While many tourists flock to the Balkan nation of Croatia for its incredible Adriatic coastline and vibrant, historic cities, there are some absolutely gorgeous inland national parks that are worth visiting as well, the two most famous being Plitvice Lakes and Krka. However, if you’re pressed for time and need to choose between visiting Plitvice or Krka, that’s when the decision can get difficult.
On the surface, the two national parks look incredibly similar. Both boast beautiful, crystal clear lakes and stunning waterfalls that look about as inviting as could be. That is, however, pretty much where the similarities end as there are different merits to visiting Krka vs Plitvice and vice versa.
Located in different areas of the country and with different things to offer, it really depends on your trip style and what kind of activity you’re looking for when it comes to choosing between visiting Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park.
So if you’re planning a trip to Croatia and are wondering whether Krka or Plitvice Lakes is the right national park for you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve had the wonderful opportunity to visit both national parks and know their unique merits to various kinds of travellers.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Located in the mountainous karst area in the central part of Croatia, close to the border with Bosnia & Herzegovina, this UNESCO-listed national park covers an expansive area that is filled with incredible waterfalls and gorgeous lakes.
The first and one of the most important things to consider when trying to choose between visiting Plitvice or Krka is the accessibility of the park. This can be assessed in many ways, including ease of getting there, ease of getting around, where it is located and how long you need to spend there.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in central Croatia, about 130 kilometres south of the capital of Zagreb and roughly 200 kilometres northwest of the second-largest city of Split, meaning that if you’re coming from either of these cities, expect to be in the car (check out Rentalcars.com if you need to rent a car in Croatia) for at least 2 or 3 hours respectively.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is big, bigger than Krka National Park and needs more time devoted to it — in fact, you can even spend multiple days exploring it. Because of its size and popularity (it’s actually considered to be the second-most visited attraction in Croatia after Dubrovnik, attracting more than 1 million visitors most years), it is also best to arrive at the park as early as possible.
When you purchase tickets for the park, which you must do in advance as they tend to sell out, especially in high season, you will have the option to select a different time slot to enter the park. This is to curb the number of visitors that descend upon the park at any given time and to help preserve its incredible nature and scenery.
Because of the sheer number of people who want to visit Plitvice Lakes and the fact that you’re going to want to spend as much time as possible, we would honestly recommend spending at least one night near the national park in order to be able to get there bright and early at opening times.
If you can’t spare an entire night near the park but still feel like you can’t miss it on your trip through Croatia (and we really can’t blame you!), then there are options to visit Plitvice Lakes as a day trip from Zagreb or Split, just keep in mind that you’ll be in for a long day and you won’t have much freedom to spend as much time you’d like in the park.
You can do this independently, or there are numerous tours for you to choose from as well. Some of the best-rated options include this tour that departs from Split and drops you off in Zagreb after visiting Plitvice Lakes or this highly-rated tour from Zagreb.
And finally, once you’re in the park, you will find that there are trails available for most activity levels and they are quite well-marked with their difficulty levels. The majority of the lakes and falls are accessible by boardwalks and paved pathways, so there really isn’t anything too difficult to get around. However, the park may not be the best place to visit if you have any mobility problems.
Next on the important things to know before deciding if Plitvice or Krka National Park is a better choice for you is the affordability of the park — and a visit to Plitvice can come with a pretty hefty price tag depending on the season that you visit in.
Because the park is heavily susceptible to over-tourism and the government is doing all it can to minimise the impact that people have on the delicate environment, the prices have increased a lot at Plitvice in order to maintain the park adequately.
If you’re visiting in the high season months of June through September, then be ready for your entrance to cost up to 200 HRK per person — that’s roughly €26. For the month of October, prices are reduced to 180 HRK or about €24.
If you really want to stick to a budget and avoid the inevitable crowds that descend upon the park in those months, then I suggest visiting Plitvice Lakes in the offseason starting in November, where prices are decreased to 80 HRK per person, or about €10. Of course, there are also discounts available to students with a valid ID and to children under the age of 18.
You also need to figure in the cost of parking, which varies depending on the season you’re visiting in, and the cost of food in the park. There are cafes and restaurants scattered throughout the park, but prices can be inflated and it may be preferable to pack a picnic lunch with you in order to save some of your hard-earned cash.
Things to See and Do at Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes National Park is massive and visitors can actually spend a couple of days exploring the park, especially if you’re a keen hiker. There are countless hiking trails at varying levels of length and difficulty that will take you all around the lakes and waterfalls and provide you with excellent views.
There is also a boat that can ferry you from one point to another in the parks that is actually included in your entry ticket. The main draw of visiting Plitvice Lakes is enjoying the pristine nature and hiking through the park and there really isn’t all that much to really do besides that.
It is worth noting that, though the crystal clear blue water may look inviting, especially if you’re visiting on a particularly hot day, swimming is not allowed at Plitvice Lakes. You have to enjoy the beauty of the lakes from dry land and trust that the water remains pristine because they don’t let the million-plus visitors to the park each year take a dip in the lakes.
All in all, there there aren’t a huge range of “activities” to do at Plitvice Lakes, there are so many hiking trails and such that you could easily spend a couple of days exploring the park, or at least the best part of one full day.
Where to Stay Near Plitvice Lakes
As mentioned earlier, if you want to get the most out of visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park, it’s best to plan to spend the night near the park and get there as early as possible. If you’re wondering where to stay, check out these top suggestions:
House Turkalj – The ideal mid-range option near the park, this small, family-run guesthouse is located only about ten minutes from Entrance 1 of Plitvice Lakes. They have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms on offer along with complimentary beer and rakija in the shared kitchen facilities. Click here to check their availability
Hotel Plitvice – This cosy hotel is located directly next to the park and is the perfect option if you don’t have your own transport. They have a range of clean cosy and comfortable rooms on offer and an unbeatable, tranquil location to ensure that you beat the tourist crowds at Plitvice. Click here to check their availability
Falling Lakes Hostel — A fantastic option for backpackers, budget or solo travellers, this hostel has a range of both private and dorm rooms available. They have clean facilities, good common areas for meeting other travellers and they even organise a shuttle service to the park entrance. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Plitvice Lakes!
Krka National Park
If you’re visiting the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, then taking a day trip to Krka National Park to get a change of scenery from the Adriatic is always a good idea. Though smaller than Plitvice Lakes, Krka has its own merits that may make it a better choice for you to visit.
Krka National Park is located about 80 kilometres north of the city of Split and about the same distance south of Zadar, roughly due inland of the lovely seaside town of Šibenik. This makes it easily accessible as a day trip from either Split or Zadar as you can expect it to take about one hour to reach the park.
There are also buses that run from Split to Krka, so it is reachable via public transit, however, it is likely that it will take a little bit longer than if you were to drive yourself. Alternatively, you can opt to take one of the many organised tours to Krka National Park such as this small-group tour which also includes a visit to Šibenik if you would rather take the guesswork out of organising your visit for yourself.
Like Plitvice Lakes, Krka has a number of walking trails that can vary in difficulty depending on what your fitness level is, however, the most popular one and the one that will take you past the highlights of the park is relatively easy for those of most fitness levels.
This is a 1900-metre circular boardwalk that winds you through some of the most beautiful waterfalls and the main swimming area of the park. Keep in mind that there are a few stairs involved, so it may not be best for those who have serious mobility problems.
There are also countless other hiking and walking trails that you can go on if you want to spend more time in the park or fancy getting a bit more active.
If affordability is a major determining factor when you’re trying to decide between Krka National Park vs Plitvice Lakes, then there are a few things you need to consider. For instance, entry into both parks during the months of June through September costs exactly the same, at 200 HRK per adult visitor.
However, if you’re visiting Croatia at any point outside of the high season, then you’re going to find that Krka entry is more affordable than Plitvice Lakes.
For example, entry for the months of April, May and October is 100 HRK as opposed to 180 HRK at Plitvice. And in the winter months of November through March, entry fees start at 30 HRK rather than 80 HRK at the northern park.
So, outside of the months of June through September, Krka is certainly the more affordable option and can be preferable if you’re trying to visit Croatia on a budget.
Things to See and Do at Krka
Like Plitvice Lakes, you can easily spend an entire day exploring Krka National Park with its ample hiking trails and gorgeous natural scenery. Krka is quite large and packs a lot inside of it and there are lots of trails and even some boat routes to enjoy.
If you’re pressed for time, Krka is still a great park to visit because of the aforementioned 1900-metre Skradinski Buk loop which will take about a leisurely two hours or so, especially if you stop for a swim by the main waterfall — something you certainly cannot do at Plitvice Lakes but is completely allowed at Krka National Park!
There are also a few hiking routes that include a few boat rides along the Krka River, past a few of the smaller waterfalls and, if you want to include a little bit of culture, you can even hike by the Krka Monastery located on Visovac Island, a historic orthodox monastery located within the confines of the national park.
All in all, there is actually quite a lot to do at Krka National Park that you could easily fill an entire day. However, you also won’t be missing out too much if you wanted to just make it a short day trip, as well.
Where to Stay Near Krka
Most people visiting Krka are coming from Croatia’s second-largest city of Split. If you’re looking for the perfect base in Split, make sure to have a look at these great options:
Il Giardino Luxury Rooms & Suites — A fantastic higher-end option, this centrally located boutique hotel is a great choice for couples or those looking for a plush escape in Split. They have a number of spacious, clean, and comfortable rooms available and there is a great breakfast included. Click here to see their availability
Tchaikovsky Hostel — This backpacker’s hostel is the ideal choice for budget and solo travellers alike. They have great common areas for meeting other, like-minded travellers, a helpful staff, and clean facilities. They offer both dorm and private rooms. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Split
Plitvice or Krka: The Verdict
So should you visit Plitvice or Krka National Park on your trip to Croatia? As you can see, the two offer very similar experiences, however, one can be better than the other depending on what you’re after.
If you have more time on your Croatia itinerary or are driving from Zagreb to Split and have the time to spend the night, then Plitvice Lakes National Park is a good option. It is a bigger park that needs a good amount of time devoted to it and if you can spend the night close by, you can really be able to experience it to the fullest.
Conversely, if you want to take in the beautiful inland nature, pristine lakes and cascading waterfalls on your trip but you’re strapped for time, the Krka National Park is the choice for you! Located only about an hour from Split, it is easy to reach as a day trip and doesn’t necessarily require as much of your time to be devoted to it.
Of course, you certainly won’t regret visiting both parks on your trip, either!
Choosing between visiting Krka or Plitvice Lakes can seem like a tough decision because, on the surface, the two Croatian national parks seem to offer a lot of the same things. However, there is one that can suit you more than the other depending on your travel needs.
Are you trying to choose between Plitvice Lakes vs Krka National Park? Have you visited either before? Let us know in the comments!