1. Timing Is Everything
Plitvice National Park receives over 1 million visitors each year, and in peak season, you can easily find yourself stranded along the narrow walkways in between swarms of people who seem to be hardly moving. By 9am, the crowds start to come in and you can find yourself waiting over an hour at the entry gate and even the same time for internal transportation.
If you are like me and you just detest large groups of tourists sweating over each other like a bunch of dudes piling on top of a Sasha Grey doll, you want to get there EARLY. Now there are two ways to interpret this – the first is,
i) reach there a little before the opening time of 7am so that you can be in line for the ticket (there are two entrances, I will talk about this later), or you can enter if you already have a ticket from the day before. At 7am, even in peak season, you won’t find yourself waiting for more than 15 minutes in the queue. Okay well make that 6.45.
ii) though the park technically opens at 7, a main trail in the park goes right by the road and it’s actually possible to just walk through the trees and Voila, you’re right there in the park. Without a ticket, it’s technically not allowed. Oh who am I kidding even with a ticket it’s not allowed as fuck. But if you’re there super early, you could do this. But take it at your own risk – I’m not sure what happens if any park employees find you there!
Once you’re inside it will take you at least 3-4 hours to explore the main parts of the park and walk along the main trails. The next bullet point talks about how to make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t end up stuck halfway through at 10am with a hoard of tourists breathing down your armpit.
2. Know The Route
Before you go to the park, it is super helpful to actually know the route. If you’re not a chiller like me and don’t have the luxury of spending a few days in the area, you want to maximize the little time that you have there.
So there are two main entrances to the park – E1 and E2. At E1 you will enter at the ‘lower lakes’ where there is a short walk to the largest waterfall Veliki Slap, and pleasant walkways through the bottom of the lakes. When you enter at the gate, if you go up towards the bus stop instead of going down towards the lakes you’ll also find some nice views from the top.
At E2 you will enter at the ‘upper lakes’ and this area contains the majority of the waterfalls. From the bus station 3, (looking towards the lower lakes) you can either go on the left side of the lakes, which the best way and all the waterfalls are there; or you can go from the right to reach boat station P2 (this route is a bit more boring)
Personally, I started really early at E1 because Veliki Slap starts to get insane crowd even by 8.30am so I whizzed past it and went straight for the upper lakes. It’s not such a long walk – and if you’re there early, you can walk to the bus station and get a direct internal bus to station 3 and walk back down. Or you can get a boat from boat deck P3 towards the upper lakes.
Everything is shown on the map below:
Yes that’s right, Bring Your Own Bottle. As I spent a few hours walking around the park, I didn’t even see once a water fountain or tap or anything – and all the water sold is in plastic bottles and only near the main boat deck or entrances.
I mean when you look at how clear the lake water is, it’s hard NOT to drink it. It’s legitimately filling, and I filled my own water bottle about four times in the mini cascades of water coming from the lakes. The water is all pure and comes from the mountains.
So don’t purchase any extra plastic bottles. Use an old one or better yet just buy yourself a metal or glass bottle you can refill whenever you want. I mean, it’s Europe. Trust me. It’s so clean you’ll probably start shining light beams out your ears.
And after I wrote all this I just realized you CAN also bring your own water from home (duh), but that’s boring.
4. Vibrating Walkways
So around and inside the lakes themselves, you have to walk on these little wooden walkways. And if you’re trying to take a long exposure of a waterfall, even just with your hand and not your tripod – it’s a bloody nightmare, if there are a bunch of people vibrating the floor. This is another reason that you have to come here early if you want to take pictures because it’s kind of hard to otherwise.
5. Lack Of Food Choice
If you’re a vegetarian and you intend to spend the whole day in the park AND not starve, you should think twice. There are a few restaurant/cafes inside and outside the park entrance, but they mostly sell burgers and sandwiches. Like, that’s literally it. Not even like a decent panini, just really, really, unhealthy crap. If you like that shit then it’s cool, but if you’re a vegetarian or you prefer healthy food you’re not going to find it floats your boat even remotely.
A better option would be to bring your own food with you, like some fruit or cereal bars that you can eat whilst you’re inside the park. Since the park is so big, you might not even find food easily even if you want that sort of thing. Be prepared for both lunch and breakfast, because there’s really not much of a choice here.
6. Toilets Are Sparse
Again, the same situation with toilets – you could be walking for an hour or two and still not find a toilet! I literally saw the toilet sign only once. Every time I took a piss, I went somewhere into the trees, if they were available. Otherwise I had to hold it and wait for the foresty patches.
If you ask me, it’s totally fine to urinate next to a friendly tree or a patch of earth. But if you are doing this, please don’t use a tissue and leave your litter around. I mean it’s a National Park after all, and even if not it’s still Mother Earth. Another reason why you need a water bottle – clean yourself the ecofriendly way.
7. Little Place To Sit
I’m not going to lie, I was actually exhausted after walking around here. And when I’m hiking normally in the mountains, I take time to sit and absorb the scenery and chill for a while. In Plitvice, if you are around the main walkways which make up the majority of it, you’re not going to find much of a place to sit and chill.
At certain points I just threw my bag and tripod and took up half the walkway, to eat a pack of biscuits in some sort of peace. When you go behind the large waterfall in the upper lakes and walk through the forest it’s a bit easier to find places to sit. In some places they have also put some benches. But if this would trip you out, then make sure you’re not coming with a pile of luggage.
8. There Are Hiking Trails
Just as I was exiting towards the bus station 3, I saw this sign on the right showing the direction towards some hiking trails. There is actually a lot more to explore in this park than the main routes which you can see on the map. The problem is that not everything is properly marked and you might get lost. But that’s still heaps of fun. So if you have time, check out some of these lesser explored areas in the national park which are definitely less swarmed with tourists.
9. Drones Are Illegal
A number of people told me that flying a drone is not allowed in Plitvice. Okay, so there are a number of viewpoints where you can view the park like you’d view it from a drone camera. And people still fly drones inside the park, but if you are going to do that then make sure you know the consequences. If the park staff catch you flying, you can even have your drone smashed into pieces and glued inside the walls of your butthole. Okay that’s a lie, but you WILL be fined.
Having said that, there is actually hardly any park staff on the trails themselves. You’ll see them mostly at the main boat and bus points. If you are flying from outside the park super early in the morning, the likelihood of someone catching you is honestly quite low. Having said that, rules are there for a reason, and if you’re in the middle of a bunch of tourists on a tiny walkway, trying to fly a drone is probably the most stupid thing you can do.
10. Basic Stuff
So all of the above things are things that you will only know if you actually go there. The rest of it, you can easily find on the internet. How much it costs; where to stay. Having said that – I’ll still share some information here. The ticket costs 250 Kunas for one day and 400 Kunas for a two-day pass. I got the latter.
There are a number of campsites and hotels around the park within driving distance. I stayed in Campsite Korona which is a 12-minute drive from Entrance 1. No I can’t drive and haven’t bothered to get a license in my 3 years of travelling alone. But I did find it fairly easy to hitchhike to and from the park which was all that I even needed. Camping was the cheapest option at only 24 Kunas for pitching a tent (you have to pay extra for tax, food, and person charges).
That’s all, folks. If you have any questions drop me an email using the contact form up above. And the YouTube video from this little trip I made will be up soon! Make sure you follow me on both Instagram (@wanderingkamya) and YouTube (Wandering Kamya). Thank you for reading.