A Magical Plitvice Lakes winter itinerary: Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park

If you’ve seen the luscious greenery and turquoise water photos of Plitvice during the summer months, then you’d be forgiven for not considering a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park in winter.

However after living in Croatia for a year as a digital nomad, we love living on the coast with great weather, but we were kind of missing winter and snow (never thought I’d hear the day I say that as a perpetual summer lover!). So a Plitvice Lakes winter adventure was the perfect chance to see a side of Croatia that many people don’t even know exists: Croatia in the snow.

Most people don’t associate snow with Croatia and it’s true that the climate does vary massively throughout the country during winter.

The Adriatic Coast is famous for its crystal clear turquoise water, beaches, islands and boat trips, and it rarely drops below freezing on the coast, so seeing snow in the likes of Split or Dubrovnik is not common.

However, if you drive inland, you pass through a 6km tunnel under the mountains above Zadar called Tunel Sveti Rok. When you come out the other side, it’s like you’re in a different world. The tunnel is famous for having two completely different climates on each side and the first time we drove through to Zagreb in December, we were shocked to drive in on the coastal side in sunshine and 6C, and come out in -4C and snow!

In fact, Croatia in winter has such a variety of climates and you can find ski resorts and snowy landscapes for miles when you explore the inland area of the country.

So if you’re considering a Plitvice Lakes National Park winter trip, I highly recommend it and this guide to visiting Plitvice Lakes in winter should give you everything you need to plan your trip, including information about the park during winter and other amazing winter activities to do near Plitvice.

A panoramic view of Plitvice National Park in winter looking across a dark blue lake with snow covered trees on the hills each side, cloud is low hanging over more hills in the distance

Plitvice Lakes in winter

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Need to start planning your trip to Plitvice Lakes ASAP?

Below are some of the top rated tours, hotels and recommendations for visiting Plitvice. Make sure to book ahead of time to ensure availability!

Top Experiences and Tours to Plitvice Lakes National Park:
1) Plitvice Lakes Entry, Guided Tour and boat ride (top rated!)
2) Plitvice Lakes Day trip from Split (great if you’re based in Split and only have time for a day trip)
3) Plitvice Lakes day tour from Zadar (ideal as a Zadar day trip)
4) Plitvice Lakes day tour from Zagreb (a great, easy day trip from Zagreb and includes a stop in magical Rastoke)

Top Hotels and Accommodation in Plitvice:
1) Hotel Jezero (Best for proximity to the Lakes entrance)
2) Lakeside Hotel Plitvice (One of the best hotels I’ve stay at in my life!!)
3) B&B Millenium House (budget friendly option!)


Why you should visit Plitvice in Winter

View from above on a canyon trail looing down into the canyon where green lakes flow over rocks and around a snow covered walkway with snowy trees and cliffs either side of the water in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia in winter

View from the upper trails in the Lower Canyon, looking down into the Lower Canyon

Three quick reasons that I’ll go into more detail below:

  1. It’s significantly cheaper

  2. There are no crowds (there are hardly any people at all)

  3. You see a side of Plitvice and Croatia that most people never see

I should say that I have visited Plitvice in both winter and summer and both are beautiful. But winter in Plitvice was just magical.

Although the famous wooden walkways floating on the water are not open (they are covered in several feet of snow), the boat ride across big Lake Kozjak, panoramic train, lower lakes canyon path and upper lakes canyon walk are all open… and there’s no one else there.

Seriously, we saw about 10 other people during our 6 hours in the park in January.

We spent hours crunching through the snow with spectacular views and scenery, listening to nature, in absolute wonder at the amount of snow (it’s the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life) and all we could hear was the crunch of snow under our feet, with snow falling silently all around us, the birds in the trees and the sound of water flowing through the park.

I was just in awe for the whole day, the beauty was like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I honestly felt so emotional and grateful to be experiencing this beautiful, famous place that basically felt like we had it all to ourselves.

It was spectacular.

And the best part?

It’s a quarter of the price of a ticket during the summer.

Snow is falling on aview of a turquoise blue green lake in a canyon with snow covered cliffs and trees on either side and grey sky in Plitvice snow

Lower Lakes, Plitvice National Park winter


What is the Plitvice entry fee in winter?

So now you’re probably wondering what is the cost of visiting Plitvice Lakes in winter.

Plitvice winter tickets cost:

€10 per adult

€4,50 per child

This is a quarter of the Plitvice Lakes price in summer which is just shy of €40 - at €39,80.

Croatia’s main industry is tourism and this kind of price variation throughout the year is common for most tourist activities, hotels, restaurants, accommodation, boat trips - everything goes up in the summer.

I usually advise visiting in the shoulder seasons which are April-June or September-October, as the weather is better and the prices are not as high as in July and August.

However the Plitvice Lakes snow makes it well worth visiting in the off season, plus the prices are significantly less!

Here is the price breakdown as of 2023 per adult:

1st January - 31st March: €10

1st April - 31st May: €23,50

1st June - 30th September: €39,80

1st October - 31st October: €23,50

1st November - 31st December: €10

All tickets include entrance fee, parking, boat ride and panorama train ride.

Book your tickets here.

You can also buy a Plitvice Lakes 2-day ticket for €15,50 in winter which I recommend if you don’t feel like you can see it all in one day in the snow, or don’t want to spend more than 2-3 hours out in the snow each day.

Read more - Which Plitvice entrance is best to start at?

Plitvice weather in winter

Most people don’t consider visiting Plitvice National Park in winter, but here’s why you should! Plan a snowy getaway with this Plitvice Lakes winter guide. Snow hikes, deer feeding and mythical villages - Croatia isn’t just a summer destination | pl

In winter, Plitvice Lakes National Park is pretty much guaranteed snow between December and February and can get up to and around 78cm / 30 inches of snowfall. Although the low temperatures mean we were seeing snow drifts and accumulations well over 1 metre because it doesn’t melt much.

December to February are the coldest months and are the months when you’ll be guaranteed to have snow. Although having spoken to a staff member at our hotel, she said they had snow as late as May in 2022!!

Plitvice Lakes winter temperature ranges from around -4C - 3C during December to February (24-38F)

However during January, we saw it as low as -8C during one particularly cold evening, so of course the temperature can vary significantly.

You can keep up to date with Plitvice lakes weather conditions on the Plitvice National Parks website.


Plitvice opening hours during winter

The Plitvice Lakes winter opening hours are 8am-3pm for park entrances and car parking.

However, boat rides and the tram ride run every 30 minutes until 4pm.

Ticket offices close at 1pm.

The Plitvice opening hours vary throughout the year because daylight hours are much shorter in the winter. I wouldn’t advise staying in the park much later than 3-4pm - we left around this time and it was getting pretty dark especially with the snowfall and being in a valley area.

If you’re visiting Plitvice Lakes during winter, it’s important to follow the National Park’s updates page for alerts and closures.

While most of the upper canyon lake pathways remain closed for the snow season, we also had an unexpected lower lake closure on one of the days we were there and the changeable weather means it’s important to stay up to date with the changing conditions.

Follow the park updates page here or call +385 53 751 015 for an update on current conditions.


How busy is Plitvice Lakes during winter?

Girl in a long black puffy jacket standing on a snow covered path with snowy treeds and a snow covered fence next to the girl, snow in Plitvice Croatia

Lower Lakes path with no crowds

Plitvice is not busy in winter, at all. 

If you’ve ever visited in the summer, the contrast to how crowded it is during summer is almost unbelievable.

We felt like we had the whole park to ourselves for about 90% of the day.

We had around 10 people on our boat ride across Lake Kozjak (boats typically hold approx 150 people). We had 6 people on our panorama train ride and we saw 4 other people on the walking trails while we were out exploring for 6 hours.

In winter, Plitvice Lakes is a far cry from the usual busy crowds you see at Croatia’s top tourist spots - we honestly felt like we’d discovered a hidden gem or secret place - rather than being at Croatia’s most visited in-land attraction!


Where to stay in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia in winter?

Plitvice hotel ethno houses, wooden cabin style building with a wooden fence running alongside with deep snow around it, snow covered roof, snow covered trees and snow falling in the photo

Plitvice Lakeside Hotel and Ethno Houses

Plitvice winter accommodation options are a lot fewer than during the warmer months. Like much of Croatia, touristic businesses often close and take their own holidays during the winter since there is little-to-no income during those months.

However there are still a handful of places open and I 100% recommend our Plitvice hotel, it was spectacular and added to the winter, mountain getaway vibe.

To set the scene, I was craving a snowy, cosy cabin getaway and while cabins aren’t as big of a thing in Croatia, I did discover Lakeside Hotel and Ethno Houses Plitvice.

Their stunning property is in a more traditional ethno village style rather than one big hotel building, there are several smaller wooden houses with hotel rooms inside each, all centred around a central area of the property with a play area (although this is covered in snow and not useable in winter), a large modern restaurant and games rooms. 

The hotel beautifully combines modern amenities with rustic, mountain cabin vibes and it was so warm and cosy with dark timber beams, a roaring log burning fire in the restaurant and windows looking out across the snow-covered property.

It really was idyllic, so much so that we actually extended our stay by an additional night which I’ve only ever done once before in my life!

They also offer Ethno houses which sleep up to 6 adults and 2 children and include a small kitchenette, two floors and a balcony with a hot tub (although these are not always available during the winter months).

A great perk of this hotel (shh, this is a secret!) is that they actually have an unofficial third Plitvice Lakes entrance just 500m from the hotel.

So rather than driving 20 minutes to park in the huge car park and go in via Plitvice Lakes entrance 1 or Plitvice Lakes entrance 2, you can finish breakfast, leave your car at the hotel, walk 500m down the road and you’ll find a road that takes you into the park directly by the starting point for the boat ride.

Although this entrance isn’t advertised on the official National Park website (because there’s no parking), the hotel told us about it and gave us directions. There is also a ticket office there and it’s obviously a more well-known entrance for locals. However the ticket office was closed so we walked right in.


Getting to Plitvice National Park in winter

The best way to get to Plitvice Lakes in winter is by flying into Zagreb then driving, taking a bus or taking a tour to Plitvice.

Flights are regularly scheduled into Zagreb and I suggest renting a car as the easiest way to get to Plitvice.

Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is a 2 hour drive.

The main roads to Plitvice have always been cleared and safe to drive on during winter in our experience, the only part that might be snowy to drive on is the entrance to your accommodation.

If you’re not comfortable driving in winter or just in Croatia in general, you can hire a private transfer from Zagreb airport or book a day trip from Zagreb to Plitvice. This one also includes a stop at the beautiful village of Rastoke which I mention in the itinerary below.

What to pack for Plitvice Lakes in winter

Obviously layers and sensible, warm clothes are essential, but I can’t stress enough how important good, strong footwear is when you visit Plitvice Lakes in winter time.

Plitvice snow is deep and often covers uneven ground, having poor footwear on will be wet, cold and uncomfortable but also possibly dangerous too in case you injure yourself.

Weather in Plitvice Lakes can change quickly so it’s important to be prepared, although there are staff around the park at all times of year should you need assistance.

Plitvice National Park winter packing list

Woman standing on a snow covered bridge with a river running underneath and snow covered trees on the hill in the background. Woman is dresses in black trousers and a bright pink and yellow sweater and hat - packing list Plitvice National Park winter

Thermal clothes, waterproof trousers and hiking boots for the snowy trails

  • Hiking boots or sturdy waterproof shoes

  • Thick, warm hiking socks

  • Thermal layers such as vests and leggings

  • 2-3 pairs of long trousers (they’re likely to get damp each day)

  • Multiple layers for tshirts, sweaters and shirts

  • 1-2 good quality, warm sweaters

  • A waterproof (and ideally windproof) winter coat

  • Gloves, hat and scarf

  • Sunglasses (for glare from the snow)

  • Tissues

  • Portable charger and phone to show your digital ticket

  • Camera (optional)

  • Hand warmer (if you get cold hands like me)


Visiting Plitvice Lakes Croatia in winter: 3 day itinerary

While Plitvice Lakes are obviously the main attraction, when it comes to planning what to do in Plitvice Lakes National Park, there’s plenty to do even in the winter and there are lots of things to do near Plitvice Lakes National Park too.

Here is my 3 days in Plitvice itinerary make the most of being in the area.

A viewpoint in Plitvice Lakes in snow, looking down on the biggest waterfall, Veliki Slap with water falling down cliffs in many places into a green lake below

Veliki Slap viewpoint by Entrance 1


Day 1 - Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in winter


Fuel up well for breakfast because most of the kiosks and food places in the park are not open during winter. The only place we found open was the cafe by the boat dock.

Head into the park between 9-10am. In the summer I would advise being there as soon as the gates open to beat the crowds, but with no crowds and less of the park open during winter, I would suggest arriving at a comfortable time for you. We found 5-6 hours in the park was enough before we started to get cold and in need of heating and refreshment so bear this in mind too!

Parking is free at Plitvice entrance 1 and 2, or if you’re staying at my hotel recommendation above, just walk to secret entrance number 3!

Plitvice Lake winter route suggestion

  • Upper pathway on the lower canyon (between entrance 1 and the panorama train stop)

  • Panorama train ride

  • Boat ride

  • Upper canyon walking trail

The order you do things in will depend on which entrance you start at. Here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Plitvice Lakes National Park in winter and in what order:

Starting at Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1

View from a viewing platform of Veliki Slap waterfalls falling in multiple places down a steep cliff into a turquoise blue lake below

View of Veliki Slap from the start of the trail at entrance 1

  1. Upper trail above the canyons - here you’ll see the best view of the biggest waterfall in Plitvice, Veliki Slap

  2. Follow the trail to the panorama train and take that to the entrance 2 area

  3. From here you can follow some of the upper canyon walking trails

  4. You can also take the boat ride from here

  5. Walk back from the boat dock up to the upper canyon trail and back to Entrance 1

Starting at Plitvice Lakes entrance 2

View looking out from a platform with snow covered tree branches hanging down, there is a blue lake with waterfall and hills either side of the canyon covered in snowy trees and low cloud

View from the start of the Lower Lakes canyon trail

  1. Do the out and back upper canyon trail (only partially open)

  2. Take the boat ride 

  3. From the other side of the lake, walk up to the lower canyons upper trail to see the viewpoints of the canyon until you reach entrance 1

  4. Then turn back and walk the same way to get back to the panorama train

  5. Take the train back to Entrance 2

Starting at Plitvice Lakes entrance 3 (secret one)

Looking out off the back of a boat with metal railings across a large lake with dark water and snow covered hills and trees along the edge of the lake

Plitvice Lake boat trip across Lake Kozjak

  1. Walk down the road of entrance 3 to the boat dock (take the left fork in the road as the sign post might be covered in snow)

  2. Take the boat across the lake to entrance 2 area

  3. Walk the out-and-back section of the upper canyon trail that’s open 

  4. Take the panorama train from entrance 2

  5. Walk the upper route on the lower canyons trail to entrance 1

  6. Follow the same path back but at the panorama train stop, take the other path back down to the big wooden bridge and towards the boat dock to head back out of entrance 3 on foot

I recommend doing the boat ride first to orientate yourself in the park if you are arriving from entrance 3. The boat crosses the main Plitvice Lake Kozjak and you’ll need to show your ticket when you board.

The boat ride takes around 15 minutes and you’ll see the beautiful valley and snow covered hills, the smaller waterfalls leading into the lake and the incredible scenery.

cream coloured Mercedes unimog off-road vehicle front view with huge wheels parked in the snow

Plitvice panorama train behicle

The panorama train ride is not quite what I expected, I expected a tourist tram or train based on the name, but it’s actually a Mercedes Unimog (if you know, you know!) This is a huge outdoor vehicle made for cross-country and off road driving so it’s very safe in the winter.

The vehicle is fully enclosed and they add extra train “carriages” during the busy summer, there were no additional carriages on our trip though.

Plitvice Lake winter tips:

  • Although some people might be disappointed that the wooden walkways aren’t open, they are closed every year for safety reasons and if you know to expect that beforehand, I think it’s incredible value for money that you can still spend 5-6 hours in the park for just 10 euros.

  • The best views are on the upper trail above the lower canyons where you can see Veliki Slap and the snow covered walkways below

  • You can buy a 2-day ticket for Plitvice Lakes so if 5-6 hours out in the cold sounds too much, you can do two days in a row for only €15,50

  • Students get a discount so make sure to bring your student card if you’re studying

  • Phone signal in the park is mostly non-existent so I recommend taking a paper tourist map with you and downloading offline maps on your phone

Looking down a cliff to a turquoise blue green lake below with small waterfalls falling into it and a white, snow covered pathway winding above the water

Looking down on the Lower canyon walkways which are covered in snow

A wooden boat house on stilts above the lake with a snow covered roof and icicles hanging off the roof with trees on the water bank in the background

Boat house on Lake Kozjak, Plitvice Lakes winter view


Evening and dinner

It’s likely that you have food available at your hotel.

A restaurant with a wooden table set for 6 people next to a huge floor to ceiling window where snow drifts can be seen outside

Lakeside Hotel restaurant

If you’re staying at the Lakeside Hotel and Ethno Houses Plitvice. I absolutely recommend their restaurant. Incredible food, mostly locally sourced or even produced on site and the staff are so friendly.

If you’re staying in Plitvicka Jezera, winter does mean some places are closed but being so close to the park entrance, you’ll find a few more options around your hotel.


Day 2 - Deer feeding and Plitvice National Park or Speleon Centre (optional)


Stag sitting in the snow with huge antlers in a field at a deer ranch

Stag at the deer ranch

Plitvice isn’t just about the national park, there are also plenty of other places open and activities to do such as the amazing experience of feeding deer on a snowy farm ranch.

The Dolina Jelena Ranch is open throughout the year although it is necessary to book in advance all year round - because they can close if there isn’t demand in winter, and they are very busy in summer.

The animal feeding sessions are at 10am each day.

You can find all the details on their website here - and contact them by phone or email.

You can also do what I did and message them on Instagram here.

Their website says they need 3 days notice but I messaged them on Instagram the day before and they were kindly able to accommodate me, so it’s definitely worth asking if you haven’t been able to contact them in advance!

Tickets cost €15 per adult and €10 per child. Payment is cash only at the desk when you arrive.

The tickets include information about the ranch and animals from the owners, a tour of the farm and feeding of the red deer and the fallow deer. Feeding three horses and a food and drink tasting of local meat, cheese and bread at the end around a fire to warm up!

The guide will give you lots of information about the history of the animals and their habits, their seasonal changes and the herd they’ve been caring for over the years since they opened in 2009. You can also hold the antlers that have been shed by the deer each season, you can see the famous Slavonian Pigs and also the three horses who live on the ranch and feed them too.

The ranch emphasizes that they do not own the animals, they are just the caretakers and the ranch is the animals home, so there’s a lot of love and care that goes into raising the animals here.

The experience lasts around 2-2.5 hours so you should be finished around 12-1pm.

Brown horse standing in the snow looking over a wooden fence

Horse on the ranch

a fire pit with a roaring log fire in the centre of wooden decking with snow on the ground

Fire pit to warm up after your deer feeding session



Depending on whether you did everything you wanted to do in the park on day 1, if you bought a 2-day ticket then the afternoon of day 2 is your chance to head back into the park and see the rest.

Even if you saw it all on the first day, it’s so beautiful that no one would blame you for wanting to go back a second time!

If you’re not heading back to the park, check out the Speleon Museum and visitors centre.

The Speleon Centre is a new exhibit run by the people who also run the Barac Caves - this is one of the biggest underground cave networks in Europe and you can go inside Barac Cave (which I highly recommend) but not in the winter unfortunately as there are over 1000 bats are hibernating in there!

However the newly opened underground Speleon Heritage Centre is a fascinating exhibit that brings to life the archaeological, geological and subterranean history of the region dating back to the Ice Age.

The artefacts, animal remains and even human remains that they’ve found in the underground caverns are fascinating and tell a story of the region's history that has never been shared before.

They provide tours in both English and Croatian. Find out more here.

A modern circular building with a flat roof, large windows and a triangular section of grass growing on the side

Speleon Centre

large pine trees covered in snow and weighed down with snow

Plitvice snow scene



If you’re not eating at your hotel, Restaurant Degenija in Rakovica is a great option with a modern restaurant, plenty of parking and a great variety of food on the menu.


Day 3 - Rastoke Village


On your last day in the area, you can’t miss a stop at the historical and magical Rastoke village,just 30 minutes north from Plitvice Lakes.

Old stone and wooden buildings with waterfalls underneath the building flowing down mossy rocks into a green river

Rastoke village

Rastoke’s historical village is nestled alongside the Korana River. The historic wooden houses are perched over flowing streams and waterfalls as it was once a milling town. You’ll still see some of the old mill wheels alongside the wooden and stone houses.

It’s almost unfathomable how these wooden houses are still standing above crashing waterfalls and in such a unique location in the town of Slunj.

In fact, Rastoke is often called “Little Plitvice” because the series of tumbling falls and greenery resembles a smaller but just as beautiful phenomenon as the national park itself.

Rastoke is a village of mythical stories and legends as locals have believed that fairies live on the banks of the river and come out at night to play. There are also stories of eerie women in white with supernatural powers which is why you’ll see figurines of women made of straw in some of the gardens of the houses.

wooden a-frame cabins on the river banks in rastoke village, roofs are white with snow and snow is falling. Hills behind the houses are covered in snow too

Rastoke Croatia

Slavic mythology is still strong here and in such a unique location, you’re unlikely to see anything else like this charming little village!

The village is popular with tour groups in the summer but in the winter it’s empty except for the locals. 

We parked at one of the pay and display car parks, the one just inside the town by the Slunj Rastoke bus stop accepts cards.

There’s a short walking loop around the village which takes around 30 minutes and gives you the best views of the waterfalls all around the unique village. 

You’ll see the walking route on the information boards, but follow the wooden pedestrian bridge from the car park, around the outside of the town until you reach the larger bridge with stone balustrades then walk back along the footpath across from the series of waterfalls until you reach the second wooden bridge (which cars can drive on) back into the village.

Rastoke village among waterfalls flowing into a green river

Rastoke village and waterfalls



For dinner, check out Street Food BBQ in Rakovica but great burgers, a chilled rustic vibe and cool seating area.


Summary: Plitvice Lakes winter travel guide

I hope this Plitvice Lakes winter guide has inspired you to consider visiting Plitvice Lakes during winter and not just seeing it as a summer only destination.

If you’re someone who prefers to avoid the crowds, then Plitvice Lakes in winter is absolutely the perfect trip for you and seeing Croatia in the snow really is magical and not a sight that many visitors experience!

Hopefully this puts Croatia on the map for you as a winter destination in Europe and not just for summer, as you can tell there are a lot of benefits to visiting in winter such as cheaper prices, more accommodation choice, less crowds and beautiful snowy weather Plitvice has to offer!

If you do visit Plitvice Lake in winter season - let me know!


FAQs: Visiting Plitvice Lakes in winter

Does it snow in Plitvice Lakes?

Yes - quite a lot between December and February.

How much time do you need in Plitvice Lakes?

We spent 6 hours there, that was without all the canyons being open. If you wanted to do several of the walking trails, you would need to visit in summer. But even in the winter I would allow 1-2 days to explore the park fully at your own pace.

Can you stay overnight in Plitvice Lakes National Park?

You can’t stay within the park itself. However there are several hotel and accommodation options nearby.

What is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes?

Plitvice in summer is the most popular and the whole park is open, however it’s also the busiest and most expensive time of year. In Plitvice Lakes, autumn and spring are beautiful and quieter, but Plitvice in winter is definitely the most unique experience and most affordable.

Do the lakes freeze in Plitvice Lakes National Park?

Some of the smaller, shallower lakes can freeze and you’ll see freezing areas around the edges. However because most of the lakes are flowing, the water doesn’t tend to freeze completely.

What’s the best way to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia?

By car. Or organised tour such as this one.

Pin this for later to plan your future trip!

Most people don’t consider visiting Plitvice National Park in winter, but here’s why you should! Plan a snowy getaway with this Plitvice Lakes winter guide. Snow hikes, deer feeding and mythical villages - Croatia isn’t just a summer destination | pl
Most people don’t consider visiting Plitvice National Park in winter, but here’s why you should! Plan a snowy getaway with this Plitvice Lakes winter guide. Snow hikes, deer feeding and mythical villages - Croatia isn’t just a summer destination | pl