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There is a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation which states that there was once a Croatian Queen named Barbara who was so beautiful that her beauty consumed everything around her, therefore earning her the nickname the Black Queen.
There was a devastating drought and the local people, animals and plants were in dire need of water, so they called upon the queen to use her magical powers to help them survive. The Queen took pity on them and used her magic to create huge gusts of wind that brought storm clouds and endless torrential rainfall. There was so much rain that the lakes formed and one after the other creating Plitvice Lakes.
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Have you ever visited somewhere that you have been dying to visit for many, many years and have only stared at beautiful pictures, dreaming of what it would be like when you got there?
Have you ever finally made it there and it was a million times better than you could have ever imagined?
Well I just did! And let me tell you, there just aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe how wonderful it was to be here in person finally. It was simply the most wonderful place in the world I have ever visited. It absolutely took my breath away and its hard to find the right words to describe the beauty of this place!
One of the TOP places to visit in Croatia is the well-preserved national park of Plitvice Lakes (Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera). Located in the heart of Croatia, it covers 115 square miles with 16 lakes that flow one into another and dense forest and cascading waterfalls to be explored by wandering the wooden footbridges over waterfalls and along the shores of lakes.
The national park was founded in 1949, making it one of the oldest national parks in Southern Europe and it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. Today, it is one of the top destinations to visit in Croatia and is perfect for any road trip through the Balkans. Leaving this off of your Croatia travel itinerary would be a CRIME!
When traveling to Croatia, everyone asked if I was going here and I finally understood why. It is a one of the best day trips in Croatia that must be had and we made it one of main stops along our 10 Day road trip through Croatia! Stopping at Plitvice Lake National Park was an easy day trip from Ljubljana, Slovenia with just a few hours drive. Everyone and their mothers seemed to have been here at the same time as Hans and I.
Related: The PERFECT 2 Week Balkan Road Trip
How to Get to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Once nearing the park, we decided to enter from Entrance 2, which in my opinion was better than Entrance 1 because you start from the lakes and work your way down to the cascading waterfalls and end at the Big Waterfall near Entrance 1.
Immediately, we had to buy our tickets prior to entering the park and we paid 180 Kuna/27 € per person. There was a long line to wait in order to buy your tickets, but don’t be put off by this as the lines move very quickly. Even though it was the end of July in Croatia, it was relatively cold at Plitvice Lakes, so I highly suggest bringing a light jacket! I unfortunately didn’t pack one!
Afterwards, we just followed the other tourists and made our way down to where electric boats were waiting to take tourists across the lake from P1 to P2. This boat ride was only about 1-2 minutes long.
From there you have the option of walking around the waterfalls and small lakes in this area called “Stubica” or continuing on to the next boat from P2 to take you all the way across the lake “Jezero Kozjack” to P3. I suggest walking around P2 though before getting on the boat to P3 and work your way down from the larger lakes to the smaller ones.
We decided to walk around P2 for a while, checking out all the different little waterfalls and lakes in this area. It was a little nerve-wrecking to walk along the wooden pathways over and across lakes and waterfalls and up along the sides of the mountains, looking over the falls. It was absolute serenity here with butterflies fluttering hither and tither and beautiful black and blue dragonflies buzzing around.
Immediately though, you are just blown away by the clearness of the water. You can see all the way to the bottom and see old trees laying the bottom of the lake. You can see endless amounts of fish swimming against the currents.
Further back than we walked up is a lake called Prošćansko Jezero (Gypsy’s Lake), which is said to have been the first lake to be created here. Legend has it that it was created by the Black Queen and that a gypsy drowned here while fishing.
After walking around this part of the lakes for about an hour we continued on and went back down to the docks to wait for a boat to take us across the lake to P3. Before we knew it though, we were swarmed by hundreds of other tourists all standing on this small dock. Luckily, they had a boat coming every 10-15 minutes.
Croatia is currently being advertised as “the new-must-see” place to visit in Europe. I knew it would be crowded because it was the first week of summer holiday, but never in my life had I thought it would be soooo crowded! There were just people everywhere and children running around on these small wooden pathways.
I was so overwhelmed by the amount of people I decided to entertain myself with the fish and birds in the water. Never in my life have I seen such clear water and so many fish swarming around hoping to be fed. Even the bird was hungry and kept trying to peck at the fish.
Finally, the boat came to take us across the lake to P3. The boat ride across the lake took about 15-20 minutes and it was so enjoyable to sit back and relax and enjoy the unspoiled views. There are no houses or shops along the lake. It’s just pure nature for miles.
Once arriving here, you are greeted with a large picnic area where you can stop and enjoy your own picnic or buy something from one of the stands. But be prepared to wait in some long lines! I highly suggest bringing your own lunch and snacks.
From here you continue walking and make your way around, up and over the different lakes in this part. This is the part that is truly the most beautiful and offers the most picture perfect pictures! Every shot came out so great! I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. And I couldn’t stop saying “I’ve never in my life seen water so blue!” It was so crystal clear you could see forever into the lakes. It seemed so unreal and I had to keep checking myself that I was really here. I had dreamed for so long about visiting this place, I almost didn’t believe I had finally made it here!
The whole time I just kept thinking to myself, this is what it must be like to visit Greece or somewhere tropical. I have never seen such endless gorgeous, bright baby blue-turquoise green water before. I just couldn’t stop staring at it!
Finally, we made it to the Big Waterfall which is near Entrance 1. To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with it as compared to the endless crystal clear lakes we had just walked over. But once there, there were plenty of people taking pictures in front of the Big Waterfall and feeling the mist from the cascading waters.
From here, we hiked up the trail heading back to Entrance 1 where we could catch a shuttle bus back to Entrance 2. I highly suggest this because walking back to Entrance 2 would take an eternity with the crowds coming in the opposite direction as well as walking slowly on the wooden pathways. Plus, walking up the hill to Entrance 1 offers some pretty amazing views over Lake Milanovac and Gavanovac.
Overall, walking the entire park took us about 4 1/2 hours. We went pretty quickly though it as it was pretty cold and without a jacket we were freezing. But who would have expected that while in Croatia and the weather report says 90*F+ for the entire week!?
Things to know before going to Plitvice Lakes!!!
- The summer traffic driving into Croatia is HORRENDOUS! Most of the traffic heads towards Croatia via Zagreb. I highly suggest NOT doing this! Even though Google Maps will tell you it is faster, it does not include the traffic!
- I suggest taking the winding background through small villages. One, less traffic and two its pretty interesting to see small villages practically left abandoned and destroyed from the Croat-Bosniak War. BUT, stick to the paved roads and don’t stop unless you absolutely need to. While I am sure it is relatively safe in Croatia, it is just better to stick to paved roads because there are still possibilities of finding landmines or things left over from the war. (Not to frighten you or anything!) We had no problems and found it very interesting!
- So, we came from the direction of Ljubljana, Slovenia and took the back roads from the A2 to the 216/917/218 to the E71/A1 to the 41 before finally reaching Plitvice Lakes.
- Once crossing the Slovenian/Croatian border at Jurovski Brod, you will pay 16 Kuna/2,13€ for the toll road.
- MAKE SURE TO HAVE PLENTY OF GAS PRIOR TO HEADING TOWARDS THE PARK as there are not very many gas stations in this part of Croatia. (We nearly ran out but thankfully there was one gas station not far from the park)
- Start from Entrance 2 into Plitvice Lakes as it has you start from the upper lakes and work you down to the lower lakes.
- Parking costs 7 Kuna/5 € per hour for a car. – It took us almost 5 hours to see half of the upper lakes and all of the lower lakes costing us 35 Kuna for the entire afternoon.
- Prices vary depending on when you visit the parks, but if you visit during peak season in July/August you will pay 180 Kuna/ ~23 € per person which includes the boats and shuttle buses! Children will be 80 Kuna in July/August. For more information of prices click here.
Tips for visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park!!!
- Bring a light jacket even if it is the middle of summer!
- Bring plenty of water and snacks to enjoy throughout your walk/hike in the park!
- Try to avoid visiting the park in July/August as you will pay more for entry into the park as well as have hordes of tourists which slightly kills the beauty of the park.
- The wooden pathways are not very easy to maneuver around on, therefore, strollers are not recommended. I did see a few people pushing strollers around, but I have to be honest, it slowed down the flow of traffic and made it difficult for the rest of the tourists as the wooden pathways are not very wide or stable!
- Tennis shoes are the best for walking around the park as you will be doing a lot of hiking and the wooden planks start to hurt after a while!
If you’re looking to visit Croatia this summer, I highly suggest buying any of the following travel guides which I have personally used to help you navigate through this beautiful country! These are my travel bibles!
Croatia Travel Inspiration:
and a detour side trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina!