Plitvice Lakes is one of Croatia’s best-known landmarks. You can’t visit Croatia without stopping here! The only problem is, it’s not very close to any of the major cities. I toyed around with the idea of renting a car to drive from Zagreb to Split with a stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park. I didn’t have enough time in my itinerary to spend the night near Plitvice Lakes, so I would have had to drive the full distance and tour the park in one day. Luckily, there’s a tour that does the driving for you! Here’s what you need to know about booking a tour from Zagreb to Split via Plitvice Lakes.
A Quick Background on Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is made up of 16 lakes fed by waterfalls formed by runoff from nearby mountains. Plitvice Lakes National Park covers almost 75,000 acres. It’s made up of Gornja Jezera (Upper Lakes) and Donja Jezera (Lower Lakes). Aside from the waterfalls, a highlight of the park is the clear blue and turquoise waters.
About 1 million people visit Plitvice Lakes each year. Since it’s so popular, there is a cap on the number of tickets available each day. If you decide to visit on your own, it’s highly recommended that you buy your tickets online in advance. There’s a good chance you will not be able to buy a ticket at the park.
Booking a Tour from Zagreb to Split via Plitvice Lakes
You can reach Plitvice Lakes most easily from Zagreb (2.5 hours north), Zadar (1.5 hours south), or Split (2.5 hours south). There are day tours that leave from each of these cities. If you are planning to travel from Zagreb to Dubrovnik (or vice versa), you should consider booking a tour that travels from Zagreb to Split via Plitvice Lakes.
We book this Zagreb to Split Group Transfer with Plitvice Lakes Tour. This was the easiest way to get between the two cities while also getting to visit Plitvice Lakes. The tour cost about $120 per person and lasted about 12 hours.
A Stop In Rastoke
Our tour started bright and early with a pick up at our hotel. The first stop on the itinerary was the village of Rastoke. Our tour guide described Rastoke as a mini Plitvice Lakes since it has the same natural phenomenon of mountain runoff feeding waterfalls and forming a lake. We took a stroll around the village before heading to Plitvice Lakes.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes is massive. There are boardwalk paths throughout the park so it’s easy to get around and figure out where to go. Since the park is so crowded, I found it hard to follow our tour guide especially with such a large group. We stuck close to the front to get the most out of the tour, but it was annoying having to wait for the slow people in our group. If you prefer to explore on your own, a tour might not be the best option for you.
Our tour started at Entrance 2 where we took a boat across Kojzak Lake to the walking trails of the Upper Lakes.
A highlight of the Upper Lakes is Prstavac Waterfall.
The color of the water was so beautiful! Too bad swimming isn’t allowed.
After completing this loop, we took a shuttle bus down to Entrance 1 to see the Lower Lakes and Veliki Slap which is the highest waterfall in the park at 78 meters. The Lower Lakes was more crowded but also had some of the best views.
If you want to stand in front of Veliki Slap, you may find yourself in an hour-long wait. In my opinion, Veliki Slap is better viewed from above anyway.
Since we had a tour guide at Plitvice Lakes, I didn’t do too much research on the different routes. If you plan to visit on your own, be sure to check out this guide.
On to Split
After visiting Plitvice Lakes, we stopped for lunch at a Croatian restaurant. The people in our group that were heading back to Zagreb stayed on the original bus, while those transferring to Split were brought to a different bus. The tour dropped us off near the ferry port in Split. The best part was that there was a golf cart waiting to drive me and my mom to our hotel. What a cool way to see Split for the first time!
Overall, booking a tour from Zagreb to Split via Plitvice Lakes worked best for our Croatian itinerary. I enjoyed not having to drive while in Croatia, but I did feel a bit rushed at Plitvice Lakes. It would have been nice to explore the park on my own time, but with a group so large, it’s simply not possible. We also visited in July which is peak tourism time, so I think I’d prefer to go back in late spring or early fall.