As a tour guide, I have visited the Plitvice Lakes National Park more than 200 times. Here are some tips and advice that will help you enjoy this awe-inspiring place:
- Check the weather forecast
- Check the weather forecast again
- Know your limits
- On your own or with a group? Pros and cons
- Don’t forget your phone or camera
None of those 200 visits to the park was never the same. Nevertheless, this is what I have learned over the years:
1. Check The Weather Forecast
I will never forget my first professional visit to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
I was with a group of elderly tourists from the UK. As we arrived to our hotel, it was raining. “Are we going to cancel our walking tour of the park?”- I asked them. “NO, let’s go!”-they answered unanimously .
Unlike the British, most people in Dalmatia stay at home when it’s raining. I reluctantly agreed… And it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable visits to the Park.
Seeing the Upper Lakes in a drizzle was just magical. The overwhelming experience of water flowing everywhere and saturating the air was an unforgettable experience.
From that time on, I have always endeavoured to maintain a positive outlook on visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park when it’s raining.
Beautiful, right? However… This is what the Veliki Prštavac waterfall looks like when it is NOT raining:
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is beautiful when it’s raining. But the colours, reflections, and overall experience is incredible when it SUNNY.
So, if in an way possible, try to “aim” for sunny days.
I am aware that it may not always be possible, but if you’re able to adjust your activities according to the weather forecast in the Park, you will be richly rewarded.
2. Check The Weather Forecast Again
Even in Summer, the temperature at the Plitvice Lakes can be extremely low. Especially when it’s raining.
The National Park area seems to be able to create its own climate. Being in the mountains, the clouds can appear out of nowhere.
If you’re planning to visit the Park from your seaside resort like Split or Zadar, keep in mind that the weather in the park can be dramatically different.
If there’s a thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years is to always be prepared and expect the unexpected.
That means bringing extra clothes (including winter jackets at times, even is summer), socks, shoes, a raincoat, an umbrella (BTW, the advantage of an umbrella is that it allows you to take pictures more easily)…
On the other hand, it could also be hot there. A pair of sunglasses, a hat, a bottle of water may be necessary.
Should I Take A Suitcase?!
Well… Sometimes it may really be useful to take a bag and leave it in the coach or in your car.
Carefully STUDYING the weather forecast is the solution. Take SEVERAL weather forecasts into consideration. Hourly forecasts can sometimes be surprisingly accurate. So take these into account.
Still, if there’s nothing you can do about it and have to visit the Plitvice Lakes in the rain, don’t despair. Without rain there would be no waterfalls and no lakes. No forest and do ducks. So, just let it be!
3. Know Your Limits
Has your cell phone ever congratulated you for making 10.000 steps?
If so, the Plitvice Lakes National Park would be a delight. Relatively easy walking, going uphill and downhill, steps here, steps there. But in general, it is easy.
However, if you have never made 10.000 steps in a day, or it’s been a while since you last did some strenuous exercise, visiting the Plitvice Lakes may be challenging.
You should especially be cautious if you have a medical condition of any kind, because your symptoms might worsen.
Another issue is having children with you. Keep in mind that infants can only be CARRIED through the park. So it’s heavy workout.
Children get exhausted more quickly. What if that happens in the middle of nowhere? And you should know that the toilets might appear too far apart when you have little children along.
I am not saying that walking through the Park with little children is like herding cats, but this cat did’t really enjoy its visit of the Plitvice Lakes as far as I can remember.
BTW, PETS ARE allowed into the Park if you take them on a leash.
Even though swimming is not allowed, dogs sometimes break free and jump into the water on a hot summer’s day.
If You’ve Got Limited Time
The National Park has prepared several routes with variable duration.
However, keep in mind that this is about IDEAL circumstances.
Long lines and queues can sometimes be overwhelming. And you cannot just cut your visit short. You would have to walk back to the entrance again, and that may not be as quick as you might expect.
So if you have a plane or a boat to catch, you may want to keep that in mind.
All of this may be useful when deciding whether to visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park…
4. On Your Own Or With A Group? Pros And Cons
Visiting the park with a group has a number of advantages.
First, you don’t have to worry about booking and buying tickets, finding parking space or getting lost in the park.
When you’re in a group, you may be able to relax and enjoy the park more.
If you are fortunate enough to end up in a “small group tour” (less than 20 people), you would be getting the best of two worlds.
The narrow boardwalks, countless intersections, limited seating on panoramic trains and electric boats can be very challenging for large groups of people.
Even though the Park managed to decrease the number of visitors lately, you can still sometimes feel overwhelmed with the hordes of tourists swarming all over the boardwalks that usually don’t come with handrails.
What If You End Up In A Large Group?
Especially if you book your tour from an agency in Split, you may not be able to book a tour with the agencies that have minivans.
Don’t panic, though. When properly managed, being part of a large group may not be that bad.
You may at times feel rushed, though. This is the most common complaint I would get. But keep in mind that your guide has to keep a steady pace to make you return to Split on time and to avoid long lines.
But the benefits may still outnumber the negatives. And again, if you obediently follow your guide, make a personal contact with her or him, the experience will certainly be great. The very narrow boardwalks allow you to keep an intimate, personal contact with the waterfalls despite of being in a 50+ group.
5. Don’t Forget Your Phone Or Camera
Because you will regret it for the rest of your life.
A potential side-effect of visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park is “waterfall nausea”. You will see so many waterfalls that it will make you feel dizzy. It’s probably because our brain is not able to process so many stimuli.
One of the best strategies to cope is to TAKE PICTURES. Or just snapshots of everything you see. Or at least, moments of sublime beauty.
And Plitvice Lakes abound in such moments.
If you visit the Park with a larger group, you may not have enough time to soak in the atmosphere. So taking pictures will allow you to keep admiring the lakes well beyond your stay in the park.
The water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lakes, trees immersed in water, fish, leaves floating on water, the reflections from above…all in one, multi-layered picture!
To see some of the pictures I made there over the years, please see my other posts on Plitvice Lakes.