Plitvice Lakes National Park – A chain of 16 terraced lakes

As the UNESCO comments:

The waters flowing over the limestone and chalk have, over thousands of years, deposited travertine barriers, creating natural dams which in turn have created a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls. These geological processes continue today. The forests in the park are home to bears, wolves and many rare bird species.


Having visited so many wonderful lakes in Switzerland, I am still really surprised and impressed by the beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park is in general composed of huge forests and 16 terraced lakes divided by travertine barriers. The 12 Upper Lakes are Prošćansko, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Veliko, Malo, Vir, Galovac, Milino, Gradinsko, Veliki Burget and Kozjak and the height different between Prošćansko and Kozjak is 100 meters. These two lakes are also the largest in the whole system. The 4 lower lakes are Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaluđerovac and Novakovića Brod and some of the canyons’ cliffs can be as high as 20 meters.

In my opinion, it is necessary to take the trail to walk down or up the 16 lakes but of course, it depends on how much time you have at your disposal. There are different flexible programs for visitors, who might have less or more time to spend. However, I read from the website that the 16 lakes only consist of 1% of the national park and I spent 7 hours visiting these lakes, so you can imagine how big this park is and how many options you will have here.

Don’t be scared by how big the park is. Don’t panic and stay calm because you need a sober mind to make a visiting plan. Thanks to the park management team, there are many visiting programs adjusted to different needs of the visitors available. Take one of the main visiting programs and if you think it’s not enough, add some detours of your own. Just spend some time to plan it in advance and I’m sure you’ll be able to make the most of your time here.

Some of the main sites or most important or interesting attractions are the virgin forest of Čorkova Uvala, the 4 km long Plitvica Stream, which turns into the 78-meter Great waterfall (the big waterfall) after passing through the Plitvica village and reaching the Lower Lakes canyon, the Šupljara cave and the Korana river. Depending on how much time you have and which visiting program you wanna take, it is totally up to you to choose what to visit.

Again, whenever I come across these beautiful sites, wonderful sceneries, words become plain and no matter how many fancy words I use to describe them I believe only pictures (or videos) can better convey what I have seen, have felt, have experienced and have appreciated. In this post, I’ll first of all focus on the practical info about how to visit this national park based on both my own experience and the information provide by the official website. For example, how to get here, operating hours and ticket prices, visiting programs. After that, I’ll attach the photos I’ve taken during my 7-8-hour visit in this park so you can have a general idea of what to expect in here. However, I have to remind you that pictures can only reflect the rather short moments of my overall visit here and if you really wanna know or learn or experience this national park, it is necessary for you to discover it by yourself. By the end, I’ll emphasize on the natural heritage (Tufa, habitat diversity, flora and fauna) as well as cultural heritage of this fantastic park.

1. How to get here

For me personally I took a car to come here. In all larger cities, resorts or airports, it is possible to take a Taxis, rent a car or book a seat in a tourist bus through some travel agency to come here. However, correct me if I’m wrong but I’m not sure if you can take public transport to come here.

Although I read online that no matter how busy the park is there’s always parking place, according to my own experience I have to tell you that this is a LIE! I arrived at around 13:00 and no matter for entrance 1 or entrance 2, let alone the parking lot belonging to the national park, even the roads far away and along the entrances were fully parked! To be honest, I never expected that there would be so many visitors here and I had to cancel my that day’s visit to the national park.

Fortunately it turned out to be a right choice because though I regarded myself as a runner, it still took me around 7-8 hours to finish the visiting program H. I mean I could have finished the route in probably 5 hours but it’s much better to visit it in a relaxed way and from time to time to add some detours to avoid the crowds.

The next morning I woke up at 6 and drove to entrance 2 and got my ticket at 7:15 (they start selling tickets at 7:00). Don’t forget, even if you find your parking space, it still takes some time to line up and buy tickets. So, on that day, I was basically among the first ones to enter the park. I also read online that entrance 2 is usually less crowded than entrance 1. You can try your luck but I still suggest if you wanna visit this national park in the summer season, it’s better to get up early and arrive there as early as possible. You might think this is a rather troublesome way to have a holiday but I can assure you what you’re gonna see and discover is worth all the hassle.

2. Operating hours and ticket prices

2.1 Operating hours

2.1.1 Operating hours of the park (including Sundays and holidays)
  • Entrance 1 – Rastovača: daily from 07:00 to 19:00.
  • Entrance 2 – Hladovina: daily from 07:00 to 19:00
  • Auxiliary Entrance FLORA: daily from 07:00 to 19:00
  • Rastovača car park: daily from 07:00 to 21:00
  • Ticket office open only till 17:00!

In the park, it is possible and convenient to use the electric boats and sightseeing trains to shuttle between certain stations and the price is included in the ticket already.

2.1.2 Operating hours of the electric boat
  • Short line (P1 – P2): from 07:00 to 20:00 – when necessary
  • Long line (P2 – P3): from 08:00 to 18:30 – every 30 minutes
  • Long line (P3 – P2): from 08:30 to 19:00 – every 30 minutes
2.1.3 Operating hours of the sightseeing (panoramic) train
  • St2 – St1: from 08:00 to 19:45 – every 30 minutes
  • St1 – St2: from 08:15 to 20:00 – every 30 minutes
  • St2 – St3: from 08:00 to 19:00 – every 30 minutes
  • St3 – St2: from 08:15 to 19:30 – every 30 minutes

2.2 Ticket prices (in Kuna)

2.2.1 One-day ticket prices

1st Jan – 31st Mar & 1st Nov – 31st Dec (in this period panoramic trains and electric boats do not operate):

  • Adults: 55,00
  • Students: 45,00
  • Children and teenagers 7 – 18 years old: 35,00
  • Children under 7 years old: free

1st Apr – 30th Jun & 1st Sep – 31st Oct:

  • Adults: 110,00
  • Students: 80,00
  • Children and teenagers 7 – 18 years old: 55,00
  • Children under 7 years old: free

1st Jul – 31st Aug:

  • Adults: 180,00
  • Students: 110,00
  • Children and teenagers 7 – 18 years old: 80,00
  • Children under 7 years old: free
2.2.2 two-day ticket prices

1st Jan – 31st Mar & 1st Nov – 31st Dec (in this period panoramic trains and electric boats do not operate):

  • Adults: 90,00
  • Students: 70,00
  • Children: 55,00

1st Apr – 30th Jun & 1st Sep – 31st Oct:

  • Adults: 180,00
  • Students: 130,00
  • Children: 90

1st Jul – 31st Aug:

  • Adults: 280,00
  • Students: 210,00
  • Children: 140,00

There is also discount for groups with more than 15 people. Also, the parking fee for normal car is 7 kn/hour. It is also possible to book a guided tour in advance at the sales office with a minimum of 15 people. The tour can be a half-day tour or a full-day tour and is available in Croatian, English, Italian, German, French and Spanish.. For more info about group ticket prices, parking prices for motorbikes or campers, prices for guided tours, please click here.

3. Visiting programs

Trust me, if you are planning to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park, this is the most important chapter that you need to take a close look. Because the park covers an entire area of 296.8 km², it’s basically impossible to plan your own route to see each bit of it. Thanks to the national park’s management team, there are various visiting programs designed with different lengths of visiting time and different highlights. I strongly suggest you take a look at the “visiting programs” page (please click here) of the official website of the Plitvice Lakes National Park. On this page there are different visiting programs based on which entrance (1 or 2) you choose to enter and how long you want to spend in this park. In these programs there are descriptions of what you can expect as well as maps with clear routes to make sure you make the most of your time here pleasantly and conveniently. It’s the best idea to choose a main visiting route suggest by the park and if you don’t think it’s enough or you wanna see something in particular you can always add your own detours onto your chosen visiting program.

I took program H and I’ll use my own experience to explain how to choose your own programs. At the same time, based on the problems I encountered in the park, I’ll also provide you with some tips to make sure you won’t be confused like I was.

I parked my car at the parking lot in entrance 2, calculated that I could spend a whole day here and I wanted to visit all the upper and lower 16 lakes so I chose program H. The map below is the map from the official website of this national park.

From this map, you can see that the dark red lines refer to the routes you don’t need to walk on. You are either transported by sightseeing trains (on land) or by boats (on the lake). However, the bright red lines refer to the routes you have to walk on. I have to say it’s a rather nice program to combine hiking with some sightseeing trains and boat cruises. On one hand, finishing the whole route won’t be so tiring and on the other hand, you can have more interesting experiences. The highlight and advantage of taking this route is that first of all, I had the combined experience of hiking, taking sightseeing trains and boat cruises. Secondly, visiting the Great Waterfall is included in this route. Last but not least, this route gave me the chance to see the entire lake area of the park.

The panoramic sightseeing train

The boat on Lake Kozjak

On you way, you will always be encountered with the info boards as shown below, which tell you which lake you are at now among the 16 lakes and how big, deep and high it is.

The suggested visiting time of program H is 4-6 hours, but I took some small detours and had lunch etc, so it took me around 7-8 hours to finish it. When you choose your own program, you also need to take your lunch time or waiting time for the trains or boats into consideration. Another thing I think you should be careful with is how to read the signs. Like the picture shown below, it actually means here is train station 2 and from here you will take the program H and go from station 2 to station 3. I was somehow confused by the sign at the beginning and thought if you wanna go to station 2 you will have to keep walking in the direction the arrow points. Anyway, once you know how to read the signs, the park is really well oriented.

Besides program H, there are many other options for you whether you wanna spend more or less time here. I’ll divide the rest of the programs into two groups based on from which entrance you need to start and I’ll list the suggested visiting time, highlights and advantages of each program. I hope that in this way it will be clearer for you to see and easier for you to decide which one to choose. If you wanna see certain program’s routes on the map, please click here to check the specific program in the “visiting programs” page of the official website.

Programs starting from entrance 1

Program A:

Suggested visiting time: 2-3 hours

Highlights and advantages: the opportunity to visit the Great Waterfall and the lower lakes

Disadvantages: you won’t be able to admire the beauty of the 12 upper lakes

Program B:

Suggested visiting time: 3-4 hours

Highlights and advantages: a walk through the limestone canyon of the lower lakes, combined experience of hiking, taking sightseeing trains and boat cruises, the opportunity to visit the Great Waterfall and the “Sastavci” waterfalls, a boat cruise on the vast Lake Kozjak

Disadvantages: you will still miss the opportunity to visit most of the upper lakes

Program C:

Suggested visiting time: 4-6 hours

Highlights and advantages: (this program is similar to program H but starting from entrance 1.) the opportunity to visit the largest waterfall in Croatia the Great Waterfall and most attractive waterfalls such as Veliki Prštavac waterfall and Mali Prštavac waterfall, combined experience of hiking, taking sightseeing trains and boat cruises,  the chance to see the entire lake area of the park

Program K:

Suggested visiting time: 6-8 hours

Highlights and advantages: the opportunity to explore the whole lakes areas of the park, the opportunity to visit all the big and small waterfalls including the Great Waterfall and many others, the opportunity to visit all the 16 lakes,

Disadvantages: this program involves a big amount of walking and hiking so it takes longer and might be a bad option for those who are not really fit to accept such a challenge. This program also excludes any train rides and only includes a short boat transfer so the general experience is rather boring compared to program H. However, I believe this program is especially favorable by those who love hiking and wanna avoid the crowds.

Programs starting from entrance 2

Program E:

Suggested visiting time: 2-3 hours

Highlights and advantages: the opportunity to visit the upper lakes and many small waterfalls, combined experience of hiking, taking sightseeing trains and a small boat transfer

Disadvantages: you won’t be able to admire the beauty of the 4 lower lakes or the Great Waterfall

Program H:

Suggested visiting time: 4-6 hours

Highlights and advantages: combined experience of hiking, taking sightseeing trains and boat cruises, opportunity to visit the Great Waterfall, the chance to see the entire lake area of the park

Program K:

This program contains the same route as the Program K listed under “Programs starting from entrance 1”.

Having read so much about these various programs, have you made up your mind? My suggest is that if you have around 5-6 hours to spend here, take Program H or Program C. I’ve listed the advantages above and I’m content with my own overall experience. I know you must be eager to know what I saw in these 7 hours and now I’ll show you the charm of the park, that is to say, the forests, the lakes and the waterfalls.

4. Pictures taken during my visit

4.1 Pictures of the upper lakes

4.2 Pictures of the lower lakes

Are you as surprised as I was when I was in this paradise on earth? I always thought that only in Switzerland and Jiuzhai Gou in China would I be able to see the lakes as clear and as blue or green as these. I’d like to persuade you to plan a whole day here, have a walk, take a train, join a boat cruise and don’t hurry. Although there might be crowds of tourists, you can always have a world of yourself if you immerse yourself in this lake and forest paradise.

5. Natural and cultural heritage

It is important to notice that Plitvice Lakes National Park is inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage not only because of its miraculous and wonderful sceneries, but also because of its natural and cultural value. The tufa barriers, the flora and fauna in the forests, in and around the lakes all reflect this national park’s richness in natural heritage. From my own experience, I’ve seen of course a lot of fish and birds, as well as various frogs and snakes. I also read from the official website that a stable population of owls, woodpeckers, large mammals such as brown bears, wolves, lynx and deers inhabits here. There is also evidence found in this park proving that prehistoric settlements existed here. If you are interested in the natural and cultural heritage of this park, please click here for more information.

Whether you are a nature lover, culture lover, science lover, history lover, geology lover, biology lover, animal lover, flower lover, plant lover, lake lover, mountain lover, hiking lover or peace lover, I can assure you that Plitvice Lakes National Park always has something to offer. As the biggest national park with the biggest waterfall in Croatia, there’s no reason not paying it a visit.

Plitvice Lakes National Park – A chain of 16 terraced lakes was last modified: September 28th, 2017 by Dong

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