When you think of Plitvice Lakes National Park, the first thing that comes to mind is a series of emerald green lakes and the highest waterfall in Croatia, Veliki slap (the Great Waterfall). We are sure you want to return home with the most beautiful photos of the magnificent waterfalls, lakes and forest. To make your visit go as smoothly as possible, we bring you 10 tips before visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Touring the lakes
Plitvice Lakes consist of 12 Upper Lakes and 4 Lower Lakes. If you have decided to take a full day’s walk in the Park, we advise you to start with a tour of the Lower Lakes and take the opportunity to photograph the Veliki slap waterfall, which is sunlit in the morning. After the Lower Lakes, located in the canyon, head to the Upper Lakes and take a peek at the world of bursting waterfalls and emerald lakes in a forest environment. Also, if you start from Entrance 1, from the Lower Lakes, you move towards the waterfalls which takes the experience to another level. But keep in mind that you need to be prepared for a gentle climb towards the Upper Lakes if you take this route.
The best way to learn about the Park is by walking
Panoramic trains in Plitvice Lakes National Park are included in the ticket price, but you are mistaken if you think that you can see all the beauty the National Park has to offer by riding the train. The most beautiful vistas of the Park, the bursting waterfalls and the soothing atmosphere of a completely natural environment will be best experienced by walking along the lakes. Along the road used by panoramic trains, there is a forest belt which obscures the view of the lakes, especially during the growing season, from spring to autumn. For a complete experience of the natural beauty, you will still have to make a little effort and walk, but trust us, time will pass quickly.
Purchase the tickets on time
To keep up with the times we live in, Plitvice Lakes National Park has its visitors to purchase tickets enabled through the official website, where you can also see the current number of available tickets per hour and entrance. When purchasing tickets, you can choose the date, time and entrance from which you want to start the tour. You can purchase online tickets at least one day before the desired arrival date. Due to the limited number of visitors, this is a great way to secure your ticket on time. There is also the possibility of buying tickets at the entrances (Entrance 1, Entrance 2 and the Flora auxiliary entrance), but keep in mind that by that time tickets can be completely sold out or available for another time of the day. Therefore, we would definitely recommend that you plan your arrival.
Hotel guests can extend their ticket at the hotel reception for free
Choose to stay in the heart of Plitvice Lakes National Park, in one of the Park hotels which are only a 5-minute walk away from Entrance 2 (Jezero, Plitvice, Bellevue), because then you have the opportunity to visit the lakes on the day of your arrival and the day of your departure. All hotel guests can use this perk for the entire duration of their stay, no matter how many nights they stay. Hotel guests buy their ticket only once and can renew it for free at the hotel reception to enjoy the walks in beautiful nature and the view of the waterfalls and lakes.
A tourist guide has to be booked in advance
Most visitors to the National Park take in the sights and explore the beauty of the Park on their own, but if you want to have a care-free visit and let someone else guide you, you can book a tourist guide at an additional cost and learn a lot of first-hand information. Guided tours have to be booked no later than three days before arrival. Groups of fifteen or more must have a licensed guide, while for individual guests this is not required. If you are like most nature lovers, ie adventurous and want to explore the Park on your own, you can certainly do so without difficulty. All trails are well-marked, and there are information desks with staff and free info flyers at each entrance.
In Winter, only the lower lakes are open to visitors
Each season in Plitvice Lakes National Park is characterized by the special beauty of nature and a memorable atmosphere. Due to its location in the mountainous region of Croatia and altitude of over 600 metres, the Park has long winters, which abound with snow. Imagine the winter idyll of Plitvice Lakes, where you sometimes have the opportunity to leave traces in the snow on the trails, watch the frozen waterfalls and hear the silence of the sleeping forest. However, if you decide to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park in the winter, from November to early April, there is a possibility that you will only be able to see the Lower Lakes. In winter, the Upper Lakes are closed to ensure the safety of visitors, primarily because of ice on the visitor trails, as well as occasional flooding of trails due to heavy rains.
You will not encounter large carnivores
Plitvice Lakes National Park is mostly covered with forest vegetation (81%), a smaller part is covered with grasslands, while water areas occupy only a little less than 1% of the Park area. The fauna and flora of the National Park are rich thanks to the diversity and preservation of habitats of plant and animal species. You won’t see large animals like bears, lynxes and wolves because they hide deep in the forest, but you will definitely notice some of the plant species that grow along the lakes and some animal species like wild ducks, fish, birds and butterflies.
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Avoid the large summer crowds
Plitvice Lakes National Park is the most visited national park in Croatia, so there is little chance that you can visit it without encountering a large number of nature lovers like yourself. This is especially true during the Summer months when thousands of visitors come during their vacation to enjoy the view of the most famous emerald lakes in this part of Europe. The experience of this lake phenomenon in a rich forest environment is certainly better when your focus is on nature, rather than on groups of people passing you by. If you plan to visit in the Summer months, we advise you to visit the Park outside the period from 11 am to 2 pm in order to avoid the biggest crowds and really enjoy the natural uniqueness of this destination.
Dress in layers regardless of the season
Although many visitors enjoy the shade provided by the rich greenery of the Park and the refreshing mist of the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls in the summer months, they are often surprised when temperatures drop to 10 degrees Celsius due to rain. The area of Plitvice Lakes National Park has a microclimate, which is why the weather forecast changes rapidly. Therefore, in whatever season you decide to visit the Park, our recommendation is to dress in layers and prepare like a true nature lover! Before visiting, be sure to wear comfortable sturdy shoes, so that your experience of walking along the many trails of the Park is as pleasant as possible.
Trash cans are not located on walkways
As a visitor to the National Park, you probably don’t think about the fact that trash cans aren’t always available when you need them. In fact, there is a good reason for this in Plitvice Lakes National Park. The dense Plitvice forest that surrounds the lakes is teeming with numerous animal species that come to the lakes at night to drink water. In order to provide the most authentic environment for the animal world of the Park and protect the animals, trash cans are located in the Park only near tourist facilities, at Entrance 1 and Entrance 2, next to food facilities and panoramic train and boat stations. Therefore, when visiting the Park, bring a bag with you to dispose of waste later.
Tomislav Kovačević is General Manager at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia.
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