A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, all you need to know about Plitvice Lakes, one of Croatia’s top attractions. Tickets, sights, accommodation & tips.

Plitvice Lakes: an introduction

A few years ago, I was on a press trip to Tokyo and ended up in a bar for a late-night drink. We met a rather drunk Japanese businessman who bought us drinks and then asked us where we were from. Upon hearing Croatia, his eyes lit up.

“Plitvice. Very beautiful.”

Out came his phone and lots of pictures of Croatia’s top natural attraction. Dubrovnik may be the best-known city in Croatia, but Plitvice is not far behind.

The lakes are simply GORGEOUS. It does not matter what time of year you come, this is Nature as you rarely see it. One Nikola Tesla, who lived not far away, was impressed by the natural power of its water. The results of the early Plitvice impressions on the iconic genius would later be seen at Niagara Falls.

With more than a million visitors a year, care needs to be taken to protect Plitvice from over-tourism. Efforts are being made to ensure this happens. But whatever measures are put in place, there is no chance that Plitvice can return to the idyllic beauty before mass tourism arrived.

Take a look at how life was back in 1939 in the video below.

A World Heritage Site: What does UNESCO say?

The lakes were named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1979 (check out the Total Croatia UNESCO guide) – here is what the international body had to say:

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.

How to get to Plitvice Lakes

Despite not being close to any other main tourist centre, Plitvice Lakes remain wildly popular. They are located on the old road from Split to Zagreb, roughly halfway between Croatia’s two biggest cities. Many tourists opt to visit the lakes when travelling between the two cities. Travel time is roughly 2.5 hours from each city. Private transfers from one city to the next, with a stop off at Plitvice, is becoming increasingly popular – find out how.

Most backpackers arrive by two methods – bus or organised tour. There are many buses between Zagreb and Split, which is the most common route.

plitvice-lakes-entrance

Tours to Croatia range from the organised group tours from almost any destination in Croatia to private tours which are custom-made. For help with either, please contact me.

4 seasons, 4 experiences: when is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes?

Unlike most tourist attractions, Plitvice offers a totally different experience, depending on when you visit. Most of the 1 million plus tourists come in the summer months, of course, but if you come at some other time of year, your Plitvice impressions will be altogther different.

One of my all-time favourite videos of Croatia is this beauty, filmed with virgin snow at Plitvice after heavy snowfall. Now take a look at this natural wonder during the other seasons of the year.

When is the best time to visit? Why not come four times, once in each season, for four magical and unforgettable memories.

Opening times and ticket prices

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is open 365 days a year, which is great news for tourists visiting. Opening times vary according to the season, and they are divided according to Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. In peak summer months, the national park is open from 07:00 until 20:00, while winter times are obviously much shorter. Check out the latest official opening times.

Prices vary very much according to the season, with winter prices more than 75% cheaper than the peak season. There are various discounts for students, kids, and groups, while children under 7 go free. For the latest prices, check the official website for the latest.

You can buy tickets at both the entrances to the lakes. Credit cards are accepted.

Plitvice Lakes: things to see

Be prepared for natural beauty at its very best!

Getting the most out of the lakes will obviously depend on how much time you have. The official website has prepared some useful options for those looking to wander around.

Check out a range of 8 different programmes, ranging from 2 to 8 hours, and from 3.5 to 18.5 km.

There are also a number of hiking trails where you can well and truly escape the crowds. Check out the options.

Winter at Plitvice brings another dimension entirely – learn more about the winter sporting options.

While cycling is not a permitted activity within the park itself, it is a popular activity in the region. So why not combine a little cycling with nature, then park the bike and enjoy the beautiful nature Croatia has to offer. Find out more about cycling around Plitvice.

Human habitation at Plitvice dates back to pre-historic times, and the human race has left plenty of traces of its time in the region. There are many cultural treasures worthy of exploring.

Accommodation near Plitvice Lakes

While most people pop in for a day trip, there is an increasing number of tourists looking to linger. Accommodation options are not as developed as in other tourist areas, but they do exist. Booking.com and Airbnb are your usual friends, and there are various hotel options as well.

In addition to these, a rather fun glamping option with luxury tree houses opened in 2018.

Tourism and the environment: pressure points

2019 will see the 40th anniversary of the national park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the stories about Plitvice are broadly positive, the sheer numbers of tourists obviously affect the environment.

So much so, in fact, that UNESCO has been taking a greater look in recent times. There has even been some discussion that its status as a World Heritage Site is under threat. While this danger has subsided for now, it has not completely gone away. Learn more about the issues.

Useful contacts

To learn more about Plitvice Lakes, check out the official website.

To follow the latest news from this wondrous natural treasure, follow the dedicated TCN page.

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