A Plitvice lakes Winter Visit by JetSettingFools.com

Plitvice Lakes, Winter Visit To Croatia

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Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia had long been something we wanted to experience. The images of tumbling waterfalls streaming into teal blue pools was burned on our minds and we wanted to see the famous Croatia waterfalls for ourselves. Even though we were visiting Croatia in winter, seeing Plitvice Lakes was a must-do during our trip. We planned our Plitvice Lakes winter visit in mid-March as we traveled from Split to Zagreb.  


Traveling From Split to Plitvice Lakes in Winter

We departed Split on a warm, sunny day. The bus ride from Split, Croatia to Plitvice Lakes took us along the stunning coastline, past Trogir and north to Zadar. But, once we turned inland the sky turned dreary. Three o’clock in the afternoon looked more like six and the cooler air was permeating the windows. We were getting closer to the snow-capped mountains that had for so long been in the distance and city life gave way to rural surroundings. We passed sheep, llamas, cattle and ostrich. Then we passed patches of snow. We had not observed snow in the Plitvice weather forecast when planning our Plitvice lakes Croatia winter visit. 

On our arrival, the Plitvice Lakes weather was dismal. Snow covered the hills and my mind was racing trying to calculate exactly how many layers I could pile on myself for warmth. It was going to be slightly chillier than we had expected, but we were committed to staying two full days at Plitvice Lakes. 


Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in Winter

Big Waterfall Plitvice, or Veliki Slap, at National Park in Croatia

The following day, we woke to overcast skies, which had us dragging our feet. We were clearly not heeding the advice of an early arrival to Plitvice Park entrance to avoid large tour groups. We pulled on multiple layers, hoping they would keep us warm. After a 15 minute walk from our accommodations (more on where we stayed at the end of the post), we were standing at Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1, where a large tour group cluttered the ticket windows. 

Our Plitvice winter visit fell within the off-season pricing. The cost of our Plitvice Lakes tickets two-day park pass was about $15 each, which is heavily discounted from the peak. When it was our turn to pay our Plitvice Lakes entrance fee, we requested the two-day pass. The seemingly puzzled attendant bluntly replied, “But the Plitvice Upper Lakes are closed.”

Closed? What do you mean the Upper Lakes are closed?! I felt like Clark Griswold arriving to a closed Walley World. How had we missed this very important detail about Plitvice winter visits? I had read about the possibility of ferry boats not running within the park, but assumed there were Plitvice Lakes walking routes that led to both the Lower and Upper Lakes. Evidently, I was wrong. My disappointment was obvious. Kris just shrugged, “OK, we still want the two-day pass to see the Lower Lakes.”

NOTE: Plitvice Lakes Tickets can no longer be purchased on arrival! See below for more details.

Feeling defeated and with my shoulders slumped, we walked through the Plitvice entrance. I kept my eyes on the ground, brooding over the unsatisfactory news.

When we approached the railing, I finally looked up and was left speechless at the sight before us: Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall). Across the canyon, five streams of water tumbled over the edge of a cliff into aqua colored pools, which then cascaded in shorter falls into deeper pools. Even with the grey skies, the spectacle was breathtaking and my downtrodden demeanor was doing a flip-flop.

Below us I could see the Plitvice Lake trails of planked pathways that wind through the Lower Lakes and I was thrilled to see how close we could get to the water. With only a slight tinge of disappointment left, we set off to explore the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls!


Our Plitvice Lakes Tour

Plitvice Lakes: View from the falls from the eastern edge of the canyon

The park is designed to allow guests to get up close and personal with Plitvice routes at lake level. We began our self-guided Plitvice tour on the main path that descended quickly to water level. Throughout the park, Plitvice trails follow the water’s edge. There are four lower lakes (Kaluderovac, Novakovica Brod, Gavanovac and Milanovac) connected by streaming and tumbling waterfalls – all of which are on the main Plitvice Lake route. 

Book a Guided Tour of the Park in advance! 

Plitvice Lakes winter scenery in Croatia

The lakes and waterfalls were created by the natural phenomenon of karst hydrography, which is explained best on the park’s website. While I do find scientific explanations to be interesting, the visual sight was far too distracting to be able to fully comprehend it. Plitvice Lakes was declared a national park in 1949 (Croatia’s first national park) and designated a UNESCO Heritage site in 1979. 

It was quite evident that it was still the Plitvice Lake winter season, with only a few flowers, budding plants and birds signaling the coming of spring. Bare tree limbs and exposed rocks surrounded by intensely colored rushing water added a contrasting element to the scene. Perhaps not the postcard picture that lured us there, the one major upside of our Plitvice National Park winter visit was that the park was practically void of crowds, giving us the chance to often feel as if we were the sole guests.

Since we had two days’ time on our side, we slowly explored the park, stopping to take (way too many) Plitvice Lakes photos, but also to simply enjoy the natural and unique surroundings. Even under a blanket of cloudy skies, we marveled at the the emerald green water and the magnificent, crashing falls.


Plitvice Lakes Hiking Trails

Viewpoint from Plitvice Lakes Hike in Croatia

On our second day visiting Plitvice Lakes, we were energized by the bright blue skies and made our way to the park shortly after opening. We retraced our steps on the Plitvice Lakes routes around the Lower Lakes, appreciating how the lake scenery changed under the sun’s rays.

In addition to the paths that wind through the park at water level, there are also Plitvice Lakes National Park hiking paths that follow the top edge of the canyon on both sides. We got a birds’ eye view of the waterfalls and lakes below from the many lookout points. We followed a western trail across the top of Veliki Slap, taking in the views from platforms on both sides. Moss covered stairs zig zag from the top to the misty base.

Plitvice Lakes: moss covered stairs led from the western edge of the canyon down to the misty base of Veliki Slap (the Big Waterfall)

In the end, we were pleased with our Plitvice Lakes winter visit. Although we are still disappointed that we didn’t get to see the Upper Lakes or the park in full bloom, there were several perks to visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in the winter. Without the crowds we were able to slow down and thoroughly appreciate the natural splendor!

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Photos From Our Plitvice Lakes Winter Visit

Plitvice Lakes photos: A winter visit means less lush greenery, but also fewer crowds.

Plitvice Lakes photos: Beautiful scenery throughout the park

Wooden stairs next to stream at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

JetSetting Fools at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Are you ready to Visit Plitvice Lakes now? See below for all the pertinent information to plan your Croatia Itinerary!


Plitvice Lakes Guide & General Information

Plitvice Lakes photos: Sun shines on the stunning falls

Here is a quick guide of Plitvice Lakes information for your visit to the park any time of year.


Plitvice Lakes Opening Hours

Plitvice Lakes National Park is open every day of the year. However, times vary by season. Check the official website for more information about times.


Plitvice Lakes Tickets

Since 2019, Plitvice Lakes has made a major change to how guests purchase tickets. Park visitors no longer queue at the gates to buy tickets. Instead, visitors are directed to book tickets online, which are valid for specific dates and times. In fact, Plitvice NP tickets can only be purchased at the gate if there are available time slots. Most importantly, tickets must be reserved 2 days in advance of entry! 

Tickets are available for 1 and 2-day passes. Plitvice Lakes ticket costs vary by season and visitor’s age. See the official website for current Plitvice price of admission and for purchase


Best Time To Visit Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

There are pros and cons to visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in every season. In the summer, it can be hot and the crowds can be intense, but the scenery is lush and colorful. A Plitvice Lakes winter visit means the Plitvice Upper Lakes will be closed, but there will be fewer crowds and a less expensive admission price. If visiting Plitvice Lakes in the spring, the Plitvice weather could be unperdicable, but there will still be fewer crowds and shoulder-season pricing. A Plitvice Lakes autumn visit means changing leaves, which can add to the scenery. We re-visited Plitvice in the Autumn when the Upper Lakes were open and were not disappointed…but we did have to content with the crowds! 


Plitvice Lakes Map

Vivid green water of Lower Lakes at Plitvice Lakes NP in Croatia

Use this link to Google Maps to find your way around Plitvice Lakes, Croatia.


How To Get to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Sarah standing at base of Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall)

Plitvice Lakes is located on the Croatian interior, but is still easily accessible via organized tour, private guide, personal vehicle or public transportation. If self-driving to Plitvice Lakes, the main parking lot is across the street from Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1. 

There is a bus route from Zagreb to Split that passes through Plitvice Lakes, but not all buses from Zagreb to Split take that route. There are two Plitvice Lakes bus stops – Entrance 1 and Plitvice Lakes Entrance 2. If staying at Plitvice Lakes overnight, confirm which stop is closer to your accommodations. 

It is possible to use public transportation for a Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes – or even stopping for a few hours while traveling from one city to another (ie: Zagreb to Split or Zagreb to Zadar). In high season, it is essential to purchase onward tickets in advance or immediately upon arrival, as buses do get full.

There are lockers at the park that are free to use, as well as a communal, unattended luggage storage area at Entrance 1. Ask for keys from the Plitvice Lakes National Park Information Office. 

Book a Private Transfer from Split to Zagreb with a Plitvice Lakes Tour!


Split to Plitvice Lakes

Check bus timetables from Split to Plitvice Lakes on BusCroatia.

Book the popular and highly-rated 12-hour tour from Split to Plitvice Lakes on Viator


Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes

Check bus timetables from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes on BusCroatia.

Book an organized and top-rated day trip from Zagreb to Plitvice on Viator


Zadar to Plitvice Lakes

Check bus timetables from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes on BusCroatia.

Book a full-day, 5-star tour from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes on Viator


Where To Stay in Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Water spilling over a rock in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Although Kris referred to our adventure as ‘Plitvice Lakes Camping,’ we had actually booked a studio apartment at a guesthouse in the village of Rastovaca. Our host was waiting for us at the bus stop and drove us the short distance to the property.

We have found that staying in Airbnb Apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, often, more space. However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are a few Plitvice National Park Hotels to choose from. Start your search for hotels, guesthouses and apartments on Booking.com

Tip: There is one small convenience store at Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1 that has basic items, but no grocery store within walking distance. We brought our own food for our 3-night Plitvice stay.


Before You Go to Plitvice Lakes NP


Also Visiting Krka Waterfalls? Excellent! Read our detailed guide for the Best Krka Waterfall Trip!

How To Plan a Day Trip to Krka National Park Waterfalls, Croatia


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Visiting Plitvice Lakes in Late Winter

9 thoughts on “Plitvice Lakes, Winter Visit To Croatia

  1. Diana

    Thank you so much for writing this! My boyfriend and I have been together for 7 years and have never taken a vacation, we are from the U.S. We can finally take a vacation after waiting all this time, but it unfortunately HAS to be in November, due to work schedules, days off, coverage availability, etc. I was so upset hearing how the upper lakes are closed during this time, my heart sank and I felt so disheartened. After seeing this, I am still slightly bummed, but realizing that the lakes will be so amazing that even seeing half of the park will be just as beautiful, and just to be thankful to even be able to go at all!

  2. Andrew


    Thanks for sharing – I was thinking of going here in late March also. Would you recommend this time of year or should I go in Spring? Thanks, Andrew.

    • Hi Andrew – I guess it is really a matter of preference and your reason for the visit. Not being able to see the Upper Lakes was a huge disappointment, but not battling crowds was awesome. Another perk to visiting earlier is the pricing was low season, so that might make a difference if budget is a concern. As far as the foliage is concerned, there probably isn’t a significantly drastic difference between seeing the park in March vs April or May. It isn’t really lush until summer. During our visit, it was cool/cold (which we prefer over humid/hot – and you can’t swim in at Plitvice, like you can at Krka). Snow was on the ground in some patches and early in the morning some of the paths were iced over. So, perhaps that would be a consideration for you as well. Overall, I can’t think of a time that Plitvice Lakes wouldn’t be wonderful (except maybe in the rain!). It is a fascinating and stunningly beautiful part of Croatia! Hope you enjoy your visit there!

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