Waterfall at Plitvice

Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes: Complete Guide (2023)

Plitvice Lakes National Park is an absolutely stunning area of natural beauty. The park is full of cascading waterfalls, bright blue lakes and a 22 km boardwalk that takes you all through the forest.

Visiting the Plitvice Lakes on a trip to Croatia is a must and a journey to the park makes for a great day trip from Zagreb. The photographs that you can take with even just your phone are just stunning and you will feel like a photographer while you’re there.

This blog post will give you all the details on how to take a great day trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes and enjoy the wonderful waterfalls and lakes.

Where is Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in Croatia, and it is situated to the south of the country’s capital, Zagreb. The distance between Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes is approximately 130 kilometres (81 miles). The journey time varies depending on the mode of transport but typically journey time will be around 2.5 – 3 hours.

Plitvice Lakes formed over thousands of years through a fascinating process of geological and hydrological evolution. The park’s distinctive features, including its interconnected lakes and cascading waterfalls, owe their existence to the dissolution of limestone bedrock.

As a geographer, the landforms in the park are just incredible. It is so crazy to think that water is so powerful when it is flowing to create something so huge and beautiful.

Cascading waterfall at Plitvice

The Plitvice Lakes themselves are a result of the collapsed dolines filling with water. Over millennia, the water’s movement and gravity-driven flow carved out the distinctive terraces and waterfalls that visitors marvel at today.

Plitvice Lakes National Park’s unique formation process, creating the wonderful lakes and waterfalls has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, attracting nature enthusiasts and tourists from around the world.

Why take a trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes?

Zagreb is one of the best cities to travel to Plitvice from. The distance between the locations is relatively short and the drive is scenic and gives wonderful views.

While Zagreb is a lovely city, there isn’t much to do and so taking a day away from it to explore the natural beauty of Croatia is a great plan. Plitvice Lakes is a UNESCO site and is one of the most visited locations in the country, it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to see it.

Getting from Zagreb airport to the city centre to then go to Plitvice Lakes could all be done in the matter of a few hours, meaning you could get off your flight and go straight to the park.

The distance between Zagreb and Plitvice is around 130 km, making it very achievable to arrive before lunch and be back in Zagreb in the late evening. Alternatively, you could travel from Zagreb to Plitvice, stay the night in a nearby hotel and continue down the Adriatic Coast to explore cities like Split and Dubrovnik.

Zadar is another good city to take a day trip to Plitvice Lakes from, it is roughly the same distance from the park as Zagreb is.

How do you get from Zagreb to Plitvice?

Via Guided Tour

There are multiple ways of getting from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes but the best method is by tour bus. It is best to join a guided tour from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes to allow you to really enjoy your experience at the lakes rather than fuss about transport.

Many tour operators in Zagreb offer day trips to the park, which can provide a hassle-free and informative experience. These tours typically include transportation, entrance fees, and a guided tour of the park’s highlights.

Taking a guided tour of the park with an external company can actually work out cheaper than buying a ticket for a tour from the Plitvice Lakes website. The prices for tours done by park rangers are significantly higher than other outside providers.

I’ve rounded up 3 of the best tours available that take you from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park and given some key information about each of them.

Tour Name 🚌Rating ⭐Key Information πŸ“Make a Booking πŸ‘‡
From Zagreb: Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke Day Trip4.9/5Trip to Rastoke Village included

Hotel pickup possible

Van transfer

10 hour day trip
From Zagreb: Rastoke and Plitvice Lakes Small-Group Day Trip4.9/5Small group size

Rastoke Village visit

10 hour day trip

Hotel pickup available
From Zagreb: Transfer to Split & Plitvice Lakes Guided Tour4.8/5Pickup in Zagreb, drop off in Trogir or Split on Adriatic Coast

12 hour durarion

Van or tour bus transfer with luggage storage

Optional stop at restaurant

By Coach

Buses to Plitvice Lakes run regularly from Zagreb Bus Station, and the trip takes around 2.5 to 3 hours. It’s a convenient and cost-effective option, with various bus companies offering services throughout the day. You can check the bus schedules and book tickets in advance online or at the bus terminal. Doing the former is best to make sure you’re not disappointed. Visiting Plitvice Lakes is a very popular activity from Zagreb and tickets sell fast for coaches – weeks in advance in peak season!

I recommend the provider Flixbus as they are known for being on-time and having nice coaches which offer comfortable seating, power outlets and toilets on all of their buses. Sometimes they do charter other coaches though for certain time slots but don’t worry, they are just as comfortable.

The earliest bus departure from Zagreb is at 05:45 arriving to Plitvice Lakes at 08:10 the same day. While the latest bus departure is at 21:30 and arrives at 23:15 the same day. The prices for the cheapest one way adult tickets range from β‚¬6 to β‚¬14. Discounted tickets for children and students are available on some departures.

The bus stops at both Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1 and Entrance 2 so depending on your park tickets you can easily access both ends of the park. In my opinion, Entrance 2 is better as the routes that you can hike around the lakes and waterfalls are longer and give you an opportunity to have a boat and bus rides.

By Car

Another way to travel from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is by car. The journey time will be slightly shorter than that of a coach and allows you more freedom to explore. There is parking available on the site of the National Park at both entrances. At the time of writing, the cost per hour is around 1.10 euros.

What are the opening hours of Plitvice Lakes National Park?

The opening hours of the park vary with the seasons and the amount of daylight. The best time to visit the park is in the summer as the park is open for the longest amount of time. If you’re visiting in winter then I recommend going early so that you can maximise the amount of time you have in the park.

SeasonsMonthsPark OpensPark ClosesLast entry
WinterNovember to March08:0016:0014:00
SpringApil & May08:0019:0017:00
SummerJune & August07:0020:0018:00
Autumn/FallSeptember & October07:00 / 08:0018:00 / 19:0016:00 /17:00

How much is it to enter Plitvice Lakes?

1-day entrance tickets to Plitvice Lakes vary in price per season. In high season you can expect to pay 40 euros for an adult ticket while in low season they drop significantly to just 10 euros. Students have a reduced rate of entrance as well as children and people with disabilities.

Even within high season there are different prices depending on how busy the national park is expected to be.

There are also discounts when visiting the park as a group. To qualify for this you must email the park in advance and have more than 15 people in your party and they must be aware of your visit no sooner than 2 days before your arrival.

Children under 7 years old can visit the park for free.

2-day tickets to the park have good reductions on price even in high season. If you’re planning on staying near the park then I highly recommend opting for the 2-day ticket which will give you extra time to explore the park at a decent price.

You can find a full price list for visiting Plitvice Lakes here.

What is included in an entrance ticket?

While the prices might seem quite high in comparison to other national parks around Europe, you are getting a lot included in your ticket cost. When you arrive at the park you will choose from a map which route you’d like to follow and this corresponds to what methods of transport your ticket will cover.

For example, if you choose Route H at Plitvice Lakes and enter through Entrance 2, your ticket will cover the cost of your entrance, 2 bus rides and a 20 minute boat ride which allow you to complete the route. Your ticket allows you to explore all 22 km of boardwalk, no matter what route you take, and all 36 km of hiking trails meaning once you’ve finished your desired route you can continue on elsewhere.

Transfer vehicle in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Ticket prices also cover accident insurance and a contribution to the management and protection of the park.

What can you do at Plitvice Lakes?

The main attraction at Plitvice Lakes National Park is of course the lakes and waterfalls. Walking the boardwalk around the park is very relaxing and scenic. You’ll come away with some fabulous photographs which will capture beautiful memories of your trip from Zagreb to Plitvice.

As I mentioned above, your ticket price includes a ride in a sightseeing bus and a boat ride which both give panoramic views of the park and are helpful stops to relax your legs and break up the walk.

There are lots of routes that you can choose to take through Plitvice Lakes, all alphabetically listed and they are signposted very well so you won’t get lost along the way. The best route to take is Route H, starting from Entrance 2. It’s recommended that you set aside between 4 and 6 hours to complete it.

Waterfall and bright blue lake

It begins with a sightseeing bus ride, then there is a 5 km walk along the boardwalk, through forests and alongside lakes and waterfalls. After completing this section you’ll find yourself at the ferry dock and you will take a 20 minute ride across one of the biggest lakes in the park. To reach the end and the biggest waterfalls, you’ll then complete another 4 km of walking before you take the bus back to Entrance 2.

You can complete the routes yourself or with the help of a tour guide, but as I mentioned above, tours provided by the park are quite pricey. Opt for a tour that I have linked for a cheaper alternative.

There are many cafes and restaurants throughout the park serving fast foods and desserts, handy for those that don’t want to carry a packed lunch. There are also small shops selling basic groceries should you want to make yourself a picnic style meal.

The souvenir shops scattered throughout the park are also fabulous. There are some beautiful handmade souvenirs in the shops that would make perfect gifts. You can also buy guidebooks on Plitvice Lakes and there are some very interesting books about the formation of the waterfalls and lakes, available in many languages.

There are other amenities such as luggage storage and toilets at each entrance of the park and throughout.

Can you swim at Plitvice Lakes?

No. You can’t swim at Plitvice Lakes and you haven’t been able to since 2006!

Lots of tour companies around Zagreb will try to entice you into visiting the park with outdated images of people swimming in the lakes. You are not allowed to swim in any part of the lakes or waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes.

The rangers and staff at Plitvice Lakes National Park are committed to protecting the lakes and the surrounding area and with thousands of tourists coming and going every day in peak season, it would be very unsustainable for visitors to be allowed to swim.

Overnight Stays Near Plitvice Lakes

There are dozens of hotels, guest houses and apartments near Plitvice Lakes and their close proximity allows you to spend the night by beautiful scenery and have easy access to the park.

Staying for a night after visiting the lakes is a great way to unwind before moving on with your trip, especially if you’ve had a long journey travelling from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes. It also allows you to utilise a 2-day ticket and get the most out of the park.

Here are some of my top rated picks for places to stay near Plitvice Lakes:

Accommodation Name
Rating ⭐Key Information
Make a Reservation
Ethno Hotel Plitvice Lakes Deluxe7.9/105 ⭐ rated hotel

Rustic style rooms

Mountain views and communal roof terrace

Restaurant and bar on site

Free bicycle hire
Plitvice Falls Cottage9.6/10Located within the National Park

Transfers available to nearby locations

Countryside views

Family friendly rooms available
B&B Plitvice Lakes Villa Mija9.4/10Garden and mountain views

Rooms with patio

Located between Entrance 1 and 2 of the park

Luggage storage available


How far is Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes?

The distance between Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park is around 130 km. Journey time will depend on what method of transport is used but typically it will take 2-3 hours to get to the park from Zagreb.

How long is the bus from Zagreb to Plitvice?

The bus journey time from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park is usually between 2.5 and 3 hours. The route that the bus takes will give you scenic views along the way which will make the journey time pass faster.

How do I get from Zagreb to Lake Plitvice?

There are multiple ways of getting from Zagreb to Plitivce. The best way is by a coach using a tour company. Flixbus also has regular services running between Zagreb and Plitvice.

Is Split or Zagreb closer to Plitvice?

Zagreb is much closer to Plitvice Lakes than Split. It is one of the best cities to travel to the park along with Zadar. A recommended route from Zagreb would be a stop at Plitvice lakes overnight before heading on to Split to see the beautiful coastline. If you’re staying in Split then Krka National Park would be a better option to see lakes and waterfalls.

How long is the Plitvice walk?

The walking distance at Plitvice depends on which route you chose to take and which entrance you start from. There are short routes starting at 3.5 km ranging up to huge hikes of 18.3 km.

Can I swim in Plitvice Lakes?

No, swimming is not permitted at Plitvice Lakes as a way of protecting the natural beauty. Swimming has been banned since 2006 but many tour companies still promote images of people swimming in the lakes.

How much time should I spend in Plitvice?

Putting aside around 6 hours in the National Park should be enough to explore and complete the most popular routes. Spending the night in a hotel nearby to the lakes after your visit will allow you to time to fully explore the park though.

Is Plitvice worth it?

Plitvice is definitely worth the money. High season tickets can be quite pricey but for what you’re getting it is well worth the investment. To get more for your money’s worth, visit the park during low season or buy a 2-day ticket.

Can you bring dogs into Plitvice Lakes?

Yes. Dogs are permitted to join owners on their visit to the National Park but must remain on their leash at all times. Owners of smaller dogs should be aware that they may need to carry their pet over steep and uneven terrain.

Conclusion: Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes

Taking a trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes would make for the perfect day trip. The park is very popular among tourists and many locals will tell you that their visit was the highlight of their trip to Croatia.

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is just beautiful. The walks through the forest are so relaxing and peaceful, even during peak season. The boat ride that is included in your ticket price offers a beautiful location for photographs and is a highlight of the visit.

If you’re thinking of taking a trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes then you should definitely start planning it! The park is a must-see destination in Croatia and shouldn’t be missed!

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