- There are many ways to get to Plitvice Lakes. The bus is most affordable but a little less practical, while renting a car or taking a private transfer gives you endless flexibility at a higher cost.
- If you have the time and flexibility, stop at Rastoke Village, The Museum of the Homeland War, and / or the Barac Caves on the way to Plitvice.
- Try Bistro Plum or Hotel Degenia for a bite to eat near the lakes, or stop at a local gem a little further from the park on the way back to Zagreb.
Read on below as I outline in more detail all of the various ways to get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes with costs included, the best places to stop and where to eat as well! I’ve also given some crucial advice about buying tickets for the park that will surely be helpful.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes by Bus (the most affordable option)
The cheapest option to get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park would be by bus. There are many different lines that go many times throughout the day, every day of the week (right from the main bus station, to the entrance of the park).
Here is a link to the bus schedule if you’d like to get there by bus => https://www.akz.hr/en
The ride takes around 2.5hours (which could be a bit longer in peak season with traffic). Most of the ride is on local roads, only a short portion is on the highway.
One thing to keep in mind is that Plitvice Lakes doesn’t have its own main bus station!
Instead, the bus will stop at each of the two main entrances: the north entrance (Entrance 1 - Rastovaca), and the south entrance (Entrance 2 - Hladovina).
Be careful to get off at the right entrance according to which ticket you bought, because you can’t enter the park at entrance 1 if you bought tickets for entrance 2 (and vice versa).
There are about 3 km between entrance 1 & 2, so it would be a long walk if you got off at the wrong stop!
One thing to note - if you visit during the winter, entrance 2 is usually closed.
If you want to do a day trip from Zagreb to the Plitvice, you can check out the bus schedule here => https://www.busradar.com/
There are typically many bus options to get back to Zagreb after the lakes, because a lot of bus companies stop at Plitvice on their way back from the coast to Zagreb.
Getting to Plitvice by Train?
There aren’t any rail lines from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes, so this isn’t possible, unfortunately.
Getting to Plitvice Lakes by Car (the quickest option)
The quickest way to get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is by car. You can rent a car if you feel comfortable driving yourself (this will also give you plenty of opportunity to stop along the way to visit any other interesting sights or towns).
Another advantage of driving yourself is that you can take your time at the lakes because you won’t feel rushed to catch your bus on time.
It’s obviously very flexible if you drive, and you can even stop for lunch or dinner at a local restaurant if you get hungry!
Here is a helpful blog post about the driving rules in Croatia => https://www.royalcroatiantours.com/blog/driving-in-croatia-a-helpful-guide-with-practical-tips
The drive (without stopping) from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes, takes about 2 hours. This of course depends on the season (if it’s peak season, there could be traffic on the roads, extending the drive).
You’ll first get on the highway headed towards Split, then exit at “Karlovac.” Toll costs are around 20 kn (3 EUR), and the rest of the drive is on public roads, which are free.
A round trip drive costs 6 EUR in tolls, plus the gas you’d use for the ~4-5 hours of driving in total.
The speed limit on the local road is 80km/hour, but when you go through little towns or villages, the limit quickly drops to 50km/hour.
Watch out for signs so you don’t get any speeding tickets (police monitor these roads quite well and are waiting for speeders in those areas).
We’ve calculated the cost of driving using the Via Michelin app, and with a sedan, it costs around 20 EUR each way. Here’s the website so you can calculate yourself for any other driving routes => https://www.viamichelin.com/.
Here is the print screen of the website and total costs.
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes by Luxury Transfers Zagreb (the easiest and most care-free option)
If you aren’t too comfortable renting a car and driving in a foreign country, and you aren’t really a fan of crowded, uncomfortable buses either, then a private transfer is the best option for you!
Starting in early 2019, Plitvice Lakes National Park introduced a new online e-ticket system to avoid too many crowds at one time (busy hours are from 11am until almost 2pm).
Guests must purchase online vouchers for either entrance 1 or 2, at least 48 hours before arrival at the Lakes. (This does not apply during the winter season because it is not busy so you can buy tickets at the Lakes the same day).
You can only pick up your ticket at the entrance you bought the voucher for (either 1 or 2). Last season this new e-ticket system really helped limit terrible crowds on the paths and it was a good decision by the Park management.
On the other hand, some of the guests who didn’t know about the new rule were turned away at the entrance and left disappointed and frustrated without seeing the park at all.
Make sure you buy your tickets in advance to avoid this situation!
It is sometimes possible to buy a ticket at the entrance, but there is the risk that all tickets could be sold out. Either you won’t get to see the park at all, or you’ll have to wait a couple of hours until (and if) an entrance slot frees up.
Typically, there are a few slots that open up after 1-2 pm.
Here is the link to the Park’s site where you can purchase your voucher => https://ticketing.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/Index.aspx?l=EN
Our important advice is to buy tickets in advance so you don’t run the risk of rejection when you arrive at the entrance empty-handed!
How much time should you spend at Plitvice Lakes?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions that we get. The answer really depends on your physical ability and how long you are able to walk for. All of the paths are beautiful, you'll just see a little more of the beauty by taking a longer route.
You can judge the amount of time by the number of km you think you’d be able to walk comfortably.
In our opinion, no. The only time we would really suggest it, is if you’re traveling with a bigger group which just makes things easier logistically.
Each path is really well marked so you can easily explore the lakes on your own without a guide. Also, there will surely be many other tourists around, so you can always just follow them - it’s almost impossible to get lost!
Entrances and Trails
There are 4 trails from Entrance 1, and 4 trails from Entrance 2. See below:
Entrance 1: Trails A, B, C, K
Entrance 2: Trails E, F, H, K
The easiest trails (A & E) take around 2-3 hours to walk. Trails A & E only take you to only one part of the lakes, the Upper OR the Lower Lakes.
If you choose Trail E, you would skip the Lower Lakes (which are the most beautiful in my humble opinion).
My suggestion would be to take trail C or H (each last around 4-6 hours of walking). This way, you would see both the Upper and Lower Lakes. The amount of time it will take depends on how fast you walk, how busy the lake is, and how many selfies you stop to take :)
What to See on the Way From Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes?
There are many interesting places to stop if you’re driving (or if you choose our transfer service - we’re flexible and we’ll make additional stops at no extra charge).
Here is a list of some interesting places to see along the way:
Museum of the Homeland War
The first spot that I highly recommend is the Museum of the Homeland War in Turanj, just outside of Karlovac. This is a very unique, modern, educational museum that was recently opened (they have both an outdoor and indoor part to the museum and anyone who loves history, will surely appreciate this place.
Another very interesting and astonishing spot to stop on the drive to Plitvice Lakes is the quaint village of Rastoke. Rastoke is situated on the estuary of the River Slunjcica, which flows into the River Korana. Rastoke is a perfect spot for a short and sweet visit before continuing the drive to Plitvice Lakes.
You can also see the old mill, a museum, a fish pond, a cave etc. The entrance fee is 40kn, which is worth every kuna if you ask me! You can see it all in around an hour or stay longer if you feel like a drink and/or lunch while you’re there.
Lastly, I would recommend visiting is the caves of Barać (Baraćeve spilje). This hidden gem is located only 15 km from Plitvice Lakes and it’s a true art of nature. The price for a ticket in high season is around 10 EUR, which includes a tour guide.
The bats are harmless, but hang quite close to you along the walls as you go through the cave.
They also have an outdoor space where sports can be played, as well as a little shop to buy some sweet souvenirs.
One piece of advice is to bring a sweater or jacket because the temperature in the cave hovers around 10 degrees in the summer!
Where to eat on the way, and around Plitvice Lakes.
My personal recommendation (and one of the nicest restaurants in the area) is Bistro Plum, which is located in Seliste Dreznicko, only a few kilometers from entrance 1 of the Park.
The restaurant is owned by the well known “Hotel Degenija.” From the outside, it looks more like a bar than a restaurant, but it has a nice interior and a great vibe as well.
A more affordable option would be “Restaurant Degenija” which is the hotel’s restaurant. They serve a wide variety of local dishes like cevapcici, sarma and gulash, and it is really decent food there.
Our last restaurant recommendation is “Restaurant Pino” but is not very close to the Park. It’s actually on the way to Plitvice Lakes before the city of Slunj, so you can stop on the way back to Zagreb if you’ve chosen a round trip transfer :)
One time, someone gave me a tip about how to recognize restaurants with great, reasonably priced food. Just look at the parking lot, and if it’s full of trucks, it’s a gem. This restaurant is just that - a little gem with really delicious, fresh, homemade food.
We hope you’ve found all of this information helpful, and it’s made it a little easier to choose the right option that best suits your needs.