I spent nearly two weeks in Croatia with my sons years ago and the place I’d always regretted missing was Plitvice National Park. As far as I was concerned, Plitvice was #1 on my list for this Croatian vacation with David and now, as our trip neared an end, we were finally going to be there…and it was storming. Not just light rain, but a downpour. Aaargh!
The weather in Zadar had been overcast with occasional drizzle, but cleared to sunny the morning we set out on the drive to Plitvice. It’s an easy 2-hour drive from Zadar to Plitvice and the scenery is beautiful as you head into the mountains and cross over impressive bridges spanning wide inlets of water.
As we climbed higher into seriously rugged mountains, the weather began to deteriorate.
When we exited the truly impressive Sveti Rok tunnel (over 3.5 miles long!), wind buffeted our car to the point I was getting a little nervous despite the excellent, wide highway. Thankfully traffic was light. By the time we neared Plitvice Jezera, the skies had opened up and we pulled into the parking lot of our AirBnB apartment in the driving rain. Our lovely hostess awaited us in raincoat and hood and we left our luggage to dash inside, umbrellas held high.
Despite that inauspicious beginning, the next day dawned bright and clear and all we could have hoped for for our day at Plitvice. I was as excited as a child!
We got an early start, planning to park at the Hotel Bellevue near Entrance 2 to the park and avoid the less-convenient, paid parking designated for the park. As we turned in a guard stopped our car, asking where we were going. I just looked bemused and answered we were going to the Hotel Bellevue, of course, and he waved us in. Instead of turning left into the main hotel parking, we drove to the end of the short street and parked, near the pedestrian path into the park. This put us not far from a ticket office and park bus stop #2 (“ST2” on the map below). Perfect!
Our AirBnB hostess, Jelena, was a font of knowledge and she’d given us a park map and laid out an optimum walk for us. We followed all her suggestions and could not have been happier. Day tickets to the park were 110 kuna apiece (about $17 each). We caught the park bus (included in our tickets) heading toward Entrance 1 and got off at the bus stop #1 (“ST1” on the map below) to walk along the water (on our left) to view the largest waterfall Veliki Slap (literally “Big Waterfall”) on the far bank.
The path to the waterfall itself was closed, for which I was just as glad. I was happy with the view from the opposite bank and, once I saw the scattered nature of Veliki Slap and a building at the summit of the waterfall, I was even less interested in going. I’m a waterfall junkie of sorts and have been to the top of lots of waterfalls, but I was fine with missing the top of this one. Maybe it was just me. Anyway, there was so much I wanted to see in the lower lakes and we headed back to continue the route Jelena had recommended.
We hiked down to the water, making our way along the water (now on our right) and past another four wide waterfalls before crossing over to the far bank where Jelena had told us to catch a boat at P3 (also included in our tickets).
We got off the boat at P2 (see map above) and began an amazing wander through seemingly-endless waterfalls.
We spent several hours hiking the park. We found it to be a moderate hike, with occasional steep stretches and some dirt paths getting narrow and muddy from the previous day’s rain. Plitvice Lakes National Park is so large that we never felt crowded and while we did see other people (and there was a fair-sized Asian tour group at the boat stop) we also had plenty of space to take in the incredible, tranquil beauty of the park.
We ended our hike at bus stop 3 (“ST3” on the map above) where we caught the bus back to ST2 where we began our day. From there, we walked the short distance back to the national restaurant “Poljana” for lunch. It’s located just by the Hotel Bellevue with lovely views of the park. Unfortunately, we found both the food and service to be inferior to its sister national restaurant, Licka Kuca, near Entrance 1.
For more information, see: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/
You can check out our 2-bedroom/1-bath AirBnB apartment at: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4699728?sug=50 At $75/night and a 10-minute walk to the park (in good weather), it’s a deal worth considering, especially so if you need two bedrooms.
If you’re new to AirBnB and want to give it a try on this or any other apartment, you can use my referral link which should get both of us $30 in AirBnB travel credit: http://www.airbnb.com/c/tcuthrell Let me know if you have any questions.