Croatia may not be the first place you think of when planning to travel, but the country is well known for an enormous amount of tourist attractions, with the most popular being the Plitvice lakes. It was classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1979 and is located between Zagreb, the capital city, and a town on the coast called Zadar. The whole park covers an area of about 300 kilometers, and the lakes occupy at least eight kilometers.
The beauty of this park is in the sixteen lakes within it, all interconnected by beautiful cascading waterfalls, a series of which cause the lake to tumble into each other. The best time to visit the lakes is either during spring or autumn seasons, which enables you to avoid the high seasons of summer where the place is flocking with tourists and overly crowded. If you go during the summer, schedule your visit to the park early in the morning or an afternoon stroll to avoid the congestion during the day, which could sour your visit a bit.
Organized visits to Plitvice
The Plitvice Lakes National Park has so much to offer: beautiful lakes with clear waters and great varieties of fish, waterfalls that seem endless in number, nature that is calm and supremely beautiful; and covering all the ground on your own can be a bit tricky. As a result, tours in groups are often recommended to avoid people getting lost, get the most out of the trip and get directions and guides from a local.
Getting a Plitvice Lakes tour from Split would be ideal because you will get to explore with a guide and make sure you do not miss any sights. Also, you can cruise through the lakes on the lower side, hike up beautiful trails to the upper lakes, take a ride on a tram, see amazing waterfalls and enjoy the nature and serenity of the park. Most of these tours take a full day, from morning to evening, so get up early to make sure you do not miss the transport.
You will ride with your group from Split using a van to Plitvice Lakes National Park, where your guide will tell you of the history of the park, natural features around, the lakes and all that information you may be curious about. Next, you may take a boardwalk along the park and stop for photos and selfies along the way – there are exquisite views of waterfalls, nature and the clear blue waters of the lake so bring your camera with you. However, you will need to be careful while taking that perfect shot because most boardwalks do not have rails and you could slip and fall tremendous heights. The sidewalks are crowded like the park so if you are stopping for photos do it quick to avoid congestion or go at a time when there are no many people.
Your guide may also decide to take you on a panoramic train ride, as well as a leisurely hike to the upper lakes, and there are checkpoints to ensure no one is left behind so no need to worry. During the walk, you can get up close to wildlife like boars or brown bear if you are lucky – not a guarantee. A scenic cruise is also a part of the tour package, where you will go through the lakes and even get to see the Big Waterfall – Croatia’s largest waterfall called Veliki Slap Waterfall. A scenic tram ride will take you back to the park’s entrance.
You can have lunch in the restaurants around the park at your own expense, though most reviews may recommend that you bring your food. However, there is excellent authentic Croatian cuisine in the restaurants at the park so if you want to try those out then, by all means, enjoy it. After lunch, you can have strolls on the lower lakes or relax and take the environment in, after which you will be shuttled back to your hotel for the end of the tour.
Most of the Split tour packages will cover such things as transport to and from the park in a luxury vehicle with air conditioning, travel insurance and taxes, professional driver and tour guide, a guided tour through the Plitvice Lakes National Park and a river cruise over the lakes. You will be picked up at agreed upon location often at 7.00 am and dropped off in the evening after the tour at around 8.00 pm. The exclusions include meals and snacks, gratuities – though this depends on different companies and entrance tickets to the National Park.
Can you swim in Plitvice Lakes?
The lakes and waterfalls at Plitvice are exquisite, with the water changing color depending on mineral quantity, the angle of the sunlight and a few other things. As such, you could be tempted to take a dip in the bright blue, azure, grey or green waters and feel the waterfall beating down your back: don’t. Swimming or bathing is strictly prohibited in the lakes, rivers and waterfalls here, but if swimming is that important to you, consider visiting an alternative park such as National Park Krka Waterfalls; as they allow you to swim there.
There are differing reasons as to why swimming is not allowed in the lakes of Plitvice, one of which is that the water is polluted caused by agricultural activities and hotel waste from the surrounding areas. Another is that there is a delicate balance of the ecosystem in the area that needs to be protected from human influence. Either way, swimming here is banned so do not go to the Plitvice lakes with the intention of swimming.
Many alternatives for this will be provided by your guide – if you have one, or any local maps and travel guides. There is a village nearby called Korana, but you can take the plunge at Krka Waterfalls – here you will not be allowed to swim in the actual waterfalls, but there is a designated spot within the park that will you can swim.