Plitvice Lakes National Park
Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park was high on my Croatia to-do list. Whilst perusing other travel blogs, I was mesmerized by their pictures and descriptions of this beautiful park. The beautiful turquoise water served as a nice contrast to the surrounding trees and foilage.
When I was in Zadar (and later in Split), I came across many tour agencies offering guided tours to Plitvice. “It’s the only way to see it.” they would tell me in their best sales pitch. Due to my aversion to guided tours when they aren’t necessary, I did a little research on how to get to Plitvice using public transportation. And guess what? It’s not hard at all!
How to get to Plitvice from Zadar via Bus
Assuming you are staying within the city center of Zadar (where the hostels and small hotels are), you’ll have to walk to the bus station, about a 20 minute walk. I also advise stopping at a supermarket to pick up some goodies for a picnic, as food is not cheap at Plitvice.
Bus Croatia is the website that I used to check timetables and prices for buses throughout Croatia. It’s also possible to buy your roundtrip ticket in advance, which I recommend. Make sure to arrive at the terminal with time to spare, as there only are a few buses that run to Plitvice a day.
When you are on the bus, there are two stops to Plitvice. The first is the main entrance, where most people start. Pro Tip: Stay on the bus while almost everybody else gets off. The bus will then drive to the back entrance (or entrance #2), which is a lot less crowded. This allows you to enjoy most of the park with as little people as possible. This is key, as Plitvice is EXTREMELY popular, especially in the tourist-heavy months in Croatia of July and August. I believe they count over 1 million visitors every year. I was there in the beginning of June and can attest that there were a lot people at the park.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is best enjoyed at a slow, leisurely pace. I spent about 5 hours inside the park itself. Instead of speeding through the park, I recommend taking time to sit and reflect at the lakes and spots that you find particularly peaceful. Believe you me, this place is incredibly beautiful. I found myself gawking at the lakes and waterfalls. Also, a fair warning that the entrance fee isn’t cheap. it varies depending on the month, with the highest price topping out at $25. It is well worth it, however, to be able to experience these natural lakes firsthand.
Sadly, you are not allowed to swim in these pristine lakes. It was very tempting to do so when I was there, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to restrain yourself on a hot summer’s day.
As Plitvice is a National Park and protected area, there is an abundance of wildlife, including bears, deer, wild cats, various rodents and over 150 species of birds. Don’t get your hopes of seeing any, as just like most wildlife, they steer far away from the pathways.
Wooden boardwalks mark the path for a majority of the routes, however, one should also expect some moderate climbs. I recommend wearing a good pair of sturdy walking shoes and to leave the flip flops at home.
Perhaps the piece de resistance, in my opinion, is near the front of the park, where there is a stunning viewpoint of a few of the lakes below. I like to refer to this as the “money shot”, as this is the picture that is most often used in advertisements and the image that comes to my mind when I think of Plitvice. It’s natural wonders like these that help me to appreciate just how beautiful the world is.
So what are you waiting for? Add Croatia (and Plitvice) to your travel list now!