I remember it so clearly. I was browsing on my computer, scrolling through my seemingly neverending newsfeed. Mid-scroll, something caught my attention and I immediately did a double take. That was my reaction the very first time I saw a photo of Plitvice National Park.
The iconic photo of the emerald colored lakes, a wooden boardwalk, and an array of waterfalls from various heights. At first glance, this place didn’t even look real to me. However, the more I looked online, the more I found that every photo of this place looked like it came out of a magazine.
For those of you that haven’t heard of this place yet, Plitvice National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of 16 lakes and numerous waterfalls. The entire space is a nature lover’s paradise and is ideal for those that love being outdoors.
It was during that time when I decided that a trip to Plitvice National Park was a must! In no time, we found ourselves traveling around Croatia, eager to finally make this dream a reality. We based ourselves in Split for a couple of days and couldn’t wait any longer to see the park for ourselves. If you find yourself in similar shoes, here’s our guide on the best ways to get from Split to Plitvice National Park.
Split to Plitvice by Guided Tour
If you don’t have a lot of time in your hands, the best way to get to this national park is by joining a Plitvice Lakes Tour from Split. Most of these tours run for a whole day, taking care of all the logistics of getting you to the National Park and back without having to worry about anything. In terms of comfort and ease, this is the way to go as you don’t have to deal with rental cars, maps, or even parking.
Most tours will give you around 5-6 hours to explore the park either on a guided tour or by yourself. This is more than enough time to see the park and explore the best bits. While it’s easy to walk around by yourself and follow the marked routes, for those on a time limit, having someone walk you through the highlights and the best parts of the park can come in handy!
The best part is these tours run fairly cheap! Most tours don’t include the ticket price to the National Park in the price, but they do include a private tour guide which is great.
Split to Plitvice by Car
If you want to have free reigns on your trip, another way to get to the national park is by car. We opted for this route ourselves and rented a car in Split as we wanted to stay in the park for at least two days. If you are opting to drive there, make sure that you have GPS in your phone (you can very easily buy a sim card).
While this way was pretty much straight forward, it wasn’t the most cost-effective way either as we then had to rent the car, pay for gas, and get insurance. If you like traveling independently like we do though, it is worth the extra cash.
We left Split at around 9:00 by the time we picked up our rental car and sorted out our paperwork. Soon, we were on our way. The drive takes about 2 and a half to 3 hours, depending on how fast you drive and which route you decide to take. The highway route usually has a bit more traffic which is why road E71 and A1 are often recommended.
Because we were staying overnight, we checked into a super charming bed and breakfast called Green Lakes House where the lovely owner gave us a walkthrough of the park and a map. It was located within driving distance to the park and was run by a lovely husband and wife duo. They also had great dinner recommendations which we went back to twice in a row. After lunch, we headed to the park as we wanted a full day and a half to explore and wander on our own.
Split to Plitvice by Bus
Taking a bus is fairly easy in Croatia as the buses run on schedule all the time. However, due to the time-schedules, you might have a difficult time going there for the day so if you do want to travel by bus, consider staying the night somewhere near the park.
You might need to research the schedules beforehand online to ensure that you find good connections. During our time there, we picked up a few people walking along the road, giving them a lift to the nearest town as they missed their bus.
Tips for Exploring Plitvice National Park
We loved our time in Plitvice National Park and after exploring loads of nooks and crannies in the park, I can honestly say that it looks just like it does in photographs. No photoshop needed! To help you enjoy your trip to Plitvice Lakes even more, here are a few of our top tips.
Pack a Picnic
One of the best parks that we enjoyed was stopping by a little stream and enjoying a packed lunch. Although there are a few restaurants within the park, we happily scarfed down our packed sandwiches and crisps while staring out at the glistening lakes- perfect!
If you go this route, just make sure you gather all your bits and bobs and pack it all up before you go. This is a national park where you need to dispose of your items properly. There aren’t a lot of trash bins around the park so make sure you just take dispose of it in your hotel later on.
Timing is Everything
Due to the rise of its popularity, Plitvice National Park is a super popular tourist destination which means that it is also very touristy! There is just no way of escaping it. The best thing to do is to work your way around it. On the first day that we went, we got to the park shortly after lunch and stayed until sundown. We went the opposite direction of most tour groups and found ourselves enjoying certain parts of the park on our own.
On the same note, we also woke up super early the next day and got to the park right as it opened. Although the sun still hadn’t completely risen (which made some parts of the waterfalls less spectacular), we did get to wander around on our own for a good few hours.
You can no longer swim in the lakes (although they look super enticing to jump in). However, when you do go, make sure you come prepared. We recommend bringing insect repellant, a good sun hat, sunscreen, a big bottle of water, and sturdy walking shoes. We opted to follow the longer trails which meant we were on our feet walking for a good few hours.
Get to Know Your Route
Unless you have a guide, it will help if you have an idea on which direction you want to go to, especially if you’re only there for a day or so. The national park is divided into two areas, the Upper Lakes (entrance 2) and the Lower Lakes (entrance 1). You can explore the park by foot with a variety of trails which are all clearly marked. There are free ferry rides to shuttle you in between lakes and also a bus/tram that goes between the main entrance points. The paths are clearly marked (although sometimes can be confusing) so make sure you choose a trail that you have enough time to follow.
Hopefully, this article gave you a complete overview on how to get to Plitvice National Park from Split! Whatever way you opt to go, the journey is beautiful and the park is as spectacular in real life as it is in pictures!