My Mum and I spent 2 days exploring the Plitvice Lakes and after our time there, I know that I will definitely be back – It has Andrew’s name written all over it! I have done a few hikes in the past but the Plitvice Lakes ranks in the top 3 (Yosemite in California and the Hooker Valley Track in New Zealand being the two other memorable hikes). As well as the teal blue coloured lakes and amazing greenery, there are waterfalls at every turn. This will be a detailed post about my experience so if you are pushed for time, scroll down to the “things you need to know” section.
While you can catch a bus and do a day trip from places like Zagreb and Split, we hired a car and drove from Opatija to Plitvice. In total, the journey took around 2-3 hours with a lunch stop. Having a car was great as it allowed us to make photo stops and take our time to get there.
We stayed about 400 meters from Entrance 3 at a place called Etno Garden. Entrance 3 is not that well known as all the hikes start at Entrances 1 and 2 but you can still access the trails from Entrance 3. The hospitality at Etno Garden was great. The staff were all extremely friendly and helpful and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.
The view from our room at Etno Garden
Since we were staying at the Plitvice Lakes National Park, we opted to eat at Etno Garden as there were no nearby grocery stores. Breakfast was €10, lunch was €15 and dinner was €20. We didn’t eat lunch there, but you can buy lunch packs for €10 which may be a good option if you are planning to be on the trails during the day. Dinner was a 3-course meal with a soup as a starter, a choice of two mains and a dessert. The dinner was reasonable however both Mum and I felt that breakfast could be improved. You don’t get much value for €10 but that was probably the only negative from staying here!
As we visited Plitvice Lakes in the off-peak Season, our two-day ticket cost 180 Kuna (£21). A one day ticket costs 110 Kuna (£13). If you are planning to visit between July and August, a one-day ticket cost 180 Kuna (£21) and a two-day ticket cost 280 Kuna (£33). Despite the price difference, it’s still relatively affordable and you get to experience paradise! I would also bring extra Kuna in case you didn’t pack your lunch or if you would like a sneaky ice-cream along the way. Trust me, you’ll want the ice-cream after all that exploring.
On the first day, we took Route E (5.2 km/3.23 miles) around the Upper Lakes which took around 2-3 hours. The predicted time was actually 3-4 hours so we managed to complete Route A (3.5 km/2.17 miles) as well which also took around 2 hours. Both were extremely scenic but I found the Upper Lakes less crowded. We had amazing weather the whole time, which unfortunately didn’t happen on the second day!
On the second day, we decided to explore the Lower Lakes again as there were a couple of pockets that we didn’t get to on the first day. We started at Entrance 3 and I decided to be clever and follow the signs for what I thought was Route F. We ended up getting a little lost and had to backtrack a couple of times but we made it in the end.
The weather forecast kept changing while we were there. It originally predicted that it would thunderstorm and rain, then it predicted a sunny day and just before we ventured out for the day it predicted an overcast. A couple of hours into our hike, it started drizzling with rain which didn’t worry me too much because there were lots of trees to provide shelter and it cleared up after half an hour anyway. So we continued hiking without realizing what would happen to us a couple of hours later…
Turned out, the weather app was wrong and while we were on the boat back to Entrance 3, the sky turned dark grey, the rain started pouring and then it started hailing. Everyone on the boat had to huddle together in the middle to avoid the hail! When we arrived at Entrance 3 we had to leave the boat, so without an umbrella or rain coat, I dashed through the hail to find some shelter (Mum was well prepared and brought her rain coat!). I had to buy a clear poncho and we trekked back to our hotel in the pouring rain with lightning and thunder. Drenched from head to toe, we arrived safely and didn’t get struck down by lightning (I know… I’m dramatic), but it was an experience! I’m glad that we were near a shelter when it happened though because I know that a lot of people would have been caught out in the park!
Things to Know
- Even though we explored the Lakes over 2 days, you can definitely explore the entire Plitvice Lakes in 1 day. I don’t regret spending 2 days there as it allowed us to explore at a relaxed pace, but when I go back with Andrew we will most likely do a day trip.
- Bring packed lunch. There are little huts at each entrance where you can purchase food and drinks but the options are limited.
- Check where the toilets are. They are located at each entrance and there are none within the actual park. If you see a toilet, GO, otherwise you may have to make friends with a bush off the beaten track!
- Go as early as possible. Tourist buses arrive at around 9am and it can get extremely crowded, especially during Summer.
- We were able to walk to our entrance gate however, if you are driving parking is limited. Make sure to get there early if you want to snag a car spot close to your entrance point.
- Wear appropriate walking shoes. Although the trails are relatively flat, you will be walking for a while so comfortable shoes are the way to go. I saw more than several people wearing flip flops and sandals which can get caught between the wooden planks.
Have you been to the Plitvice Lakes before?