and rather seem to uphold an “enter at your own risk” philosophy. In fact, many of the flooded boardwalks will actually be made passable by park staff through the placement of raised wooden ladders on which to walk. This is typical for spring and periods of high-volume rain, but it’s actually a great time to visit those trails if you don’t mind wet feet, because most other visitors do!

Entrance Restrictions

Plitviče is open year round and each season has something different to offer. Summer is high season, meaning high traffic. If you want to escape the crowds, go in the off seasons. Winter can be chilly, but the contrast of white snow with the teal water is truly spectacular. As far as scenery is concerned, spring is the least desirable season because the bare deciduous trees are not yet leafed out but are also no longer covered in snow.

Before going in, you’ll need to purchase a pass at either of the two entrances.  Rates vary by season. For an adult day pass, which includes any shuttle (bus or boat) within the park, costs per season are:

  • Winter (November-March): 55 kuna ($8)

  • Spring/Fall (April-June/September/October): 110 Kuna ($16)

  • Summer (July-August): 180 kuna ($26)

There are two entrances to the park: Entrance 1 is positioned at the north park border, providing closer access to the Lower Lake trails. Entrance 2 is positioned midway down the park close to the Upper Lakes trails.

The Trail System

All in all, there are seven trails (which for some reason skip letters), as outlined by the official park guide, along with their mileage and entrance point.

  • A (3.5 km, Entrance 1): Travels the full Lower Lakes loop as far as the tip of Kozjak Lake.

  • B (4.0 km, Entrance 1): Same as Trail A but continues with a ferry ride across Lake Kozjak and a bus shuttle back to Entrance 1.

  • C (8.0 km, Entrance 1): Travels the full Lower Lakes loop, takes the ferry across Lake Kozjak, makes almost the full Upper Lakes loop (leaving out a small section around Milino Lake that could easily be detoured in) and takes the shuttle back to either Entrance 1 or 2.

  • E (5.2 km, Entrance 2): Travels the almost the full Upper Lakes loop with a bus shuttle back to Entrance 2.

  • F (4.7 km, Entrance 2): Begins with a ferry ride across Lake Kozjak for a full Lower Lakes loop hike with a bus shuttle back to Entrance 2.

  • H (9.0 km, Entrance 2): Travels most of the Upper Lakes loop, takes the ferry across Lake Kozjak, makes the full Upper Lake loop (leaving out a small section around Milino Lake that could easily be detoured in) and takes the shuttle back to either Entrance 1 or 2.

  • K (18.5 km, Entrance 2): Basically a hike around the full park, heading south along the west shore and moving counterclockwise without the use of any shuttles. Alone, it does miss some cool parts of both Upper and Lower Lakes.

However, many of these trails overlap each other, and the park as a whole is so small (a mere 295 sq km), it’s perfectly doable to hit all the best sights in a day if you’re super motivated, or a maximum of 2 days to really get the full experience. The best way to see the majority of the park in a single day is by doing a modified version of C and E (making the full loop around Galovak Lake, which each one shortens in opposite ways), ensuring you get the full experience of the area.

If you have time, by the time you reach the top of the Upper Lake trails, a lake called Ciginovak, detour briefly along the K route to get some spectacular vistas of the Upper Lakes from the top of the west canyon walls. If you’re following the general C route, you’ll know if you have time because all that’s left by the Ciginovak Lake is a quick shuttle bus ride back to whatever entrance.

Must See Sights

  • Vidikovak Sightseeing Point (Lower Lakes): The “postcard viewpoint” of the park with an excellent view of the tiers of the Lower Lakes from the very bottom.

  • Veliki Slap (Lower Lakes): At 78 meters tall, this is the largest waterfall in the park, and with reddish limestone behind the gushing waters it really is a beautiful sight to behold.

  • Superla Cave (Lower Lakes): Literally “hollow cave,” which is essentially a vertical passage with no floor or ceiling. Descend down the slick limestone steps until the cave spits you out right into a boardwalk practically floating in the middle of a deep turquoise pool.

  • Sastavci Slap (Lower Lakes): Another beautiful waterfall 26 meters tall at the edge of Novakovica brod.

  • Galovachi But (Upper Lakes): A wide and sprawling waterfall series pouring into Galovac Lake.

  • Veliki Prštavac Slap (Upper Lakes): One of the taller falls in the park with water pouring off a lush knoll into Gradinsko Lake.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Easy to navigate. Helpful staff. Unique views. Big vistas. Lake views. Unique geology.

Cons

Peak season crowds. Seasonal trail flooding.

Trailhead Elevation

1,801.18 ft (549.00 m)

Highest point

2,158.79 ft (658.00 m)

Features

Guided tours
Potable water
Flushing toilets
Near lake or river
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Waterfalls
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Cave

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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