One of the reasons I wanted to visit Zadar was its proximity to Plitviče Lakes National Park. From here it is an easy day trip to Plitviče. Here’s all the details how to get from Zadar to Plitviče Lakes and back, entrance details, and of course a whole pile of photos of this stunning place to entice you to visit.
Getting from Zadar to Plitviče Lakes
Croatia has a fantastic website to search for buses from all companies at once. We used the Bus Croatia website for all of our trips around the country. The bus prices and times vary throughout the year. In summer (we were there in late September) they run more frequently. There were two morning buses leaving at 8:30 and 9am and they were approximately 95-100 Croatian Kuna each (approx $20AUD/$15USD). I recommend purchasing your tickets in advance on the Bus Croatia website but also get to the bus station early. More than once during our travels in the Balkans there has been more tickets sold than seats on the bus. After almost missing out on a seat, we made sure we were in the first few to get on so we would not have the issue again. On our trip to Plitviče Lakes, there was a girl who had to stand in the aisle for the whole 2+ hour trip.
If the bus does not sound like your thing, consider a private transfer with Octopus Transfers.
On Arrival at Plitviče Lakes
The Bus will drop you off on the side of the highway. It kind of looks like you have been dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Follow the path in the same direction and you will come to the bridge over the road to the national park. Don’t go that way – yet. Instead continue straight on, and you will soon come to an area where the tour buses drop people off. This is Entrance 2, and here is where the ticket booth is. When we arrived there was a long line. We jumped on the end of the line, but Simon soon noticed that there was a sign saying “Ticket Sales” on the Tourist Information Office. He went over to have a look, and two minutes later returned with tickets in hand. It would have saved us at least fifteen minutes in the line, so look for this option. Entry prices vary throughout the year from 180 Kuna ($37AUD/$28USD) per adult in the high season to 55 Kuna in the low season. There are also discounted prices for children, students and groups.
With tickets in hand you can now make your way into the park. I did ask for a map, but the only one they have is on the back of your ticket. Head back the way you came, go over the bridge and keep following the path. After about 10-15 minutes you will come across a small pier, and the boat that will take you across the lake.
Nearby is also where the little “train” stops to shuttle you to other areas of the park. Now is when you need to choose which path to take.
I would suggest perhaps reading up a little on the various paths before you arrive. We did not do that, so didn’t really know where to go. There is a Plitviče Lakes map to help near the pier, and it gives distances for each of the trails. I chose to catch the boat straight across the lake and take a longer trail in one direction first. We then caught the train down to the other end and we walked a second trail to see the big waterfall. Details of all the trails can be found here. Note that not all of the trails are open year round.
Much of the trail is on wooden boardwalks with signs pointing you in the right direction when you come to an intersection. Some parts are a dirt walking trail, sometimes uneven and narrow. All the paths lead through stunning areas of the park. Just look at some of these photos from my visit!
Leaving Plitviče Lakes
When it comes time to leave, you will likely find yourself in some far off part of the park and need to catch a boat or train to get back to the entrance. I recommend leaving plenty of time for this. The day we were there, the time we needed to leave to catch the bus coincided with clouds coming over the park and even a little rain. This meant that when we arrived at the pier to catch the boat back to the starting point, there was a huge line as everyone tried to leave at the same time. We waited over half an hour to get on the boat.
While it wasn’t when we were leaving, there was also a wait when we wanted to catch the train from one end of the park to the other. There were too many people for the first one that came along, and we had to wait another fifteen minutes for the next one.
The Bus back to Zadar
When you get back to the bridge crossing over the road, cross over it and make your way back to where you got off the bus. On the other side of the road, you will see a little small wooden hut. This is the bus station. About half an hour before your bus is due, someone will come and sit in the ticket office and you will be able to buy your ticket here. We did consider buying our return tickets on line beforehand, but we didn’t know how long we would spend in the park.
We loved our day at Plitviče Lakes National Park. If anything I would have liked to spend more time exploring the park. If I could do it all again I would stay overnight at one of the nearby accommodation options so I could access the park as soon as it opens.
The bus trip was easy to book and ran pretty much on schedule. It was clean and comfortable, and we had reasonable wifi in both directions. Like all buses in Croatia, if you are bringing luggage with you, expect to pay a small amount to stow it underneath the bus.
Not convinced to take the bus? Or coming from somewhere else? Have a look at these tours that will take you to Plitviče Lakes National Park.
Want to have a look at the accommodation options at Plitviče Lakes National Park? Click through to Booking.com for all the best deals and prices.
For more information about Plitviče Lakes National Park visit the official website here.
What about the rest of Croatia? Here is my post on what else we got up to during our visit, including where to sit on the Iron Throne for free in Dubrovnik.
Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.