The ‘101’ of exploring Plitvice National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of my favorite natural wonders in Europe. It’s the oldest AND largest national park in Croatia (and there are 8.) The park was formed in 1949, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Today the park covers 300 Kilometers, sq. While most visitors come to hike and explore the lake system that’s comprised of about 16 lakes, the lakes make up just under 1% of the total park area. This is a BIG lake
If you’re planning a visit, here are five tips to keep in mind:
A visit can be done in a day (from the coast or from Zagreb) but plan on this being a LONG day, with a decent amount of driving, i.e. about 2 hours each way. It’s ideal to spend the night either before/after your park visit in a neighboring village. There are a few hotels in the area, and many ‘sobe’ which are private rooms in a B&B setting.
To really get the most out of your park experience (in terms of efficiency, hiking routes and knowledge) it’s best to hire a private guide. (We recommend Soul of Croatia) You can also join a group bus tour, in which they can often provide round-trip transportation from Zagreb and a few areas on the Coast. If you go on your own, make sure you study the park hiking maps in advance, watch for advisories due to weather or trail closures, and plan your route in advance if you need to make connections on public transportation.
There is a cafe in the park where you can buy lunch and snacks, but the options are limited. We recommend you pack a lunch.
Be sure to bring a raincoat, good hiking shoes and your camera! But be a respectful trail mate, and step to the side to snap photos so others can pass by.
Make sure you hike past the first mile or so from the main entrance. This is where a bulk of the crowds will be, but if you’re willing and able to hike further, you’ll be rewarded with trails with limited people and a calmer environment.
Safe travels, and živjeli! (cheers in Croatian!)