Our first stop while in Croatia was the Plitvice National Park, we had such a great four days here and have received so many messages from our Instagram followers asking for recommendations, that we though we would put together a little blog answering all of your questions, and then some :)
How is the best way to reach Plitvice National Park?
There are no trains or planes that reach the park, so the easiest way would be either a bus from Zagreb or Split. We reached the park from Split which took us around 4 hours, however depending on the company / route that you book, the trip could take you up to 6 hours. All bookings can be made online at getbybus.com, just make sure you check the itinerary before purchasing the ticket as the trip should not take you longer than 4 hours. Also remember to print your ticket! We’re used to just being able to show our e-tickets upon arrival, however Croatia buses are a little more traditional and will require the print out ticket .. we’ve seen them not allow passengers on the bus for not doing so!
Alternatively, we met a few travellers who had hired a car to drive up here, so this could be another alternative too. But cost wise, our ticket was no more than around $30 AUD each one-way, and the buses do run multiple times per day so we found this the easiest method of transportation when backpacking.
NB: make sure you carry a few coins with you when getting on the bus, as it’s in the driver’s discretion as to whether they charge you extra at the time of boarding for storing your big bags underneath! They will not allow you to bring them on the bus, and will more than likely charge you a few dollars - we had them charge us on the way back, but not on the way there - however it was in our terms and conditions when purchasing the ticket so it was all above board.
Where should I stay?
We organised our accomodation months in advance for this part of the trip, as we knew that we were travelling through Europe during high peak season. For us, the most cost efficient accomodation that we sourced was a Hostel called Falling Lakes Hostel - we would highly recommend this wonderful place to anyone of any age or gender, and absolutely fell in love with it here! After travelling for almost 12 months, we can honestly say that this was the BEST hostel we had ever stayed at - the only place that’s ever scored a full 10/10 rating from us on hostelworld, we couldn’t fault it in the slightest!
Situated only 10 minutes away from the national park, Falling Lakes hostel was located in the quaint town of Korenica - the town has everything that you need including a few hotels / pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, post office etc, and we found the accommodation here to be much cheaper than directly inside of the national park. We also found that if you wish to stay directly inside of the NP, you have to have a valid park pass for each day that you are staying there - which can become quite costly!
Falling Lakes had the most spacious dorm rooms we have ever stayed in, the furnishings were so quirky and like brand-new, the bathrooms were always super clean, there was a kitchen so that we could cook our meals, however they also provided meals for a small fee of $8 AUD per night, there was a garden area, balcony’s from the dorms, lots of books and board games, and best of all - super friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you use your time there as effectively as possible!
Falling lakes also organise a shuttle bus for less than $2 AUD return which takes you to/from the national park right from the front door of the hostel, so getting there is also made super easy.
How many days should I stay near the park?
If you really want to soak up the area and all of the activities that are on offer around here, we would recommend staying for at least 4 days! So many people that we met at our hostel were only staying for 1-2 days, and they were really disappointed that they hadn’t booked a longer stay.. and we’re about to tell you why below!
What recommendations would you have when visiting the Plitvice Lakes NP?
GET THERE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE! The hostel we stayed at offered a first shuttle bus at 8am, so we arrived by 8.10am and then spent about 10 minutes waiting in line to purchase our tickets. If you plan on spending the next day exploring the park also, then make sure you buy a 2 day pass on your first day, as it’s cheaper to do this than return the next day and buy another full day park pass. We honestly were quite content with the full 1 day pass to just generally explore all areas of the national park casually, however if you are interested in doing some further hiking in the national park, then there are a couple that you can do but will require you to come back on another day as they are quite lengthy.
As we mentioned above, the earlier you can arrive there the better. The park packs-out REALLY quickly, and we found that by 9.30am it was impossible to take a photo without a million people running into you, or standing in the way of your photograph. So make sure you get lots of happy snaps the minute you walk in (there are beautiful lakes and waterfalls everywhere so you can’t go wrong!).
Bring your own lunch / drinks - just like most tourist-filled spots in Europe, it’s hard to find cheap food and drink options and you will certainly end up paying double the price for something that you could have purchased from the supermarket around the corner of your Hostel before you left. We made sandwiches and brought along boiled eggs, as well as lots of water! We then didn’t feel as guilty about treating ourselves to an overpriced beer at the end of the day :)
Wear comfortable shoes - the park is split into two sections, and you can choose to get from section 1 and 2 via free shuttle bus or ferry (both included with the price of your entry ticket, but beware, the ferry options always will have a long line-up from P3 - P2), or alternatively you can walk. If you decide to walk around the entire park, in total you are looking at around a 20km day of walking. While the trails can be walked by all ages / levels of fitness, there are some areas where you are walking up and down lots of stairs
Be patient - if you visit during the high season, be prepared to be surrounded by thousands of other people in the park. So allow yourself a full day of exploring, because walking takes triple as long when you are stuck behind crowds of millions :P
Hidden de-tour / trail - this viewpoint trail was a recommendation that was given to us by the staff at the hostel, and it was probably our favourite part of our day in the park, and a place where we were able to escape the crowds for a little white, sit back, enjoy the views from above, and get some awesome photographs! We will try our best to explain how to reach this spot.. So when you are approaching the famous large waterfalls, in the Entrance 1 part of the park, you will be walking towards them and they will be on the right. Pay attention as you walk towards them and you will see that there are a set of stone steps that go up on your left hand side, instead of continuing straight and down towards the waterfall lookout. Take these stone steps on your left, and you will find yourself weaving up quite high for around 5 minutes, walking under a cave, and then continuing around on the right along a dirt path. Follow this dirt path for a while longer, and even though you feel as though you are walking away from the waterfalls, we promise you will come back around and see them again soon enough! After following this trail for around another 5-10 minutes and continuing to climb slightly uphill, you will come out to a bit more of a clearing after passing an old wooden shelter. On the right you will still a stone look-out, here you will have a beautiful view of the waterfalls, more than likely all to yourself! After you’ve taken a few photographs here, continue along the trail until you hit a road. On this road you will see houses and accommodation signs. Turn right onto this road, and continue to walk along it until you cross a little bridge, as soon as you cross this bridge, you will see directly on your right a path that will take you back into the bushes, follow this path for another few minutes until you reach another look-out. This is the hidden-look out spot where you have incredible views of the national park below, including the blue lakes and more waterfalls. This is a must-see! And simply go back the way you came to return back to the main park area.
What is there to do in the area other than visit the National Park?
LOADS! The National Park is certainly the main attraction in this area, but there is still so many other beautiful things to do and see so close by! We spent a full day exploring the park, and then the day after this we spent a full day out on the Mreznica river with Raftrek Tours, we would almost say that this kayaking experience day was more fun for us than exploring the National Park! We have a whole separate blog post about it that can be found by clicking here - but basically we spent the whole day kayaking down rivers, rafting down waterfalls, and jumping off of cliffs and waterfalls and swimming in the beautiful waters below! This is truly a must-do activity for anyone who is in the region, and less than an hour drive from the National Park!
Mrsinj Trek: Another afternoon we spent hiking up a mountain which was nearby the hostel - with the trail starting just around the corner from our accommodation! We packed a picnic and went up here late afternoon and had the opportunity to sit and watch the gorgeous sunset from more than 1,200 metres above sea level! This hike provided us with some of the most gorgeous views we have seen while staying in Croatia.
Military Base Trek: The third all-day activity that one can do is the 20km round-trip hike from the Falling Lakes Hostel (however i’m sure you would be able to access it from other areas too, and we were told you could also potentially drive up here if you are short for time), to the Bosnian border! You will reach over 1,600 metres in elevation and be rewarded with wonderful views and awesome rocks to climb on for some awesome photograph opportunities!
Zip lining: We didn’t do this half-day activity ourselves, but very close to the NP you can find Europe’s largest zip line, at almost 2km’s long!
So in short, for anyone planning on coming to the Plitvice National Park, please please do yourself a favour and book yourself a few days/nights in this region because there is truly so much beauty to soak up and enjoy while you’re here!
Any other questions feel free to send us an email at WeLiveWeExplore@outlook.com or via the contact button on our website :)