Travel info for visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park

A wonder of Croatian nature


HR 53231, Plitvička jezera, Croatia

GPS: 44.881596050061, 15.622034539644

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Located between the cities of Split and Zagreb, two hours’ drive from the Croatian capital, Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvicka Jezera) is the oldest national park in Southeastern Europe. Established in 1949 near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina on an area of 300 km², it is surrounded by the Mala Kapela mountain and Lička Plješevica mountain within the Dinaric Alps (western part of the Balkan mountain range). Thanks to its fascinating geology, symbolised by its travertine (tufa) barriers and the presence of carbonate rocks (karst, limestone and dolomite), Plitvice Lakes National Park has become the tourist highlight of inland Croatia. This natural setting contains fabulous landscapes with lakes, rivers, underground streams, caves, pits and waterfalls with crystal clear waters in a vast forest area.

Plitvice Lakes National Park forms a plethora of 8 kilometres of lakes and waterfalls in a mineral-rich karst plateau. The origin of these lakes dates back to about 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, towards the end of the last ice age. The 16 Plitvice lakes are generously divided between the lower (Donja Jezera) and upper (Gornja Jezera) parts of the park, which are separated by the large lake Kozjak. Surrounded by lush vegetation, these bodies of water are connected by hundreds of waterfalls, rivers and streams with transparent water. These can display different colours depending on the amount of minerals in the water and the brightness of the sunlight. On the land side, the National Park serves as a sanctuary for the last remnants of a primary forest and as a habitat for several rare or endangered species of fauna (such as lynx, wolf, bear and otter).

The series of slopes over several tens of metres make the natural spectacle of the waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park even more spectacular when the snow melts in spring. In winter, some waterfalls literally turn into beautiful stalactites. Hanging paths and wooden walkways are perfectly integrated into the fragile environment of Plitvice Lakes National Park. They allow you to explore the different parts of the site and enjoy the water bodies or the numerous waterfalls of this natural wonder, which was included in the World Heritage List in 1979.

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  • The turquoise colour of the lakes and the clarity of the water; the unique ecology of the Plitvice Lakes; the geological heritage of the park (presence of karst, limestone and dolomite); the tufa limestone barriers (travertine)
  • The profusion of waterfalls and cascades, including Milanovački Slapovi, Velike Kaskade, Sastavci and Veliki Slap (the 30-metre-high “Large Waterfall”) in the Lower Lakes; the cascades and waterfalls of Vidange Okrugljak, Veliki Prštavac, Mali Prštavac and Galovački Buk in the Upper Lakes; the Korana River (which rises from the foot of the waterfalls of Sastavci)
  • Limestone caves and caverns (including Šupljara near the Veliki Slap waterfall and Golubnjaca at the Korana River canyon); lakes in the lower part (Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaluđerovac and Novakovića brod) and in the upper part (group of 12 lakes from Prošćansko to Kozjak)
  • The park’s dense forests (beech, spruce, fir and pine); the Primary Forest Corkova Uvala with the largest and oldest trees in Croatia (restricted access); the mountain peaks Oštri Medvedak, Tupi Medvedak and Turčić
  • The profusion of fauna (brown bear, wolf, lynx, deer, otter, fish, owl, snake, insect, reptile, bird, butterfly, bat…) and flora (1,400 species of plants, including a wide variety of flowers, wild orchids, mushrooms and carnivorous plants)
  • Boat rental; lake crossings by boat; hiking, cycling and horse riding activities as well as skiing and sledging in winter (Ski resort Mukinje)
  • The magnificent views from the upper part of the park; the wooden paths and footbridges very well integrated into the environment
  • The stone ruins of the ancient town of Drežnik (north of the park); the archaeological remains of Krčingrad (ancient defensive walls and towers); the water mill and sawmill in the village of Korana
  • The annual Plitvice Marathon held in early June
  • While human presence in Plitvice Lakes National Park is attested since prehistoric times, this Croatian region was inhabited for a long time by the Lapydes (or Lapodes) in ancient times. These ancient people reached their golden age in the 8th and 9th centuries BC before being conquered by the Romans.
  • From the 15th century onwards, the Plitvice region was coveted by the Ottoman Empire before falling into Austrian hands under the Habsburg monarchy at the end of the 18th century.
  • Before the creation of the park, this region of Croatia was nicknamed the “garden of the devil” by its inhabitants for its hypnotic beauty at a time when it was facing many troubles and military conflicts.
  • The Plitvice Lakes are fed by small streams and underground watercourses of karst nature. Connected to each other by waterfalls, they are separated by natural dams thanks to the formation of travertine (tufa) barriers. The latter develops from algae, bacteria, unicellular organisms (protozoa) and microscopic organisms that settle on the rocks, aquatic plants and mosses present in the water. As the travertine barriers spread, the volume and water level of the lakes rise.
  • Contrary to appearances, Plitvice Lakes National Park is only 1% water. The majority of its surface is forest (75%) and grassland (24%).
  • The crystalline character of the Plitvice Lakes is due to the high presence of minerals and oxygen in the water, as well as to the influence of vegetation.
  • There are several bus services to the park from Zagreb during the day and night (2.5 hours). To reach the upper part of the park more easily, enter through the second entrance (ulaz 2), located at the foot of the Upper Lakes.
  • Avoid visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park during summer, as it is the busiest season. The lakes are accessible every day of the year, including December to February when they are usually frozen.
  • A new management plan limits the number of visitors to a maximum of 10,000 people per day (you must book your ticket online at least 48 hours in advance).
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park is car-free, but there are shuttle buses, a small train and electric boats to get around as you wish (cost included in the entrance fee). In addition, it is possible to rent a small electric boat to travel around Lake Kozjak.
  • There are several hiking routes and trails through the park. The complete loop, on foot, requires 8 hours of walking on a well-marked route. Beware of the weather, which can change rapidly in this mountainous region of Croatia.
  • Hunting, fishing, gathering, swimming and wild camping are strictly prohibited to protect the ecosystem and biodiversity of Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Where to eat

  • Restoran Visibaba
    (just like at home)
  • Caffe & Bistro Plum
    (copious and efficient)
  • Restoran Degenija
    (pleasant service on the terrace)

Where to go

  • Grabovaca
    (underground gem)
  • Equestrian Center Rastoke
    (horseback riding)
  • Rastoke
    (unknown site)

Where to stay

  • Camping Korana
    (functional campsite)
  • Pansion Breza
    (family hostel)
  • Hotel Degenija
    (modern and spacious)