Visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park

A trip to the incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park, and a welcome return to Croatia.

There are pictures of the Plitvice lakes all over Pinterest, and rightly so. The largest national park in Croatia is home to a series of gorgeous turquoise lakes, an uncountable number of waterfalls and charmingly winding wooden boardwalks for the 1 million+ tourists who visit every year.

The incredible waterfalls at the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

I’d had a picture of Plitvice on my Beautiful Places board for years before planning a trip, but finally we got to visit.

We arrived at Plitvice on a coach from Zagreb. There are several services each day and the journey takes around 2 hours (after our visit to the lakes we carried on to the coast at Zadar – about another 2 hours). We got off at Entrance 2, and headed to our hotel, the Hotel Plitvice, which is one of only three hotels in the park, all clustered around Entrance 2.

Our balcony at the Hotel Plitvice

We were staying at the Hotel Plitvice for two nights to give us a full day in the park and a relaxing evening before getting the bus to Zadar. We’d arrived too late to make a two-day ticket worthwhile so we enjoyed the views from our balcony and explored the grounds around the hotel.

Walking down a quiet path we came to an abandoned building. For such a beautiful place the Plitvice Lakes has a turbulent history; in 1991 it was the scene of the first armed clash of the Croatian War of Independence, and for much of the war and afterwards the area was heavily mined and the hotels used as barracks.

An abandoned hotel at the Plitvice Lakes National Park

The next morning we got to the ticket office as it opened and took a bus up to the upper lakes and the start of the main trail. The first lake is wide and flat (and full of pesky midges) but it’s not long before the waterfalls start.

One of the first waterfalls we came to

The first waterfalls are small ones which tumble over rocks and under the wooden boardwalks.

Then they get bigger and you really start to feel like you’re in some kind of watery version of heaven.

Am I in heaven?

About halfway through the park, the path stops and you get to see the turquoise water from a boat as you cross the largest lake.

Crossing the largest lake

And when you get off, there’s a little, wooded camp straight out of Moonrise Kingdom. We stopped there for something to eat and to relax in the sunshine.

What we’d seen so far was incredible, but the next part was truly awesome. The water got even brighter, clearer and more turquoise, and the waterfalls more abundant. Everywhere we looked, there was a waterfall.

Waterfalls and beautiful turquoise water everywhere

And then they got really big; at one point water was pouring into a deep hole in a 360 degree torrent. We’d been following signs for the Big Waterfall and thought this must be it, but no, the path carried on…

The water pouring into the ground from every direction
The Big Waterfall at the Plitvice Lakes

From the Big Waterfall we followed the trail signs to the next camp. It took us back the way we’d came, and then up a steep path through the rock.

The path up through the cliff

And at the top, we saw this.

The view from the top of the cliff over the waterfalls
The view from the top of the cliff

I’ve been to some beautiful places, but the Plitvice Lakes just defy description. Any superlative you can imagine just doesn’t do them justice. It was a full sensory experience – warm sun, a gentle breeze, nice food and Croatian beer at our lunch stop and at every turn incredible views and the sound of waterfalls.

Is the Plitvice Lakes on your Wanderlust Wishlist?

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