Just under 90 miles from Zagreb (and the Zagreb airport) the Plitvice Lakes await teeming with myriad waterfalls, lush green mosses and foliage, boardwalks weaving through the splendor, and small tour boats navigating visitors among the crystal-clear, yet spectrally-hued waters into the depths of Southeast Europe's oldest national park. Though many flock to Croatia for the sprawling beaches and ocean fun, Plitvice is one of the country's inland gems not to be missed.
The largest in Croatia at 73,350 acres of protected area, Plitvice Lakes National Park connects the Croatian inland with its Adriatic coastal region. In 1979, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register--one of the first natural sites worldwide to garner that recognition--and continues to receive more than 1.2 million visitors every year.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is open year-round, with varying seasonal activities and points of interest for families, couples, and individuals of all ages.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Highlights
- Hiking. With an exquisite collection of 16 emerald green and opal blue travertine lakes, over 90 waterfalls, and numerous caves throughout, be sure to wear your boots made for walkin' to the Plitvice Lakes. In addition to solo excursions on its installed boardwalks and laid trails, the park offers many guided hikes as well. Though predominantly a summer excursion the park remains open, and has selected hiking tours, all year long. The activity is a bit more difficult when the trails are blanketed in snow, but fewer crowds in the winter make the tours more personal and interactive.
- Spring Flowers. Springtime in Plitvice may still drape visitors in mild winter temperatures, but the beautiful colors of 1,267 species of awakening blooms and greenery make it a showstopping time for walking tours and treks. Forests are predominantly dinaric beech and fir, and wildflowers, such as Crocuses and Cornelian Cherries, abound. Just be sure to layer up and prepare yourself for April (and March and May and June) showers. Most of the park's 62+ inches of average annual rain falls in the spring.
- Winter Sports. Cold winters that drop down into the 20s and 30s F make for an especially picturesque snow activity scene in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. About a mile from the park entrance, in the Plitvice local community of Mukinje, lies a mini resort offering skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and sledding, plus instruction, equipment rental, a cafeteria, and a lounge. The mountain slope caters largely to beginners and amateurs--perfect for families--at 2,300 feet high and 1,540 feet long.
- On-Site Accommodations. The park houses four two- and three-star hotels, situated in its central tourist zone of Velika Poljana. It also has two campgrounds, one of which (Korana) boasts 42 bungalows, as well as 550 camping units over its 86 acres.
Best Time to Go to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Summers in the park tend to be sunny, averaging around 75 degrees F, though temperatures can drop into the high 40s in the evening. Spring blooms provide colorful aesthetics, but summer prevails as peak tourist season due to moody spring temperatures and the potential for heavy rains. Fall can be similarly precarious: November reigns as the most somber month at the lakes due to a prevalence of clouds and fog.
Families eager to introduce their children to skiing or snowboarding will obviously want to hit the Plitvice Lakes National Park during the winter months. The ski resort seems to be opening later and later every year anymore--a good snow base now takes until mid-December to accumulate.
Plitvice Lakes National Park FAQs
Q: Can I swim in the Plitvice Lakes?
A: Sorry, but nope. Swimming in the lakes is verboten. Even if you accidentally fall in or claim a religious baptism you will be ejected. From the entire country of Croatia. Well I don't know about that last part, but seriously, if you want to go for a swim, head a few miles north to the Korana River.
Q: Mmm, how do those fishies that float so peacefully and nearly unmoving in the lakes taste?
A: Probably like chicken, but you're not going to find out since fishing isn't allowed either. That, combined with their lack of predators, is why the fish look so serene and delectable. If you're really hungry, check out some of the traditional local dishes, such as masnica--shortbread filled with onion, cheese, smoked ham, or sweet cheese and raisins--and boiled corn mush.
Q: Do you really know what you're talking about, or are you just making stuff up?
A: What is knowledge? What is Truth? Are they not merely stories devised and passed down through time, perpetually in flux, changing with the needs of those who hear them? Oh fine, if you want more, or more specific, details, it would probably be best to contact the Plitvice Lakes National Park directly.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Entrance Fees: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4...
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Sightseeing Routes: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article...
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Walking Tours: http://www.huckfinncroatia.com/activities/walking-plitvice-lakes.php
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Spring Flowers: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=...
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Accommodations: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=...
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Ski Center: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=72&I...
- Contact the Plitvice Lakes National Park: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=55&...