Last June, during our one week stay in Split area in Croatia, we visited Plitvice Lakes National Park for 2 days. The drive from Vodice took around 2h and we stayed at hotel Bellevue for one night. This was a pleasant drive and on the way we got some beautiful views of the mountains.
There are 2 hotels available next to the park and Bellevue was the cheaper option. We paid 70 euros/night at this hotel and we weren't picky about the accommodation. We were quite pleased with the hotel, it was clean and it had everything we needed plus a really nice balcony with a terrace facing the forest that was full of birds. In fact we found a very cute fledgling on our balcony that was afraid to fly away. We gave it some water and some food and after a few hours it found the courage to fly away on a tree near by, where its mother was waiting for it. It was a really nice surprise that added to my wonderful experience in Plitvice Lakes.
The park is divided in the Lower Lakes at Entrance 2 and the Upper Lakes at Entrance 1. The hotels are next to Entrance 2, so obviously, we started from the Lower Lakes. We bought our tickets online for both days and it costed 350 KN for one person (around 50 euros/person). I was a bit puzzled when they made me choose the time when we will arrive and I really didn't think it's such an important detail to keep in mind, but when we got to the gate the people actually checked that the time we arrived matches with the ticket.
Middle June, when we visited the park, is still not high season in Croatia, so I guess during the months of July and August they want to limit the amount of people entering the park in the same time, as it might get really crowded. I read a bit on the internet about this experience and it doesn't sound fun at all to not be able to walk on your own pace in the park. This is why I would recommend visiting the park outside of the high season if you really want to enjoy your stay. Another tip would be to visit the Upper Lakes after 16:00, when most of people are gone. The big buses, full of tourists, usually arrive in the early morning and leave around 16:00. Also the Upper Lakes are more popular than the Lower Lakes, so they will probably go there first. The park is open in the summer time from 8 to 20:00, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the park in peace.
Since we started from Entrance 2 and Lower Lakes, there weren't many people here, so we could enjoy the views, stop and take pictures and walk on our pace, without disturbing other people. One problem, however, is that the beautiful waterfalls are on the other side of the walking direction. In our case this wasn't really a problem because it wasn't that crowded, but I could imagine that it would have been a bit inconvenient if there would have been a lot of people.
Entrance 2 - Plitvice Lower Lakes
You can already see a waterfall before even entering the park and this view will follow you while walking next to a beautiful, turquoise coloured lake.
After entering the park, you'll walk for like 10 min down a path and then you'll get your first "WOW": beautiful turquoise waters and an awesome looking waterfall, surrounded by green vegetation! The beautiful colour comes from microorganisms living in the water, therefore swimming is not allowed because it destroys them!
You need to take a 5 minute ferry trip to the other side, where the waterfalls start. The boats seem to be electric, so there is no pollution from the engines and they are really really quiet!
During your stay in the park you will walk quite often on wooden planks and I cannot help but thinking if anyone has fallen in the water during the crowded times. The planks make the waterfalls visible to the tourists up close and it's much easier and nicer this way than boats.
After walking through a few smaller waterfalls, you will start walking next to a lake towards the highest waterfall from the Lower Lakes, the one that you can see from the entrance. This part got a bit crowded and for about 15 minutes we didn't get far, but we waited while enjoying an awesome waterfall!
I guess it is called Lower Lakes because the elevation here is a bit lower than the Upper Lakes. The waterfalls continued throughout the Lower Lakes and then we ended up to the bus stop, where there were toilets and a small restaurant. Unfortunately the restaurant ran out of food by the time we got there. It was probably around 14:00 and we anyway had to exit the park to be able to check in at our hotel (check in was between 14:00 and 18:00), so we took the bus back to Entrance 2, we checked in, ate something and then re-entered. We decided to go to the upper lakes in the evening, but a bit more about the upper lakes later on in the article. Next day we took the bus back to where we left from and took a different route towards the ferry close to Entrance 2 that would take us to the Upper Lakes. This time we took a path that was high, with awesome views of the waterfalls and the lake.
Plitvice Lower Lakes were really beautiful, however, we weren't prepared for what we were about to see in the Upper Lakes.
Entrance 1 - Plitvice Upper Lakes
There are 2 ways to get to Plitvice Upper Lakes from Entrance 2: you can enter the park, take the first 5 minutes ferry and then wait for another ferry to take you to the Upper Lakes. The second ferry takes about half an hour and it's really relaxing, so I would recommend that one if you are not in a hurry. The other way is to get the bus that goes from Entrance 2 to Entrance 1.
In the first day we took the ferry towards the upper lakes at around 15:30 and you could see already that the amount of people was starting to diminish. When we arrived there was a big area with restaurants and tables where we stopped to eat a burger the next day. The first day we went to explore the lower part of the lakes, on the wooden path that goes along the steep mountain, next to the lake.
The path goes through multiple waterfalls, with stunning views all around. At the cross section we first turned left to go to the big waterfall. On the way there is a place with an almost vertical drop, with amazing views over the valley and more waterfalls and probably this was my favorite place. It is quite crowded as everyone is trying to take a video, picture or selfie, so you have to wait your turn to get your picture. In the picture itself you cannot really see how steep it was, but there were wooden bars to keep you safe.
After this you'll get to the big waterfall, Veliki Slap, which is 78 m high and it's quite a sight.
There are stairs going up the mountains, which we took and you can take quite nice picture from above from Veliki Slap and the other parts of Plitvice Upper Lakes. We will explore this area a bit later in the article, as we came back to this place the next day on a path that is high up, with extraordinary views.
After visiting Veliki Slap, we headed back and walked towards Entrance 1. The best viewpoint of Plitvice waterfalls are just as you enter from Entrance 1.
We didn't go straight out of the park, but continued on the path instead, towards the bus stop. From up here you can take great pictures of the waterfalls, from above.
We ended up at the bus station, which we took towards Entrance 2 and our hotel.
The park opens at 8, so the next day at 8 o'clock I was at Entrance 1 with my tripod, trying to get some cool pictures from the viewpoint. The weather wasn't really in my favor, it was cloudy and misty and you couldn't really see the waterfalls that well. I also thought there would be a lot fewer people, but turns up that there were already big buses parked there and people were already queuing at the entrance. This is the result of my effort :)
This below is an original picture, straight from the camera, so you cannot really see much.
After this I went back to the hotel to have breakfast, pack up and check out and then headed with the ferry back to the Upper Lakes. This time we took the other path, up high on the mountain, with awesome views towards the lake, mountains and waterfalls. I guess this was a less known path as there was very little amount people. You can actually get all 3 of Plitvice's Upper Lakes waterfalls into one picture from this point.
You can also see the wooden board where we were walking the previous day, next to the steep mountain.
The path ends at the big waterfall, Veliki Slap, after which we went down, took some more pictures and then ended up to Entrance 1 to admire the waterfalls one more time.
I think staying one night in Plitvice Lakes National Park was a really good idea because we could really enjoy the views and explore the paths as much as we wanted. We also had a clear advantage because we could stay until late in the park when almost everyone was gone. I wish I will get to visit Plitvice National Park also in the autumn and winter time because the pictures from these times of the year look amazing!
Another thing I really liked about Plitvice Lakes National Park was that, unlike the rest of Croatia, it wasn't extremely hot. In fact, when we arrived here there were only 17 degrees and the next day there were around 23 degrees. For me this is the perfect temperature for hiking! Remember to bring some warmer clothes with you to Plitvice and maybe some waterproof jacket.
Hope you enjoy the awesomeness of Plitvice Lakes National Park!