How to visit Plitvice National Park by public transport
If you love waterfalls, lakes and the beauty of nature, then Plitvice lakes and waterfalls in Croatia is a place for you to visit. Each year, up to 1.5 million people visit the Plitvice National Park. The 300 km2 large Plitvice lakes has been a national park since 1949 and in 1979 it was added to the UNESCO list of world natural heritage. It does not need promotion, just the opposite. This UNESCO heritage site is too popular and because of this, its management decided to limit the number of visitors to 10,000 per day. So to make sure you secure your visit and are not lost in the crowd, you have to plan your trip properly. Here is some advice to help to do that in the best way using public transport.
When to visit Plitvice
I thought that early June is a good time for a visit and I was partly right because I was able to buy a ticket in the morning with no lines. Still, parts of the park were quite crowded because school holidays had already started and many school children groups of some 60 people in each made moving around quite complicated. If you check ticket pricing, you can easily find that prices go up from the 1st of June so if I had to make my choice one more time, I would opt for the beginning or middle of May. Another option would be October. For example, in 2019, a full price for one day ticket from June 1 to September 30 is 250 kunas (about 34 euros or 38 USD). In April, May and October the price is 100 kunas (about 14 euros or 15 USD) so it’s much cheaper and the price also reflects the number of visitors in those periods of time.
How to organise your visit
Cities with airports that are the closest to the park are Zagreb (ZAG) and Zadar (ZAD). If you use public transport, you have to travel the final 140 kilometres to the park by bus from each of them. Get by Bus is a good website to buy your ticket online. Before buying your ticket, you have to know at which entrance you want to get off. The Plitvice park has two entrances, located 3,5 kilometres from each other. Most visitors choose entrance number 1 so you have a good reason to choose entrance number 2 to see less of a crowd. As most of the suggested trails are circular, starting and ending at the same place, it does not make a big difference where you start. I would very much recommend you arrive at Plitvice in the evening the day before your visit and stay at the hotel near the park entrance. If you want to be 100% sure to secure your entrance ticket, you can buy it online not less than 48 hours before your visit.
How much time you will need to see the Plitvice lakes
The park offers several ready made itineraries with distance and duration shown for each of them. Most visits include parts travelled by internal bus, walking, and by boat. The shortest suggested tour is 3,5 kilometres and takes 2-3 hours. The longest is 18,3 kilometres and takes 6-8 hours. Tours A, B, C and K start from entrance 1 and tours E, F, H and K (red) start from entrance 2. They are signposted on the way just in some places, not frequently enough, so you should be careful to find the next sign for your chosen route.
Check an example of the tour
I chose route H from entrance number two. It’s 8,9 kilometres long and they say it could take 4-6 hours. If you don’t make a meal break in between, you can do it in about 4 hours so if you have more time, it’s worth considering a bit longer tour K. All transportation by bus and boat is included in the ticket price, and the ticket is for a day, so you can spend as many hours a day in the park as you want. Tour H starts from entrance 2.It consists of 5 parts: two bus rides, two walks and one boat ride in the middle. First I took a shuttle bus to St 3 and then made my way on foot to the boat stop at P2. The walk was through the wood at the beginning, followed by crossing the lakes with stunning views of waterfalls.From a boat stop P2, I took a boat ride across Kozjak Lake to stop P3. I was expecting more from the boat trip but to me, it was more like a fast connection between two stunning walking paths with awesome waterfalls. At stop P3, there were opportunities to buy a meal or an ice cream and use the toilets. Then on my chosen route H, I had another walk to bus stop St 1. The path followed a river first and then brought me to the marvellous Big Waterfall. It was possible to admire it from different viewpoints along the way. This part of the tour was the most crowded because it was already close to noon and also maybe because of the attractiveness of the place. If you have very limited time, it is the part of the park I would recommend visiting anyway. Then the path went up to the hill for more great views. Finally, the path brought me to the bus stop St1 with a WC, a small cafe and an ice cream stand. From there I had a bus ride back to my tour starting point St 2 at the second entrance. I bought my ticket a bit after 8.30 am and started the tour at about 9.00 am when the bus arrived. I got back to my starting point at entrance number two some ten minutes before 1:00 pm. No meal breaks in the middle. If you want to have this, add the necessary time to your schedule.
What to bring
You will have to do quite a lot of walking on uneven surfaces that are not very comfortable for your feet, so bring your best walking shoes. Also, bring water and some snacks because water and food are available just in a few places on the tour. I was lucky with sunny weather and just needed a hat and sunglasses but if the weather forecast is not so perfect, bring a waterproof coat to have your hands free and not use an umbrella. I find it much more convenient.
Where to stay
The seven hotels closest to the park entrances are owned by the park authorities and therefore, strangely enough, the best place for booking your room is not the booking com, but the Plitvice national park website. My choice was the Plitvice hotel at entrance number 2. The location and arrival in the evening allowed me to have a nice walk around and watch a stunning sunset and also be early enough in the morning at the ticket office and buy my entrance ticket with no lines. The hotel itself was nice, with great views from the room and the lobby. It had no elevator but the service person brought my luggage to the room so it was not a problem for me. The room had a good working space and also a fridge. No kettle. The Wi-Fi had good speed and was available throughout the hotel. The breakfast was good enough to keep you going.Like it? Pin it!
What did you think? Have you been to Plitvice Lakes? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sane