Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Itinerary: Best Places to Visit + Map

Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Itinerary: Best Places to Visit + Map

Croatia Road Trip Itinerary to help you plan your trip.

How beautiful is Croatia! There are clear blue lakes, medieval walled cities, amazing beaches, and stunning natural beauty. After two road trips in Croatia and a total of 4 trips here, we can confidently say that this lovely country in the Balkans can WOW every kind of traveler.

The first time we visited Croatia was in 2016. Back then, we didn’t do any research and did not have any idea about what to do in Croatia. Those were our carefree backpacking and hitchhiking days and we did not have any time constraints.

Back in 2016, our Croatia travel itinerary had nothing on it but Plitvice Lakes and many extra days for spontaneity. I still remember how unreal it felt when we saw Croatia’s natural beauty – especially clear rivers and lakes.

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia - Road Trip Itinerary
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia – Road Trip Itinerary – Photo from my friend by Sollunatic Photos

Our second trip to Croatia was in 2018. It was a part of our Balkan road trip from Bosnia. That trip was done in a rented car that we picked up from Serbia. I was pregnant then and had an amazing time.

The third time we road-tripped in Croatia was on our own camper van from Slovenia. We had a better idea about how we wanted to spend our time and where to go in Croatia. During our third trip, we were with our 8-month-old baby. We had limited time and we wanted to spend it well.

We also visited Croatia in 2022 but that wasn’t a road trip each time we saw different places and also some same places, so we had a lot of tips to share. 

Check Car Rental Prices in Croatia

If you’re on this page, I’m sure you know already where Croatia is. But still, just for the sake of quick information so that you can visualize the map in your head – it is opposite Italy with the Adriatic Sea separating them.

Croatia shares most of its border with Slovenia, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It also shares a small part of the border with Serbia and Montenegro. 

Croatia has everything – mountains, beaches, and historical towns so a road trip through this gorgeous country in Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It still remains one of our favorite countries in Europe.

The Streets of Pula, Croatia
The Streets of Pula, Croatia

Get lost in lush jungle landscapes, stroll streets with charming Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings, and enjoy the most pristine beachscapes – there are so many amazing things to do in Croatia.

This guide to the most mesmerizing Croatia road trip will ensure that you have an unforgettable adventure.  Soak in the atmosphere of Croatia on a thrilling road trip. Here’s how to do it right.

Starting Point for Croatia Road Trip

So where should you start your epic Croatian road trip? It depends on many factors. The starting points will change based on how you enter Croatia. If you’re flying to the country, then you will most likely land in Zagreb. We suggest you start your road trip in Zagreb if you’re flying into Croatia and renting a car for your journey.

Check Car Rental Prices in Croatia

If you’re doing this journey on a camper van or a van, then be sure to check out our mega-detailed post about exploring Europe on a camper van.

The Lovely Waterfront Houses of Rastoke, Croatia

If you’re able to find cheap tickets to Croatia where you land at any other airport, then by all means get those. In that case, you can start your Croatia itinerary from another place such as Split or Dubrovnik, and do a circle from there.

In case you’re driving to Croatia from one of the nearby countries, then it makes more sense to start your trip from one of the destinations that’s near the border. We want to make sure that you’re making the most of your travel time by sharing the best routes and stops.

If you’re driving into Croatia from Slovenia, then you can skip Zagreb and start your road trip from Pula instead. However, if you’re driving in from Hungary then it makes more sense to start your trip from Zagreb. Budapest to Zagreb is only 3 – 4 hours by driving. 

In case you’re starting your trip from Montenegro or Serbia or Bosnia & Herzegovina – then just do this itinerary in reverse and make Dubrovnik your starting point. From Bosnia-Herzegovina, you can also start your Croatia road trip from Plitvice Lakes

Our first road trip to Croatia was from Hungary, the second one was from Bosnia, and the third from Slovenia. All these trips had different starting points – Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Zadar.

Croatia Itinerary: Best Places to Visit in Croatia

We have included many different kinds of places to visit in Croatia that will appeal to all kinds of travelers. Our Croatia travel itinerary has beaches, national parks, historical towns, small towns, and party places. You can edit and modify this itinerary to skip some places to make your trip shorter.

Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route - Map
Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route – Map

Here’s a map of Croatia with all the suggested places marked for you. You can open this map on Google Maps and on your left you will see an option to send the directions on your phone. Save an offline version of this map on your phone if you have enough space. It will help you when you’re driving.

Here’s our Croatia itinerary, which is actually a combination of two of our separate trips in the Balkans. We’re also suggesting 1 – 2 places that we did not end up visiting but you shouldn’t miss them for your ultimate road trip in Croatia.

Zagreb – 1 Day 

Zagreb town - Croatia Itinerary
Zagreb town – Croatia Itinerary

Zagreb is Croatia’s glorious capital, and one of the best places to start your road trip in Croatia if you’re flying in. Pick up your rental car here and make this your beginning point. No, renting isn’t expensive and can turn out to be even cheaper than driving your own car into the country if you’re crossing too many countries.

Just like a typical European capital city, Zagreb also has a medieval-esque old town with cobbled streets and architecture. It is Croatia’s biggest city but you don’t need to spend more than a day here.

In all honestly, you can skip Zagreb if you want to spend more time in nature. It is a suggested starting point because of the ease of starting your journey here.

Cathedral and Rooftops in Zagreb - Croatia Road Trip itinerary
Cathedral and Rooftops in Zagreb – Croatia Road Trip itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

While in Zagreb, book an apartment for yourself and park your car because the city’s public transport is awesome and affordable. There are trams (ZET – Zagreb Electric Tram), buses, and historical rails. Get a single-day tram ticket so that get on and off as you explore the city. Alternatively, you can get a Vrijednosna Karta that can be used for both trams and buses. Zagreb has Uber too, and it is super affordable.

So wondering how to spend one day in Zagreb? Start at the Upper Town (Gornji grad) and gradually make your way to the Lower Town (Donji grad). You can walk and enjoy the most of Zagreb. As per Lonely Planet, Zagreb is made for strolling. Oh, and there’s free WiFi that’s available around the national theatre in the main city square – how cool is that!

Upper Town is the main old town of Zagreb with medieval architecture. While here, walk around in Strossmayer Promenade, see the Old Town gate, relax in Ribnjak Park, see the Neo-Gothic style cathedral in the Upper Town, and look at St. Mark’s Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

With such a rich history in this enchanting capital, it’s a great idea to take a walking tour in Zagreb to really soak in all of its wonders before you start your road trip. 

Jarun Park, Zagreb - Croatia Itinerary
Jarun Park, Zagreb – Croatia Itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

When you get bored of being a tourist in Zagreb, head over to Jarun Lake and relax in one of the bars. You can eat lunch here or have a few sunset drinks to end your day early.

If you’re visiting Zagreb on a Sunday, then take time to check out the Hrelić flea market that’s a little out of the city. 

Places to Stay in Zagreb

I stayed in two different hotels in Zagreb in 2022 and I loved both of them. The first was Hotel Orient and we booked a suite that had a separate small room for our daughter too.

Hotel Orient was super comfortable in terms of location and everything. We paid EUR 72 for a night here. I think this was a very good value for money because it wasn’t just a bedroom but a suite with AC. Believe it or not, AC rooms aren’t so common in Europe, unlike Asia or the Americas. Overall, it was perfect for a small family like ours. 

The location of Hotel Orient is perfect because there’s a decent parking place so it is perfect for road trips. Also, the main train station was 500 meters away and the bus station was 1.5 KM away. 

The second hotel that I stayed in Zagreb was Hotel Europa. I paid the same for this (EUR 72), but it wasn’t really a suite with two rooms. Instead, it was a massive bedroom with an extra single bed for our little girl. This worked out really well too. There was a shopping mall that was less than a kilometer away from the hotel where we went for lunch.

Pula (Istria) – 2 – 3 Days

The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria - Croatia Itinerary
The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria – Croatia Itinerary

If you’re driving to Croatia from Slovenia or Italy, it makes total sense to start your trip in Pula and skip Zagreb. Pula is the biggest town in Istria and should be a part of your Croatia itinerary if you want to cover this particular part of the country.

It is a beach destination BUT is more than just pretty beaches, Pula has a lovely old town too. Believe it or not, it was built 3000 years ago by the Illyrians! You can see fascinating landmarks to visit and some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. It is like a mini Italy within Croatia. 

Pula old town centre at night - Croatia itinerary
Pula old town centre at night – Croatia itinerary

Pula has Rome’s Colosseum look-alike – it is called the Roman Arena. Guess what, it is the 6th largest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world. The entry is 20 Kunas, which is 3 Euros. 

San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary
San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary

I really enjoyed walking around in Pula’s old town. There are two gates and one triumphal arch. Zlatna vrata is the arch and it was built in the 1st Century BC. The gates are Dvojna vrata and Herkulova vrata. These are all decent photography spots especially as the sun starts to set. There’s also a street market that we saw here with amazing cheese, salami, and more.

Me in Pula - Croatia itinerary
Me in Pula – Croatia itinerary

While we were in Pula, we spent most of our time on the beaches. The beaches aren’t sandy but are pebbly.

Head to Stoja – the beach here was my favorite. Stoja isn’t a single beach here but many of them are together next to a campsite. If you see Google Maps, you will notice how this part looks triangular with multiple beaches. If you’re road-tripping on a van or are carrying a tent, then you can just camp right here in Camping Stoja.

Pula beach sunset - Croatia Road Trip itinerary
Sunset view from Zeppelin bar that’s in Saccorgiana cove in Verudela, Pula- Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Another beach that stood out to me was Saccorgiana Cove in Verudela. For me, it had everything I needed – peace, nice spots for sitting, and a fun beach bar – Zeppelin.

Apart from Stoja and Saccorgiana Cove, there’s also Valkane Beach, Ambrela Beach, Hawaii Beach, and many other beaches. Most of the beach looked similar but Stoja stood out for me.

FKK in Pula

Pula has some naturalistic beaches that are a little outside the city and are marked FKK. Free body culture exists and it isn’t just for the hippies. Go, shed your clothes, and sunbathe naked in Pula’s FKK beaches.

Where to Stay in Pula

We stayed in a place called Riva Hostel and we loved it. The dorm rooms were excellent and so was the outside sitting area. We were not close to the beach but to the pier, so we could see the water from our windows. The Roman Amphitheatre (Arena) was very close to our hostel. 

As mentioned in the section above, the campsite in Stoja is beautiful and is on the beach. You should definitely consider it if you’re looking for a campground in Pula. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park – 2 Days

Plitvice Lakes - third viewpoint over the big waterfall that shoes the cascades
Plitvice Lakes – one of the three viewpoints over the big waterfall that shows the cascades

Imagine 16 clear water lakes, all arranged on different levels (like steps) with cascades and waterfalls between them – that’s Plitvice Lakes. This world-renowned national park is truly the best natural wonder in Croatia. It will make your jaw drop and leave you with incredible memories. 

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park is awesome but gets super crowded. Read our guide to the Plitvice Lakes for some useful insider knowledge about tips for avoiding crowds, costs, hiking routes, photo spots, and more. It is best to drive through in the early afternoon as it’ll take around 2 hours to drive here from Zagreb, whereas it’ll take 3 and a half hours from Pula. 

Once you arrive, set up for the night so you can be there to enjoy the park early before it gets crowded. Book an apartment that’s nearby and get some rest the night before because you will have to walk a lot inside the national park. We stayed in Bungalows and Camping Korana, which is 5 km away. 

Crystal Clear Water - Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Water so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake – Plitvice Lakes Croatia

It isn’t cheap to park outside Plitvice Lakes entry gates so you can take local transport to save money. Our place of accommodation was running free shuttles to the park so we did not have to worry about this.

No doubt the lakes here are super stunning, but Plitvice Lakes National Park is so much more. Some of the viewpoints, waterfalls, and cascades here are unbelievably gorgeous. There is also a cave too. Take the winding trails that show off Croatia’s unrivaled natural beauty as you bask in the blissful oasis that is the Plitvice Lakes. 

Mali Prštavac Slap - the most beautiful waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Mali Prštavac Slap – the most beautiful waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Grab the chance to go for one of the world’s best walks as you breathe in the fresh air and admire the limestone canyon before your eyes. This is a truly remarkable area that attracts travelers from all over the world. The entrance fee is only €25 – €30 (180 Kunas). 

Where to stay near Plitvice Lakes

There are three hotels inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park and they are a little more expensive than the others. If you stay inside the national park, you will not spend on your internal transport and will also not wait in the long line. 

We stayed in a place called Campsite and Bungalows Korana, which is only 5KMs away. Not into camping? No worries, they have bungalows too. It is one of the few places that’s recommended by the National Park and they also run a free shuttle to and from the park every day. 

Rastoke, Slunj Day Trip – 1/2 Day [Extend if you like]

Mini Plitvice Lakes - Waterfall in Slunj, Croatia Road Trip
Mini Plitvice Lakes – Waterfall in Rastoke Slunj, Croatia Road Trip – CC0 via Pixabay

Did you know there is a “mini Plitvice Lake” in Croatia? It is in Slunj town, that is not far from the National Park. The complex is called Rastoke and is a good place for a day trip if you want to get off the tourist trail in Croatia. 

Rastoke, Slunj in Croatia - Road trip itinerary
Rastoke, Slunj in Croatia – Road trip itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

While you’re here, you can stop in Slunj town for lunch. It is a nice town with helpful locals. I have visited it a few times over the last few years because of the Modem music festival.

If you have some more time and would like to experience the “real Croatia” without tourists, then by all means spend some more time in Slunj town. The locals here speak decent English and you won’t have any communication problems. Honestly, I’d rather spend more time in a small town like Slunj and skip other places if I’m visiting Croatia during one of the busier months. 

Zadar – 1 Day (Optional)

Zadar is near Krka National Park - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Zadar is near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Zadar is an optional stop because this itinerary already includes similar (and more beautiful) historical coastal destinations like Dubrovnik and Split. If you have time, then by all makes stop here because it is close to Krka National Park and can be a good stopping point for the night. We stopped in Zadar for one night before driving to Krka National Park. 

If you do decide to stop in Zadar, then go explore the old town that has 34 churches. The beach that’s closest to the city center is Kolovare. You can also visit Vitrenjak Beach and Borik Beach. 

So what’s unmissable in Zadar? The Sea Organ – it is really cool. There are tubes that are installed under marble steps that play music with the sea waves.

Where to Stay in Zadar

We stayed in a place called Apartment Maruna that had everything we needed. Our rooms were air-conditioned, which was a blessing considering the summer heat. Our apartment had a nice and compact kitchen and a toilet. We also had a sitting area that was outside. It was the perfect place to stay for us. 

Krka National Park – 1 Day

KRKA National Park in Early Summer - Croatia Itinerary
KRKA National Park in Early Summer – Croatia Itinerary – Photo by my friend Sollunatic Photos

Krka National Park is one of Croatia’s most beautiful and fun at the same time. The drive will likely take you up to 2 hours, so we suggest leaving Plitvice Lakes in time to reach this park in the early afternoon. 

Plitvice Lakes is stunning but you can’t jump into any of the lakes or waterfalls there. On the other hand, you can swim in Krka National Park instead. The waterfall in Krka National Park is massive and the biggest waterfall – Skradinski Buk creates a very big natural pool which makes the perfect swimming hole.

KRKA National People swimming in Park's Main Waterfall - Skradinski Buk - from up above - Croatia Itinerary
People swimming in Park’s Main Waterfall – Skradinski Buk – from up above – Croatia Itinerary

In order to enter the national park, you can either hike for 3.4 km, or take a ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk Ferry Pier. The hiking path isn’t shaded with trees so in summer you will literally die if you decide to hike. You can also cycle through. During summer, taking a ferry is the easiest option and the ferry is free if you have your park tickets.

In order to take the ferry, you have to reach Skradin and you can park your car nearby, the parking spot is marked as Parking Skradin KRKA on Google Maps. Parking is super expensive! I think we paid 1 euro per hour. 

Please note, that the ferry from Skradin to enter Krka National Park only runs from April to early November. Be prepared to hike to cycle for 3.4 KMs if you’re visiting during other months.

The ferry queues were long in August but they’re pretty normal during other months. Before you stand in the queue for the ferry, you need to also buy the Krka National Park entry tickets. Thankfully the staff was pretty efficient and the ticket queues moved very fast. There is also a toilet in this area, not far from the ticket booth.

The ferry ride lasts for 20 minutes and is fun because you get to see the beauty of the Krka River and the bridge.

Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia
Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia – Photo by my friend Sollunatic Photos

If you want to compare the beauty, then Plitvice Lakes National Park definitely wins. However, if you want to cool down and take a dip in the waterfall then you will love Krka National Park. Just like Plitvice Lakes, Krka National Park tends to get crowded as well, so visit super early or in the late afternoon to avoid crowds.

Me in Krka National Park - Ultimate Croatia Road Trip
Me in Krka National Park – Ultimate Croatia Road Trip

We found a smaller swimming hole which was near the main Skradinski Buk but was hidden because of the trees. Because of this, not many people were swimming here.

A semi hidden swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia
A semi-hidden swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

We visited in August and it was very crowded. The only time we could enjoy the waterfall without people was during the late afternoon. My friend Selin [Sollunatic Photos] visited a month before us and Skradinski Buk waterfall looks so empty in her photos.

Unlike Plitvice Lakes, you don’t need to walk that much inside Krka National Park. If you’re doing this trip with a baby in a stroller, then Krka National Park will be an easier destination and you should skip Plitvice Lakes. 

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary
One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

The Krka National Park is home to many outstanding parts of Croatia’s history, including traditional watermills, and the Krka Monastery. Sightsee ancient Roman catacombs, exquisite cascades, and the park’s most popular site; its seven waterfalls. 

Take advantage of a Krka National Park tour to see all the park’s attractions and the best trails. The entrance fee is €20 (150 kunas) per person, and it’s well worth it.

KRKA National Park Entrance Tickets - Croatia road trip itinerary
KRKA National Park Entrance Tickets – Croatia road trip itinerary

Get a waterproof case for your camera or a GoPro to create memorable photos as you spend your day swimming in Krka National Park. Apart from that, there’s so much to explore here, so let your free spirit go wild as you find hidden gems scattered within the park. 

After you take a long walk through the park, refresh yourself in the crystal clear blue waters of the waterfalls. We suggest you spend a night at nearby accommodation, or book a tent and camp the night at the camping facilities 2KMs away. This is a fantastic way to embrace the wonder that makes Croatia’s indigenous landscapes renowned. 

Where to stay near Krka National Park

San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park - Croatia Road Trip itinerary
San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip itinerary

We camped in Camp Marina, one of the smaller campsites near Krka National Park. This campsite was perfect for us because we found a place in the corner with a view. It is 5 km away from the main parking area that’s close to the ferry pier. This campsite has rooms too, so you can book a room if you’re not up for camping.

Another option is Rooms Ive, a great spot for the night. It is 6 km away and you can enjoy barbecue facilities, free parking, privacy, and air-conditioned rooms. Have a comfortable night’s rest before continuing on your Croatia road trip. 

Split – 2 Days

Sunset in Split town - Croatia Road Trip
Sunset in Split Town – Croatia Road Trip

Split is undoubtedly one of the most popular cities in Croatia, it also happens to be the largest city in the Dalmatia region. The drive here will take just over an hour, so we suggest leaving Krka National Park in the early morning to enjoy lunchtime in the city. 

The lovely Split town - Croatia Road Trip
The lovely Split town – Croatia Road Trip

This coastal urban city is never short of incredible sights and sounds, and it’s an exciting place to enjoy on a Croatia road trip. The city boasts still waters that reflect the shimmering sun and makes for the most wonderful place to go on a Croatian cruise

Split has amazing beaches so make sure you spend some time soaking up the sun. Fill the day with a boat ride to the blue lagoons and sightseeing ancient architecture like Diocletian’s Palace. You can also taste world-class cuisine with Italian influences or visit the charming Old Town.

This is a fabulous spot on our Croatian road trip itinerary to grab some souvenirs and have a sundowner whilst gazing over the dazzling Adriatic Sea. One of the best ways to enjoy the local vibe and feel the hum of Split’s city life is to take a stroll through the scenic Riva Promenade.

Split town at night - Croatia Itinerary
Split town at night – Croatia Itinerary

For those who enjoy hiking, be sure to have a go at climbing Marjan Hill. Split is the kind of city that has something for everyone.

Where to Stay in Split

Split has so many charming and unique hotels. One of our favorite spots is the Heritage Hotel Antique Split. This hotel combines the old with the new and is an affordable, elegant hotel in Split.

Hvar – 2 Days

Hvar Island from up above - Croatia Itinerary
Hvar Island from up above – Croatia Itinerary

C’mon, you’re in Croatia so you’ve got to visit at least one island! One cannot travel to this country without island-hopping and making time to see the famous Croatian scenery of the cities that lay just off the coastline. 

Although you won’t be able to drive to Hvar, you’re able to take your car on the ferry. The ferry costs are around €17 (127 Kunas) and you can catch one at 7:30, 10:00, or 16:30  daily. During peak months [summer], the queues are annoyingly long for ferries, so try your best to take the earliest one. 

Hvar Island Sunset - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Hvar Island Sunset – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Alternatively, you can make things easy for yourself and park your car in Split. Book a Hvar island tour from Split, which will cover your transport costs. The ride is likely to take you an hour to two, so take the earliest ride out possible.

The beautiful Old Town of Hvar Island, Croatia Itinerary
The beautiful Old Town of Hvar Island, Croatia Itinerary

This island will take you back in time and teach you about the colorful history of Croatia. While you’re here, make time to appreciate the 13th-century walls and architecture. As well as one of the most popular features, the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral. 

However, there is more to this island than its city.  One of the must-see attractions is the enchanting Monk Seal Cave, also known as the Blue Cave.

Take a load off after a long day of traveling around Hvar and laze out on one of the divine beaches, one of the best being Dubovica Beach. Let the day fade and enjoy a night’s stay on the island.

Where to stay in Hvar 

Hvar is renowned for having excellent accommodation options, with plenty of resorts and villas. For the full Hvar experience, look at staying at a beach resort. Our top choice is Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort, but if you’re looking for something cheaper, the Pharos Hvar Hotel will not disappoint.

Dubrovnik – 2 Days

Dubrovnik - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Dubrovnik – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Another unmissable thing to do on a Croatian road trip would be to visit the enthralling and extravagantly beautiful city of Dubrovnik. Highly touristy so make sure you thoroughly read this post.

To get to Dubrovnik, you’ll need to leave Hvar and catch the 7:30 a.m. ferry back to Split. Your tickets will likely cost around €17 (127 Kunas). After you return to Split from Hvar, the drive to Dubrovnik is around 3 and a half hours. Seeing as this is a long drive, stop off and have a bite to eat at Kapetanova Kuca on the way for some local cuisine. 

Dubrovnik - King's Landing in Game of Thrones - Croatia Itinerary
Dubrovnik – King’s Landing in Game of Thrones – Croatia Itinerary

Dubrovnik is thriving with historical hubs, museums, restaurants, and shops. It also fronts the dreamy Adriatic Sea. There is plenty to do here, and riding through the quaint streets will be a venture in itself.

The city has also become synonymous with the Game of Thrones TV series, as it’s where some of the most iconic scenes of King’s Landing have been shot. You can learn more about this on a Game of Thrones tour. The series showcases the captivating, 16th-century walls that make up the border of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. 

Dubrovnik viewpoint - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Dubrovnik viewpoint – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

The best part about Dubrovnik is that everything is just minutes away from each other by walking. This walled city is the proud home to many well-preserved, ancient structures, such as the St. Blaise Church and Sponza Palace. A walk through the city is a must! 

Admire architecture from both the Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, and Roman styles as you see first-hand the blend of culture that this remarkable city has. After your walk, head over to your accommodation spot for some much-needed R’n’r.

Dubrovnik - the Walled city in Croatia - Balkans Road Trip
Dubrovnik – the Walled City in Croatia – Balkans Road Trip

Similar to Split, Dubrovnik also has a hub for locals and travelers to get together and take in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of this Croatian city. In the morning, venture to Stradun, where you can walk on limestone paving and enjoy the unique city life. Choose from any one of the many restaurants have a delicious breakfast, and then spoil yourself in one of the shops. 

Where to stay in Dubrovnik

Why not splurge for your night in Dubrovnik with a stay at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik? Enjoy a night of luxury and rejuvenate at the onsite spa. Alternatively, for a more low-key evening at a budget-friendly rate, spend your night at the comfortable and beautiful Hotel Vis.

Kravice Waterfall Day trip from Dubrovnik [Bosnia & Herzegovina]

Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina - travel the Balkans
Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans

While you’re on the road, why not make an extended journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina to see the exceptional Kravice Waterfall (also called the Kravica Waterfall)? This will give you the opportunity to see the nearby Koćuša Waterfall. It will take around 2 and a half hours to get here from Dubrovnik, and the drive itself is really enjoyable. 

The entrance fee changes depending on the time of year, expect to pay €3 (6 Kunas) between October to May, €4 (8 Kunas) between June to September, and €5 (10 Kunas) between July to August.

Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina - Balkans Road Trip itinerary
Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina – Balkans Road Trip itinerary

The Kravice waterfall is a jaw-droppingly beautiful sight to see. It originates from the Trebižat River and seamlessly cascades down the crevasses of the jungle. You can ensure that you get to see its sister waterfall, the Koćuša Waterfall, by taking a guided waterfall tour

This outstanding natural attraction is growing ever more popular as an increasing amount of travelers enjoy its magical plummeting. Be sure to visit early, before it gets too crowded.

Eating and Drinking in Kravice Waterfalls Bosnia
Eating and Drinking in Kravice Waterfalls Bosnia

You can go on one of the walking trails that will show you insurmountable natural paradises. Afterward, wash off and rejuvenate in the inviting water pool created by the Kravice Waterfall. 

This is the perfect way to wrap up your road trip!

Where to stay near Kravice Waterfalls

Extend the time of your stay and enjoy this location for a whole day by booking into the Apartment Kravica. This ideal accommodation spot provides a way for you to stay only 400 meters from the waterfall itself. Relax knowing there’s no more driving involved for the day, and kick back here for the night.

Brela – [Optional Stop on your way back]

Brela Stone - the iconic sight of Brela - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Brela Stone – the iconic sight of Brela – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

In case you have rented a car from Zagreb and you have to return it there before you fly off, then you have to drive back from Dubrovnik. There is an amazing coastal destination that will be on your way, is called Brela. It is on the Makarska Riviera.

Brela has amazing beaches with a backdrop of mountains. You can see the Biokovo mountain from most of the beaches in Brela. The most iconic spot in Brela is the Brela Stone. It is perhaps the most photographed part of this destination. Brela Stone is on Brela beach.

Brela’s loveliest beach is Punta Rata, make sure you go there. In pictures, Punta Rata looks sandy but in reality, it is a pebble beach. 

Brela has nice beaches - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Punta Rata beach – Brela has nice beaches – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Brela boasts of 6.5 KM long coast. If you’re traveling with small children, take them to Soline Beach because there’s a children’s playground there. The beaches of Vruja are a little secluded and you can avoid crowds there.

Where to Stay in Brela

While in Brela, indulge in a room with a view of the sea. Look at Blueson Hotel on Soline Beach with sea on three sides or Villa Paulina which has a view of the sea.

Is it safe to drive around Croatia?

Driving to Rastoke Slunj, Croatia

We didn’t just drive around Croatia only once but three times. We also visited Croatia with our 8-month-old baby and later when she was 3 years old. We never felt unsafe here and found everything here to be very easy.

Croatia is one of the few countries where it appeared that the locals respected and followed the rules, which made driving easier than some other countries. The roads, toll situation, parking situation, etcetera were easy to understand.

Tips for Driving in Croatia

Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia
Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia

Here are some basic tips that you need to keep in mind while driving in Croatia:

  • If you have driven in any European country, then driving in Croatia isn’t any different. When in Croatia, you drive on the right side of the road. 
  • The emergency number for road assistance in Croatia is 1987.
  • As in most of European countries, you are required to drive with the headlights during the day in winter months.
  • The roads are well maintained in Croatia. The Croatian motorways are not always wide, they can be winding and narrow. 
  • An amazing thing that I noticed about driving in Europe is how other drivers flash their lights at you to let you know that there are traffic police nearby.
  • You need to pay a toll fee on the roads that connect Zagreb with Zadar, Split, and Rijeka.
  • If you’re planning to enter any of the non-EU countries on the same car from Croatia, then make sure your car has a “green card”. Our rental car from Serbia had one.
  • The maximum level of permitted alcohol level in blood while driving is 0.5% in Croatia.

I have a detailed post about road-tripping in the Balkans that contains tips. Be sure to check that out too.

Best Time to Go to Croatia

Croatia is at its best in summer and autumn. August is the busiest month for Croatia [and most of Europe] and isn’t the best, so avoid that month. Early summer time is perfect for enjoying the waterfalls that Croatia is famous for, beaches, and over all natural beauty. September and October are decent months too, because they aren’t as busy as summer months.

Is Croatia cheap to travel to? Our Budget & Mistakes

Back in 2016 when we first visited Croatia, we expected it to be very cheap. No that wasn’t the case. We knew better when we revisited it in 2019.

The thing is, Croatia isn’t expensive when you compare it to the touristy Western European countries (like France, and Switzerland) but is expensive as compared to the nearby Czechia, Hungary, Slovenia, etc. Croatia is actually getting more and more expensive each year because of tourism.

If you travel smart and buy groceries from a supermarket to cook your own food, you won’t find Croatia very expensive. Instead of booking a room, try to find an apartment on Booking.com. It is sometimes possible to find one for as low as EUR 25 for two people. Most apartments include kitchens too. Of course, the prices go high as you get closer to the popular destinations.

Our mistake – we spent too much money on eating out even though we had the ability to cook our own meals in our van. While we were in Zadar, we rented an entire apartment that included a kitchen. We did not eat breakfast before driving to Krka National Park and ended up eating an overpriced meal in a fancy restaurant that’s close to the entry point of the national park.

The entry for Croatia’s beautiful National Parks isn’t cheap, but that shouldn’t be a reason for avoiding them. The most beautiful place in Croatia is the Plitvice Lakes National Park – please don’t skip it. 

While planning a budget for your Croatia road trip, keep in mind the toll costs, national park entrances, and parking fees among all other things.

Is Croatia Safe to Travel Alone?

Croatia is very safe. In our two visits to this amazing country, we met many travelers and a majority were traveling solo in Croatia. We did not hear about even a single incident that would make us doubt the safety aspect here.

If you’re a solo woman traveler and are planning a trip to Croatia then you will be happy to know it is one of the safest countries for you. As a thumb rule, be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings safe when you visit crowded areas. 

Where to go After Croatia?

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina - travel the Balkans
Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans

Bosnia & Herzegovina is the best place to go after Croatia. The country’s natural beauty is stunning. Unlike Croatia, it is yet to be affected by mass tourism. Go visit the Kravice Waterfalls, Una National Park or Vjetrenica cave to see the natural beauty – we loved all of them. If you like historical towns, then explore Mostar or Visegrad. Both these destinations are famous for their Ottoman style old bridges.

Slovenia

Slovenia is a stunning country that will charm you. Spend a few days in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park where you can camp right next to Lake Bohinj. Bohinj isn’t far from the more famous Lake Bled and is more beautiful.

Hungary

I have been to Hungary only once, and I spent most of my time in Budapest and then I went to the S.U.N. Festival in the country side. I did not find Hungary to be as beautiful as the nearby countries, maybe because I did not get a chance to explore it. If you like to party, then Budapest has one of the craziest party scenes in this part of Europe. 

Montenegro

Black Lake - Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro
Black Lake – Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro

Montenegro’s flower-shaped Kotor Bay is very close to Dubrovnik and you can visit it very easily after your road trip in Croatia. I also recommend Durmitor National Park, which we enjoyed more than Kotor Bay. Driving in Montenegro is amazing because the roads are winding and there are many viewpoints where you can stop your car and rest. 

Conclusion of Our Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Pin It - Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route - Map
Pin It – Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route – Map

Road trips are a brilliant way to live in the moment and remember life really is about the journey, not the destination. Croatia is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations and provides the perfect mixture of historic charm and tropical terrain for a road trip you will never forget. 

Our Croatia road trip guide will take you to all of the most awe-inspiring locations throughout the country, and allow you to really feel its unique ambiance. Enjoy all of the must-see attractions and highlights as you cruise Croatia with our itinerary in hand. Appreciate a travel experience that may even inspire you to start your own Croatia travel blog. 

We wish you unending adventures and hope that you’re able to get the most out of your time in Croatia’s flourishing cities and beachscapes on this spellbinding road trip.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes, Croatia (Avoiding Crowds + Tips)

Visiting Plitvice Lakes, Croatia (Avoiding Crowds + Tips)

Plitvice Lakes Croatia – the most beautiful national park in the Balkans

Just imagine – 16 lakes, all arranged in cascades between two rivers where the water goes from one river to another. While on the way, the water forms a series of waterfalls. 

To make things even better, the water is crystal clear and there are mountains in the picture. With a landscape like that, of course, it is Croatia’s most visited national park – this is Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1997.

Table of Contents

Introducing Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Crystal Clear Water - Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Water so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake – Plitvice Lakes Croatia

One of the most beautiful National Parks in Europe, the Plitvice Lakes is even more beautiful than the pictures. It is more than just the 16 interconnected lakes. It has spectacular waterfalls, river canyons, tufa formations, travertines, elevated viewpoints and so much more.

As per Wikipedia, the other comparable formations worldwide like Plitvice where tufa formation causes lakes and waterfalls are at Pamukkale in Turkey, Rastoke (Slunj) in Croatia, KRKA National Park in Croatia, Una National Park in Bosnia & Herzegovina – these all I have visited.

Also to add to this list are the Hindu Kush mountains’ Band-e Amir lakes, Yellowstone National Park, Jiuzhaigou in China, and Ocho Rios in Jamaica.

Snake inside the water in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Snake inside the water in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The biodiversity in Plitvice Lakes National Park is so rich – there are at least 75 plant species here that can’t be found anywhere else. If I were an animal, I would have picked THIS place to be my home.

There are 125 bird species, wolves, brown bears, and eagles that live here to name a few. Honestly, you won’t see all these animals but you will surely see amazing fish. We saw a snake too!

Water so slear that you can see the fish - Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Water so clear that you can see the fish – Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Plitvice is one of the oldest parks in South East Europe. It is the best place to visit for nature lovers. Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of the spectacle of Mother Nature in this national park.

On the other hand, nothing can prepare you for the shock of seeing the hordes of tourists lining up to enter this place during the high season.

After all, more than 1 million people visit it every year – and the number is steadily increasing. It is a part of most of many Croatia travel itineraries.

The crowd near Veliki slap in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
The crowd near Veliki slap in Plitvice Lakes Croatia

This is where MY HELP comes in, my post will help you figure out how to do Plitvice Lakes right. Yep, read on friends because I’m going to share my best tips for avoiding crowds, share info about photo spots, help you select a hike as per your comfort level and more. 

Having visited multiple national parks all over Europe, the beauty of Plitvice Lakes still holds very special in my heart. I want all my readers to enjoy this place as much as I did.

Things to Know Before Visiting Plitvice Lakes + Tips

Should You Make a Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes?

Stunning Clear Water - Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Stunning Clear Water – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
 

Avoid making a day trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park [especially during the peak season] because it will be a stressful experience.

If you make a day trip here from the nearby towns of Zadar or Split, you won’t arrive here before 9 or 10 a.m. and that’s when it gets extremely crowded.  

If you’re visiting anytime between June to August, please note that they are peak months. Do not even think of visiting the national park for just a day trip from one of the nearby cities. The crowds are crazy and it will be the most stressful experience. Vacations aren’t supposed to be like that. 

If you’re visiting Plitvice Lakes during the low season then you can consider a day trip. If you have the energy to wake up extremely early and arrive here during spring, autumn, or winter – walk around at least 5 km in the park, and then leave then by all means do it.

But again, there’s so much to see in this national park that I highly recommend you take time and explore.

Here are some of the best day trips to Plitvice Lakes National Park that we have hand-picked for you:

Can You Stay Inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park?

One of the many upper lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
One of the many upper lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Yes. There are just three hotels in Plitvice Lakes National Park where you can stay. There’s Hotel Plitvice, Hotel Bellevue and Hotel Jezero. Yes, they are really inside the national park close to park entrance 2. Entrance 2 is close to the upper lakes.

I don’t know why many websites claim that the park-operated hotels are overpriced – they aren’t. A room in these hotels can be from 70 Euros to 150 Euros per night.

Imagine you save money on getting to the national park on your taxi or the inconvenience of standing in line. Even if you spend 20 euros more by staying inside the national park, it is worth it (at least for me) as compared to staying in a village that’s 10 kilometers away.

Keep in mind that just because your hotel is inside the national park, you still have to buy your ticket for the Plitvice Lakes.

Yes, you can totally skip the queue and just walk in! If you’re not looking to stay inside the national park, then look for accommodation in nearby villages such as Čatrnja, Mukinje, and Rastovaca.

Plitvice Lakes Swimming

The inviting waters of Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
The inviting waters of Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Can you swim in Plitvice Lakes? Sorry to break this to you. It is no longer permitted to swim in the lakes or waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Before 2006, it was possible to swim in Lake Kozjak.

This beautiful area is sensitive and human influence harms the tufa formation. The process of tufa formation takes centuries as a result of the sedimentation of minerals from water.

The cascades of lakes and waterfalls inside this national park exist because of tufa – you don’t want to spoil that, right? After all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If you’re looking for a National Park where you can admire nature and swim, then try the nearby KRKA National Park or Kravice Waterfalls of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have been to both and I loved them. I prefer the Kravice National Park of Bosnia over the KRKA National Park of Croatia.

Upper and Lower Lakes

Illustration of multi level lakes in Plitvice, Croatia
Illustration of multi-level lakes in Plitvice, Croatia

Sixteen Lakes – wow that’s a lot of lakes to view in just a day or two by walking, no? Well, you will be happy to know that they’re divided into Upper and Lower Lakes to make things easier for you to explore. There are 12 upper lakes and 4 lower lakes. During winter, some parts of the upper lakes may be closed.

How to Avoid the Crowds in Plitvice Lakes (in Summer)

Plitvice Lakes tends to get full in summer
Plitvice Lakes tends to get full in summer

Avoiding crowds is an important aspect of a stress-free travel experience, especially in a place like Plitvice Lakes. It is necessary to make a proper strategy else the crowds will greet you at every turn here. 

I have mentioned a few points below that you can keep in mind to skip the crowds. Not just one but you will have to implement a few of these points together to avoid crowds inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Buy Your Tickets Online in Advance

The long lines in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The long lines in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The best way to avoid crowds in Plitvice Lakes is by saving yourself time in standing in the ticket queue. Queues are very long in summer so buy the tickets on the internet from before.

You will need to select your date and time for entering the national park at the time you purchase the tickets. If available, your time slot can be as early as 7 a.m. or as late as 5 p.m

Reach Super Early

When I say reach the Plitvice Lakes early, I mean earlier than early. The day-trippers start arriving between 9 and 10 and that’s when the national park starts getting jam-packed.

As mentioned in the last point, buy your tickets online and select an early morning time slot like 7 a.m. If in some cases you can’t find park tickets, then just show up at the entry area at 7 a.m. Of course this is why it helps if you book an overnight stay nearby.

..Or Reach in the Late Afternoon

Are you not a morning person? Neither am I. If 7 or 8 am slots are too early for you then enter in the afternoon to avoid the queues. The ticket price is cheaper in the late afternoon after 4 p.m.

The park closes by 8 p.m. in summer but much earlier in winter. If you enter at 4, you won’t have a lot of time to spend inside but you can most likely move faster because the trails won’t be jam-packed.

Pick the Longer Trail

Walking along the lake on trail K in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Walking along the lake on trail K in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia – we picked the longest trail

There are 7 walking routes or walking trails and they are of different lengths. I have a separate section in this post with details about the trails. Most of the people pick the smallest hiking trail. Veliki Slap / Big Waterfall is the most famous spot and tends to get very crowded after 10 a.m. 

In order to avoid crowds, pick the longer trail. Someone also mentioned that they avoided crowds by walking in the opposite direction of the trail.  Most of the smaller trails are crowded, the bigger trails are beautiful and totally worth it. The park is just so beautiful that you won’t even realize that you’ve walked so much.

Take a Detour

If you reach the park early, take a detour to Veliki Slap to avoid the crowds and come back to your original trail. Your entry ticket will also include a map on the opposite side, which isn’t difficult to read. Make the most of it.

Entrance 2 is a Lot Less Crowded

I mentioned a few times that the park has two entrances. Park entrance 1 is closer to the lower lakes and entrance 2 is closer to the upper lakes. Most of the people enter from the first entrance and hence it is more crowded than Entrance 2. The parking at Plitvice Lakes is both at entrances 1 and 2.

The Best Spots and Viewpoints inside Plitvice Lakes

If you’re like me and suffer from a massive FOMO (fear of missing out), then take the biggest walking trail so that you don’t miss out on even a single thing. However, if you’re short on time or low on energy, you will have to take one of the smaller trails or do a part of the bigger trail. In any case, here are some of my favorite stops:

Mali Prštavac Slap and Veliki Prštavac Waterfalls

Mali Prštavac Slap - the most beautiful waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Mali Prštavac Slap – the most beautiful waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Mali Prštavac Slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
Mali Prštavac Slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
Us in front of Mali Prštavac Slap - small waterfall in Plitvice Lake Croatia
Us in front of Mali Prštavac Slap – a small waterfall in Plitvice Lake Croatia

Going through all my photos of Plitvice Lakes, I realized this spot was really the most beautiful one. In fact, we loved it so much that we walked around here twice. This is Mali Prštavac Slap – one of the waterfalls in the upper lakes.

Us near Veliki Prštavac Waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Us near Veliki Prštavac Waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Veliki Prštavac Waterfall n Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Veliki Prštavac Waterfall n Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Actually, there’s a series of waterfalls that’s together – Veliki Prštavac Slap and Mali Prštavac Slap. Mali means small and Veliki means big. Slap means waterfall. There is an area where it is all together – Burgeti Lake, Gradinsko Lake, Veliki (Big) Prstavac, and Mali (small) Prstavac. Apart from these, there are many smaller waterfalls here.

The water here is super clear and it looks like one of those unbelievable AI-created natural landscapes that look too good to be true. The splash of blue water against the lush greenery is truly stunning at these waterfalls.

Galovački Buk Waterfall

Galovački Buk Waterfall is also in the upper lakes area and very close to. The water is clearer than most of the spots and the series of waterfalls look fantastic. It took me a while to realize what this spot is called and where it is.

The extremely beautiful Galovački Buk inside plitvice lakes
The extremely beautiful Galovački Buk inside plitvice lakes
clear pools under Galovački Buk in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
clear pools under Galovački Buk in Plitvice Lakes Croatia

This series of waterfalls is in the upper lakes area. This waterfall isn’t as big as Veliki Slap (the most famous and the biggest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park), but in our opinion is the most beautiful one.

Galovački Buk is 25 meters high and falls from Milino Lake and Galovac Lake to Gradinsko Lake. The result is truly spectacular. 

To be honest, there is a little bit of confusion on the internet because if you google the pictures of Galovački Buk and Mali Prštavac Slap – the internet will show you the same waterfall for both names. They are two separate waterfalls.

If I hadn’t clicked a picture of the signboard next to Mali Prštavac Slap, I would have never known which one is which because the park is massive.

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Viewpoint Near Veliki Slap / Big Waterfall (There are three)

Veliki Slap means big waterfall and is the most famous spot in the entire National Park. The Veliki Slap is at the end of the lower lakes.

Yes, the waterfall is surely beautiful but the best viewpoints to see the Plitvice Lakes are right over Veliki Slap. Veliki Slap and the surrounding limestone canyon are included on every walking route in Plitvice Park.

The big waterfall is lovely but the real beauty of it all lies further up on the other side of the canyon from where you can see lakes cascading into several waterfalls inside the huge canyon with the Big Waterfall on the right-hand side. 

Viewpoint Near the Big Waterfall - Veliki Slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
Viewpoint Near the Big Waterfall – Veliki Slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia – Shot on my GoPro

There are at least three viewpoints on top of Veliki Slap and they’re not difficult to find. The view is awesome and a little different from all three. Here is how you can find them. (You may want to bookmark the below paragraph before visiting the national park.)

In the first viewpoint, you will see Veliki Slap behind Sastavci Waterfalls (Sastavci Slap). This is the most famous image of Plitvice Lakes that’s used everywhere.

The picture on top was shot on my GoPro. I visited during an extremely sunny day and the excessive daylight ruined my photo. Below is another image that I found of this spot on the internet. I wanted to show you both so that you understand how this place looks with and without harsh sunlight. 

The Viewpoint on top of Veliki Slap in Plitvice Lakes National park Croatia
The Viewpoint on top of Veliki Slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia – CC0 via Pixabay

As you face the Big Waterfall, take the steps that are on the left side that go behind the waterfall. You will eventually be on a higher path that goes around the waterfall.

Follow that path and you’ll reach the viewpoint where the most famous photo of the Plitvice Lakes is taken that’s used in most of the travel brochures. If you’re confused, then head on trail C or K after the big waterfall. You will soon reach the viewpoints. We also went up on trail B.

That’s not the only viewpoint. If you continue to explore the path that goes up on the other side of the canyon, you will see other viewpoints like this one here. Here are the other two viewpoints. The below one is particularly my favorite one because the time I visited, the water here looked lovely turquoise. 

One of the viewpoints above the Big Waterfall - Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
One of the viewpoints above the Big Waterfall – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Us on top - one of the viewpoints on top of Veliki Slap in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Us on top – one of the viewpoints on top of Veliki Slap in Plitvice Lakes Croatia

I liked the second viewpoint more because there was more to see. You may not noticed but the pictures of the first viewpoint are really zoomed in. It doesn’t look as striking as the second one looks in reality but of course, in the pictures it does. 

Here is the third viewpoint that’s on top of the big waterfall. This viewpoint also shows you the great cascades, which can’t be seen from the other viewpoints.

Panorama viewpoint on top of Veliki slap in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Panorama viewpoint on top of Veliki slap in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Panorama viewpoint on top of Veliki slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
Panorama viewpoint on top of Veliki slap in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

Again, because of very harsh sunlight, my picture from the third viewpoint isn’t as good as many others that you will see on the internet. Here’s a better picture of the view from here. This is a highly zoomed-in picture. 

Plitvice Lakes - third viewpoint over the big waterfall that shoes the cascades
Plitvice Lakes – third viewpoint over the big waterfall that shows the cascades

Which one do you like the most? Viewpoints 1, 2, or 3 – let me know in the comments.

Tomićevo Pogledalo Viewpoint on Stubica Elevation

This viewpoint is on the trail that leads to Stubica Elevation from Lake Kozjak. There is a gazebo called Tomićevo Pogledalo where you can look at the panoramic view and see Lake Prošćansko and Lake Ciginovac. You will find this spot on walking trail K.

Tomićevo Pogledalo Viewpoint in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Tomićevo Pogledalo Viewpoint in Plitvice Lakes Croatia
View from Stupica Elevation on trail K - Plitvice Lakes Croatia
View from Stubica Elevation on trail K – Plitvice Lakes Croatia

As you go down from Stubica elevation, you will also come across several spots from between the trees from where you can see the upper lakes and this little waterfall.

If you want to take pictures of Plitvice Lakes that are a little different from others’ photos, then go on top of Stubica Elevation and find such viewpoints.

View of the waterfall from trail K inside Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
View of the waterfall from Trail K inside Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
Waterfall view inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Waterfall view inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Šupljara cave

The path going inside Šupljara cave in Plitvice Lakes National Park
The path going inside Šupljara cave in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Šupljara cave is located in the lower lakes section, near Kaluđerovac Lake. There is a path that goes inside this cave. Don’t take a detour to just see this lake if you’re not visiting the lower lakes because it is pretty ok. This was the only cave that I saw in the entire park, so for me, this was one of the most memorable spots.

Šupljara cave, Plitvice Lakes
Šupljara cave near Kaluđerovac Lake – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Novakovića Lake

Novakovića Lake is the lowest lake in Plitvice National Park, located at an altitude of 503 meters above sea level. It is one of the smallest lakes in the group of Lower Lakes.

The lake is fed by waters from Kaludjerovac Lake via a meters two-meter-high travertine barrier, creating a series of tiny waterfalls. There is a nice wooded path leading over this barrier. 

The Great Cascades

There are many other spots inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park that are stunning. I really liked these cascades too. You will see the cascades at many different points in both upper and lower lakes.

Getting Around inside Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park is pretty big but you don’t have to cover it all by just walking. You can take boats and trains inside for free. You need to hang on to your entry ticket and show it while getting onto an electric boat.

We did not end up taking a boat because there were a lot of people waiting so we decided to walk instead.

Seven Routes inside Plitvice Lakes National Park

The wooden walking ramp in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
The wooden walking ramp in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

Now that I have mentioned all the amazing spots inside the national park, you must be wondering which walking route you should pick to see them. I have gathered the details for you for that as well. There are seven suggested routes inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park and they are called “Lake Tour Programs”. You can do them by walking and also take a boat in between.

Routes that start from Entrance 1

  • Program A – 3.5 km, Short – this route covers the big waterfall, and the lower lakes – Novakovića brod, Kaluđerovac, Gavanovac, and Milanovac. You also go on the Kozjak Bridge and towards a part of the canyon. It is the most crowded trail.
  • Program B – 4 km, Short – This route covers the big waterfall, the lower lakes, a boat ride over Kozjak Lake, a panoramic train, and a part of the canyon.
  • Program C – 8 km, Long – Highly Recommended – This route will show you both the upper and the lower lakes, a big waterfall, and many smaller waterfalls like Veliki Prštavac and Mali Prštavac. This route also includes a boat ride and a panoramic train ride.
  • Program K1 – 18.3, Very Long – This is the one we took. Actually, Program K starts from both entrances 1 and 2. You can do this circle from any entrance instead, we did from entrance 1. This route includes everything – the lower lakes, upper lakes, big waterfall, and Stubica elevation. Instead of taking a boat over Lake Kozjak, you walk along the shore, and as a result, you see so much more.
One of the many waterfalls near the upper lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park
One of the many waterfalls near the upper lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Routes that start from Entrance 2

  • Program E – 5.1 KMs, Medium – This route only includes the upper lakes and Prštavci waterfalls. If you have to do one of the shorter trails, then pick this. It doesn’t have the big waterfall but has the smaller Prštavci waterfalls which I found more beautiful. 
  • Program F – 4.6 KMs, Medium – This route includes the lower lakes and the big waterfall. You miss out on the lovely Prštavci waterfalls but you will end up seeing the big waterfall and the viewpoints on top of the big waterfall.
  • Program H – 8.9 KMs – Long – Highly Recommended – This route will show you the upper lakes, lower lakes, the big waterfall, and the viewpoints. There’s also the boat ride on Lake Kozjak. It shows you most of what the park has to offer apart from Stubica Elevation.
  • Program K2 – 18.3, Very Long – Program K1 and K2 are both the same routes but the numbers are different to signify the different entrances where they begin. This route includes everything – the upper lakes, lower lakes, the big waterfall, and the Stubica Elevation.

If you want to see the most of Plitvice Lakes National Park but don’t want to walk as much as we did, then pick the trail H or C. If you want to pick a shorter trail and see the upper lakes and the smaller but lovelier waterfalls, then pick the trail E. I highly recommend you study the routes to make a suitable Plitvice Lakes itinerary for yourself.

Empty walking trail - route K in Plitvice Lakes national park
Empty walking trail – route K in Plitvice Lakes National Park

How to Get to Plitvice Lakes National Park?

It is easy to reach the Plitvice Lakes by car, bus, or even a taxi. Many taxi guys wait at bus stations and are happy to match the bus ticket price when there are at least 10 people.  

Reaching Plitvice Lakes by Car

Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia
Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia

It is so easy to travel within Europe in a rented car and turns out to be cheaper than taking buses and trains when there are 2 or more people. I wonder why San and I did not do this enough in our backpacking days. I highly recommend you rent a car in Zagreb or Zadar or Split or Karlovac and arrive here at your own pace. 

You can reach Plitvice Lakes in 2.5 to 3 hours from Zagreb on E71. You can make your route faster by switching to D42 or D1 from Karlovac city. From Zadar, the drive will take you 1.5 hours on E71 and D1. From Split, it will take you 2.5 – 3.5 hours on E71.

Reaching Plitvice Lakes on Bus

Shuttles and Buses to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Shuttles and Buses to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

You can easily reach the Plitvice Lakes on a bus from Zagreb, Zadar, or Split. Buses that run between Zagreb to Zadar OR Zagreb and Split cross Plitvice Lakes. 

We arrived here from Pula with a change in Karlovac. Honestly, at that time we had no idea and we just reached the bus station and asked the ticket seller for help. It worked well for us and we waited for just 45 minutes for our bus. Of course, we had a general idea of our direction.

We did not even have a hotel reservation. Our bus driver dropped us outside Camp Korana, which is just 3 km away from the park.

How to Reach Plitvice Lakes from Your Hotel

If you get a hotel near the Plitvice Lakes, you will most likely stay in Čatrnja, Mukinje, or Rastovaca. I did not find information

Staying in one of the park-operated hotels will make it easier for you to get to the national park because you can simply walk in or if you’re further away, there will be a shuttle bus for you. 

Plitvice Lakes Entrance Fee

Like many National Parks in the Balkans, the Plitvice Lakes also have different ticket prices for different seasons. The tickets are more expensive in summer as compared to other months. Here is a breakdown of the cost based on the season for 2023 and 2024.

Adults, 1 dayAdults, 2 dayChild (7-18 years), 1 Day Child (7-18 years), 2 Day
Jan, Feb, March, November & December1015,504,507,50
April, May, October23,5039,506,5010,00
June, July, August, September (Peak Season Full Day)4059,7015,0022,50
Peak Season Afternoon Entry26,509,00
Plitvice Lakes Entrance Ticket Prices

Children below 7 years and people with disabilities can enter the Plitvice Lakes National Park for free. If you are here in a group of 15 or more, you can get discounted pricing only if you have informed the park authorities at least 2 days in advance on prodaja@np-plitvicka-jezera.hr and they have confirmed.

Be smart, and buy your tickets online from before to avoid wasting your time. Even the park officials recommend pre-booking the entry tickets.

Wondering what is the afternoon time here? From June 1 to August 31, it is 4 PM, and from September 1 to September 30 is 3 PM. If you buy a double-day ticket, the price is not double. 

 

Eating Inside Plitvice Lakes

Most of the restaurants inside the Plitvice Lakes complex are expensive. I’d say they were at least three times more expensive than other places in Croatia. There was a lot of waiting and most of the restaurants mainly sold burgers and chips. 

If you want my recommendation, check out Licka Kuca restaurant near Entrance 1. They have good salads, platters, polenta, and apple strudel. Meat lovers will enjoy this restaurant because of local Croatian specialties

Best Time to Visit the Plitvice Lakes

Lovely flowers inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Lovely flowers inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The Flowers inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The Flowers inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

We visited in summer – the water was very blue but the park was crowded. Spring and Autumn months are recommended to avoid the crowds. Moreover, it is cheaper to visit Plitvice Lakes during this time. The tickets are also cheaper in winter but the water isn’t as blue. Of course, the lakes are beautiful all year round but every season has its own charm.

I can only imagine how lovely the park would be during the autumn or spring months. Imagine the contrast of red and brown leaves against the turquoise-blue waters – wow. Or, imagine flowers around the lakes and waterfalls. I’m sure Plitvice Lakes look stunning during winter but I’d personally not visit during that time considering how some part of the upper lakes is usually closed.

How Many Days Do You Need for Plitvice Lakes?

Stay overnight in one of the nearby villages so that you can enter the park early and avoid peak crowds. Do not make a day trip here, the park deserves way more than that.

Other Tips for Visiting Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Wear comfortable shoes in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Wear comfortable shoes in Plitvice Lakes National Park

This is the most obvious point but many people miss it. Even if you take the shortest walking path inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park, you will still have to walk a lot. Be kind to your feet and wear comfortable shoes. 

Don’t just wear a brand new pair of shoes right before the hike, because c’mon you need to “break your shoe” first. Instead, wear your slightly older tried and tested shoes.

Bring your own food to save money

The entry for Plitvice Lakes isn’t exactly cheap but you can save money by carrying your own food. If you want to eat at the restaurants that are inside, then keep in mind that they’re a bit expensive. 

Consider Getting a 2 Day Ticket

Croatia's Plitvice Lakes have the clearest water
Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes have the clearest water

Take your time to explore and make the most of your visit. It is possible to buy a multi-day ticket. Consider getting a 2-Days ticket for the park if you’re not in the mood to walk a lot in a single day.

The Park has two entrances

Plitvice Lakes National Park has two entrances – 1 and 2. Entrance 1 is closer to the lower lakes and entrance 2 is closer to the upper lakes. During winter, entrance 2 is usually closed.

Consider staying in one of the park-operated hotels to avoid the parking fee

If you’re visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park by driving here in your own car, then be mindful of the parking fee. You can avoid it by staying in one of the park-operated hotels.

Unlike many websites say – not all the park-recommended hotels aren’t overpriced. The time we visited Plitvice Lakes National Park, we were backpacking and we pitched our tent in Camp Korena. It is also one of the park’s recommended places to stay but it is very affordable.

Plitvice Lakes National Park has an App – Use it

Consider downloading the mobile app to study the trails. Instead of spending hours on the internet and hunting for information that you need about Plitvice Lakes National Park, why not install just one free app that’s run by the park tourism? Try it. 

Visiting Plitvice Lakes with Baby? Yes or No?

The wooden walking path in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia
The wooden walking path in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

I’m all for traveling with a baby and I have multiple posts that encourage new parents to do so. However, Plitvice Lakes National Park isn’t the best place for you to bring your baby in a stroller. 

Why? Well because when you’re inside the national park, the only way to walk from one place to another is by taking one of the walking paths. Taking your baby’s pram on the wooden ramp isn’t going to be comfortable for you and those who are around you. The path goes up and down has steps. You will cause a traffic jam to an already jammed-up space. 

It isn’t easy to take your baby on your arm and walk so much, and it isn’t easy taking pushchairs and strollers. If you’re traveling with a baby then consider skipping Plitvice and heading to Krka National Park instead. 

Where to Stay to visit Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes Lakes Hotels

Hotels In Plitvice National Park

There are only three hotels inside Plitvice Lakes National Park. They are Hotel Plitvice, Hotel Bellevue and Hotel Jezero. Yes, they are really inside the national park close to entrance 2. You can really skip the queue and walk inside the national park but of course, you have to buy your ticket. They are priced between EUR 70 per night for two to EUR 300. 

Places to Stay near Plitvice Lakes

Here are a few guest houses, hotels, and campgrounds near the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Camp Korana (They have Bungalows Too – Bungalows Korana)

Our camping place in Camp Korana near Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Our camping place in Camp Korana near Plitvice Lakes Croatia

The time I went to Plitvice Lakes, I stayed in Camp Korana. It is a camping place that’s next to the River Korana. Yes, the same river that is also in Plitvice Lakes National Park. The best part is that they have free shuttles to the National Park and back.

They also have bungalows, and that part is called Bungalows Korana.

Outdoor restaurant in Camp Korana near Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Outdoor restaurant in Camp Korana near Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Camp Korana is essentially a place for camper vans but we entered without a van just with our tents. This place is very big from the inside. We visited in the peak summer season – August but still there appeared to be a lot of free space inside.

Camp Korana Swimming Spot by Korana River - camping place near Plitvice Lakes Croatia
Camp Korana Swimming Spot by Korana River – camping place near Plitvice Lakes Croatia

We also saw bungalows inside and their website advertises that there are 47 of them. So, if camping isn’t your thing, then you can also rent a bungalow here. There’s also a decent restaurant here and a bar. There’s wifi that actually works in the entire campground.

Green Lakes House

Green Lakes House is one of the most affordable places to stay that’s super close to Plitvice Lakes. It is 2 km away from entrance 2 of the national park.

This guest house also has an air conditioner, that you will surely need if you’re visiting Croatia in summer. They have a dining area that you can share with other travelers. They also offer free WiFi. The rooms here cost between 40 – 50 EUR per night.

House Flora in Rastovaca

House Flora is just 700 meters away from the Plitvice Lakes National Park’s entrance 1. If you want to save money by staying outside the national park, you can’t get any closer than this! The rooms sell out fast and are for 80 – 100 EUR. 

Where to Go After Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice Lakes is located in Central Croatia and if you drive for just 20 kilometers, you will arrive at the Bosnian border. Here are some amazing places where you can go after visiting Plitvice Lakes:

Una National Park, Bosnia

Una National Park is very close to the Croatia-Bosnia border. It is just 70 kilometers away from Plitvice Lakes. We have visited Bosnia & Herzegovina twice and we love it. It is as beautiful as Croatia, minus the crowds. There are two big waterfalls inside Una National Park and they’re spectacular.

Slunj – Rastoke (Mini Plitvice Lakes) and Mjesto Primišlje

MoDem Festival's Killer Location - Psytrance Festivals 2017
MoDem Festival’s Killer Location – Psytrance Festivals 2017

Slunj town is 25 km away from Plitvice Lakes – it is totally under the radar and you can visit the historical center here called Rastoke. Here Slunjčica River joins Korana River and creates something that’s called Mini Plitvice Lakes.

Primslje is around 15 km away from Slunj and is just 38 kilometers away from Plitvice Lakes. I have visited (and camped here) twice. It is actually the location for the Modem festival and I’m sure it is much better to visit it without the festival. Here Mrežnica River creates multiple pools and waterfalls. You can camp here at Campsite Vrela Mrežnice.

KRKA National Park

We visited KRKA National Park this year (2019) and enjoyed it. Unlike Plitvice, you can swim here. It is nowhere as beautiful as the Plitvice Lakes but swimming makes the experience worthwhile.

Zadar

Zadar is 119 Kilometers away from Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is a historical coastal town that is a famous tourist destination in Croatia.

Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia

Kravice Waterfalls are 337 Kilometers away from Plitvice Lakes National Park. These waterfalls are in Bosnia & Herzegovina and are truly spectacular. You can swim here too. Read my post about Kravice Waterfalls for more information.

Have you visited the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia?

If yes, did you like it as much as I did? What were your favorite spots inside the national park? Also, I’d love to know if you saw crowds here and what are your tips for avoiding them.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Pin It on Pinterest