With three days in Plitvice Lakes National Park, you’ll be able to explore both the Lower and Upper Lakes trails, and venture outside the park for a kayak or cave tour. Here’s how:
Day 1: Plitvice Lower Lakes and Waterfalls
Get to the park as soon as the gate opens, especially if you’re visiting during peak summer season, when booking an admission ticket in advance will save you up to an hour of waiting to enter Plitvice Lakes National Park.
The park is divided into two parts; the Lower Lakes and Upper Lakes districts. The park is huge so a hiking tour provides a great way to get your bearings and avoid getting lost; it also means that you can return to your favorite parts after the tour. Spend your first day exploring the Lower Lakes paths and checking out Veliki Slap, the largest waterfall in the park. Explore the boardwalks and paths adjacent the water, and the clifftop trails for fantastic birds-eye views of the park.
Day 2: Lake Kozjak and the Upper Lakes Trails
Some visitors tick off the Lower Lakes and Upper Lakes trails in one go, but that makes for a very long day. If you’re ambitious and see the entire park on day one, it’s worth doing the loop again in reverse to see the park from a different perspective. The color of the water changes depending on the angle of the sun throughout the day.
The Upper Lakes tend to be less crowded than the Lower Lakes, but you’ll still want to start early to avoid the crowds. Several trail options exist for the Upper Lakes, from short hikes to the Veliki and Mali Prstavac waterfalls, and longer hikes that cover the entire Upper Lakes region. A free ferry from the Upper Lakes crosses Lake Kozjak where you’ll find a restaurant, gift shop, and a picnic on the water.
Day 3: Day Trip from Plitvice Lakes
Swimming and boating are not allowed in Plitvice Lakes National Park, so after two days of admiring inviting turquoise pools and waterfalls you’ll be longing to swim. You’ll find a lovely riverside beach in the nearby village of Rastoke, which is famous for its 18th-century water mills, and the small waterfalls and pools that earn the village the nickname of Small Plitvice. Rafting and kayaking tours depart from here and pass dramatic river canyons and dozens of waterfalls.
To avoid the hassle of car hire, opt for a Rastoke Village day trip that stops at Barac Caves—a network of limestone caverns that were forgotten after World War II and only recently rediscovered—and reveals even more of Croatia’s countryside. Alternatively, you can take an ATV tour of the mountains and meadows surrounding Plitvice or head to Karlovac to see the Turanj Fortress and learn about the Croatian War of Independence at the Homeland War Museum.