Hiking Guide: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Over the weekend, I ventured out of Budapest and into Croatia for another weekend getaway. Plitvice Lakes has been on my list since forever, and you’ll understand why soon! To get there, we opted to rent a car because we wanted to be able to work on our own time and not have to worry about missing anything. There are other options though such as a FlixBus, which I am a HUGE lover of! The Plitvice Lakes is truly an unreal sight, with 16 lakes that cascade into beautiful waterfalls separated by travertine dams and green moss.

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We started at entrance 1, we decided on this entrance honestly because it was the closest one to our hostel. Entrance 1 starts at the lower lakes, while entrance 2 starts at the upper lakes. All the trails loop together with buses and ferries so you can really start at either one. The park costs $1 USD an hour for parkings and then $5 to enter if you are a student (this also varies by season so be sure to check the updated prices before you go.) Another great tip is to get there early. We got there at 8:40 which is only about an hour after the park opened and there were already a fair amount of people. It only gets more busy throughout the day so be sure to get a head start so you can beat the crowds! As soon as you walk in the park, you can get a nice little overlook of some of the waterfalls that are on the lower lakes. As you descend downward through some switchbacks, you’ll start to notice really how blue the water is. Soon, you’ll get to the first floating walkway which in my opinion was the coolest thing in the park next to the waterfalls.

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We took a right at the first fork, so we could get a quick glimpse of the large waterfall called Veliki Slap, this thing is seriously massive reaching a height of 78 meters (255 feet.) After that we turned around and headed back up to the fork where the trails started. We opted to do Trail A first, so that we could see all of the sights of the lower lakes. Walking through here is magical, many people compare the park to Eden because of its natural beauty. The lakes are full of vegetation and wildlife, you can see everything from draping green moss, to fish, and lots of ducks! You’ll get really up close & personal with some of the waterfalls so be sure to really take it all in! Trail A is 5.2 KM (3.2 miles) and can take about 2-3 hours depending on your pace and how much you stop. This trail will lead you through all the waterfalls and then end by taking you through a cave. You will climb some stairs to get back to the top.

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After we finished trail A, we really wanted to experience the upper lakes as well so we decided on Trail H which is around 8.9 KM (5.5 miles,) and takes roughly about 4-6 hours (it took us exactly 4.5 hours.) To get to trail H you need to follow the signs from the top of the cave and catch the bus at the rangers station, there are some maps scattered throughout the park but I think it’s best to just download their online map or buy one inside the park. From the bus, follow the signs for trail H. This path is really mostly along the lakes, so you don’t need to worry about being exhausted from elevation or anything because it really is a relatively easy hike. This hike was beyond beautiful, not that I didn’t enjoy the lower lakes but the upper lakes are really just unreal. You see so many waterfalls, and the water color is so crazy you feel like you’d have to be in Thailand or something to see waterfalls that are so blue and so tropical looking. After you finish the hike it will basically lead you to a place where you can jump on a ferry and catch the boat back to Entrance A. Make sure you get on the one that is on the left and headed toward P3!

DSC_03443 As far as gear goes, you’ll be just fine in regular running shoes as the trails are extremely maintained and you really aren’t doing anything strenuous. A couple things to remember though: always bring enough water for you and whoever you are hiking with, this hike is also really long so consider packing in your own lunch and snacks as the places inside the park can be a bit over priced, and lastly DO NOT SWIM IN THE LAKES. I cannot stress this enough!! There is absolute zero swimming allowed in any part of the Plitvice Lakes. This disturbs the natural eco-system and especially the bacteria that makes the water so beautiful. All buses and boats are free, however you can only take the one from entrance 2 to entrance 1 ONE time. For you fashion people, I linked my outfit here and here. Happy hiking, always be sure to pack out what you bring in to keep our planet clean!

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