Julie Croatia 91 Comments

Plitvice Lakes is one of the most unique places to visit in Croatia. With easy walking trails, boardwalks suspended over the turquoise water, stunning viewpoints, and photogenic waterfalls, this is the type of place that is perfect for visitors of all ages.

With different levels of lakes, four different hiking trails, seven routes through the park, and two different entrances, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to spend your time here.

In this article, I will share with you our walking route through Plitvice Lakes. Learn how to get to the most stunning waterfalls, how to get a bird’s eye view of the park, and how to get to the Veliki Slap viewpoint for the postcard view of Plitvice Lakes.

Why Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Simply said, it’s gorgeous here. Lakes, waterfalls, and cool boardwalk trails all work magically together to create a very unique destination. Around every bend is another beautiful view. Be prepared to ooh and aahh and take lots of photos.

Lovely Plitvice

Plitvice Lakes National Parks contains 16 interconnecting lakes that vary in color from emerald green to turquoise to deep blue, depending on mineral content and lighting conditions. Throw in those waterfalls and you really have something special.

In 1979, Plitvice Lakes became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Croatia, receiving over 1 million visitors per year. Many come during the summer months, so if you are planning a trip from June through August, expect big crowds.

Where is Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice Lakes is located in central Croatia. The closest cities are Zagreb and Zadar. Here are driving distances and times from popular spots in Croatia:

  • Zagreb: 135 km, 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Zadar: 136 km, 2 hours
  • Split: 260 km, 3 hours
  • Dubrovnik: 450 km, 5 hours
  • Pula: 275 km, 3 hours 45 minutes

Where is Plitvice

It is possible to visit Plitvice Lakes on a day trip from Zagreb, Zadar and Split. However, you will spend a lot of time in the car. If you are doing this in the summer months, you will most likely arrive at peak time when the boardwalks are congested with lots of people.

If you plan to day trip to Plitvice Lakes, one of the best way to do it is with a guide, since your transportation is included. 

PRO TRAVEL TIP: For the best experience, plan to stay overnight near the park so you can have an early start to your day. It’s worth it!

How to Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park

An Overview of the Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park covers over 73,000 acres. There are four hiking trails that are organized into 7 different routes to tour the park. Other than hiking, you can also get around by boat and by shuttle (also called the panoramic train).

It’s easiest to think about the park in three different sections. The lower lakes section includes Entrance 1 and Veliki Slap (the Big Waterfall). From here, you can take a boat or the shuttle to the upper lakes section, with some of the prettiest boardwalk trails and waterfalls in the park. Beyond this is the third section, a trail around Proscansko Lake.

There is another section to the park that is not included on the main routes. There is a road and trail that runs along the western cliffs of the park (labeled Cliff Views on the map below), offering very nice aerial views over the lakes and boardwalk trails. This also includes the Veliki Slap viewpoint for the postcard photo of Plitvice Lakes.


This is a modified map from the Plitvice Lakes National Park website. Note that the map is rotated 90 degrees – north is on the right side of the map. You can ride the shuttle and the boat in both directions, this map is just portraying one particular route through the park (Program H). 

Seven Routes through the Park

There are seven routes (also called programs) through the park. These are suggested routes depending upon your starting point, your energy level, and how much time you have. With seven options, picking out the best route can be a little overwhelming. At the end of this section, I’ll give you our suggestions.

Programs A, B, and C all start at Entrance 1. Programs E, F and H all start at Entrance 2 and are basically the same as A, B, C only they travel in the opposite direction. Program K is a full day hike through the entire park.

Program A

This trail starts at Entrance 1, goes downhill to the boardwalk trails where you will see Veliki Slap and waterfalls along the lower lakes. At Kozjak Bridge you turn around and then walk or take the shuttle back to Entrance 1.  2 – 3 hours, 3.5 km, easy.

Program B

This is Program A but you cross Kozjak Bridge, take the boat to the other side of Kozjak Lake, and return to Entrance 1 by shuttle or by the walking trail along the lake.  3 – 4 hours, 4 km, easy.

Program C

Program C is a continuation of Program B. Once you disembark the boat on the far side of Kozjak Lake, you walk the boardwalk trails along the upper lakes and waterfalls. Take the shuttle back to Entrance 1.  4 – 6 hours, 8 km, easy.

Program E

Starting at Entrance 2, you ride the boat across Kojzak Lake and walk the trails through the upper lakes and waterfalls, ending back at Entrance 2.  2 – 3 hours, 5.1 km, easy.

Program F

From Entrance 2, take the boat across Kozjak Lake and walk the trails around the lower lakes. To get back to Entrance 2 take the shuttle or walk the hiking trail.  3 – 4 hours, 4.6 km, easy.

Program H

Take the shuttle from Entrance 2 to the top of the upper lakes (St3). Walk the boardwalk trails along the upper lakes until you get back to Kozjak Lake. Ride the boat across Kozjak Lake and walk the trails along the lower lakes. From Entrance 1, ride the shuttle back to Entrance 2.  4 – 6 hours, 9 km, easy.

Program K

This is an 18.6 km walk through all of the lakes of the park. Basically, you are hiking around all of the lakes without taking the boat or shuttle.

Our Recommendations

It’s absolutely worth it to visit both the lower and upper lakes if you have the time. In order to do this you will need to do Program C (from entrance 1) or Program H (from Entrance 2).

If you are short on time, you will have to choose between the upper and lower lakes. Which one is better? Both sections feature stunning waterfalls and lake views and you can’t go wrong with either. But I think the waterfalls of the upper lakes are slightly better than the lower lake section.

Should You Start at Entrance 1 or Entrance 2?

I recommend starting from Entrance 1, especially if you get here first thing in the morning. By starting from Entrance 1, you are walking slightly uphill most of the way but you are walking towards the waterfalls on the lower lakes. That means that you always get to see them in front of you.

If you walk in the opposite direction, you will actually walk past some of the waterfalls and have to keep turning around to look at them. It’s not a big deal but I think it is a nicer experience to walk towards the waterfalls. We walked the boardwalk trails in both directions and preferred starting at Entrance 1.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Prior to our visit, I had read that starting at Entrance 2 is better because you are walking against traffic most of the way. On the day we did this (a weekday in mid-July), there seemed to be just as much traffic moving in both directions on the trails. So, from a “traffic” standpoint, I don’t think there is an advantage to starting at Entrance 2.

Plitvice with Kids

Our Recommended Route through Plitvice Lakes

If you like the idea of visiting the upper and lower lakes plus getting the views from the upper viewpoints, we have a recommended route through Plitvice Lakes.

Over the course of a day, we walked back and forth along these boardwalk trails in both directions, took the shuttle, road the electric boat, walked the hiking trails on the cliffs along both sides of the lakes, explored various viewpoints, and took in the view from Veliki Slap viewpoint. In total we walked over 20 km (12.5 miles) to come up with this route through the park. Don’t worry, you won’t be walking 20 km like we did (we did a lot of backtracking). 

Our route is a combination of Program C and Program H with the addition of the cliff views and the option to walk out to the postcard view. On this route, you will ride the electric boat and the shuttle one time. 

I don’t have the exact distance but I estimate this route to be about 11 km and take up to 6 to 8 hours.  

If you have no desire to add on the upper cliff views, I recommend simply following Program C or Program H through the park. This is an easy to follow route that takes you past the best of the lower and upper lakes. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d pick Program C, which starts at entrance 1.

The Lower Lakes

Start at Entrance 1. I highly recommend getting here right at opening time (7 am during the summer, 8 am the rest of the year). To walk these boardwalks with minimal traffic is a wonderful experience and this is your best chance to take some very cool photos with few people in them.

Plitvice Lakes First View

The view from the overlook at Entrance 1.

PRO TRAVEL TIP:The trails really get busy around 10 am. By getting here at 7 am (in summer), you have about 3 hours before the boardwalks get swamped. This is just enough time to walk the lower and upper falls.

Take the trail down to the lakes and walk the boardwalk trails. Take the short detour to Veliki Slap, the Big Waterfall.

Veliki Slap

Veliki Slap

OPTIONAL DETOUR: Right next to Veliki Slap is a staircase leading to the upper level of the cliffs. This takes you to several great viewpoints over the park as well as the postcard photo spot. You can do this now but we recommend saving it for later in the day. Stay on the boardwalks first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and then visit these much less crowded viewpoints midday.

Walk back to the main trail and follow the signs to A, B, C, K.

Plitvice Trail Signs

The boardwalks and trail markers.

Plitvice Croatia in July

Trail to the Cave

You will come to another detour, which is optional. You can climb a long series of slippery steps up through a dark cave (Supljara Cave). From the top of the cave, follow the trail out to the upper level of the cliffs for an awesome view over the park. This is the most strenuous part of the day but if you want this view, it’s worth it.

View over Plitvice

Boardwalks in Plitvice


If you hiked up through the cave, retrace your steps back down the lower lakes and then resume the trail to Lake Kozjak.

Small waterfalls

The Upper Lakes

Once you reach the bridge for Lake Kozjak, turn left and head up the path to the shuttle stop. Do not cross the lakes on the Lake Kozjak bridge. At this point, you will now follow the signs to ST1, the shuttle bus stop.

Take the shuttle to station 3, which is at the far end of the upper lakes. From here, follow the signs for program H and walk the boardwalk trails towards Lake Kozjak. 

This is a gorgeous part of the park with trails and boardwalks criss-crossing over the lakes.

Tyler in Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Waterfall

Walking through Plitvice

Plitvice Lakes Photography

Plitvice Boardwalk

Best Things to do in Plitvice

Once you arrive at Lake Kozjak, take the electric boat across Lake Kozjak to P3.

Viewpoints over Plitvice Lakes

Now we are going to several viewpoints along the lakes. When we did this, we were the only ones on this hiking trail.

From the dock, walk a short distance back in the direction of Entrance 1. You will see a road branch off from the trail on the left. Follow this road uphill. Once it levels out, you are now walking along the upper cliffs on the western side of the lakes. There is a hiking trail in the woods between the road and the cliffs. Take this trail and follow it north. Along the way you will come to several nice viewpoints along the lakes.

Here is a map for clarification. This map is oriented with north at the top. The blue line is the access road and hiking trail along the cliff viewpoints. 

Cliff Views Map


Photos from the upper viewpoints. 

Kara in Plitvice

More Waterfalls

Another Plitvice Viewpoint

Best Views of Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice View near Veliki Slap

The view from the final viewpoint near the top of Veliki Slap. This is looking towards Entrance 1.

At the last viewpoint, you can walk down a steep staircase to get back to Veliki Slap and walk to Entrance 1 from here. Or you can keep going to get to the postcard viewpoint over Plitvice Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes Best View

Postcard View of Plitvice

Walk back to the road, continue north, cross a small wooden bridge, and then you will see another hiking trail on the right. It’s a five-minute walk on the trail to the viewpoint.

Road to Viewpoint

Trail to Veliki Slap View

Vidikovac Plitvice

Plitvice Lakes Postcard View

Plitvice Lakes Crowds

A zoomed in photo of the boardwalk trail to Veliki Slap. Not only can you see how crowded the trails get midday in Plitvice Lakes but you can also see the steps leading uphill to the trail along the cliffs.

To get to Entrance 1, backtrack to the steps leading down to Veliki Slap and walk to Entrance 1 from here.

This entire route will take 6 to 8 hours. Bring a picnic lunch to have along the way. One of the quiet viewpoints overlooking the lakes would make a nice picnic spot!

Easier Way to Visit the Veliki Slap Viewpoint

So, what if you don’t want walk that far? You can drive to the viewpoint. Here are the GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 44°54’9″ N 15°36’27” E. There are several parking spaces along the road here.

Park Hours and Prices

Hours of Operation

Summer: 7 am to 8 pm
Fall: 7 am to 7 pm
Winter: 8 am to 4 pm
Spring: 8 am to 7 pm

These hours can vary so it’s a good idea to check the hours on the official website.


You can purchase one-day tickets and two-day tickets. Here are the prices for one-day tickets for adults (or click here to see them on the official website):

  • January through March: 80 kn
  • April and May: 180 kn
  • June through September: 300 kn until 4 pm; 200 kn after 4 pm
  • October: 180 kn
  • November through December: 80 kn

The cost for children ages 7 to 18 years is roughly half the cost of an adult. Children 6 years and under are free.

There is an additional fee for parking: 10 kn per hour per automobile and 100 kn per day for a camper.

Best Time to Visit Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes is a year-round destination. It is open 365 days of the year.

The summer months are the busiest time to visit the park. Expect congestion on the boardwalks and hot temperatures. Water levels tend to be lower during the summer months so the waterfalls may not be as impressive. We got lucky and it rained overnight right before our visit.

Spring and autumn are the best time to visit. Crowds are lower and the waterfalls are roaring during the spring months. In autumn, you can capture the lakes with the fall colors.

Winter is a totally different experience. Crowds are generally low and if you are really lucky you will get to see Plitvice Lakes with a layer of snow.

Plitvice Lakes without the crowds

6 Tips to Have the Best Experience

1. Get here at opening time. Experiencing the boardwalk trails during the quiet, crowd-free morning hours is almost magical. By 10, the trails become quite packed once the day trippers arrive.

2. Stay overnight near the park. That way, you can get here at opening time!

3. Bring a picnic lunch. There are a few restaurants in the park but doesn’t this seem like the perfect place to have a picnic lunch?

4. Start at Entrance 1. As you walk up the paths you will have better views of the lower lakes waterfalls than if you start at Entrance 2.

5. Be patient. During peak times, the boardwalks become clogged with visitors. It can be slow going during these times, as people stop to take photos and enjoy the view.

6. Swimming is not permitted. This is a UNESCO site so swimming is not allowed here.

Where to Stay Near Plitvice Lakes

There are two lodges in Plitvice. Hotel Jezero is a 3-star hotel located near the park entrance. Hotel Plitvice is budget hotel located near Hotel Jezero that gets good reviews.

You can also stay in a room in a private home. We stayed at Apartment Ivano, located 15 minutes north of the park entrance. We had a two-bedroom apartment that was the upper level of the hosts’ house. It is very basic but it was a nice experience staying in rural Croatia with views of the countryside.

Where to Stay near Plitvice

Other apartments in the area that get great reviews are Apartments Bramado, Guesthouse Franjkovic, and BeaR’s LOG Holiday Home (this place looks really neat…check out the photos on Booking.com).

Day Trips to Plitvice Lakes National Park


More Information about Croatia

If you are planning your visit to Plitvice Lakes and have any questions or want to offer any suggestions, comment below!

Planning a trip to Croatia? Read all of our articles in our Croatia Travel Guide.

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Plitvice Lakes Travel Guide

Plitvice Lakes Croatia Travel Guide


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Comments 91

  1. Avatar for Lynette Putzier
    Lynette Putzier

    Hi Julie, We are thinking of taking the bus from Split to the lakes. If we stay 15 minutes away from the park entrance how do we get from the bus stop to our accommodation and then from the hotel to the park?? Are we better off hiring a car from Split to Zagreb and then stopping at Plitvice on the way?
    We are 2 adults and 2 children aged 8 and 12. Planning on being there next August.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I’m honestly not sure how to get from your hotel to the Lakes, but your hotel staff would know how to do it. If it sounds like a hassle, then renting a car is probably worth it. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Lynette Putzier
  2. Avatar for Nancy Jones
    Nancy Jones

    Planning a trip to Plitvice National Park from Zagreb. Is rental car the best option to explore the park? Is there a shuttle service within the park? Also, the next city on our itinerary is Split. What are my options to get to Split from Plitvice National Park without a rental car. Would appreciate a reply. Thanks!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Once you are at Plitvice Lakes, you do not need a car. You will use the network of shuttle buses and boats to get around the park. The trick is getting to Plitvice. You could arrange a tour or a private driver, from either Zagreb or Split, to get to and from Plitvice, and then use public transportation to get from Zagreb to Split (for example, travel from Zagreb to Split by train or bus and then from Split take a day trip tour to Plitvice Lakes). At the end of this post are listings for day trip tours to Plitvice Lakes from both Zagreb and Split (and if you click one of the tours, it will take you to a long list with even more options). That will cover your visit to the Lakes, then you just have to work out transportation from Zagreb to Split. This article does a great job explaining all of your options. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Nancy Jones
  3. Avatar for Jean

    Thanks for the post. Everyone swears by it, so we are looking forward to following your instructions. 🙂
    What time did you get into your lodging the day before? We thought about spending the night there, but didn’t want to risk night time driving. If you get in late afternoon, is there anything to do around there until bed time? Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We got in mid to late afternoon. Yes, there was nothing to do in the area. On our way in, we picked up dinner and ate it at Apartment Ivano. I remember sitting out on the deck, drinking wine, and watching a thunderstorm roll through. It was nice but maybe not the experience you want on your trip. If you don’t want the downtime, you can either visit another place on your way in or see what sunset is like at Plitvice. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Aniruddha Takalkar
        Aniruddha Takalkar

        We get to our apartment the evening before our planned visit to the parks. Was wondering if we could follow your google directions to the Veliki slap cliff view point by car on the evening before when we don’t have tickets for the park (as our tickets are for the next day). Is that point accessible by car without having park tickets ?
        Thanks in advance!

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          I think that would work. I’m not 100% certain about needing tickets for that viewpoint, but since it is along the road, I think that you can do it without having a ticket. Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Aniruddha Takalkar
            Aniruddha Takalkar

            Ok thanks. Will be happy to update here whatever we find out. Our visit is in mid June. We plan to follow your proposed itinerary through the park. Hoping to beat the crowd in the morning hours.

  4. Avatar for Chaks

    Hi Julie,
    Thank you for the very detailed post about your experience, very helpfully tips and very nice pictures. Can you please include your date of experience for us to decide when should we visit to get the similar views as seen in your pictures.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  5. Avatar for Mike Pierce
  6. Avatar for Xavier Badia
    Xavier Badia

    A bad experience. We payed 83,40 € for 2 adults and 2 teenagers, for path A. We’ve never walked with so much people. One way path with people walking in both directions, no possibility neither to stop and do a photo. Also dogs!
    We recommend NOT to pay for this scam. It’s not a joke.

  7. Avatar for Mahmoud

    Hi Julie,
    We just followed your recommended route today and what a place! Definitely the best way to see all of the park. It took us just under 6 hours but our favorite part was the views from the cliffs at the end.

    For everyone’s information, right before the cliffs we were questioning going up because we were overwhelmed by all the beauty of the park and were questioning if it could get any more stunning than what we’ve already seen. Guess what? IT ABSOLUTELY DOES! that small trail above the park on the north west end gives the most stunning view of the whole park. Just be careful coming down the stairs on your way back towards the big waterfall.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  8. Avatar for Beth

    My husband and I just used your recommended route through the lakes and it was perfect. Thank you so much! I would only add that the last bathroom is at Station 3 and it’s a long ways to P3 dock and the next one! Beware. Also, the staircase descending down to the Big Waterfall has had some rock slides and is currently quite a mess and questionably closed (there was tape that looked like it had blocked it off and a sign that said forbidden, yet people were going up and down it in both directions.) Other than that, it was absolutely as you said. Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  9. Avatar for Lisa Barnett
    Lisa Barnett

    Hi Julie, I decide to go to Brac based on your article. We has a ‘free timeshare week’ we could trade for there. I’ve always wanted to go to the Bosnian pyramids. Have you gone, just outside of Sarajevo? I’ve also wanted to go to Plitvice Lakes.
    Your information is so amazing and detailed, you’ll save me 2 months of research. My husband and I will follow you all over the world.
    Question: Since we’re in Brac for a week and then i want to do your 11 days Bulkan Itinerary. I’m also a fan of Game of Thrones and want to see Dubruvnik and Kotor and some other place I read in your blog! I’m wondering if we can take 3 days out of our Brac week and run up to Plitvice. It’s on 2.5 hours on google. Drive up and spend the nice, tour the park day two, spend the night and drive back to Brac? Seem do-able?
    Thanks for your brilliance. It’s great to meet a kindred spirit.
    Much Love,

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Lisa. We have not been to the Bosnian pyramids, I hadn’t even heard of them until reading this. I just looked them up and what an interesting place! As far as Plitvice Lakes is concerned, yes, your plan from Brac sounds great. The key is spending the night near the lakes, to give yourself an early start in the morning. Look up Krka falls. It’s similar to Plitvice only you can swim in these waterfalls. We have not been yet but they would be a nice place to visit on the drive between Brac and Plitvice Lakes. It sounds like you are planning a wonderful trip. I hope you have a great time and enjoy Plitvice and Dubrovnik as much as we did. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Ellen Vroomen
        Ellen Vroomen

        Hi Julie, unfortunately there is no swimming allowedat the Krka waterfalls. There is one very small spot of – not near or in view of a waterfall – where swimming is allowed.

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
  10. Avatar for Eman

    Julie, we don’t know how to thank you for this article and all the information you shared.
    We followed your guide step by step. It is so well described that we had no issue to find all the spots that we were looking for. We had an amazing day thanks to you !

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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