A Solo Female Traveler's Guide to Plitvice National Park
Many visitors to Croatia fall into one of three categories. The sailing-obsessed, the massive Game of Thrones fan, or the one who saw a picture of Plitvice National Park on the internet. I’m guilty of all three, but was ultimately lured into the country by an irresistible Yacht Week invite. Which, by the way, was a damn good way to spend seven days and I wrote all about it here. With nostalgic thoughts of glitter, themed parties and too much alcohol, I digress. Having spent well over a month exploring Croatia I can confidently tell you that Plitvice is the most beautiful thing I saw there. Whether you’re swinging through on a day trip or have the flexibility to stay overnight, here’s some information based on my own experiences to help you maximize your time, and make sense of a rather large and confusing park!
You can find a current price list on the park's official website here. I wanted to see as much of the park as humanly possible and opted for a two day ticket, which, in the high season, set me back 400 kuna, or approximately $63 USD. You can purchase your ticket with cash or card at both Entrance 1 and Entrance 2.
Plitvice National Park has two entrances conveniently referred to as Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. I always entered via Entrance 1 where there were toilets, cafes, food stalls and a convenience store to pick up water, snacks and souvenirs. That being said, bringing food with you is probably a good idea. You can find the odd cafe or some ice cream within the park, but packing a small picnic would be ideal.
The park is massive, and is easiest to make sense of in terms of two main sections: the lower lakes and the upper lakes. If you enter through Entrance 1, you will have the easiest access to the lower, and if you come in at Entrance 2, you’ll be closer to exploring the upper. To be clear, because I did not understand how this worked at all, there is a shuttle that runs between the entrances from within the park and this is included in your entrance ticket. There is also a boat ride that can be part of your route between the lower and upper lakes that is included as well.
There are a SLEW of trails you can take, marked by various letters of the alphabet, and each is marked alongside a map with the average amount of time it takes to complete. There are a variety of trails that cover the lower lakes individually, the upper lakes individually, and both. There are also additional hiking trails that go off into (in my mind) the great abyss that are not centered around the lakes. What you need to do is decide how much time you want to spend there, and then see what trails you can work into your schedule. There are loads of ways you could spend your time in Plitvice, but I can only speak to my own experience. Because I had two days to spend in the park, the decision was easy. Day one would be spent exploring the lower lakes, and day two would be spent at the upper. Do note that if you only have one day to visit, and a free 6-8 hours, you may be able to fit both of these in by following Routes H or K. Route H starts from Entrance 2 while K starts at Entrance 1.
If you are coming to visit Plitvice with a car, this really opens up your accommodation options. There are guesthouses/hostels/hotels galore in the area, and there's even hotels located within the park itself if you feel like splurging on convenience (Hotel Jezero, Hotel Bellevue, and Hotel Plitvice.) Because I was solo and arriving by bus, I opted for an Airbnb just outside of Entrance 1. House Katarina was B&B style accommodation with private rooms located a 5 minute walk from Entrance 1 and the bus station. With the exception of the hotels in the park, it couldn't get much more convenient than that! There was even a delicious restaurant in the beautiful back garden that offered hearty set menu meals after a long day exploring the park. In the thick of the high season, a private room cost me $61 per night. To book Katarina's place, you can find the listing here. If you've never used Airbnb and want $40 in travel credit, you can sign up with my handy dandy Airbnb code.
I arrived quite late in the day, and didn't make it to Entrance 1 until about 3:00 PM. I found this to be an advantage, however, because most day trippers were on their way out, and because it was the middle of summer I had at least 5-6 hours of daylight remaining. This was more than enough time to explore Route B, which offered a scenic adventure around the lower lakes. I stopped A LOT, took my sweet time taking photos, and was finally satisfied with what I'd seen by about 8:00 PM. The average person would probably get through the route in half as much time. Miscellaneous thought: I can't help but wonder how many people accidentally get bumped off of these boardwalks pictured below in the high season.
Some photos from Route B:
The second day was an adventure as I was facing a bit of a time crunch. It was the much anticipated Sunday of the World Cup finals, and Croatia was in it! I got up early to hit the park with a goal of being out and back to my Airbnb by 5:00 PM kickoff. What a time to be in Croatia! I ended up being successful, and spent from around 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM exploring Route E via Entrance 2, which is a tour of the upper lakes. I say Route E (estimated 2-3 hours) which takes you up to the highest lakes and typically ends with a shuttle ride down, however I decided to improvise. When I reached the top, instead of shuttling back I started following signs for Route H, which would loop me back to the start on foot.
Some photos from Route E:
If we're putting the letters together, Routes B and E will get you a good overview of both the upper and lower lakes and make sense to do individually with a two day ticket. If you want to combine the upper and lower lakes into one day, depending on how much time you have you'll want to go for the aforementioned H (4-6 hours) or K (6-8 hours) routes.
Hope that helps- enjoy one of the most beautiful gems that Croatia has to offer!