Europe, Travel

Plitvice Lakes National Park Day Trip from Zadar

I spent a few days in Zadar during the summer. While I was there I couldn’t resist the opportunity to tick off a bucket list item – a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

It is possible to get to Plitvice Lakes from Zadar via public transport, but to save myself the trouble of figuring out the bus schedule I decided to join an organised day trip. I found an excursion through Viator which suited me perfectly. They organise your transport to and from the park but when you’re there you’re on your own. You don’t have to stick with a guide and follow a group, and you have at least 5 hours to spend in the park.

The excursion departed from the Elegance Tours office in Old Town Zadar at 8am. Everyone on the trip was given a map which outlined their suggested route for visiting the park. Based on their previous experience they believe this is the least busy route through the park and allows you to make the best use of your time there.

The drive to Plitvice Lakes from Zadar takes around two hours. Along the way they stopped at a restaurant with a small shop to give people the opportunity to buy food and use the restrooms. I definitely recommend using the toilets here as the ones at the entrance to the park had long queues when we arrived.

We were dropped off at the park around 10:30am at Entrance 1 and shown where to meet for the pickup at 4pm. There were a lot of people hanging around outside the entrance to the park but the queue to purchase tickets was not very long.

Almost immediately after entering the park you get a beautiful view of the lakes and waterfalls.

The tour company had suggested catching the scenic train from ST1 to ST3 at the top of the upper lakes. Unfortunately on the day I visited the train route was closed between ST1 and ST2 due to road works. This meant I had to walk to ST2 for the scenic train which was quite a bit further. This walk was through trees and not very scenic for the most part, but it was very quiet and away from the crowds.

From ST3, the suggested route travels downhill along the upper lakes towards P2, a stop for the electric ferry on Lake Kozjak. There are so many waterfalls to see along is part of the route, I was constantly stopping to take photos.

The ferry ride from P2 to P3 takes around 20 minutes. By this point I had done quite a bit of walking so it was nice to sit down for a while and just enjoy the view. Near the P3 stop there are cafes and toilets so this is where I stopped to have lunch.

From here the route travels downhill through the lower lakes, finishing with the Big Waterfall. It’s then a short uphill walk back to Entrance 1 for the return bus trip to Zadar.

Tips for visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park

  • My excursion with Elegance Tours cost €30 (220 KN). This price only covered the transfers, you have to purchase your entrance ticket to the park when you arrive. Entrance costs €20 in low season and €33 in high season at the time of writing.
  • Public buses operate between Zadar and Plitvice Lakes, which may work out cheaper than an organised day trip. Summer departures are a lot more frequent than in winter.
  • If you spend most of the day in the park you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking so comfortable shoes are a must. I’d also recommend bringing a bottle of water and some snacks, although you can purchases food and drinks inside the park.
  • Credit cards are accepted when purchase your entry ticket at the gate, as well as at some of the cafes inside the park. However, some places inside the park are cash only so I would recommend bringing cash with you.
  • Entrance 2 is a lot quieter than Entrance 1. I recommend using Entrance 2 if that option is available to you. The main parking lot is at Entrance 1 and that’s where most of the group tours start which is why it is a lot busier.
  • The park was very busy in summer when I visited, especially at the lower lakes. Many of the pathways through the park are quite narrow so try to be mindful of other people passing by if you stop to take photos.
  • Having about 5 hours to spend in the park was a comfortable amount of time for me. I got to see everything I wanted and didn’t feel rushed. There are shorter walking routes you can take if you have less time, and there are also longer hikes you can do if you are staying nearby and have more time to spend in the park.
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