About Plitvice Waterfalls
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
By the way, if you’re curious about the exact whereabouts of the “Money Shot”, you’ll want to take any of the trails that go to the brink of the Veliki Slap Waterfall, and then continue further downstream.
There will be a designated lookout yielding that desired view, which not only features the Sastavci Waterfall but also the Sulpjara Cave in the distance.
The Upper Lakes of the Plitvice Waterfalls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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