Plitvice Waterfalls

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Lika-Senj County / Karlovac County, Croatia

About Plitvice Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: 3.5km round trip (Trail A for lower lakes); 5.2km shuttle (Trail E for upper lakes)
Suggested Time: 2-3 hours (each trail)

Date first visited: 2010-05-31
Date last visited: 2010-06-01

Waterfall Latitude: 44.90236
Waterfall Longitude: 15.60999

As opposed to being any singular attraction, the Plitvice Waterfalls (pronounced “PLIT-vits-uh”) are really a large network of karstic lakes and waterfalls.

Just imagine walking besides and even right over lakes full of fish while displaying a color and clarity that rivals China’s Jiuzhaigou.

Plitvice_562_06012010 - Plitvice Waterfalls as seen from the 'money shot' spot overlooking Sastavci Waterfall with the Sulpjara Cave in the distance
Plitvice Waterfalls as seen from the ‘money shot’ spot overlooking Sastavci Waterfall with the Sulpjara Cave in the distance

It’s not all that unfamiliar to see a sequence that goes like waterfalls-lake-waterfalls-lake, etc. etc.

It’s probably one of the more memorable waterfall attractions in the world as Julie and I were pleasantly surprised at how large some of these waterfalls turned out to be once we finally saw them in person.

Apparently, these waterfalls were tourist attractions even since the late 19th century.

We learned this from a plaque alongside the Galvanovac Lake (one of the many lakes here) that stated that Plitvice was named after a world famous Croatian opera singer at the time.

Plitvice_043_05312010 - The Veliki Slap Waterfall in high flow, which was perhaps the tallest of the Plitvice Waterfalls
The Veliki Slap Waterfall in high flow, which was perhaps the tallest of the Plitvice Waterfalls

So, this is hardly a new attraction though it seems to only be coming into its own as a world class tourist attraction recently.

Basic Summary of the Plitvice Waterfalls

To get a handle on the enormity of the Plitvice Jezera (meaning Plitvice Lakes and is pronounced “PLIT-vits-uh Yez-er-uh”), you can divide the complex into the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes separated by a long lake called Jezero Kozjak.

Each section is quite easily walkable in a half-day if you choose do each part as its own loop.

However, we found that there were numerous criss-crossing junctions and sub-loops so there were many different ways to experience the Plitvice Waterfalls while making your visit uniquely your own.

Plitvice_294_06012010 - Looking up at one of the larger Plitvice Waterfalls that we encountered in the Upper Lakes section of the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Looking up at one of the larger Plitvice Waterfalls that we encountered in the Upper Lakes section of the Plitvice Lakes National Park

Indeed, rushing through this place is something we don’t recommend, and you’d really want to take your time to thoroughly enjoy the many ways you can experience this network of waterfalls.

The Lower Lakes of the Plitvice Waterfalls

Plitvice-lower-lakes-map.gif - Map of Plitvice Lakes with the Lower Lakes circled

In my mind, the Plitvice Waterfalls in the Lower Lakes were bigger and more “organized” (for lack of a better word).

The terrain here was more of a rugged gorge as the gorge walls closed in on the network of waterfalls and lakes.

So that meant there was limited access between the lower boardwalks (by the lakes and waterfalls) and the upper walkways (on the tops of the gorge banks).

Plitvice_511_06012010 - The Sulpjara Cave and the Velike Kaskade Waterfall, which was one of countless Plitvice Waterfalls in the Lower Lakes section
The Sulpjara Cave and the Velike Kaskade Waterfall, which was one of countless Plitvice Waterfalls in the Lower Lakes section

Such accesses were generally a long series of steps to overcome the steepness of the gorge walls.

Among the waterfall highlights of the Lower Lakes section of the Plitvice Waterfalls, I found the 70m Veliki Slap and the 20-25m drop of the Sastavci Waterfall to be the most compelling.

Since these waterfalls essentially converged close by to each other, we think that it was around these waterfalls that the Plitvice Waterfalls were at their most photogenic.

Plitvice_492_06012010 - Looking down over the uppermost of the Plitvice Waterfalls draining into the Lower Lakes area from the long Jezero Kozjak Lake
Looking down over the uppermost of the Plitvice Waterfalls draining into the Lower Lakes area from the long Jezero Kozjak Lake

Heck, I even deemed one of the overlooks as the “Money Shot”, which you can see if you agree by looking at the photograph at the top of this page.

Moreover, the Lower Lakes also included the Sulpjara Cave as well as the wide and attractive Velike Kaskade.

The Upper Lakes of the Plitvice Waterfalls

Plitvice-upper-lakes-map.gif - Map of Plitvice Lakes with the Upper Lakes circled

Conversely, the Upper Lakes were more spread out than its Lower Lakes counterpart.

That meant, the lakes and waterfalls seemed to be wider though the falls themselves were shorter.

It also felt that there were more boardwalks to cover this wider area.

As a result, there were several options available to us to figure out how best we could get the most of our visit.

Plitvice_413_06012010 - The Plitvice Waterfalls found in the Upper Lakes tended to possess a more subtle and graceful beauty as they tended to be smaller and more spread out than in the Lower Lakes
The Plitvice Waterfalls found in the Upper Lakes tended to possess a more subtle and graceful beauty as they tended to be smaller and more spread out than in the Lower Lakes

The waterfalls towards the top of the Upper Lakes area were mostly of the smaller percolating variety.

However, towards the lower end of the Upper Lakes area, we noticed more significant travertine-like waterfalls that might be as tall as 20m or more.

There was even trails where you could bypass most of the upper waterfalls in the Upper Lakes and “cut to the chase” of the lower section, so to speak.

Plitvice_379_06012010 - The Upper Lakes tended to have a more extensive network of walkways as well as more attractive lakes as well as more waterfalls than the Lower Lakes
The Upper Lakes tended to have a more extensive network of walkways as well as more attractive lakes as well as more waterfalls than the Lower Lakes

Indeed, the lower end of the Upper Lakes area was where the concentration of the waterfall highlights of this section were, but it was also prone to being very busy since a lot of tour groups also crowded the area.

Logistical Considerations of the Plitvice Waterfalls

Since the authorities intelligently made most of the park vehicle free, we had to rely on the public transport options (included in the price of admission).

These included a pair of shuttles, where one went to the Lower Lakes at stops ST2 to ST1 while another went to the Upper Lakes at stops ST2 to ST4.

Plitvice_449_06012010 - The The Jezero Kozjak Lake, which separated the Upper and Lower Plitvice Lakes, but the boat shuttle also traversed the lake between the P2 and P3 docking areas
The The Jezero Kozjak Lake, which separated the Upper and Lower Plitvice Lakes, but the boat shuttle also traversed the lake between the P2 and P3 docking areas

There were also a pair of boats where one shuttled between the docking areas P1 and P2 while another shuttled across Jezero Kozjak (Kozjak Lake) from P2 to P3.

If you just want to walk without the aid of the public transport, the signs indicated that the full loop of the park takes about 8 hours, I recalled.

And I’m pretty sure that didn’t include photo stops or other distractions, which would conspire to tack on additional time to those 8 hours.

Plitvice_184_05312010 - Looking towards the boat shuttle cruising on the Jezero Kozjak Lake just above the uppermost of the Plitvice Waterfalls situated in the Lower Lakes section
Looking towards the boat shuttle cruising on the Jezero Kozjak Lake just above the uppermost of the Plitvice Waterfalls situated in the Lower Lakes section

Nevertheless, we managed to experience the Plitvice Waterfalls by breaking up this longer hike and spreading out our self-guided tour over about two full days.

There are a pair of dedicated car parks labeled “entrance” or “ulaz” (see directions below for how we got there on our own).

There’s one near the Lower Lakes and another near the Upper Lakes so you have plenty of options given the public transport connectivity.

Authorities

The Plitvice Waterfalls reside in the Plitvice Lakes National Park near Plitvicka Jezera in Lika-Senj County, Croatia. It is administered by the Plitvice Lakes National Park governing authority. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Plitvice_001_jx_05312010 - This photo gallery chronicles our experiences at the Plitvice Waterfalls, which started off under some heavy rains that dominated the first day of our visit
Plitvice_006_05312010 - Distant view of the Veliki Slap, which was the largest of the Plitvice Waterfalls that we encountered. It was swollen as a result of the heavy rains that we experienced on the first day of our visit to the Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice_011_05312010 - Julie walking along one of the Upper Gorge tracks towards Veliki Slap (Great Waterfall) in the Lower Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Heavy rains dominated the first day of our visit so Veliki Slap was a bit bigger than what we would end up seeing a couple of days later (which you'll see later on in this photo gallery)
Plitvice_017_05312010 - Looking down into the gorge at the Velike Kaskade from the walk along the rim of the gorge overlooking the Lower Lakes
Plitvice_041_05312010 - Focused look at the Veliki Slap and part of the Sastavci Waterfall making up the lower sections in this photograph
Plitvice_005_jx_05312010 - Looking down at the Velike Kaskade and the boardwalk fronting it from the rim of the gorge above the Lower Lakes of Plitvice National Park
Plitvice_048_05312010 - Looking towards Velike Kaskade and accompanying lakes and mini-cascades as we descend down to lake level within the Lower Lakes section
Plitvice_053_05312010 - Looking ahead at a line of short but wide cascades percolating through the foliage in the Lower Lakes section of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_058_05312010 - Context of Julie walking on the walkways meandering amongst lakes and waterfalls in the Lower Lakes section of Plitvice National Park
Plitvice_063_05312010 - Looking upstream at a lake full of fish with part of the Velike Kaskade in the distance
Plitvice_067_05312010 - Context of the boardwalk traversing the Kaluđerovac Jezero Lake with fish in the water
Plitvice_069_05312010 - Even with the creative walkways to help us take in the Plitvice Waterfalls, there were also signs that helped us to not get lost
Plitvice_079_05312010 - Looking down across the Sastavci Waterfall in the Lower Lakes section of the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_090_05312010 - Context of the walkway climbing alongside the Sastavci Waterfall, which was one of the Plitvice Waterfalls in the Lower Lakes section
Plitvice_092_05312010 - Julie approaching the misty base of the Veliki Slap Waterfall swollen with lots of rain water
Plitvice_015_jx_05312010 - Julie contending with the intense mist from the swollen Veliki Slap Waterfall as we tried to climb up to an overlook near the top of that waterfall
Plitvice_100_05312010 - The overlook at almost eye level with the top of the Veliki Slap Waterfall, which we had to climb up to through a series of steps and one tunnel
Plitvice_101_05312010 - Context of part of the Veliki Slap and some of the surroundings in bad weather, but it was still beautiful
Plitvice_110_05312010 - Context of Julie continuing to walk on the boardwalk of the Lower Lakes as it went right up through the upper part of the Sastavci Waterfall
Plitvice_111_05312010 - Looking back at a section where the boardwalk went right over waterfalls (the upper part of the Sastavci Waterfall in this case). In high water conditions like on this particular day, some parts of the Plitvice Waterfalls even flowed OVER the walkway!
Plitvice_118_05312010 - The boardwalk going right before the Velike Kaskade as we continued to walk within the gorge in an upstream direction
Plitvice_123_05312010 - Looking back at Velike Kaskade from the other side of its expanse
Plitvice_126_05312010 - Looking back down over the Velike Kaskade from the boardwalk that took me up to its top
Plitvice_140_05312010 - Parts of the trail within the Lower Lakes section of the Plitvice Lakes also skirted by other smaller waterfalls
Plitvice_142_05312010 - A bench for chilling out and checking out Slap Milke Trnine if it wasn't so rainy
Plitvice_149_05312010 - Looking down at Velike Kaskade from an opening of the Sulpjara Cave (providing momentary shelter from the rains)
Plitvice_159_05312010 - Looking down into the gorge of the Lower Lakes when the sun finally showed itself after nearly a full day of rain
Plitvice_168_05312010 - Looking down at the Velike Kaskade and the Slap Milke Trnine from the gorge rim above the Sulpjara Cave
Plitvice_171_05312010 - Another look down at the boardwalk fronting the Velike Kaskade with some people on the boardwalk for a sense of scale
Plitvice_174_05312010 - Looking up towards the uppermost of the Lower Lakes separated by waterfalls
Plitvice_186_05312010 - On the next morning, we got this contextual view of some waterfall standing out amongst the greenery in the Upper Lakes section of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_188_05312010 - Looking through the foliage at one of a countless number of waterfalls that we encountered in the Upper Lakes of Plitvice National Park
Plitvice_191_05312010 - Boardwalk alongside the banks of Ciginovac at the start of our exploration of the Upper Lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_201_05312010 - One of the first significant-looking waterfalls we saw the morning of our visit to the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_203_05312010 - Closer look at the first of the significant waterfalls that we encountered in the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_204_05312010 - We encountered numerous percolating waterfalls like this series in the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_207_05312010 - Line of waterfalls spilling into Okrugljak Lake, which was one of many of the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_209_05312010 - Context of waterfalls spilling under parts of a boardwalk in the Upper Lakes section of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_212_06012010 - Taking a boardwalk path, which went over one of numerous waterfalls in the Upper Lakes of the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_215_06012010 - Boardwalk going around some very clear lakes with submerged trees in the Upper Lakes section of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_220_06012010 - Another long line of waterfalls spilling into one of the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_225_06012010 - Closer look at some of the uppermost of the Upper Lakes waterfalls
Plitvice_229_06012010 - Context of a boardwalk in the Upper Lakes section going by a calm part of the lake where the waterfall action was calm for the moment
Plitvice_233_06012010 - Boardwalk descending alongside cascades spilling into Galovac, another one of the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_250_06012010 - Closer examination of the waterfalls of the Upper Lakes as we continued to slowly make our way further downstream
Plitvice_255_06012010 - Looking back at another section of the Galovac Waterfalls in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_256_06012010 - A calm part of Galovac as the boardwalk goes around it
Plitvice_261_06012010 - Full context of more waterfalls as seen on the opposite side of this lake in the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_263_06012010 - With so many waterfalls and lakes, it was easy to forget that the Plitvice Lakes National Park also had a fair bit of wildlife
Plitvice_273_06012010 - Approaching the edge of one of the more impressive of the Plitvice Waterfalls in the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_282_06012010 - Standing right beside one of the taller waterfalls that we encountered in the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_283_06012010 - Descending below Galovac Lake and looking towards more ponds and lakes of the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_286_06012010 - Continuing to walk the boardwalk among more lakes and waterfalls in the Upper Lakes section of the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_295_06012010 - Context of a clear pond and an attractive waterfall in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_309_06012010 - Another attractive waterfall in the main Upper Lakes section that seemed to have the majority of the action as well as the tourists in this part of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_312_06012010 - Sometimes the boardwalk goes above the Plitvice Waterfalls in the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_313_06012010 - Context of a tour group on the boardwalk walking by one of the more impressive waterfalls in the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_316_06012010 - Boardwalks frequently go in front of long waterfalls like this in the Upper Lakes, and I have to admit that I was starting to get waterfall-fatigued at this point in time
Plitvice_318_06012010 - Beautiful clear turquoise green and clear lake fronting the boardwalk and waterfalls in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_326_06012010 - Another look over the beautifully clear turquoise green and clear lake fronting the boardwalk and waterfalls in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_335_06012010 - More focused look at the attractive waterfalls partially covered in foliage in the Upper Lakes section of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_340_06012010 - Another look at the attractive waterfalls partially covered in foliage in the Upper Lakes section of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_343_06012010 - Looking back at the profile of one of the larger and wider Plitvice Waterfalls in the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_344_06012010 - A slightly different angled look at one of the main waterfalls in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_354_06012010 - Another close look at one of the main waterfalls of the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_357_06012010 - Context of someone walking on the boardwalk fronting another one of the taller and attractive Plitvice Waterfalls of the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_362_06012010 - Looking over this beautiful clear turquoise-like pond in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_368_06012010 - A snake, which we spotted while walking the Upper Lakes Trail, which just goes to show you that wildlife does appear to be thriving in the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_374_06012010 - Context of a fairly large tour group on the boardwalk opposite the pond from me as they fronted a fairly large waterfall within the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_392_06012010 - A colorful pond fronting one of the countless waterfalls of the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_401_06012010 - Still another waterfall in the main section of the Upper Lakes.  Can you start to feel the waterfall fatigue at this point?
Plitvice_405_06012010 - Looking over submerged branches towards yet another waterfall in the Upper Lakes section
Plitvice_419_06012010 - Still more percolating waterfalls in the lower part of the Upper Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_421_06012010 - Contextual look at another part of the boardwalk in the Upper Lakes going over some smaller waterfalls while fronting the base of a larger one just slightly upstream from it
Plitvice_428_06012010 - Cascades flanking the trail in the Upper Lakes section of Plitvice National Park
Plitvice_430_06012010 - The next calm part of the Upper Lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_435_06012010 - Looking across the Jezero Koszak, which was the longest lake in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_438_06012010 - Boardwalk climbing up alongside one of the bottommost of the Upper Lakes waterfalls
Plitvice_439_06012010 - Context of Julie continuing to walk on the boardwalks of the Upper Lakes section as we slowly made our way to the boat dock at the bottom of the network of boardwalks of this section of the park
Plitvice_447_06012010 - Boardwalk fronting some of the waterfalls comprising the lowermost of the network of falls in the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_448_06012010 - Context of a lot of people on the boardwalks in the lowermost section of the Upper Lakes part of the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_453_06012010 - People waiting patiently alongside lots of fish for a boat to take them to the Lower Lakes side of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_458_06012010 - Looking back at the context of the next wave of people waiting for the next boat to take them across the long lake towards the Lower Lakes section
Plitvice_473_06012010 - One of the lowermost of the Upper Lakes network as seen from a boat; note the self-hired canoers providing scale
Plitvice_486_06012010 - Looking back at Milanovacki Slapovi at the start of the Lower Lakes
Plitvice_488_06012010 - More focused look down at the waterfalls comprising the Milanovacki Slapovi at the start of the Lower Lakes
Plitvice_497_06012010 - Further downstream looking back upstream at the full context of the Milanovacki Slapovi Waterfalls at the head of the Lower Lakes section
Plitvice_508_06012010 - Looking straight down at the colorful and clear lakes of the Lower Lakes with some people on the boardwalks for scale
Plitvice_519_06012010 - Looking down at the context of the Velike Kaskade and the Sulpjara Cave as we returned to the Lower Lakes under better weather
Plitvice_554_06012010 - Portrait view of what I call the 'money shot' of the Lower Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_569_06012010 - Veliki Slap from the top in long exposure and under better weather than the day before
Plitvice_573_06012010 - Looking down towards the profile of the Sastavci Waterfall with an afternoon rainbow appearing in its mist
Plitvice_575_06012010 - Rainbow and incoming bad weather at the Sastavci Waterfall in the Lower Lakes
Plitvice_581_06012010 - Looking down into Sastavci with a rainbow this time
Plitvice_584_06012010 - Incoming bad weather towards the end of the afternoon of the day that we visited both the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes (the latter was when we got the bad weather again)
Plitvice_585_06012010 - Context of the trail along the uppermost part of the Lower Lakes as we made our way further upstream in the direction of the Upper Lakes
Plitvice_587_06012010 - Looking across this extensive set of percolating waterfalls in the uppermost part of the Lower Lakes
Plitvice_592_06012010 - Looking across the full breadth of Milanovacki Slapovi at the start of the Lower Lakes
Plitvice_601_06012010 - Focused look at the more voluminous part of the Milanovacki Slapovi
Plitvice_609_06012010 - Profile view of the Milanovacki Slapovi
Plitvice_616_06012010 - Looking over to the smaller side of the Milanovacki Slapovi
Plitvice_634_06022010 - Back at the Money Shot Overlook the following morning. This time it was cloudy, which provided even lighting tough not quite the same colors as yesterday
Plitvice_645_06022010 - Another look at Veliki Slap but now with more typical flow on the day that we left Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice_650_06022010 - Broad view of the Veliki Slap Waterfall seen in more typical flow as opposed to the torrent that we saw just a day earlier
Plitvice_656_06022010 - Unusual view of Sastavci from nearby the Money Shot, which we attained from a tip from a fellow visitor

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We devoted a page for transport logistics including driving directions, which you can read here.

I recalled we didn’t have much difficulty arriving in the country with respect to Visas, fees, or other issues when arriving in the international airport in Zagreb (we flew in from Greece).

So we didn’t do an in depth writeup about the logistics concerning immigration, customs, and other administrative things.

According to GoogleMaps, the drive between Zagreb and Plitvice was 137km or 2 hours. From Split to Plitvice was 257km or under 3 hours drive.

Bottom up sweep of Sastavci and Veliki Slap Waterfalls in full flood due to heavy rains; imagine that this was on our first day at Plitvice!


Left to right sweep starting with the Velike Kaskade and ending with the Veliki Slap


Interesting look at the wooden boardwalk in danger of having some of the watercourse flowing over it due to the heavy rains


Looking down at the Sastavci Waterfall in motion


Bottom up sweep of the Veliki Slap in full flow from its very misty base


Bottom up sweep of Veliki Slap from the upper overlook


Left to right sweep of the wide Velike Kaskade from the boardwalk right in front of it


Bottom up sweep looking down at both the Velike Kaskade as well as Slap Milke Trnine along with their context within the gorge


Wide sweep of long line of small waterfalls in far upper region of the lakes between Okrugljak and Ciginovac Lakes


Another line of waterfalls somewhere in the Upper Lakes above Galovac


Quick right to left sweep of one of the larger waterfalls in the Upper Lakes (I think could be Veliki Prstavac)


Line of waterfalls backing a colorful clear pond; this line of waterfalls I believe involves the Mali Prstavac


Left to right sweep of what I think is Galovacki Buk


Focused on a small waterfall over a colorful clear pool


Left to right sweep of Milanovac Lake leading up to Milanovacki Slapovi backed by Jezero Kozjak


Top down sweep along the Sastavci Waterfalls with rainbow


Left to right sweep of what I believe are the Slap Milke Trnine


Left to right sweep of the Milanovacki Slapovi


Right to left sweep starting with Veliki Slap and ending with Sastavci


Focused on the Sastavci Waterfall from an unusual spot

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Tagged with: plitvice, national park, karlovac, lika-senj, croatia, waterfall, dalmatia



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.