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Is it possible to take a day trip to the Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb?
I was scared off by the high cost of accommodation around Plitvice Lakes National Park and decided to attempt a day trip from Zagreb instead. I’m happy to report that while it was a long day, it was also totally successful!
This is far from a budget destination but taking a day trip to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb instead of spending the night can help cut costs. If you’re ready to see one of the most beautiful places in the Balkans (possibly the world?) then this day trip guide to the Plitvice Lakes is for you.
How to Get to the Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb
In a surprising feat, Croatia has actually made it quite easy to buy bus tickets online. Simply visit the website to see the timetable and then click “buy.” If you want round trip tickets, click the dropdown option and choose “P” before you head to the checkout page.
In September 2018, our round trip tickets from Zagreb to the Plitvice Lakes and back again cost 135 kuna / 21 usd each. This let us save some money on the trip but it was a mistake.
I don’t recommend buying round trip tickets because you’ll be locked into a late return. The only available options for us with the company were 5:50 pm and 6:40 pm. We were ready to go around 4 pm and watched multiple busses heading to Zagreb pass by, load up, and leave us behind. If you choose to buy a one way ticket out, you can make a reservation for your return on an earlier bus at the small stop when you get dropped at the Plitvice Lakes.
Whichever way you choose to get to the Plitvice Lakes, the bus will drop you off right at the main entrance and you’ll be ready to start your day!
Cost of a Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb
Like I said above, the Plitvice Lakes day trip is not budget-friendly. First, the bus was 270 kuna / 42 usd for two round trip tickets.
Then, we bought our entrance tickets to the park. There are three difference prices for entrance tickets depending on the month you visit.
High Season (July/August) – 250 kuna / 39 usd per person
Mid-Season (September/October and April/May/June) – 150 kuna / 23.50 usd per person
Low Season (November through March) – 55 kuna / 8.50 usd per person
If you’re planning to buy water, beer, snacks, or lunch factor in those costs as well. Daniel and I packed our lunch and after seeing the sparse options at the park I strongly recommend this route as well. There’s a nice picnic area in the shade in the park that’s perfect for a lunch break.
In total, on just our entrance and bus tickets, we spent $89 usd on our day trip to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb.
When to Visit the Plitvice Lakes
I strongly recommend avoiding a day trip to Plitvice Lakes in the high season.
We went in September and the crowds were honestly unbearable. If we had gone in July or August instead they would be even worse. Plus, temps would be hotter and entrance is more expensive in those two months than any other. With all three of these factors combined, there’s no way it would be enjoyable.
If you’re only going to be in Croatia for a short amount of time and it coincides with the high season, consider a trip to the less visited Krka National Park instead.
Where to Hike at the Plitvice Lakes
There’s an information booth at the entrance to the park where you can pick up a free map. Take a minute to chat with the workers and ask any questions you want about the park.
There are a few main routes and the most popular one is “Route C.” The trails are marked pretty well but I’ll let you in on a little secret: There are extra hiking trails that you can take instead of the main boardwalks. They’re less crowded and will give you a bird’s eye view of the lakes. If you’re on Trail C like us, walk up the giant staircase at the Big Waterfall (I promise you can’t miss it) and you can follow a trail all the way to the boats.
In Plitvice Lakes National Park all of the boats and shuttles are free with your entrance. You can choose to explore completely by foot or speed up the journey with the shuttle and boat. We did this and still walked a solid 7.5 miles on route C.
There are also shorter and longer routes to suit any fitness level (find all the details here). The very start of the park at Entrance 1 is also the most beautiful with a view of the lower lakes and the big waterfall. The middle of the park, where the boat will drop you off, is the second best part. Route C will then take you beyond these to the upper lakes. These are nice, but the least photogenic of the three areas so you won’t miss too much if you opt to skip it.
Are the Plitvice Lakes Worth Visiting?
I’ll finish my guide for a day trip to Plitvice Lakes with my personal opinion on the experience.
Honestly, I left the lakes feeling a bit disappointed. I had seen so many gorgeous photos of the park and I couldn’t way to see it for myself. However, the park was so crowded it really made me feel weird. I mean, we come out into nature to get away from it all but instead I found myself waiting in lines, jostled left and right, and pretty much walking through crowds from start to finish.
Everyone was taking pictures non-stop (me included) and… I don’t know. It just kind of felt like we humans came in and totally ruined the spirit of the area. It’s no longer a place to enjoy nature and instead just a backdrop for an Instagram photo. I’ve never been to a national park this crowded before and I really hope that I never experience it again.
Still, the park really was as gorgeous as it looks in the photos. Hopefully, someday I can come back in the early spring or late fall and catch it in a more serene season.
How to Take Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes From Zagreb
This quick guide will help plan a day trip to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb and have a better idea about what to expect in the park.
Plan to spend the whole day here and to be exhausted when you return! We caught the 7:30 am bus out and didn’t get back to the city until around 9 pm.
Remember to pack a lunch, don’t buy round trip tickets (but do reserve your return when you arrive at the lakes) and try to visit outside of the high season. Keep these tips in mind, have an awesome time, and enjoy exploring one of the most beautiful places in Croatia on your day trip to Plitvice Lakes!