In Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-see destination we were fortunate to see in the off-season of autumn. Plitvice’s stunning beauty brought us there, and we had an unforgettable experience. It was pure eye-candy to see so many waterfalls in one place. Here are some things to know before going and a short video of our experience in the park.
Why visit Plitvice Lakes National Park?
The primary reasons to visit Plitvice are the 16 turquoise lakes combined by streams and stunning waterfalls. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to wildlife, and various flora and fauna. We love the beauty of this magical place.
Our Trip to Plitvice Lakes
On our first pass through Croatia, we missed Plitvice Lakes National Park. We were trying to time our visit through the country to finish before we had a house sit in Montenegro. Fortunately, our route sent us back up to Croatia on our way to Switzerland, allowing us to visit this park. When we headed to Plitvice Lakes in December, we were hoping to see snow and icy lakes, and it excited us when there was some at the entrance. We were disappointed to find little snow on the lakes themselves.
We walked on wooden pathways leading to some of the most dramatic waterfalls we have seen. While in the park we found boardwalks that literally lead right up the falls! Water was spraying our shoes through the steps. When we climbed high above the falls, we had some killer views of the paths and lakes below. We even found cute little ice snowmen on a path. Holee had to take a selfie with it.
Our Favorite Viewpoints
The park has two kinds of paths. There are paths by the lakes and waterfalls, and also ones high above for stunning views of the park. We recommend going to both to get a different perspective on the grandeur of this place. There are several viewpoints we enjoyed and some are easy to miss. Here are some of our favorites.
Viewpoint near the gate at entrance 1
Upon entering the park, the first viewpoint would be hard to miss as it is near the gate.
After crossing over the Kaluderovac Lake on a wooden path, you turn right and get to Veliki Slap. This one is easy to miss as you want to keep progressing left towards all of the other waterfalls. See map number 23 below for the location. This is one of the top photo spots in the park. Say cheese!
Boardwalk Junction View
Between entrance 1 and bus stop ST1, there is a magnificent view down onto the boardwalks around the lake. It was hard to leave this spot.
Going in Late Autumn
Late autumn is the off-season for this park. The good news is we had the possibility of getting snow, which creates an incredible contrast with the turquoise blue waters. There are far fewer people around this time of year as well, allowing us to explore the park without hoards of tourists. The upper lakes and the caves were closed unfortunately, and that makes us want to go back again. We love visiting national parks in the winter and arrived as close as we could.
Video of our Journey
In our video, we show some of our drive to the lakes and all the beautiful spots we explored. The highlights include our boat ride and our juicy views from high above the lakes. The scenery on the water, the pathways, and even the drive there are stunning. If you like the video, please subscribe to our channel on YouTube for more updates from our 9-month adventure around the world.
Things to know about Plitvice Lakes
- In late autumn, one day may be enough to see the park due to limited access. However, there is a two-day ticket available which is discounted below the cost of two single-day tickets if you want to take your time exploring the park.
- Autumn is a good time to see the park crowd-free. We loved walking these empty pathways.
- There are toilets on-site and you do not have to pay for them.
- Benches are available throughout the park so you can relax while enjoying the waterfalls. Not all are as elaborate as this one.
- Prices are based on the time of day you arrive, seasonality, and age. Check the official website for the current prices. The price is drastically lower in the off-season.
- Since the park is huge, you will take a boat and a shuttle to get around the major sections of the park. These will only take you one way and are included in the price of admission.
- Check the weather before you go. Unlike the coast of Croatia, the weather can be more unpredictable with rain and snow in the off-season.
- Have a good camera ready to capture the beauty of the park.
- Bring your own food to save time and avoid lengthy lines at the dining areas. We were starved with only one place open this time of year.
- Bring a garbage bag to pack out your trash as bins are not easily found within the park.
- These are the route options for the park so you can customize your experience.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes is easy by car or bus. We rented a car and drove in from Zadar and it took about an hour and a half. The drive there has mostly empty, well-paved roads with beautiful scenery. The video shows many of the roads on the drive in from Zadar. Rental cars are pretty cheap here, so it ends up being a good deal if you have more than one person. Otherwise, there are options by bus.
Here are the driving distances and times from popular locations in Croatia, ordered by drive times. You can find rental cars for as little as €7 or $8 USD per day.
- Zadar: 128 km, 1 hour 40 minutes
- Zagreb: 135 km, 2 hours
- Split: 250 km, 3 hours or 2 hours 30 minutes w/ tolls
- Pula: 240 km, 3 hours 30 minutes
- Dubrovnik: 450 km, 5 hours with border crossing and tolls
Going by bus is simple, and you can buy tickets online or at the bus terminals. The cost is around €13 or $15 USD per person. Some popular buses are Flixbus and Croatia Bus which we used all over the country.
We loved visiting this park in December and capturing all the beauty it holds. On our next trip, we plan to visit in September or June, which are shoulder seasons with good weather and lush greenery. The upper lakes will be open for us too, so we will try to find lodging near the park to avoid the longer drives from Zagreb or Zadar.
We recommend you go in June or September to get a balance of pleasant weather and lower crowd sizes. We likely saw this place at its worst and it was still amazing. We can’t wait to see it again when it is green. This place is beautiful at any time of the year, and each season has its own uniqueness.
What national park do you want to visit in autumn?
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My name is Aaron, I am an adventurer who knows no bounds and is thankfully no longer tied to a desk job. My passion is finding the human connection with others who differ from me, understanding their culture, and learning various viewpoints on the world. I want to break down the boundaries of fear and inspire people to travel more. My passions are travel, video, anime, and culture.
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