Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Travel Date : 30th June 2013

Location:  County of Lika-Senj, 10km east of Bihac

{ Previous Walking Trail:  Slovenia – Vintgar Gorge }

After a relatively cold night’s sleep at Plitvice House “Javorina” and a simple breakfast, we settled our accommodation bills before loading all our stuff onto the car, ready to bid the place goodbye. We knew we would not return there again after our visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvicka Jezera) as we expected to spend our whole afternoon there before making our long road-trip back to Burghausen, Germany.

Tip: How To Pronounce Plitvice? It’s not Pleet -viss but something like ‘plit-veet-se’. 

The drive to the park’s entrances was straightforward, although it is important to take note that there are two entrances, creatively named ‘Entrance 1’ and ‘Entrance 2’. Our original plan, which consisted of a one and a half day tour, involved entering from a different entrance each day. This was however changed due to our unexpected long and eventful route through the forested path to Plitvice.

In order to visit as much of the park as possible within half a day, we decided to enter the park via Entrance 2, where we would start exploring the Upper Lakes and end our hike at the Lower Lakes. This was based on the recommendations of some past visitors to the park.

As we drove through the entrance, some helpful ushers directed us to our parking area. We then headed to the ticket counter to purchase our tickets (110,00Kn per adult, children under 7 is free), which came with a map of the park that was certainly very handy.

There was a huge board beside the counter that listed some recommended hiking routes, depending on how much time the visitor wished to spend in the park. We made sure to take photos of the map and routes so that we could refer to them later in the park when needed (our tickets’ maps do not have these recommended routes indicated).

Bus To Walk Trail

Our Choice – Trail H ( 4-6 Hrs )

All geared up, we excitedly began our walk into the park, having the cool breezy air perking us up. It was 9am then.

We planned to leave the park before 3pm so that we could reach Germany by nightfall (it’s a long drive back!), so we had around five hours to explore this UNESCO Heritage Site which we had travelled a long distance to get there. Would we have enough time to explore the whole place? Or would we end up rushing through the trails and disappointed we didn’t experience enough of the park? These were some of the thoughts running through our heads then.

First, we would take the bus at ST2 (a bus stop) which would take us uphill to ST3, that was located at one end of the park. From there, we would begin our walking trail. We arrived ST2 after a relatively long walk, where a two-car air-conditioned bus awaited.

Tip: It is important to take good care of our entrance tickets because they also acted as the bus and boat tickets.

The bus gradually picked up altitude and moved into a forested area, where the journey began to feel treacherous. The roads got steeper with tighter bends, and there were steep slopes on either side as we made our way up. This was when the driving skill of the tram driver was of utmost importance, as he continued the rest of our ascend trusting in his skills (we didn’t have a choice not to anyway). We were glad to have arrived at ST3 safely. Phew!

Walk Trail At Upper Lakes

At ST3, we were all excited and ready to begin our real journey. We followed a sign and soon arrived at a board walk, situated just beside a lake.

As we walked nearer, we were stunned momentarily as we noticed the crystal clear water and fishes swimming leisurely in it. We were basically staring right down at the lake’s floor and seeing every pebble and fish! The feeling was so surreal that we could feel ourselves as part of the ecosystem and we could imagine ourselves slipping into the lake and become one with nature!

This feeling was especially pronounced for me, as we own two aquariums with pet fishes back home. Well, on the other hand, seeing the lake and fishes also reminded us that our poor fishes were still left ‘abandoned’ for the past month. (Disclaimer: Arrangements were made before leaving home to ensure our aquariums’ ecosystem remained sustainable for the duration of our trip, so no animals/fishes were harmed in the making of our trip ^^)

As there was no barrier between ourselves and the pristine lake, we could get really close to it while taking care not to fall into it. Like us, other visitors were also very mindful not to disturb the serenity of the place by walking and talking softly. Children were walking on the trails too and we were impressed many were well-behaved and walking along slowly. Dar was well-behaved too so we just held onto his hand while walking just in case he slipped.

Besides fishes, we also came across ducks that were friendly and not afraid of the visitors. Dar was happy to see them and tried going near to one who was sun-bathing (it sure knows how to enjoy life to the fullest!) and observed it closely.

Due to the fresh and cooling air in the natural surroundings, all three of us were in a very good mood as we walked on (no sweat!). It was good that we came in the early morning so that there was less crowd and we could appreciate the environment better.

Clear signs with directions for each walking trail were ample along the way so navigation was not a problem. There were also signs depicting our current location and at what altitude we were at.

We strolled in a relaxed way along the trail and saw many beautiful sceneries, each could be a postcard on its own. We also spotted a number of waterfalls, though the larger ones were usually a distance away.

It took us 2 hours to walk and finally arrive at P2, a boat station located at the Upper Lakes area. We had planned to take the boat ride (included in the entrance fees) across the lake to P3, where we could begin our exploration at the Lower Lakes.



Boat Ride to Lower Lakes 

“See! There’s the boat!” Dar exclaimed the moment we spotted the small pier with visitors loading up a boat.

We had walked for so long that the moment we saw a chance to rest our tired feet, we quickly rushed towards the pier and boarded the boat, looking forward to crossing the lake to the Lower Lakes Region of the National Park.

We settled down in a relaxed mood anticipating a long ride on the boat.

Soon, we felt something was amiss when the boat started heading in another direction instead. Pulling out our map, it didn’t take us long to find out that we had taken the wrong boat, which was only crossing over to the other side to P1 which was located near Entrance 2, the place we had started off from this morning!

Realising our mistakes, we looked at each other with awkward smiles, before breaking into soft laughter. We knew this was just part and parcel of travelling so we easily laughed it off.

As people started to disembark from our boat, we checked with the boatman and found out that we had to remain on the boat and return to P2, before we could take the other boat to P3.

There was already quite a crowd waiting for the boat to P3 but still, there was no problem getting on and finding seats when the boat arrived. We could finally rest at ease as we made our way towards the Lower Lakes.

Lunch Break At Lower Lakes 

P3 is located aptly beside a huge rest and dining area, where visitors weary from the long walks (us!) could recharge themselves with the food and drinks sold and take toilet breaks.

There were several different stalls to choose from and it didn’t take long for us to decide on getting the charcoal grilled chicken in an open furnace, as its aroma filled up the surrounding air.

We were glad that the taste of the food we bought matched its aroma and we had a wonderful lunch. However, we wished we had ordered more as a long queue had formed by the time we were considering for a second round. Something as delicious as this Croatian-style roast chicken was not something we could easily find and eat back home after all (already salivating while I am writing this). 🙁

Walk Trail Lower Lakes 

Unlike the Upper Lakes which are formed on a lush dolomite valley, the Lower Lakes are shallower and are formed on limestone beds.

There were many more waterfalls in this area compared to what we saw in the morning, and many of them were located much closer along the paths. This area also appeared to be more popular among tourists from the crowd we saw and we had a harder time navigating them. The time of the day (it was afternoon by then) could also have caused the difference.

Final Steep Up Trail 

At the far end of the Lower Lakes was a long winding path up-slope, leading to Entrance 1 and ST1. We would be taking the bus there to bring us back to ST2 to get to our parked vehicles back at Entrance 2.

This long and steep path was not suitable for the elderly and children, especially after a long walk through the lakes. Dar was amazing as a 5-year-old to have walked for hours with us without complaints. In fact, he was laughing and enjoying the walk/run uphill (he loves walking/running on ramps and slopes) while we two adults were panting and sweating as we endured on. He certainly had better stamina than when we were at Taiwan’s Aowanda National Park  7 months ago.

Our hard work was soon awarded with beautiful scenery as we peered down onto the lakes from vantage points along the way. In fact, we could even say that the Lower Lakes looked even more beautiful from this perspective than when up-close.

After finally reaching the top, we knew we were nearing ST1 as we could see and hear the vehicles that were passing us by along the main road nearby. We were totally exhausted by then, so the clean restrooms and large seating area beside the bus stop were a very welcoming sight.

The bus soon arrived to bring us back to ST2 and we returned to the entrance area. We patronised the souvenir shop there before setting off for our long drive back to Burghausen, Germany.

Drive Back To Germany 

We left the place slightly after 2pm and arrived at the Slovenia Checkpoint three hours later, taking extra care to take the route passing through Zagreb along the Autobahn. The last thing we wanted was to drive through the winding and dreaded forested route again, like during our way here.

We took a short 30-minute break at one of Slovenia’s petrol stations at evening time, buying ourselves a big slice of pizza and drinks before continuing our journey. We knew we still had a lot of distance to cover so we didn’t want to waste too much time stopping there.

When we arrived at the same Austria Rest Station at Tauernalm at around 9pm, we took a longer break for dinner.  

Although a rest was much needed after a long drive at that time, we later realised it might not be a good idea after all. When we first arrived at the rest station, the sun was only starting to set (it was summer so nightfall comes later) and the skies were still quite bright. However, by the time we finished our dinner, the night had fallen and the surroundings were already very dark.

Driving on the Autobahn at night was a different thing altogether, since there was no street lamps almost throughout the rest of our journey. The only illumination we could rely on was our vehicle’s headlights and that of other vehicles around us (even that was rare as there were significantly lesser number of vehicles on the road at that time). I had to concentrate fully in front of us as visibility was low and the only visible road markings I could see were the reflectors by the road sides.

Fuelled by the worries of reaching our hotel too late, I stepped on the gas pedal, with our vehicle’s speed above the speed limit at times. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light (my first thought was “Lightning? Is it going to rain soon?”), before I realised that we were caught by a speed camera (we received a traffic summon back at our home country a month later).

This drive back was definitely a tougher challenge than our drive towards Croatia the day before, since it was also a test of concentration and stamina after taking a long and tiring walk at the Plitvice Lakes. At midnight(!), we finally made it safely at Burghausen, wondering if we would take up the challenge of driving this much at one go again. ^^|

Tips For Visiting Plitvice National Park:

  1. Get accommodation in the park the night before and be there early in the morning to beat the tour bus crowds which comes in the late morning and early afternoon. Notice why there were no people in our photographs? We were there at 9am in the morning. Later in the afternoon at the Lower Lakes, it was a squeeze to walk in the opposite direction to people on the narrow boardwalk. We ended up not exploring much of the Lower Lakes. It’s tiring to have to worry about people pushing you off into the water, especially when we have a kid with us.
  2. If you like calm lakes and a gradual sloping walk down, go to the Upper Lakes first (Entrance 2). If you prefer waterfalls, enter via Entrance 1 instead and start at the Lower Lakes. It’s easier to walk down the steep slope from Station 1 to the Lower Lakes, than the reverse (which we unfortunately had to do).
  3. The final part of Trail H (heading towards Entrance 1) up a steep mountain slope could ‘kill’ any person who is not fit. Took us 20 minutes to complete the walk up from the Lower Lakes area as it was extremely tiring after we had walked for a few hours.The easier way is to walk the same way back to take the boat from P3 to P2 and P1 to Entrance 2 (although may take a longer time). However, we would not get an aerial view picture of the Lakes.
  4. Be in proper walking shoes / track shoes or your feet would be aching half-way through. We were in the Lakes for 5 hours (fully walking about 3-4hrs) with only little rest in between and still couldn’t finish all of the Lower Lakes (too tired).
  5. Choose to go on separate days for Upper Lakes and Lower Lakes if possible. Then it would not be so tiring.
  6. Bring plenty of water, snacks, hat and coat. It was cool when we visited in the early morning so we were in jackets and cardigans.

[ Info About ]

(source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Plitvice_National_Park)

Plitvice National Park  (Plitvicka Jezera) in Croatia is considered to be one of the most beautiful natural sights in Europe. Due to its natural beauty and significance, this system of 16 interlinked lakes and a large forest complex around it were set aside as a national park in 1949. In 1979 the park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Plitvice Lakes are divided into the 12 Upper Lakes (Gornja jezera) and the four Lower Lakes, and lie in a basin of karstic rock, mainly dolomite and limestone, which has given rise to their most distinctive feature. The lakes are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae and bacteria. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm per year.

The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colours change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.

For More information on Plitvice Lakes National Park, visit the official website

15 Comments

  1. Terri June 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you so much for your great blog! The description you gave of your day at Plitvice Lakes was perfect for me, as I try to plan our trip to Croatia. I also love your sense of humor and the pictures that accompany your story. Of all the research I’ve done, your blog is by far the best.

    1. Vin June 7, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Terri,

      We are really happy that our post has helped you with your planning! Croatia may not be as popular as other European countries in terms of tourism, but its beautiful landscapes and friendly people have left us with a deep impression of the country. I will sure you will love it as much as we do too! ^^

      We hope you will also LIKE our Facebook Page to keep yourself updated on our latest posts! Thanks! ^^

  2. Minu June 11, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Wow ! This is just perfect…best blog explaining the park ! We are visiting the park tomorrow and hoping to take the same route…thanks for all the tips…was very helpful 🙂

    1. Vin June 12, 2014 at 8:53 am

      Hi Minu,

      Glad to know our experience helps! ^^

      Just note that the final part of Trail H (heading towards Entrance 1) involves walking up a steep mountain slope so do conserve some energy for that finale.

      I am sure you will have a wonderful day tomorrow! Let us know again how it goes okay? ^^

  3. Muniz February 14, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Hi, Vin.
    Congratulations for your great post!
    Next April, I’ll visit Croatia with my father, who is 83 years old.
    He has a good fit, but I’m thinking if it is a good idea to visit Plitvice.
    Which is the easiest way (I mean, not long walk + more bus/boat route)?

    Best regards,
    Muniz.

    1. Vin February 16, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Hi Muniz,

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      If you and your father wish to start off with the Upper Lakes, you could head towards St2 like us but instead of taking the bus, you can walk a little more towards P1 and take a boat ride to P2 to explore the Upper Lakes. From P2, you may wish to take a short walk around the area and depending on your father’s stamina, you can then make your way back to P2.

      From there, you could either make your way back to the main entrance (by taking the boat to P1 and walk) or if you wish to explore the Lower Lakes too, you can take the boat from P2 to P3. From there, take a short walk around the area and return to P3 when you are feeling satisfied/tired. Return to P2 by boat and you may return to the entrance from there (taking the boat to P1 and walk). Avoid walking from P3 to St1 because it’s a long, uphill journey (when nearing St1).

      Hope this helps!

  4. Gemma March 28, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Hi 🙂

    We will be visiting the lakes at the end of June this year – this is by far the most helpful guide I’ve seen. We plan on getting there early in the morning – but would love to do the lower lakes first as the waterfalls are the bit I want to see most. So is it possible to do the route backwards? Does that mean though that the route from P2 up to the top of the upper lakes will be steep?
    thanks

    1. Vin March 31, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Hi Gemma,

      Glad you have found our experiences helpful!

      Yes, it’s definitely possible to start from the Lower Lakes.While we were walking down from the Upper Lakes to P2, the paths were generally flat, so you should not be encountering any steep slopes upwards in your direction.

  5. Sundeep Kumar May 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you for a wonderfully written account. You mentioned that the walk up from P3 to ST1 was killing. Is it better to walk from Entrance 1 to P3 take the boat to P2 walk upto ST3 then take the bus to ST2 then to ST1 and then walk back to Entrance 1?

  6. Sundeep Kumar May 27, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Alternately we can gor from Entrance 2 but on reaching P2 we can make the same mistake you did of going to P1 take a bus to ST1 and then walk to P3 before returning by boat to P1 and and back to Entrance 2?

    1. Vin May 30, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Sundeep,

      Thanks for your compliments.

      Yes, both of your suggested ways sound fine. Just make sure you have ample time for your trip since there would be some extra time needed compared to ours.

      Have a great time there!

  7. Trevor Archdall March 4, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    G’day Vin

    Your blog is great. It has given me a plan to tackle one of nature’s spectacular areas. Am really looking forward to this part of my journey.

    Cheers

    Trevor

    1. Vin March 6, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Hi Trevor,

      Thanks for your kind comment! Have a great trip!

  8. Li Ching June 12, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Great blog and useful information you have shared!
    Could you share with me your complete Europe itinerary? I’m planning to travel to Croatia, Czech, Austria, maybe will include Slovenia. Is it easy to move around and any problem communicating with local people/asking directions in these countries?

    1. Vin June 12, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Li Ching,
      Thanks for your encouragement!
      Unfortunately, we did not have the itinerary you are looking for as the trips to the various European countries were made on separate time periods (we ventured to the different places during the different weekends). When we planned for them, we only marked out the destinations we wanted to visit and just worked on them on an impromptu basis.
      About communication, we were able to encounter English-speaking locals (especially the younger ones) so you should not face much problem on that.

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