Plitvice National Park is, without doubt, one of the most scenic natural views in Europe. Usually, people visiting it take at least two days to enjoy the beauty of the lakes and luxurious vegetation. This stunning natural beauty was first accredited as a national park in 1949 and it is famous ever since for its colorful, vibrant lakes separated by dams of travertine (here, particularly sensitive calcareous formation deposited by moss, bacteria, algae etc.) growing with approximately 1 cm every year. Continuously changing colors from green to grey, azure, turquoise or bleu ciel because of the minerals and organisms in the water makes it impossible to see the same view two times during the whole visit. Not to mention that the color of the crystal clear-water can also differ by perspective and sunlight angle. These things only should be enough to make you visit the park, even supposing you didn’t read our previous article about this amazing natural paradise, so let’s just assume that you’ve decided to visit!
We’ll start with the least favorable of conditions. If you’ve only got a day or half a day maybe, there’s still time to make this trip. You won’t be having the opportunity to discover this amazing topos entirely, and settling for the lower lakes (the easiest and shortest trail) is your best choice in such a short time. The route’s a two hours hike from the main (first) entrance of the park and the most recommended time to make this trip is clearly not the peak season! During summertime there’s no room to throw a needle anywhere near this basic trail, and the extremely large number of visitors should be your smallest concern; what usually bothers authentic travelers is the lack of patience and disrespect among the tourists and many visitors ended up in the lake water because of this disorganization. So yes, from the end of October to mid-November and from the end of March to mid-April is the best time to schedule your trip here.
The National Park of Plitvice counts 16 lakes from 503 m altitude to 636 meters altitude and they are generically divided in the lower lakes (from 503 m to 523 m) and the upper lakes (from 535 m to 636 m). The first group includes the following waters: Novacovića Brod (at 503 m), Kaluđerovac (505 m), Gavanovac (519 m) and Milanovac (523). The best part of this trip is that you can still get to see one of the two waterfalls in the park – Galovac waterfall, the natural whisper of the lower lakes. The best part about visiting this park in extra season is that in contrast with ice, everything seems even more colorful and the cold beauty of the place is truly breathtaking. Plus, a secondary advantage is getting to actually enjoy the place without having to wait for annoying crowds of unmannered people when you want to take a picture. The warmly colored, luxuriant, vegetation crawling with all the possible shades of green replaced with snowflakes somehow looks like it estranged any contact with people, like an introvert whoo needs to step away from society to be at peace with himself again. If you’ve also visited the place during peak season, you’ll understand how, in a way, Plitvice during winter is the rawest source of natural beauty.
The longest route, all along the lakes on the south-north direction, is mentioned to take a little over 8 hours in the visitor’s guide at the park entrance, but you can make it in less than six hours without any kind of problem if you’re used to hiking trails. Otherwise, we suggest you take your time so that you can be able to come back for the second day and complete the view from the other side. Most of the trails are marked, but if you’re an enthusiast hitchhiker for whom mountain climbing is no mystery, there’s no danger in visiting the park on your own. This would be an excellent plan especially if you’re plannig to visit in high season, so that you won’t get distracted by the other tourists and be able to take as much as possible from this magnificent splendor.
Plus, the boat trip can be an adventure, the kind you don’t really want to experience, if you visit during peak season. There’s no order of entering the boats (since the ticket to the park also covers the boat access) and everyone’s pushing and shoving.
What’s the best choice?
The complete route is longer, it involves all the other 12 lakes and you’ll get to see both waterfalls. There’s water everywhere you turn around in the park and during summer the frogs are very loud, the flowers make the entire place smell unbelievably good and a feel of synesthesia is going to makae your perspective complete. There are no places to stay overnight inside the park and neither are there any restaurants or shops. The scenery’s entirely raw natural, but you’ll have to camp someplace near the National Park. The closest place is 8 km away from the main entrance of the park, but the prices here are reasonable and if it isn’t very cold outside a tent would be enough for any tourist. Plus, the best thing about the camping place is that the scenery’s quite awesome here as well, completing the magnificent natural wonder that you’ve experienced in the park.
If you do plan to visit the park an entire day it’s recommended that you grab some sandwiches before getting here. Also, you can keep some of the food for the evening when you come back, there’s a quite nice picnic area at the main exit of the park where you can enjoy the sunset. The best time to visit it’s during early spring or late autumn here as well, since during the peak season everything’s going to be full with loud tourists and if you’re really eager to see the place too much agglomeration can ruin the magic!
Europcar is clearly your best choice if you’re planning on renting a car for the trip. In case your train/flight gets you to Zagreb, they’ve got an office there. Being a pretty popular international agency with a premises in the Croatian capital, you can also book the car you wish in advance. This way you make sure you’re safe about the means of transport and safe money at the same time (the company applies all kinds of discounts for early bookings). If you’re a fan of traveling through a travel agency Cromotion is the best there is in Croatia. The quality-price report is quite convenient, and the services are really good.
Extra tip: Don’t forget that the food and wine in Croatia are worldwide famous! You can’t leave the country without actually trying them! And the best thing would be either to try some of the fancy restaurants in Zagreb or opt for the picnic area in the national park, they’ve got a little place where you can feast after a long day of mountain trekking.
There’s no right and wrong in this park in terms of what there is to visit and what you should skip and this is because instead of being popular for a singular attraction, the magnificence of the park is given by all these karstic natural lakes and waterfalls. The raw natural beauty’s at every corner, on every path, in every single boat. What we can do is tell you what are the most popular micro attraction on the park, the true landmarks. The lower lakes are separated from the upper lakes by Jezero Kozjak which is, ironically, just anoher lake in the park. The waterfall network deains the large lake in its uppermost waterfall (Milanovački) and the lake with the same name. One of the facts that make it so popular is the color gradient of green to blue. Slapovi Krke river is not necessarily impressive in itself, but together with the trees, shrubs makes an amazing waterscape, all colorful and peppy. Since there are no recipes for visiting this place unless they’re related to time frame and personal taste in traveling, all you can do is plan this trip according to your passions!