A Little Beauty… Visiting the Waterfalls of Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park

Last updated on June 6, 2022

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is one of those places that absolutely and totally lives up to its hype—it is stunning. Just stunning. When I visited there, my Croatia Lonely Planet at the time used a photo of this UNESCO World Heritage site as the main image to promote tourism to Croatia. It’s changed now, but at the time of my first visit to Croatia, the country was only just entering the public mind and the captivating blue waterfalls of Plitvice were enough to compel most curious travelers to at least consider visiting Croatia.

But Plitvice Lakes was just the start of the reasons I wanted to backpack the country. Croatia boasts miles of coastline, other gorgeous waterfalls like Krka National Park, and the stunning city of Dubrovnik. Truth be told, after skimming images of Plitvice Lakes, I didn’t even need the nitty-gritty travel planning details to know that I was adding Croatia to my round the world route, and I knew for sure that the country’s gorgeous waterfalls would be a highlight of my time there.

Where is Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Plitvice lakes national park in Croatia Guide

Gorgeous views of the turquoise lakes and small waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.

How to Get to Plitvice Lakes

The bus from Krka National Park dropped us off in the middle of dense and verdant forest—what a change from the gray and rocky coastline! It shocked my senses to find myself in the middle of such lush forest environment after weeks on an island near split soaking in the coastal waters and sunshine. The last time I had hiked in a forested area was traveling through Nepal a month earlier when my cousin and I trekked in the Annapurna range.

The bus dropped us two kilometers from our guesthouse, but we were saved the hike by our kind guesthouse owner at Villa Jezerka—which is truly one of the best guesthouses in Plitvice and comes highly, highly recommended. The owner zipped up to the curb just as the bus pulled away. We had taken several cramped buses all day, so it was a relief to drop our bags at the guesthouse and then frolic through the forest for a bit before dinner. Yes, I said frolic. With a bit of fresh, cool forest air cleaning out our lungs, we all slept soundly. Visiting Plitvice is a trip into nature before you even arrive, and part of why we slept so well was due to the peaceful town and quiet atmosphere.

Exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park (And Avoiding Scams!)

The next morning, my friends and I packed healthy snacks we had snagged at the store so that we could bring our own lunch into the National Park. As a vegetarian traveler, preparing my own food is not only easier, but cheaper, too. Plitvice is larger than Krka, so we packed a hearty lunch: hard boiled eggs, bread, cheese, and an apple.

With our lunches stowed in daypacks, and with a bit of an adventurous skip in our step, we hiked to the entrance to the park on foot.

And we nearly got had by scalpers at the entrance. The scammers surrounded my cousin and pushed me and Jenn to the fringes while they tried to pressure her into buying a park ticket. Each one shared a sob story and a reason we should buy their ticket.

My cousin was overwhelmed—they had isolated her and bombarded her senses with too much information. But Jenn and I shook our heads when she looked at us with a questioning look. It didn’t feel right and we were all feeling hemmed in by their tactics, so Jenn and I grabbed my cousin’s arm, pulling her from their circle and refusing to make eye contact or respond to the scammers.

Quick Travel Tip

The only way past the scammers at the Plitvice Lakes park entrance was to completely ignore the scalpers until we were safely ensconced in the ticket office. 

turquoise waterfalls at Plitvice
Gorgeous waterfalls and turquoise waters wait around every bend in the path when visiting Plitvice.
A Croatian tree with a thought bubble!
Doesn’t it look like the tree has a thought bubble? Just one of the interesting sights hiking around the park.
A pretty path that hugs a stunning blue lake at Plitvice National Park
A pretty path hugged this a stunning blue lake in Plitvice National Park.
Turquoise waters so unreal - one of my favorite plitvice images!
Turquoise waters so unreal. I can’t even. This is one of my favorite images from our day exploring the national park!

Exploring the Plitvice Lakes and Forest

Once safely inside, we breathed deeply and calmed down. It’s nerve-wracking when they bombard with stories while entering your personal space. The ticket lady, however, was great. She helped us pick the four- to six-hour loop around the park, which was advertised as mildly strenuous but with beautiful viewpoints.

Like Krka National Park, boardwalks zig-zag throughout the entire park as a way to minimize the potential negative impact of the park’s growing tourism industry. Also like Krka, tourists fill every inch of the National Park during the summer months. But for good reason.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is indescribably pretty.

Each lake and waterfall dotting the park is distinctly different in color than the others because the living karst rocks and travertine dams shift and change.

Blindingly brilliant blue hues filled our walk. Vivid green plant-life and deep, blue-gray waters contrasted with azure lakes and turquoise waterfalls shimmering in the sunshine.

view of several of the lakes and sets of watefalls
My bestie Jenn and I pause for a snapshot to remember our time!
summer flowers in Croatia
Croatia waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park
spontaneous hugging on the boardwalks
Shannon in front of one of the larger waterfalls!

At the end of the hike, which was mostly flat for hours, the path changed abruptly. We took a strenuous uphill ascent to the top of the park, and the views proved beyond worthwhile. One side of the peak contained a view over the largest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes. The other side provided dramatic views of several of the lakes in succession. All of the shots that look down on the lakes from above are a result of putting in the hard work of hiking to the top!

Since we were traveling other areas of Croatia, it was a long journey into the center of Croatia. It’s far removed from the beaches and coastline that many prioritize when visiting Croatia, but it’s stunning. When we decided to take the time to visit, we didn’t know if it was worth visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park. A lot of places on this planet are pretty, but should you take the three-day break from beaches and sunshine to visit?

A resounding yes.

We walked back to our guesthouse in a daze after such a fun and pretty day. We made a pit-stop for ice cream and then ate it silently as we processed the brain overload of such blatantly gorgeous scenery.

Travel Guide and Tips: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Best Guesthouse

Most travelers will stay in Jezerce, which is 2km from the park. Of those many places there, Villa Jezerka is a great place for anyone visiting the area on a budget. They had a triple room, which sealed the deal for us, along with the free wifi and the assurance that we could walk to the park entrance. If you’re more of a mid-range traveler, B&B Millennium was our runner-up choice and just gorgeous.

Recommended Guidebook

Rick Steves’ Croatia Guide is the best for an interesting history and neat activities—perfect if you are planning a mid-range trip or luxury. Rick Steves’ guides for Europe are usually spot on. That being said, backpackers might want to stick with Lonely Planet Croatia. This guide has a better list handle on the nuts and bolt—train times, hostels, and budget travel to get you to and fro.

Cultural Reading

Pick up a copy of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Part travelogue with a strong slice of the region’s history, you’ll enjoy insights from the region right as World War II began. This is a compelling way to read about Balkan history, though it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction throughout.

Croatia Travel Guide

A download on everything I learned from backpacking across Croatia—including a lot of information on visiting the country’s national parks and places with immense natural beauty!

11 thoughts on “A Little Beauty… Visiting the Waterfalls of Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park”

  1. You forgot to mention the 42€ per person admission. Croatians themselves are upset about such greed. For less than that, a carload can visit Yosemite for a week and see more than just a collection of waterfalls. And I don’t remember paying anything to see Iguaçu.

    • Uff! That has gotten a lot steeper than it was a decade ago when I visited. I also see online that it’s only that price during the four months of summer high season, then it drops back down to under 100 HRK, less than $15. That’s good for travelers to note that the prices fluctuate a lot and it’s a much better value in shoulder and low season.Thanks for reporting back!

  2. Plitvice lakes are the most beautiful in the fall, when the leaves are yellow and red. It is also less crowded and easier to walk because it is not so hot

  3. One of the more stunning places I've been. Your great photos capture it well and I had a wonderful time photographing it too, including the same one overlooking the bottom four lakes!

    • Wow, the tone of your pictures is actually totally different than mine even! Just goes to show that the lakes really do look different every time you visit :-) Beautiful shots you took there :-)

  4. Wow, that place looks awesome. We’re definetly going to have to add that to our list of places to see. Good luck with your trip, it looks like it’s going well so far.

    • You should! Croatia has some really beautiful places – gorgeous, and Bosnia is right next door and one of my favorite countries!


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