Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, is a park that has been protected since the forties and is described by some as the "new Garden of Eden." It's home to a variety of flora and fauna, most renowned for its gorgeous waterfalls and breathtaking blue lakes (however, swimming is strictly forbidden). People (and dogs) of all ages visit the park each year. While the park is open every day throughout the year, the busiest season includes the months of July and August (in which more people visit and entrance prices are highest; if you are a student, bring your student ID and receive a discount any time of the year!).
The park is massive, and during the more popular seasons there are "trains" available to take you between three "stations" (you can check their website for this information along with a variety of other information). The boats are also limited to certain times of year; be warned that you can only take the panoramic boat once (you cannot take the boat back to where you originally got on).
For getting around the park on foot, there are a variety of beautiful footpaths from which to choose; some contain warnings (when the path is close to a water source and may be slippery); on your ticket you will have a map that shows where these paths go (you can also find large maps posted near the entrances of the park or purchase a larger map from the park, which isn't any better than the map on your ticket). You can also book private tours (for a fee) that take you around the park.
It's best to arrive at the park at opening (7 a.m.), as you will beat the large crowds which tend to arrive at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m./noon. Also, don't forget to bring a water bottle as the places where you can purchase food or drinks (or access drinking water) are somewhat scarce. When food and drinks are available, the prices are higher than what you would find elsewhere in Croatia. You can pack a picnic if you like, and stop along the way near one of the areas they have designated stops with picnic tables, bathrooms, and food shops. These areas are all kept very clean throughout the day.
Getting to the parks is very simple (you can choose to arrive by car or by a public bus that runs through a variety of other Croatian cities (including Zagreb and Split), which stops at both entrances of the park). There are a variety of parking lots around the perimeter of the park (fees are per hour or day). If you arrive by bus, by entrance two (adjacent to the parking lot by entrance two), there is a luggage storage building that you can use for free (they notify you that you are storing your belongings at your own risk, but the building is near the parking attendants and is locked when no one is leaving or retrieving their belongings; we did not have any issues with storing our luggage here for the day).
If you are taking the public bus from the park to another city, the bus companies generally suggest that you board at entrance one when going toward the direction of Split due to the fact that seats may be limited and you may have to stand or sit in the aisle. This suggestion is probably most applicable to busy times in July and August and you may have luck boarding at the other entrance at less-busy times with no problem.
In terms of accommodation, the closest to the park you will get are hotels located along the perimeter of the park. However, there are a couple of Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia hostels near the park (within a fifteen-minute drive; look for extras -- such as a free ride to the park in the morning -- provided by your Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia hostel. If you are going during high season (July-August), make sure to book a month or more in advance as Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia hostels may fill up quickly.
Plitvice National Park is a destination not to be missed! It is truly a gorgeous environment that provides amazing views at every turn (and preserves the earth). It is truly a seemingly unbelievable, magical place for nature lovers and travelers alike.
Hi, I'm Kari,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Plitvice Lakes National Park hostels. Welcome.