I’m answering a question I’ve been asked several times since visiting Plitvice Lakes in Croatia - which entrance to use at Plitvice Lakes and which entrance at Plitvice Lakes is best to start from?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is the most popular national park in Croatia and also the most popular inland attraction in Croatia that many people include on their Croatia itinerary.
I’ve visited Plitvice Lakes in winter, spring and summer now, and can say which Plitvice Lakes entrance I think is best based on views, walkability and seeing the best parts of the park even if you’re not a big walker and don’t want to spend a full 6-7 hours walking in the park.
So if you’re planning to visit Plitvice, particularly if you’re planning a self-drive trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, perhaps with a hire car or if you’re hiring a private transfer where you can select your drop off point, this is my guide to the best entrance to use at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Clicking these links won't cost you anything, but they help me to keep this site up and running! Check out the full disclosure policy for more details. Thank you so much!
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!)
Where is Plitvice Lakes National Park?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is located inland in Croatia, close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the east of Croatia.
Time and distance to drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park from major cities:
From Split: 2.5 hours / 245km
From Zagreb: 2 hours / 147km
From Zadar: 1.5 hours / 119km
From Dubrovnik: 4.5 hours / 439km
How to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park?
The easiest way to get to Plitvice is to drive, either with your own vehicle or with a hire car. Parking is free at Plitvice, you only need the ticket to enter the park itself, so there are no hidden parking charges.
Fortunately, even if you don’t have a car, Croatia is well-connected by bus and there are also plenty of tours available.
Check out Flixbus which offers two buses a day during the spring and summer season from Split to Plitvice. One bus a day from Dubrovnik to Plitvice, and several buses a day from Zagreb and Zadar to Plitvice. All for a reasonable price.
The only downside to taking the bus is that it’s much slower, 4.5 hours from Split to Plitvice (by car is 2.5 hours) and 11 hours from Dubrovnik to Plitvice (by car is 4.5 hours).
So for a faster way to get to Plitvice without your own vehicle, I suggest booking a tour. Tours leave regularly from all the major cities in Croatia and are a great way to get your transport and park entry ticket included in the price.
Where to buy Plitvice Lakes tickets?
If you’re travelling to Plitvice independently (not as part of a tour) you can buy your tickets in advance here.
All tickets also include a boat ride and panorama train ride.
Do you need to buy Plitvice Lakes tickets in advance?
I would recommend you purchase tickets in advance during the summer months. Any other time of year, you shouldn’t need to. I’ve personally never purchased tickets in advance.
Best time to visit Plitvice Lakes, Croatia?
I have visited in summer, spring and winter (hopefully autumn one day too!!)
Visiting Plitvice Lakes in summer
Summer is definitely beautiful, the lush greenery is in full bloom and the vibrant turquoise water sparkles in the sun. However the crowds are shocking. The narrow wooden walkways on the water do not have railings and the crowds were so huge particularly at peak midday time, that I was worried about being pushed into the water.
If you visit in the summer, I highly suggest staying overnight and visiting the park as soon as it opens at 7am to avoid the crowds that start arriving around 10am. If you stay multiple nights, you can also get a 2-day Plitvice Lakes ticket which is cheaper than buying two single day tickets.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes in spring
Spring was beautiful especially because we got lucky on a sunny day, the water is still a stunning colour and the lower lake walkways were open, although the upper lakes were still closed due to winter repairs from the snow.
Crowds were much more manageable, it was busy in a few spots but nowhere near like in summer.
The only downside to travelling in the spring is that the trees and greenery around the lakes is quite barren as it hasn’t grown back after winter yet, so the hills, cliffs and areas around the falls look quite stark!
Visiting Plitvice Lakes in winter
Winter has been my absolute favourite time to visit Plitvice! I’ve never seen so much snow, it is truly one of the most magical travel experiences of my life and there were so few people in the park (we probably saw less than 20 other people during 6 hours in the park), it felt like we had this magical wonderland to ourselves.
Plitvice is also unique in that it gets a lot of snow but not particularly cold, it didn’t really drop below -2C despite snowing the entire time we were there.
You can read all about my Plitvice Lakes winter trip here.
The best part is that tickets are only 10 euros - a quarter of the price that they are in winter!!
However the downside is that due to the heavy snowfall, the walkways on the lakes are closed and so are several of the upper lake routes due to fallen trees and snow drifts. However the upper walkways are still open for amazing views, you can still take the boat and the panorama train and we still spend 6 hours in the park exploring in the snow!
Visiting Plitvice Lakes in autumn
Despite not having visited in the autumn myself, I’d say it’s probably the best compromise to see the whole park open and be able to explore all the lakes and walkways, have less crowds and see the stunning turquoise water but also the vibrant autumnal oranges and yellows as the leaves turn in the park.
October is always the time that I recommend people visit Croatia thanks to the fewer crowds, cheaper prices and still great weather - I would recommend the same for Plitvice.
How many entrances does Plitvice Lakes have?
There are two main entrances to Plitvice Lakes National Park and they are only 5 minutes drive from each other on the main road, but they offer two very different experiences when you first arrive at the park.
Plitvice Lakes Entrance 1
Plitvice Lakes Entrance 2
But what about Plitvice Lakes entrance 3?
There is also an unofficial entrance number 3, which you can use if you stay in certain hotels near the park. There is no parking there and it’s only reachable on a single track road if you have your own vehicle to get to the hotels that are within walking distance of this entrance.
You can read about in my Plitvice winter article.
Why are there several entrances at Plitvice?
This is purely to manage the crowds and volume of cars and tour buses that are arriving.
They had to expand to an additional parking area to support the number of vehicles and also avoid substantial queues at ticket offices for people entering the park.
Plitvice entrance 1 or 2: Which entrance to Plitvice is best?
The big question - which entrance to Plitvice Lakes is best to use.
I recommend Plitvice Lakes entrance 1. Here’s why:
The entrance area is much more direct
You enter straight onto the upper trails of the lower canyon
The first view you see is spectacular and it’s just steps from the entrance
You’re very close to the trail down to the lower lakes walkways
The Flixbus stop is here if you’re arriving by Flixbus
What is the difference between Plitvice entrance 1 and 2?
Entrance 1 basically puts you straight in at the heart of the action.
It’s the best entrance if you want to beat the crowds, see incredible views straightaway and potentially get the lower lake walkways to yourself if you arrive at opening time.
It’s the best entrance for “wow factor”. If you don’t plan on doing lots of walking, whether you don’t enjoy it, you’re less able to walk long distances or you have young kids, this entrance will give you plenty of incredible views and park experiences as soon as you step into the park.
10 steps from the entrance 1, you have the viewpoint of Veliki Slap, the highest waterfall in Croatia. Continue along the path another 30 metres and you have the path on your right that takes you down to the walkways, so you can be walking on the lake walkways, above waterfalls and be up close to Veliki Slap within a matter of minutes of arriving at the park.
Entrance 2 is still okay, but it’s a lot more developed with bigger buildings, information centres and you don’t really “see” anything of the lakes when you step into the park. Instead you have to follow a pathway down towards the lakeside where you can either get a boat, or you take one of the trails in either direction to reach the Upper Lakes or Lower Lakes.
Entrance 2 basically has no “wow” as soon as you walk in AND you will have to walk a decent way, or take the boat, to get to either of the lakes with the famous wooden walkways that allow you to walk across the lakes.
Below I’ve included images of what you’ll see when you first arrive at Plitvice entrance 1.
Summary: Which entrance is best at Plitvice Lakes National Park
I know even looking at a Plitvice Lakes map can be confusing, it’s one of those places that is a lot easier to navigate and make sense of once you’re there, particularly because of the depth of the canyons and winding walkways!
But hopefully this guide has helped to clarify not only the difference between Plitvice entrance 1 and 2, but which entrance to Plitvice is best for your trip!
And if you’ve skipped straight to the bottom… the answer is Entrance1!
Pin for later to plan your future trip!