Lower Lakes path to the tallest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park
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2 days Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia: Ultimate Travel Guide

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When planning your time in Croatia, spending at least 2 days in Plitvice Lakes National Park is highly recommended! Whether you’re basing yourself out of Zagreb, Zadar, or Split a day or two in Plitvice Lakes is worth the effort. Visiting in early May the weather was perfect. Not too warm and not too cool. Let’s dive into the specific details so you can prepare to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park in 2 days!

About Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the largest National Park in Croatia. It spans over 30,000 hectares (just over 74,000 acres.) The lakes are interconnected with several different waterfalls. There are 16 terraced lakes that waterfalls flow from. The lakes are characterized by the upper lakes section and lower lakes section. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park is not only a National Park but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to the ecological characteristics of the park and its scientific importance is what determined the site to be included as a UNESCO site.

When visiting Plitvice Lakes, there are wooden walkways and hiking trails that go around and across the lakes throughout the park. Electric boats link the 12 upper and 4 lower lakes of the park. Unlike other Croatia lakes, Plitvice has a gorgeous blue-green hue to the water.  

Waterfalls when in Plitvice Lakes National park for 2 days upper waterfalls

Plitvice Lakes Location

Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in the lower elevations of the Dinaric Alps in the central part of the country along the Croatian Dalmatian coast. The closest cities to Plitvice Lakes National Park are Zadar and Zagreb.

How to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park

The easiest way to get to Plitvice Lakes for 2 days of exploring is to drive. Plitvice Lakes it close to halfway between Zagreb and Zadar. (Although a little bit closer to Zadar.) If you aren’t planning on renting a car, taking a day trip from Zagreb, Zadar or Split is an option.

Once at Plitvice Lakes, you need to determine if you’re going to park entrance 1 or park entrance 2. Depending on where you’re staying and what paths you’d like to take will help determine which entrance is the best for you. (We were near entrance 2 at Hotel Jezero.) More details on that later!

You can also take a bus to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar. The bus from Zagreb leaves from the main bus station and takes about 2 ½ hours to get to the park. 

Day trips to Plitvice Lakes

During your travels in Croatia, if you don’t rent a car you can also visit Plitvice Lakes by taking a day trip or day tour. You won’t be able to see the whole park, so a 2 day itinerary in Plitvice Lakes allows you to see a vast majority of the park. 

There are many options for Plitvice Lakes tours. Day tours or trips leave from Zagreb, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik

Day trips from Zagreb 

Below are full-day tours to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb.

Day trips from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes

Below are full-day tours to Plitvice Lakes from the coastal town of Zadar.

Day tours from Split to Plitvice Lakes

Below are full-day tours to Plitvice Lakes from Split.

When to go

Plitvice Lakes National Park is open year-round. Plitvice Lakes winter is a unique time of year to visit with the snow. Peak season (and the time of year that will have more people) is typically from June to September. Visiting in late April to early May in 2023 was a great time of year.

While not all of the trees and foliage were in full bloom in early May, the water was stunning and the weather was perfect. 

Plitvice Lakes opening hours differ by the time of year. Be sure to double-check the hours of operation before leaving for the park. During peak season the park opens at 7 AM but in other parts of the year, it doesn’t open until 8 AM or 9 AM. During colder parts of the year, the convenience or hospitality facilities are closed. The only hotel that is open year-round (that is affiliated with the national park) is Hotel Jezero.

Where to stay

If you’re driving from Zagreb or Zadar staying close to the National Park is the best logistically.

Hotel Jezero is the most conveniently located hotel to entrance two of Plitvice Lakes. It’s a short 300m walk from the hotel to the entrance. Not only is the location convenient, there are many onsite amenities offered at the hotel. 

From the onsite bar, buffet,  ala carte restaurants, National Park gift shop, spa, wellness center, and onsite free parking. For the high season, note that this hotel doesn’t have air conditioning/central air. 

Pro Tip: Be wary of the “attic room” option. This is the cheapest room option but the ceiling is slanted and the shower is really difficult. (I could barely use the shower well and it was almost impossible for my over 6-foot-tall husband.) If you stay here, be sure to select a standard room! Overall it was fine as we stayed just for one night. 

Lakeside Hotel Plitvice is located 6 miles from entrance one of Plitvice Lakes National Park. This four-star hotel, although farther from the park has air conditioning and is a great place to relax after exploring the park. 

For other accommodations close to Plitvice Lakes, there are many options on booking.com!

What to pack for Plitvice Lakes

When visiting Plitvice Lakes for two days you’ll want to ensure you have the following things with you:

  • Ample water (a waterbottle or camel bak style backpack)
  • Comfortable closed shoes (hiking boots or sneakers)
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • SPF clothing and long sleeves
  • A light waterproof rain jacket
  • Snacks
  • A camera or GoPro 

While the boardwalks are uneven and at times slippery, one of the most important things is to be sure you have closed shoes with laces. I was surprised by how many people were at Plitvice Lakes in flip-flops and sandals!

Plitvice Lakes Guide: Things to know before you go

Hours of Plitvice Lakes are different during peak season and low season. Be sure to know the correct hours based on when you’ll be visiting. 

You can purchase Plitvice Lakes tickets in advance. This is really important if you’re visiting during the summer. At times the tickets will sell out. 

Be sure to check the weather forecast before entering the park. 

Please practice leave no trace principles while visiting Plitvice Lakes. Do not collect any natural specimens from the park as a souvenir. Refrain from feeding the animals. Dispose of garbage you bring into the park properly. Stay on the marked trails. And do not swim in the lakes! 

Lower Lakes path to the tallest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes 2 day Itinerary

There are multiple different routes that you can take in Plitvice Lakes National Park when spending two days there. Realistically you could pack both of the paths into one really full day. However, when traveling from Zagreb on day one and arriving mid-day then heading into the park and on day two in the park entering when the park opened, completing a hike then heading to Zadar afterward.

There are two different entrances to the park and four different hiking paths that are accessible from each entrance. The trails or paths are marked by a letter. The hiking (or trekking) really isn’t strenuous and all of the boardwalk trails are easily marked with signs.

As you enter the park, as they scan your passes they were really helpful in asking if we already knew what path we were taking to ensure we were going to the correct boat and area. 

Routes

The boats are P1, P2, & P3. P1 & P2 go back and forth from entrance two and P3 goes to entrance one across Kozjak Lake. Entrance one has trails that go near the biggest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes (Veliki Slap).

If you continue onto the trails from the electric boats from P1 & P2 you will go to the Plitvice upper lakes area. 

In total there are 8 different routes that you can choose to take. Trails are named or marked by letters of the alphabet. The trails include A, B, C, E, F, H, & K. 

Click here for walking trails map A, B, C, E.

E, F, H, K are all accessible from entrance two by taking the P1 & P2 boats. A, B & C are accessible either from entrance one or crossing the lake on the P3 boat from Entrance 2. 

Click here for a Map of Plitvice Lakes.

Day one:

Drove from Zagreb, before checking into Hotel Jezero, entered at entrance two (just a short walk from the hotel). Took the PI/P2 electric boat across the lower lake, then directly got into line for the P3 boat. Took an easy walking path (Trail F) which went near the Veliki Slap (the biggest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes.)

Pro Tip: During high season (summer) you will want to purchase your park admission in advance. During spring, we didn’t need to but did anyway. We purchased a two-day pass. What I didn’t know is I could have purchased a one-day pass and the hotel would validate it to make it usable for two days. Inquire with your hotel directly if you have specific questions about this!

Day two:

Up bright and early at Hotel Jezero with a breakfast buffet that was included in our stay, our car was packed up and we headed into the park right when it opened. The P1/P2 boat from entrance two over only had three other people on it. It was a perfect hike! We had many of the waterfalls and the trail to ourselves the whole time. Definitely wake up early and be there when it opens, you won’t regret it! On day two, we took the E loop around the upper lakes.

One thing I noticed in comparison to USA National Parks is there actually is really great cell service in Plitvice Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes Two days Recap

There are definitely more trails and trekking you can do throughout Plitvice Lakes. But, in two days and the trails listed below you will see the upper lakes and the tallest waterfall in the park. Depending on how ambitious and fit you are you could do both in one day at Plitvice Lakes.

  • Day one: Entrance two, P1/P2 and P3 boat to a short walking trail (Trail F) near the largest waterfall
  • Day two: Entrance two at opening time, P1/P2 boat across the lower lake to walking trail loop (Trail E) around the upper lakes

Getting into the park mid-day on day one, there were a lot of people on Trail F. (Many of the tour groups go this route.) It would have been a lot less busy earlier in the morning closer to opening hours. You could also do the day two route then once back at the dock for the electric boats take the P3 boat and do Trail F earlier in the day.

FAQs: (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is Plitvice Lakes worth visiting?

Yes, Plitvice Lakes is a stunning sight to see in person. Especially if you have the time in your itinerary it’s worth it to carve out a day or two to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. The color of the water and the serene sound of the waterfalls is a truly unique experience.

What city is closest to Plitvice Lakes?

The closest cities to Plitvice Lakes are Zagreb, Croatia’s capital to the northeast and Zadar to the southwest on the coast. The nearest airport to the park is located in Zadar. There is a smaller airport located in Zadar as well. 

How long to spend at Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Spend at least one day in Plitvice Lakes National Park. But, if you spend 2-3 days, you can take multiple trekking trails throughout the park, including seeing the largest waterfall, allowing you to see both the upper and lower lakes areas. You can pack it all into one day, 2 days in Plitvice Lakes is an ideal amount of time.

What is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia?

The best time of year to visit Plitvice Lakes is either spring or fall. There are fewer other people around. If you can stay near the park, entering the park when it first opens is the best time of day. There will be fewer tour groups there and you will have much of the trail to yourself at times.

Is it worth going to Plitvice Lakes?

Yes! Plitvice Lakes is worth a day or two to explore the park. It’s a unique and beautiful serene place. It’s quite a view. Plitvice lakes is a destination appropriate for all ages as the trails and walking boardwalks make it easy to get around the park. Do not plan on bringing a stroller, it will be hard to maneuver.

Plitvice Lakes entrance 1 or 2?

It depends on what trails you would like to see while visiting. Entrance 1 is better for the lower lakes and the largest waterfall in the Park. Entrance 2 is better for the upper lakes but you can also get to Entrance 1 via the electric boats if you wish to do so.

Can you swim in Plitvice Lakes?

No, you cannot swim in the lakes at Plitvice Lakes. At one time you could. But in 2006, to further preserve the delicate climate. This decision was made to promote the ongoing creation of the unique porous rock (tufa) that is crucial to the ecosystem in Plitvice Lakes National Park. 

small lower falls at Plitvice Lakes National Park

How much is the bus from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes?

Taking a bus from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes via Flixbus cost depends on if you’re going one way or round trip. Flix bus prices are around $14-20 each way. If you take a round-trip bus it’ll be about $40. If you choose to go one way and stay near Plitvice Lakes National Park it will cost around $20.

How much does it cost to get into Plitvice Lakes?

Price depends on time of year. November through March, it’s  10 euros for a one-day pass, 15.50 euros per person for a two-day pass. April to May and October, it’s 23.50 euros for a one-day pass and 39.50 euros per person for a two-day pass. June through September pricing is different depending on the time of day. 

How many waterfalls are in Plitvice Lakes?

There are over 90 waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park. These waterfalls flow from the tiered 16 lakes located in the Park. The highest waterfall in Plitvice is Veliki Slap. Veliki slap in Croatian means “great waterfall”. It is located near entrance 1 of the park but can be accessed from 2 after taking the electric boats.

Is Plitvice Lakes closer to Split or Zagreb?

Plitvice Lakes is closer to Zagreb. Driving from Zagreb it’s about 150 km (~94 miles) for about a 2-hour journey. Driving from Split it’s about 241 km (~150 miles) for about a 2-and-a-half hour journey. It’s somewhat in the middle of the two cities so a detour to Plitvice lakes makes a perfect Croatia itinerary.

Are drones permitted at Plitvice Lakes?

No. Flying a drone for a personal recreational reason to take photos or videos in Plitvice Lakes National Park is prohibited. It is possible to request permission for an exception to fly a drone for educational or research purposes. Much like the USA National Parks, the National Parks of Europe prohibit drones. 

Are there bears in Plitvice Lakes?

Yes, there are confirmed to be brown bears inhabiting Plitvice Lakes National Park. There have been bears present in the park for many years. It is estimated that there are approximately 30 to 50 bears in the park. Brown bears generally aren’t aggressive. Most bear attacks on humans are a defensive response.

Plitvice Lakes vs Krka National Park?

Plitvice Lakes or Krka is a common question. The difference is Plitvice Lakes is more condensed whereas in Krka National Park many of the points of interest you will need a car to get to because they’re more spread out. The waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes are more dramatic but Krka is closer to Split and is more accessible for a quick day trip.

Upper lakes overlook on day two in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Final Thoughts: 2 days in Plitvice Lakes

Two days will be very well spent exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Whether you’re coming from Zagreb, Zadar, or Split it’s definitely worth carving out some time to see this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site and beautiful National Park.  

I hope this helped you to prepare to visit! After spending 8 days in Croatia, exploring Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, Zadar, Krka National Park, Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik we made the most of just over a week in Croatia! 

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