Have you ever dreamed about exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park? Just picture a series of terraced lakes and waterfalls cascading down onto each other in the middle of a forest. We had the pleasure of visiting this amazing destination on our month-and-a-half trip to Croatia and what a sight it was!
In this Plitvice Lakes guide we would like to introduce you to this national park, share our experiences there and provide you with some handy tips and recommendations for your visit. But first, a little bit about ourselves.
The Story Behind “Boldly Go Travel”
We are Kelly and Matt from “Boldly Go Travel”. Kelly grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and developed a love of travel at an early age. Matt grew up all over the US. He was born in New Orleans, moved while growing up to St. Louis, the Bay Area, then Houston before college in Austin.
After graduating, Matt moved to New York City to work on Wall Street. After spending many years in the “rat race”, he decided to move to Santa Fe to work for a small venture capital firm which is where he met Kelly. Matt has visited 44 countries now and Kelly is slightly ahead with 51 countries!
At the time we met, Kelly was a grad film student in San Diego but was working on her thesis film documentary about the chile pepper culture in New Mexico. In the summer of 2011, we developed a friendship. We started dating thereafter as Matt started to visit often.
After finishing grad school in 2012, Kelly moved back to New Mexico to work in the film industry and in August of 2015, we got married. While dating, traveling was a big part of our relationship. We often talked about traveling but never did it because of work and study commitments.
Kelly studied in Spain while being an undergrad at the University of Denver and it was a formative experience. Matt also wanted to experience something similar as he had never spent a long time outside the US. At the end of 2017, we made plans to rent our home in San Diego and started to plan the beginning of our phase of our round the world trip in 2018.
Both of us grew up watching Star Trek and loved watching the adventures of the starship. We decided to create a travel blog based on the idea of “boldly going where no man has gone before” – a phrase used in Star Trek.
We co-opted it to “Boldly Go Travel” and started the blog by simply wanting to keep our friends and family informed about our travels because we were moving around a lot. We saw how many people enjoyed the content and we have tried to keep it up even though we have now returned to the USA.
Amazing Travel Journey to Croatia
We spent about a month-and-a-half (close to two months) in Croatia traveling to many places. We managed to see most of the country in that time, partly because we spent a week on a catamaran with a group of friends that we had pre-planned that part of the trip with before arriving.
While sailing, we got to see many islands. Before the sailing trip, we spent several weeks on the mainland starting in Zagreb and moving around every four to five days to a new place. During our time in Croatia, Kelly’s parents came to visit us and we had the pleasure of showing them around our favorite parts of Croatia and other parts we hadn’t seen like Korcula.
Why Plitvice Lakes National Park should be on your Bucket List
For those that know nothing about Plitvice Lakes – we would say that is a great thing because discovery adds a touch of spice to your travels! Don’t be tempted to go online and look at too many photos of Plitvice or Krka National Parks as they will exceed all of your expectations in person.
The park itself is like visiting something out of a fairytale. It’s so grand and gorgeous. So much so that you won’t want to blink the entire time. We had the pleasure of visiting on two occasions and the time we spent there was some of the best days we had in all of Croatia. The entire park is magical!
It’s a large park and even after visiting for two full days, we still didn’t see everything. So, if you want to hike the entire park, we would recommend staying nearby and exploring for two or three days. When you come down the trail from the parking area and turn right it leads to a high waterfall.
This is one of our favorite parts of Plitvice Lakes because when we visited with Kelly’s parents, we left before sunrise in the morning so that we could be the first ones in the park. We were indeed the first ones in the park and had the entire area to ourselves. It was a phenomenal moment.
Best Memories of Plitvice Lakes
We have a few favorite moments from visiting Plitvice. The first one was what we just talked about where Kelly’s parents and us had the waterfall area to ourselves just the four of us. There was a boulder at the base of the falls but it was a safe distance away that you could stand on it and it would look like you were standing right under the massive waterfall.
Both Kelly’s parents got up on the boulder and were making funny poses and having a blast! Being able to show them the park and its beauty – especially the first time they walked over the main viewing area – to see their faces and their reaction to the beauty was such a special moment.
During both visits, we couldn’t help but squeal with excitement and smile the whole time because it looks like a place where elves and magical creatures live. It’s hard to believe that a place this beautiful exists.
Arrive at Plitvice Lakes Early in the Morning for the Best Experience
The first time we visited was in the heat of summer in the late morning/afternoon. For those that haven’t visited, do not do this! You need to go first thing in the day when the park opens or in the off season.
Our first visit wasn’t as enjoyable because there were hoards of people and it was super hot that day. Even though you are surrounded by beautiful lakes and waterfalls, you aren’t allowed to swim in any part of the water.
As we mentioned before, the best thing you can do for an enjoyable day trip to Plitvice Lakes is to arrive when it first opens in the morning. If you delay your visit, hundreds of people will be on the same boardwalk as you and it makes it difficult to take in the scenery when your elbow to elbow with people. Peak times also make it hard to take decent photos.
Accommodation at Plitvice Lakes
Even if you don’t plan on staying the night in the area, it’s worth planning a visit to the garden spots for an hour or two and getting a drink at the main shop. This little village looks like something out of the village in Beauty and the Beast but with waterfalls and rivers running through the middle of it.
Need to Know Before you Go
Before you go make sure you know where you want to park and what trails you want to hike. Research the trails ahead of time and sort out what amount of distance is practical. Make sure to pack water and snacks or lunch if you don’t plan on buying from the few shops in the park.
Most of all, make sure you know the opening times and plan if you want to do a boat ride or not. Arriving first thing in the morning will make it a much more enjoyable experience overall. Check the weather forecast and pack a rain jacket for the fall season. The weather can change quickly and sometimes you have to wait for a boat or bus back to the main area.
Our first visit was in summer and our second was in fall. In our experience, the weather was much more enjoyable in the fall as it was beautiful to see some of the trees change colors against the blue waters. So if you plan on visiting during fall then get ready for this wonderful experience!