If you were a fish, Plitvice would be your paradise. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the top nature destinations in Europe, thanks to its many hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and crystal clear water where you can watch Plitvice’s fish enjoying their home.
Plitvice Lakes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has to uphold tight regulations. So, it’s important to be aware of some entrance-related hurdles you could encounter.
I’ll break the entrance and park rules down for you based on my experience. I’ll also share details on the different Pltivice hiking routes.
Accessible Travel Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, head to the bottom of this post for information about accessibility at Plitvice.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we’ll make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Location of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice is located inland, about halfway between Zadar and Zagreb. As such, it’s a popular day trip from both of these destinations.
It’s even possible to visit Plitvice in a day in places as far away as Split.
However, traveling from Split to Plitvice involves a 12+ hour excursion and you won’t have time to explore the park as well as it deserves.
Plitvice vs. Niagara & Iguazú Falls
My job is to give you an honest understanding of a destination, and that involves helping to set realistic expectations.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is gorgeous. However, if you’ve been to Niagara or Iguazú Falls and expect the Plitvice falls to be similar, they could disappoint you.
Niagara and Iguazú are immense in size and water volume. Plitvice is like a shorter, skinnier version of them but with such beautiful shades of blue that it more than makes up for its smaller size.
Travel Tip: To see the Plitvice falls when they’re looking their fullest, aim to visit during, or preferably right after, the rainy season. May and early June are ideal months for higher water volume and nice weather.
How To Get To Plitvice Lake National Park
Driving to Plitvice will give you the most flexibility. There are two main entrances to the park, and most parking lots around these areas charge an hourly fee. You can read more about parking at Plitvice here.
If you’re among those without a car but don’t want to be on someone else’s schedule with a tour (that was me), you can opt to take a bus.
Several buses run the route from Zagreb and Zadar to Plitvice. The buses stop at both Entrance 1 and Entrance 2.
Hang tight because I’ll talk about the differences between these two entrances shortly.
A Note on Bus Tickets
If you’re traveling during the high season, buy your bus tickets in advance. A few days in advance should be fine. But if your travel dates are set, there’s no reason to wait to buy them.
Buying your bus tickets in advance is advantageous for two reasons:
- You get your pick of departure times. The earliest buses to Plitvice fill up first. Keep in mind the bus ride from Zadar is 1.5 hours and from Zagreb is 2+ hours, so having to take a later bus can really cut into your time at the falls.
- When leaving Plitvice, passengers with tickets are the first people allowed on the bus. So, you won’t have to fight the crowds for a good seat. And most importantly, you’re guaranteed a ride on the bus.
From my experience, the bus stop at Plitvice is horrific during the high tourist season. There wasn’t a line, and there appeared to be far more people needing to catch a ride than there were seats on the bus.
A shuttle van sat near the bus stop, so people who didn’t purchase their bus ticket in advance and couldn’t buy one on the spot had to pay for a more expensive, semi-private shuttle to take them back to their accommodation.
I booked my bus tickets through GetByBus. I like their website and have used them for much of my Europe travels because they offer the choice to choose among bus companies, giving me flexibility with pricing and departure times.
The tickets from GetByBus come in e-ticket form. Just make sure to save enough battery on your phone to show the driver your ticket after all your Plitvice picture taking!
Entrance 1 vs. Entrance 2
There are two main entrances at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Depending on your situation, the difference between the two can be significant.
Let’s take a look at them.
- Direct access to the viewing area for the Veliki Slap Waterfall
- Best option for people with limited mobility
- Paths A, B, C, and K begin from there
- “Green” route
- Fewer people arrive through this point
- Higher chance of ticket availability
- Paths E, F, H, and K begin from here
- “Orange” route
Unless you or someone you’re traveling with has limited mobility, most likely, you’ll be better off entering Plitvice Lakes National Park through Entrance 2.
That said, make sure you choose a path that includes a visit to the Veliki Slap Waterfall, as this is an absolute must-see at Plitvice.
The “K” path listed at both Entrance 1 and Entrance 2 isn’t a mistake. I’ll cover the color-coded routes shortly, but let’s first talk about park entrance regulations.
Entrance Rules at Plitvice Lakes National Park
To remain in good UNESCO standing, sites like Plitvice must uphold strict entrance policies to maintain sustainable foot traffic. As such, starting in the spring of 2019, Plitvice Lakes National Park rolled out new entrance rules.
Let’s take a look at them.
Official Plitvice Entrance Policies
- Tickets are limited to 10,000 a day
- Of these tickets, only a certain number are issued hourly
- You can only enter Plitvice within an hour of the start time indicated on your ticket. Example: For a 9:00 am ticket, you can enter between the time of 9:00 am – 9:59 am
- You cannot exit and re-enter on the same ticket
- Once inside Plitvice, you can stay as long as you’d like or until closing time, whichever comes first
- You can purchase your tickets online, but only up to two days before your visit. Otherwise, you must buy tickets in person
What the policies are really like
I visited Plitvice in the summer of 2019, shortly after the new rules rolled out. As a result, I had firsthand experience with the disappointment of arriving ticketless, only to find out that the next batch of tickets—and the batch after that—were already sold out.
For context, I traveled in June, during the heart of the high season. I took a 5:45 am bus from Zagreb, arriving at Plitvice Entrance 1 (first mistake) just after 8:00 am. Should there have still been tickets available for the 8:00 am time slot, I could’ve marched right in.
Instead, my ticket was issued for 10:00 am since the 9:00 am entrance was also sold out. I can’t imagine how long I would have had to wait if I’d taken a later bus.
However, it wasn’t all for nothing.
I stood by the entrance line listening to people’s questions and issues. Here’s what I gathered for you, dear reader.
Note: If you notice any changes to the information here after your Plitvice visit, please let me know in the comments section. Thank you in advance from future readers and me!
Not only are there a certain number of tickets issued for each hourly time slot, but of these tickets, the park divides them between Entrance 1 and Entrance 2.
Since Entrance 1 is the most popular arrival spot, there’s a higher chance of ticket availability at Entrance 2. “Hurry, there are only 90 tickets left at Entrance 2,” is what the Entrance 1 ticket guy told a group of visitors who had a car and could get to Entrance 2 easily.
Probability of Tickets Selling Out
It isn’t common for Plitvice’s 10,000 entrance tickets to sell out for the day. What’s common is for the best time slots to sell out (i.e., the morning and early afternoon tickets).
The reason being, of course, is that most people want to spend a full day exploring the park.
Ticket Scanner Shenanigans
The ticket scanner rules the roost. If you have any doubts, this is a scene I witnessed: A man had to exit to get something in the car for his baby and wasn’t allowed to re-enter because the scanner wouldn’t let him.
That said, my entrance ticket was valid starting at 10:00 am. But the ticket man said, “Let’s give it a try” at 9:50 am and the scanner let me through.
Long story short, buy your tickets online and at least two days in advance. You can do so here.
Prices vary according to the season, with summer being more expensive than winter.
Bring your voucher printed or in e-ticket version the day of your Plitvice visit, and you won’t have to worry about the information in this section.
Travel Tip: If you get in a bind and have to purchase your Plitvice Lakes National Park tickets in person, credit card and cash (Kuna only) is accepted.
Hiking Paths at Plitvice Lakes National Park
If you’ve seen a map of Plitvice with its many hiking options, your head may be spinning.
The good news is that the hiking paths were designed to cater to people of different fitness levels and control the flow of crowds. That said, during high season, you’ll be hard-pressed to see the effects of crowd control due to of the influx of visitors.
Entrance 1 and Entrance 2 each have three hiking path options. The fourth option for both is path “K,” which covers the entire route.
Paths are marked well with color-coded signs according to entrances.
Entrance 1 paths are color-coded green and Entrance 2 paths are color-coded orange. Path “K” is marked both green and orange since the route is the same for both, just with two different start points.
Below is an overview of each of these routes.
Path A (Entrance 1)
Points of Interest: The easiest path that covers the most popular sites. Veliki Slap, Lower Lakes Canyon, Novakovića Brod Lake, Kaluđerovac Lake, Gavanovac Lake and Milanovac Lake, Kozjački Mostovi, and various caves in the Lower Lakes area (entering them is not allowed).
Time: 2 – 3 hours
Distance: 3,500 meters
Path B (Entrance 1)
Points of Interest: An extended version of Path A. Veliki Slap, Lower Lakes Canyon, transfer by electric boat across Lake Kozjak, panoramic train ride, a walk along the top of the eastern side of the canyon, and various caves in the Lower Lakes area (entering them is not allowed).
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Distance: 4,000 meters
Path C (Entrance 1)
Points of Interest: An extended version of Path B. Veliki Slap, Lower Lakes Canyon, transfer by electric boat across Lake Kozjak, a walk along the Upper Lakes, panoramic tourist train from the farther St3 station, and various caves in the Lower Lakes area (entering them is not allowed).
Time: 4 – 6 hours
Distance: 8,000 meters
Path E (Entrance 2)
Points of Interest: The easiest path available from Entrance 2. A walk to the P1 pier, transfer by electric boat across Lake Kozjak, a walk along the Upper Lakes to Labudovac, train from St3 to St2.
Time: 2 – 3 hours
Distance: 5,100 meters
Path F (Entrance 2)
Points of Interest: An extended version of Path E. A walk to the P1 pier, transfer by electric boat across Lake Kozjak, another boat from pier P2 to pier P3, Lower Lakes Canyon, various caves in the Lower Lakes area (entering them is not allowed), Veliki Slap, train ride from St1 to St2.
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Distance: 4,600 meters
Path H (Entrance 2)
Points of Interest: A train ride from the station St2 to St3, Upper Lakes, electric boat across Lake Kozjak from pier P2 to pier P3, Lower Lakes Canyon, various caves in the Lower Lakes area (entering them is not allowed), Veliki Slap, train to station St2.
Time: 4 – 6 hours
Distance: 8,900 meters
Path K1 & K2 (Entrance 1 & Entrance 2)
Points of Interest: The longest hike, which will take you around the entire lake zone. The order of places seen will depend on where you start from, but all sites are visited regardless of where you enter. Veliki Slap, Lower Lakes Canyon, various caves in the Lower Lakes area (entering them is not allowed), the western shore of Lake Kozjak, eastern shore of Lake Kozjak by a quick electric boat transfer, the eastern side of the Lower Lakes canyon.
Time: 6 – 8 hours
Distance: 18,300 meters
Travel Tip: For any route that takes you through Lower Lakes Canyon, make a detour where the sign reads “Big Waterfall.” The detour will take approximately 20 minutes round-trip and is a must-see site at Plitvice.
If you’re looking to stay near Plitvice Lakes National Park, there are three hotels by Entrance 2.
There’s also Camp Korana, which offers 500 camping spaces. Camp Korana is about 7 km from Entrance 1. Another campsite, Camp Borje, is about 15 km from Entrance 2.
You can also find other hotels located in towns near Plitvice, which run along Grabovac Street.
Miscellaneous Notes About Plitvice Lakes
Below are some items that didn’t have a particular place elsewhere in this post. I hope they help with your trip planning.
- Free restrooms are located at Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. There are also a few public restrooms scattered throughout the park, all of which are free.
- There’s a free luggage storage facility at the entrances. Careful, though. You’ll need to get the key from the information desk and will then have full, unattended access to all the luggage in the storage facility. Don’t leave anything behind that you aren’t willing to part with.
- You can grab a free map from the information center, but the path details in it are limited. There’s also a detailed 20 Kuna map you can buy at the information center, a free Plitvice Lakes National Park app you can download, or simply follow the (mostly) well-marked signs at the park.
- There are some small snack stands/restaurants at the entrance and in sporadic areas of the park. Options are limited and expensive. Pack plenty of water and snacks so that you don’t have to rely on them.
- Be careful on the wooden boardwalks. They aren’t marked where the stairs begin and blend in with the flat surface. I’d be interested in seeing statistics on how many people and cameras fly into the water each year!
Wheelchair Accessibility at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice has a long way to go with making the park WHEELCHAIR accessible. Whereas the waterfall paths at Krka National Park had signs pointing to designated accessible trails, Plitvice lacks this.
The unfortunate reality is that there isn’t (yet) good infrastructure in place to make the paths accessible at Plitvice.
However, if you’ve got your heart set on seeing Plitvice, it’s possible to do it in a modified way. I recommend entering the park by means of Entrance 1.
You’ll need to get off on the sidewalk near the entrance to the park. From there, you’ll have an accessible entrance into the park by means of a paved path.
You’ll be able to head to the uppermost lookout area over the famous Veliki Slap Waterfall. The view is stunning, and one of the best lookout points in the entire park.
Unfortunately, good accessibility ends there. There’s an uphill, gravel road that connects Entrance 1 with Entrance 2. However, if you embark on this adventurous path, you can enjoy more views of the lake.
The entrance for the restroom at Entrance 1 is accessible. But unfortunately, the doors to the toilet are too small for a chair to pass through. Therefore, the restroom is only accessible to people who can get out of their chairs and walk a few feet.
Note: Head over to our post on Wheelchair Accessibility at Krka National Park if you’re considering a visit to Krka.
I took many beautiful photos at Plitvice Lakes, so I wanted to share some of them with you here in this photo essay.
Ready to Visit Plitvice Lakes?
In my opinion, Plitvice Lakes National Park is worth the hype and juggling entrance rules to visit it.
Do you have questions about visiting Plitvice? Or do you have recommendations or items that have changed since I wrote this post based on your recent visit?
Leave a comment, and let’s start a conversation.
P.S.- If you’re considering a visit to Krka National Park, make sure to check out my post on taking a Day Trip to Krka. Can’t decide between the two? My guide on Krka or Plitvice: The Best Croatian Waterfall Experience can help.