You know that feeling when you desperately want to go somewhere but you are terrified of doing wrong? well that was me with Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes. I had wanted to come here for years and now I had my chance. I’d devoured every TripAdvisor review and blog going and the chance of getting it wrong was huge, especially as we were visiting in peak season. James had left it as my project, no pressure there then! But hey I love a challenge. So let me give you our top tips on making the most of your time at Plitvice Lakes.
Day trip or overnight stay?
You can do the Lakes as a day trip from Zagreb, but as we had time we decided to stay a few days. There are lots of B&Bs, hotels and campsites in the area. You really do need a car, particularly if you want to enjoy a local B&B. We love to use buses and trains but there was no way we could work out how to do it comfortably, and I like my comfort!
One or two day ticket and $$$$
We had initially thought we would need two days but then after careful research decided if we started early we could do what we wanted in one day. I have to be honest and say that the ticket price helped us decide this, an adult ticket for one day is 250Kn (AUS$54 as at August 2018) and a two day ticket is 400Kn (AUS$86). So not cheap and on top of this is the parking which cost us 42Kn (AUS $9) for 7 hours.
Get to the lakes early
We were visiting in August, peak season, and I had read that the lines at both entrances between 10am – 2pm were horrendous. So we got there early. The park opened at 7am and we made sure we were there for 6.45am, we were fifth in the queue.
Wear the right footwear and clothes
Walking boots or trainers are the go, leave your thongs and sandals at home. The paths are either gravel trails or wooden boardwalks which can get slippery when wet. So enclosed shoes are a must.
The weather is changeable. We started with a sweatshirt at 7am but were in T-shirts by 10am. So layers is the way to go, and we had our waterproofs in James’ backpack, just incase!
Which entrance to use?
There are two entrances into the park. Entrance 1 is the largest, has the most parking and it is also the first one you come to from the north. Entrance 2 is further along the road so quieter. So you would think Entrance 2 is the go but I had a chat to our B&B host and he advised me Entrance 1 is the best. Why? because the largest waterfall in the park is right there and it is best to see it first before the crowds.
There is a map board showing all the trails on offer, both long and short (there’s also one online). We chose Trail C, a one way walk between the upper and lower lakes of 8kms, with a completion time of between 4 and 6 hours. Once you reach the top, you can choose between a bus ride back or trail H to walk down again. It actually took us just 4 hours and we then took Trail H and walked back to Entrance 2 and caught the bus back from there.
Boat and bus rides
These are included in your ticket price, but only one boat trip across the big lake is allowed on your ticket. The first boat across the big lake (when coming from Entrance 1) leaves at 8.30am. As we had started the walk so early we had to cool our heels here for 45 mins here. But it gave us time for a loo stop and an excellent coffee (see below).
Coming back we could have caught a bus at the end of Trail C but we walked on along Trail H and caught it from Entrance 2 back to just before Entrance 1. I had expected it to take us right to the entrance but it stopped a bit short and allowed us some truly fab views of the lakes.
You will not go hungry at Plitvice Lakes I can assure you. There are enough food kiosks around the park that you don’t need to bring anything, except maybe water. We brought a few snacks with us and enjoyed them sitting on some of the well placed benches around the park. However, we did weaken at the boat stop and enjoyed a delicious apple strudel and coffee whilst we were waiting for the boat. Likewise there are enough toilets around the park to stop you looking for a convenient bush!
Dogs are welcome, on leads!
As a dog lover I was utterly delighted to read this and see several owners and their pooches on the trails.
There are bear warning signs, but I think you would be very lucky (or unlucky?) to spot a brown bear. We did see lots of lovely birds, some very friendly ducks, masses of fish in the crystal clear waters and James even spotted a water snake!
I think my photo speaks for itself…..