A Breakdown of the Plitvice Lakes National Park Routes

by Jul 12, 2020Blog, Croatia, Croatia Blog

Are you thinking about heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park? Well then, I am sure you will want to enjoy some of the beautiful and scenic Plitvice hikes and trails that make their way all around the area. This guide will be dedicated to giving you a complete breakdown of all the different routes you can enjoy during a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park and what to expect along the way. At the end I will also give some advice on what I believe are some of the best walking routes to choose from.

Plitvice Lakes View from Entrance 1

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1) Plitvice Lakes National Park Map

I may as well start off the guide with a Plitvice Lakes map to give you a better idea of how the National Park is laid out. Essentially, the park is split into two main parts – the Lower Lakes (near Entrance 1 on the right hand side of the map) and the Upper Lakes (near Entrance 2 on the left hand side). Between the two sections you will find the large Jezero Kozjak main lake.

There are 7 walking routes that are split between the Upper and Lower Lakes of the National Park – some of the Plitvice Lakes routes circle just the Lower Lakes (A,B,F), some just circle the Upper Lakes (E), and some circle both the Upper and Lower Lakes (C,H,K).

Below is the official map from Plitvice Lakes National Park with the solid black lines near the lakes being all the different route options. Since it is difficult to put all 7 routes on one map (overlapping, reverse routes, etc), I have added in the individual route maps throughout the guide.

You will also find that I have highlighted the two entrances, the three boat terminals (P1, P2, P3) and the three shuttle bus stops (ST1, ST2, ST3) that will be used depending on which route you end up taking.

» In addition I have highlighted some upper trail viewpoints. The viewpoints near the Lower Lakes are not part of the main routes, rather you will need to head up behind the park to the main road (which can be reached near P3). The viewpoints of the Upper Lakes are part of the Route K if you decide to take part of that one.

Plitvice Lakes National Park Map

Map Key

» There are two entrances to the park – entrance 1 & entrance 2. All of the Plitvice Lakes routes end at the same entrance they start at.

» There are three boat terminals – P1 is directly next to entrance 2, P2 is a quick 5 minute boat ride from P1, and P3 is located on the other side of Jezero Kozjak lake (30 minute ride from P1).

» There are three shuttle bus stops that bring you between different parts of the park. ST1 is a 10-15 walk minute from entrance 1. ST2 is located just outside entrance 2, and ST3 is located all the way at the top of the Upper Lakes section.

» Depending on which route option you end up taking, you may be taking nearly all of the transportation options around the park or none of them at all.

» The boats and shuttle busses are included in the price of the Plitvice Lakes National Park ticket.

» Learn more in the guide I put together about the Plitvice Lakes National Park Map

 

2) Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1 Trails

↔ As I go into the individual Plitvice Lakes routes, I will also have a picture of the map for that particular route for you to better understand the layout. Be sure to refer to these maps when comparing what route is best for you.

↔ While I am including a ton of pictures below, remember there is overlap with many trails, so some images will pertain to multiple routes.

↔ Also note that you can combine two routes into one depending on exactly what you would like to see and whether or not you want to use the boats/shuttles. You do not need to follow the routes to a tee.

 

There are four main routes that start from entrance 1 of the park, which is located right near the Lower Lakes section – A, B, C, and K. These will be highlighted on the signs & maps around the national park in the color Green.

 

Plitvice Lakes Route A

Duration: 2-3 Hours

Length: 3.5 km / 2.2 miles

Lakes: Lower Lakes

Boat Ride: None

Shuttle Bus: None

Plitvice Lakes Route A & B Map

Trail A of Plitvice Lakes National Park just focuses on the Lower Lakes section of the park. You will make your way from entrance 1, take in some views from above, and then zig zag your way down to the boardwalk area. Once there, it is one easy pathway to follow that makes its way past the absolutely stunning green and blue reflective lakes.

There is one turn off point here where you can make the short detour to the Veliki Slap Big Waterfall. Definitely head on this short detour, check out the waterfall, and then retrace your steps back to the intersection and continue along the route A boardwalk.

Plitvice Lakes HikesPlitvice Lakes Green Color

The boardwalks of route A (which is also shared by several other routes), will swirl their way around the Lower Lakes as you take in more waterfalls and incredible natural beauty.

The route slowly makes its way across the Lower Lakes to the opposite side, where you can then make your way up back towards entrance 1 on the high trail.

Veliki Slap Big Waterfall

Plitvice Lakes Route B

Duration: 3-4 hours

Length: 4.0 km / 2.5 miles

Lakes: Lower Lakes

Boat Ride: Long Ride (P3 » P1)

Shuttle Bus: ST2 » ST1

(see above for map)

The Plitvice Lakes Route B is identical to Route A up until the point where route A heads back to entrance 1. Instead of wrapping back around to entrance 1, you can continue along the trail pointing you in the direction of the P3 boat terminal.

So, route B will stay take you all along the Lower Lakes, the Veliki Slap Big Waterfall, the smaller waterfalls, and blue & green lakes along the way.

Route B will then cross back over a path that separates the Lower Lakes and the main Jezero Kozjak lake, as you follow along the path and head towards the boat terminal.

Route A PlitvicePlitvice Lakes National Park Lower Lakes

At the boat terminal you will want to hop on the 30 minute ferry and cross the Jezero Kozjak lake. So while route A is just walking the Lower Lakes, route B also adds in a beautiful boat ride across Jezero Kozjak lake.

Once you arrive at the other end of the lake, you will now be at the P1 boat terminal. From there you can decide to either 1) walk back to entrance 1 along the pathway or 2) take the quick shuttle bus (from ST2) that drops you at ST1, a 10-15 minute walk away from entrance 1.

Plitvice Lakes National Park Forest

Plitvice Lakes Route C

Duration: 4-6 hours

Length: 8.0 km / 5.0 miles

Lakes: Lower Lakes + Upper Lakes

Boat Ride: Long Ride (P3 » P1) & Short Ride (P1 » P2)

Shuttle Bus: ST3 » ST1

Plitvice Lakes Route C Map

Plitvice Lakes Route C is for those out there who have the time and the effort to see both the Lower and Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Similarly, route C will share everything of route A (until route A turns back around), and of route B. While in route B, you will get off the boat at P1 and take the shuttle bus back near entrance 1, route C will have you hopping on another (much shorter), boat ride to P2 – the starting point to exploring the Upper Lakes.

The Upper Lakes are a bit less visited than the Lower Lakes, but in my opinion just as beautiful. You will find a whole array of various waterfalls here, right alongside the clear lake waters.

Once off the boat at P2, it is a simple boardwalk to follow all the way through as you follow signs to ST3 (the last shuttle bus stop). Throughout this scenic boardwalk trail, you will pass by a countless number of waterfalls varying in size and power.

Waterfalls of Plitvice CroatiaPlitvice Lakes National Park Upper Lakes

There will still be crystal clear lakes sprawled all over the Upper Lakes area, where you will see various waterfalls and streams running down in all directions. Soon enough you will reach the ST3 shuttle stop. Hop on the shuttle that will take you all the way back to ST1, where you can then walk the 10-15 minute path back to entrance 1.

 

Plitvice Lakes Route K

Duration: 6-8 hours

Length: 18.3 km / 11.4 miles

Lakes: Lower Lakes + Upper Lakes

Boat Ride: Short Ride (P2 » P1)

Shuttle Bus: None

Plitvice Lakes Route K Map

Plitvice Lakes Route K is the longest of all options in the national park. Instead of relying on the boats and shuttles, route K is mostly a walking route all the way through. The only caveat to that is that you will need to take the short P2 to P1 boat ride.

Route K starts the same way as routes A, B, and C. It will explore the Lower Lakes in their entirety and then will head to the P3 boat terminal. Now unlike routes B and C, which take the boat across Jezero Kozjak lake, route K takes you all around the lake by foot.

This trail is much less frequently trekked than the remainder of the trails in Plitvice Lakes National Park. There won’t be much boardwalk here, as you make your way along the forest, and right up alongside the lake for a large majority of the time.

If you are looking to get away from the crowds for a bit then this can be for you!

Upper Lakes Plitvice

As you finish up walking the length of Jezero Kozjak, you will reach an intersection between routes C and K. Route C on one hand focuses all on the lower portions of the boardwalks throughout the entirety of the Upper Lakes section. Route K on the other hand takes you up above the Upper Lakes, so you can get some beautiful viewpoints in from above.

The route then comes back down, meets back up with route C and explores some of the Upper Lakes from up close. Instead of heading back on the shuttle bus from ST3 though, Route K continues by foot around the Upper Lakes and looping around to the P2 boat terminal.

From the P2 terminal, you will take the quick ride to P1, where you will then walk on the other side of Jezero Kozjak lake, all the way to ST1 and ultimately back to entrance 1. It is definitely a ton of walking, but if you are trying to see the Plitvice Lakes in a way few others experience, then Route K is a great option to choose from.

Note: route K can also be completed starting and ending by entrance 2

Plitvička Jezera Upper Lakes

3) Plitvice Lakes Entrance 2 Trails

There are four main routes that start from entrance 2 of the park, which is located right near the Upper Lakes section – E, F, H, and K. Some of these are very similar to the entrance 1 hikes, but they just head in the opposite direction. These will be highlighted on the maps around the national park in the color Orange.

 

Plitvice Lakes Route E

Duration: 2-3 hours

Length: 4.3 km / 2.7 miles

Lakes: Upper Lakes

Boat Ride: Short Ride (P1 » P2)

Shuttle Bus: ST3 » ST2

Plitvice Lakes Route E & F Map

Plitvice Lakes Route E is essentially focused just on the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park. You will enter the park from entrance 2, and immediately jump on the quick boat ride that takes you from the P1 to P2 boat terminal.

Once off at P2, you will make your way all around the Plitvice Upper Lakes. This essentially is the second half of Route C listed above.

Once you have walked the boardwalks and enjoyed the various lakes and waterfalls, you will end up at the ST3 shuttle bus station. Hop on the bus from there that will take you back to entrance 2 (ST2 shuttle bus stop).

Upper Lakes Waterfall CroatiaPlitvice Lakes Route E

Plitvice Lakes Route F

Duration: 3-4 hours

Length: 4.6 km / 2.9 miles

Lakes: Lower Lakes

Boat Ride: Long Ride (P1 » P3)

Shuttle Bus: ST1 » ST2

(see above for map)

 

Plitvice Lakes Route F is the opposite of route B mentioned earlier on in the guide. So, while Route F starts at entrance 2, it only makes its way to the Lower Lakes, not the Upper Lakes.

This is the perfect route for those staying near entrance 2 but only want to visit the Lower Lakes area. The route starts off with the long boat ride across Jezero Kozjak from P1 to P3, before continuing on to the Lower Lakes from there.

From P3 you will begin the clockwise route all around the boardwalks of the Lower Lakes and waterfalls. Once you have made your way around the Lower Lakes, you simply will continue the walk towards the ST1 shuttle bus stop. Hop on the shuttle from there that will take you right back to the ST2 stop at entrance 2.

Plitvice Boardwalk Route

Plitvice Lakes Route H

Duration: 4-6 hours

Length: 8.9 km / 5.5 miles

Lakes: Upper Lakes + Lower Lakes

Boat Ride: Short Ride (P2 » P1) & Long Ride (P1 » P3)

Shuttle Bus: ST2 » ST3 & ST1 » ST2

Plitvice Lakes Route H Map

Plitvice Lakes Route H is very similar to Route C, in that they both visit the Upper & Lower Lakes, and head on the boat ride across Jezero Kozjak. The main difference here obviously is that Route H begins at entrance 2 and heads in the clockwise direction from there.

If you compare routes H and C, you will also see that for some portions of boardwalk on the Upper Lakes, they take slightly different routes. Beyond that though, both H and C are very similar.

Route H starts with the shuttle bus ride from ST2 to ST3. Once off the bus you will continue along the zig zagging boardwalk route along the Upper Lakes. After enjoying all the waterfalls and lakes up top, you will reach the P2 boat terminal. From there you will head the short way to P1 and then immediately on the long boat ride to P3.

Once off at P3, you will walk all around the Lower Lakes of Plitvice before ending up at the ST1 bus stop and taking the shuttle back to ST2 at entrance 2.

Plitvice Lakes Route H

Plitvice Lakes Route K

Duration: 6-8 hours

Length: 18.3 km / 11.4 miles

Lakes: Lower Lakes + Upper Lakes

Boat Ride: Short Ride (P2 » P1)

Shuttle Bus: None

Plitvice Lakes Route K Map #2

Plitvice Lakes Route K from entrance 2 is the exact route as Route K mentioned from entrance 1, just with a different starting point.

The route starts off by walking the length of Jezero Kozjak lake followed by a visit to the Lower Lakes. After spending time down by the Lower Lakes, you will walk the entire length of the other side of Jezero Kozjak lake before heading up above the Plitvice lakes and taking the views in from a higher vantage point.

You will then head back down to the Upper Lakes as you get to enjoy the waterfalls from up close and then walk your way to the P2 boat terminal, where you will make the quick trip to P1 and then back up to entrance 2.

Plitvice Lakes Lookout

4) Which Route to Choose?

So, that was probably a lot of information to take in and you very well may have the same question you had when you began to read this guide – which Plitvice Lakes route should you choose? Here are my thoughts on making a decision:

» The best option in my opinion if you don’t mind multiple entries is to split your day into two is to visit the Lower Lakes in the morning and the Upper Lakes later in the afternoon. This way you can get the best out of Plitvice and avoid the crowds.

→ Start the day and head to entrance 1 first thing at opening time and take your time to enjoy the Lower Lakes before the crowds arrive by heading on Route A or B. You can also add on the upper trail viewpoints of the Lower Lakes during this time (access near P3).

→ The bus loads of day trippers will then slowly fill up the boardwalks during the late morning, when you can the head back to your guesthouse/hotel for a couple hours of relaxing.

→ Later in the day when the crowds have subsided, head back into the park to entrance 2 and take Route E all around the Upper Lakes of the national park.

» If you have a full day to spare and do not want to split your day into 2 / don’t mind the crowds a bit, I would recommend Route C if starting from entrance 1 or Route H if starting from entrance 2. By choosing these routes, you will be able to enjoy both the Lower and Upper Lakes, and you will also be able to enjoy the long boat ride across Jezero Kozjak (instead of taking the long boat ride you can also make the walk along the lake instead (part of Route K)).

» Lastly, if you just have a half day to spare, you can decide to focus in on either the Lower or Upper Lakes sections. Based on your own preferences, you can make the decision of what you would like best. Route A/B for the Lower Lakes or Route E for the Upper Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes Route B

5) Helpful Tips

↔ Avoid the crowds by going right at opening time or a few hours before closing

↔ Stay nearby in order to have the chance to visit as early or late as you would like

↔ If you are planning a full day in the park, be sure to bring enough water/snacks with you since there are limited options in the park itself.

↔ You cannot swim in these lakes! So, don’t worry about bringing a bathing suit along

↔ You should purchase tickets ahead of time through their online portal to secure your time slot to enter (don’t worry you can stay in the park as long as you want). During peak season without a pre-reserved slot, you may have to wait by the entrance for a while before being allowed in.

 

6) Where to Stay Nearby

Staying within walking distance (or short drive away if you have a car), of Plitvice Lakes National Park would be my recommendation when visiting the area. You can arrive the night before and get yourself all prepared for an early morning wakeup. You can then spend all day exploring the park and leave later in the evening time.

If you have more time to spare, then a second day in Plitvice could also be an option for you. You can spend some time on the lesser walked routes, head up to the viewpoint areas, or just spend some time just sitting by some of the lakes.

If you are looking for hotel options then you can find a couple right next to entrance 2, with several guesthouses nearby too. Entrance 1 has a ton of guesthouses to choose from in the nearby village of Rastovaca (15 or so minute walk). Below are some highly rated options to choose from:

 

Entrance 1: Pansion Danica | House Flora | Guest House Ljubo & Ana

Entrance 2: Hotel Plitvice | Hotel Jezero | Natura Plitvice Lakes

 

Pansion Danica Plitvice

That about wraps up a complete guide to the Plitvice Lakes routes that will take you all around the national park. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below. Also don’t forget to check out the other Croatia itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park Walking Routes

 

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