One of the most spectacular places to visit on a trip to Croatia is undoubtedly Plitvice Lakes National Park. And while nature enthusiasts could probably spend days exploring the park, many travellers opt to go on a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Split or Zagreb.
If you wondering what is the best way to go about this, then here’s everything you need to know about travelling from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes or Split to Plitvice Lakes as well as how to make the most of your limited time in the national park!
How to Get from Split to Plitvice Lakes
There are three main options to get from Split to Plitvice Lakes: organised tour, car or bus.
Plitvice Lakes Tour from Split
For travellers short on time, one of the most popular ways to visit the national park is by taking a Plitvice Lakes Tour from Split. Most tour options will include transfers to and from your hotel in Split and a guide to help you get the most out of your time in the park. Most tours do not include entrance fees into the park which need to be paid separately upon arrival.
One of the most highly rated options is this small guided tour that departs from Split or Trogir. It includes a tour of the national park with an engaging guide and the option to have lunch at a local tavern after your walk. Click here to check availability.
Another good option is this tour that departs from Split but drops you off in Zagreb at the end of the day. This is ideal if you’re short on time and want to minimise travel days. Click here to check availability
Keep in mind though that the disadvantage of taking a tour is that you will likely arrive at the same time as many other tour groups which means the park will be very busy, particularly in the summer months. You also will be pressed for time on a tour, so it’s not a great option if you want to spend longer in the park. If you want to have more flexibility during your Plitvice Lakes day trip then I suggest one of the following two options:
Split to Plitvice Lakes Bus
If you’re on a budget while travelling in Croatia, then taking the bus from Split to Plitvice Lakes is the best option. There are regular buses throughout the day, however, if you want to make the most of your time at the national park, then you should take the 7 am bus from Split which will get you to the park around 10:30 am. You can then take the 6 pm bus back from Plitvice Lakes to Split.
A better option if you want to avoid the crowds, is to take a bus from Split to Plitvice Lakes the night before, get accommodation near the entrance of the park and then have a full day to explore. This will mean you can avoid the crowds for the first couple hours of the day.
Split to Plitvice Lakes by Car
Arguably the best way to do a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Split is by renting a car and driving. This gives you the flexibility to drive up the night before, stay at one of the numerous guest houses which don’t necessarily need to be right at the entrance of the park and get an early start the next day to explore the park.
If you’re planning to rent a car in Croatia, then Rentalcars.Com is the best way to find a good deal as they compare prices across all the major car rental companies. Taking out third party excess insurance from iCarHireInsurance is also a good idea as it covers you for any deductible should you need to make a claim.
Expect driving one way from Split to Plitvice Lakes to take approximately 3 hours.
How to Get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes
Similarly to if you’re travelling from Split, then you have three main options for taking a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Zagreb: organised tour, bus or driving.
Plitvice Lakes Tour from Zagreb
There are a number of Plitvice Lakes tours from Zagreb that travellers can take if they want the convenience of this option. Many tours, such as this highly-rated tour also stop at the village of Rastoke which is a picturesque place that is pleasant to wander through. Many of the tours from Zagreb also include admission tickets to Plitvice Lakes. Click here to check availability.
If you’re maximising your time spent in Croatia, then you can also take this guided tour which drops you off in Split at the end of the day.
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Bus
Similarly to if you’re taking a day trip from Split, the bus from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is the most affordable option for budget travellers. There are morning buses from Zagreb departing at 5:45 am or 7:30 am and arriving in Plitvice Lakes about 2.5 hours later. There are then a few return buses departing between 4:45 and 5:50 pm to travel back to Zagreb.
To make the most of your Plitvice Lakes day trip from Zagreb, I suggest taking the bus the night before you intend to visit and then get an early start to explore the park!
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes by Car
The driving distance from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is just over 2 hours so this gives travellers a few more options when planning a Plitvice Lakes day trip from the Croatian capital.
If you’re happy to get an early start, then driving from Zagreb still allows you to get to the park early enough to beat the majority of tour groups. Otherwise, driving up the night before will definitely allow you to make the most of your visit.
Many car rental companies also allow you to pick up your car in Zagreb and then drop it off somewhere else in Croatia (like Split or Dubrovnik) for a minimal additional fee. Searching on Rentalcars.Com will allow you to find a great deal for your trip.
Plitvice Lakes Day Trip Tips
Regardless of whether you’re planning on taking a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Split or Zagreb, or whether you will travel independently or on an organised tour, here are some tips and things to consider to ensure you make the most of your time at this natural wonder!
When to Visit Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes is one of the most highly visited attractions in all of Croatia with daily admissions reaching a peak of 17,000 in the busy summer months. This has led to concerns about overtourism in the park and measures being put in place to protect this national park.
One such measure is the cost of tickets varies dramatically throughout the year with summer prices reaching 400HRK (approx. €40) compared to 80HRK in the winter months (approx. €10). Prices in the shoulder season of April to May & October are currently 180HRK (approx. €13.50).
If you want to minimise the strain on the national park while also having fewer visitors to contend with, then I strongly urge you to consider visiting in the winter or shoulder months. Parts of the park do end up closing in the winter months so it’s best to go earlier or later in the winter to try and avoid any closures.
Buying Tickets for Plitvice Lakes
When planning your Plitvice Lakes day trip from Zagreb or Split, you’ll need to purchase your tickets in advance if travelling independently. You can do that at the official website here. Tickets don’t need to be printed and can be shown on your mobile device when entering the park.
When purchasing your tickets, you will be given the option of choosing Entrance 1 or Entrance. If you’re planning on arriving early, then I suggest choosing Entrance 1 as this is the most popular part of the park and you can then see it before the majority of tours arrive. Alternatively, Entrance 2 might be a better choice if arriving at the same time when many tour groups arrive.
There is an electric train that goes between the two entrances which is included in the entrance ticket so you can easily travel between the two of them if you need to.
Choosing a Route
There are several well-marked routes in Plitvice Lakes to help you see all of the highlights of the national park.
If you have a full day and are starting at Entrance 1, then I recommend taking Route C. This will first take you through the Lower Lakes, allow you take a boat trip across the lakes, explore the Upper Lakes and then take the train back to the entrance. All in all, Route C should take you about 4 hours to complete. If you’re starting at Entrance 2, Route H follows a similar itinerary.
If you don’t want to walk for as long, then Route A or B are shorter alternatives. Finally, Route K is designed for hikers that are looking for a longer and more challenging walk through the park.
Generally, the routes are all fairly well marked, however, it’s a good idea to download Maps.Me on your phone so you have a reference point if you get confused.
When planning a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Split or Zagreb, it’s important to remember that the weather here can be quite different from the Croatian coast!
Regardless of the season, it’s worth packing a rain jacket to ensure you stay dry while visiting the park. The temperatures drop here a lot quicker in the autumn and winter months, so depending on the time of year you’re visiting, you also consider taking plenty of layers such as a fleece top as well as packing a beanie and gloves.
Finally, while the walking paths are typically wood-planked, they can get slippery when it rains so you should ideally wear a good pair of walking shoes during your visit to Plitvice Lakes.
Bring Lunch & Water
If you want to spend the majority of your day exploring the park, then I highly suggest to pack your own lunch rather than relying on the restaurants in the national park.
While there are a few places to eat, they are fairly spread out and depending on the route you choose, it might not make sense to go out of your way to find a place to eat. Instead, a packed lunch allows you to enjoy a break at one of the many fantastic lookout spots in the park!
Furthermore, make sure to bring enough water to keep you hydrated while exploring Plitvice Lakes. There are only a few places in the park where you can fill up your water bottle, typically around where the restaurants are, so make sure you have enough to last you between those stops!
Where to Stay Near Plitvice Lakes
As we’ve discussed, I highly recommend visitors to Plitvice Lakes, travel up from Split or Zagreb the night before so they can get an early start at the park. Here are a few good options for places to stay.
House Turkalj – A small family-run guest house located about a ten-minute drive from Entrance 1 of Plitvice Lakes. They have a few private rooms with shared kitchen facilities as well as complimentary beer and rakija. Click here to check their availability
Hotel Plitvice – A mid-range hotel located right next to the entrance of the park, making it ideal if you don’t have your own transport. They offer private rooms suitable for couples or families and breakfast is included in the daily rate. Click here to check their availability
Falling Lakes Hostel – One of the best options for backpackers in Plitvice Lakes, this hostel offers a range of dorms and private rooms. They organise an affordable shuttle to the entrance of the lakes early in the morning as well as a great common room to meet other travellers. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Plitvice Lakes!
Visiting Plitvice Lakes is one of the highlights of any trip to Croatia and there are plenty of options for travellers who wish to take a day trip from Split or Zagreb.
Are you planning a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Split or Zagreb? Have you been recently? Let us know in the comments below!