Croatia is a treasure of the Balkans – home to countless islands, dramatic landscapes and turquoise waters. And for adventure lovers it’s a dream come true. Hiking, mountain biking, rafting, cliff jumping, camping… if you want to fill your days with all-you-can do adventure you’ve definitely come to the right place. But did you even go to Croatia if you didn’t visit Plitvice Lakes NP?
No. No you didn’t.
And there’s reason for it guys, trust me. Because Plitvice Lakes National Park is officially a UNESCO world heritage site… meaning the entire park is a protected area, adheres to opening and closing times with strictly no swimming rules. But most importantly it’s a place where nature has been rewarded the opportunity to take back what is rightfully hers, and we have been granted the opportunity to look on in awe. A glimmer of an old tree trunk lingers beneath the surface of the water, branches cascade across the walkways, fish swim freely and salamanders scurry across the thick forest floor. And the lakes and waterfalls are enough to make you wonder why you don’t quit life and marry Tarzan.
And that’s why I love it.
Avoiding the Crowds
Although it oozes natural beauty from the lower lakes through to the upper lakes, it’s also THE place that EVERYONE EVER goes when they visit Croatia. Meaning there’s a LOT of people there, a LOT of the time. But don’t worry, I’m going to help you plan your trip so you can avoid the big tourist groups and ‘conveyor belt’ of visitors that move through the park and provide you with the essential facts you need to plan an adventurous trip to Plitvice Lakes.
The secret is to get there early – and I mean EARLY – like when the park opens. We are convinced we were the first people in the park. We camped about 5km down the road in Camp Korana (where our tent became subject to torrential downpours) and entered the National Park bang on 7am. Dawn still lingered as we began the first part of the trail, salamanders edged slowly across the trails – their bodies still cold to the September air – and there was a serene calmness about the lower lakes… one that can only be experienced as some of the first people of the day to be walking that part of the trail.
The Hiking Trails
There are several different trails you can do in the park, ranging from 3.5km to 18km. But the one I’m going to tell you about is trail K… the 18km one. Because if you’re going to have a date with nature, why not make it the longest possible date with nature, right?
I love hiking, even just being in the forest, and giving my body a good challenge to see what I’m capable of. So, of course, even though the information office advised against K because of a muddy area, I still wanted to hike the trail and make the most out of our day in the park. Turns out the part of the trail which had been affected by recent rain was no problem for my hiking boots to wade straight through, so bear in mind if it’s been raining and you’re going to do this, don’t rock up in your Nike SBs and fave pair of jeans. It’s not that kind of hike (or just do one of the easier trails).
Hiking Trail K
All the trails do double up with other trails at some point, so from entrance 1 up to the cafe/ferry boat, there’s not really any difference. It’s only after that point that they split. Trail K pretty much means walking around the entire perimeter of the lakes, it’s mostly flat with a small amount of uphill which is totally worth it for the views even on a rainy day. Between the ferry boat and the upper lakes, we saw about 3 other people. Meaning that my boyfriend and I enjoyed 7 glorious kilometres of just us, the forest and the Fire Salamanders (17 to be exact, we counted).
Do be prepared that when you hike trail K, by the time you get to the upper lakes, everyone else already beat you there. In fact, those guys and gals you left back at the ferry boat are probably back home drinking a cup of tea by the time you get there. Meaning that, although you’ve avoided the crowds as much as you can, it’s inevitable that you will meet the rest of civilisation at some point. As we left the park, there were huge groups pouring in and that was around 1 o clock, so do be aware that even as the day goes on, there are still hoards of people entering the park. I can’t stress how important it is to get there early if you want to enjoy the park in a more leisurely atmosphere.
You’ll find all the information you need on the national park website here if you want to hike any of the other trails.
What to do After Plitvice
You can easily find out about all other activities at this little tourist information shack on the left side of the road headed north from Plitvice towards Rakovica. Your other option is to spend that afternoon moving on to your next campsite or hostel. Because the wonderful thing about Croatia is that when it comes to road tripping, everywhere is so close. You can read more about our adventure chasing antics here.
The Facts You’ll Want to Know
- How much does it cost to enter the park? Tickets cost 110 Kuna per person (so approximately £13 at time of writing)
- What trail should I hike? There are a few trails depending on whether you use entrance 1 or entrance 2 and whether you want to do heaps of walking or feel like you’ve just been on an afternoon stroll. All trails are here but if you really want to make the most of your day in the park, take trail K. If you’re into the more hardcore recreational hikes, check out a few other options here.
- Is it worth going if it’s raining? This is a question I can DEFINITELY answer. Yes it’s still worth going but be prepared with waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket for maximum adventure stoke.
- Getting around within the park – Ferry boats and the panoramic train (more like a big bus with carriages) and your own feet. There are also row boats to rent near the ferry port at entrance 2 but the day we went they weren’t operating so just check the situation when you get there.
- Maps & tourist info? You will have a map printed on your ticket or you can buy a map for 20 Kuna (about £2.40) but you don’t really need one guys. The whole trail is very well signposted so just choose which trail you want to take either when planning your trip or there’s big signposts at the cafe. There’s not a lot of chance of getting lost!
- Parking – Costs 7 Kuna/hour and there’s heaps of parking. Another bonus of getting there early is that you’ll have the pick of the parking and avoid all the huge buses.
- What to pack – I‘d recommend taking a day pack with some high energy snacks like a banana and some cereal bars along with breakfast and/or lunch depending how long you decide to spend in the park. Also a lightweight waterproof jacket and your favourite camera.
- Is there a campground in the national park? No. But there are loads in the area surrounding vicinity of the park meaning you can be there within about 10 – 15 minutes via car.
Have you been to Plitvice Lakes NP?
Did you love it as well? What was your lizard count? I’d love to know about your experience there!
Until next time,
Stay wild my adventurers!
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