While on holiday this Easter, I was lucky enough to visit two of the best National Parks that Croatia has to offer – Krka and Plitvice Lakes. I was supposed to go to the latter during my time in Croatia last summer, but the coach from Zadar left at 7am and (surprise surprise), after a big night out I didn’t quite make it. I did know I was coming back with my family this April though, or else I would’ve dragged myself out of bed (I hope).
I’d definitely recommend visiting both but if you don’t have enough time in your schedule, then I hope you can use the following information to make a decision. Unsurprisingly, in summer they’re packed with tourists, so I’d recommend visiting the parks in spring like we did, as we had them practically to ourselves. Both parks are in ideal locations and can be easily adopted into various routes.
Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvička jezera)
Jul & Aug 180/80KN
Apr-Jun, Sep & Oct 110/55KN
There are excursions from most major cities or alternatively, you can stay in accommodation within the municipality of the park. We incorporated it into our trip by spending two nights at a nearby guesthouse, but you if are rushed for time you could treat it as a day trip. The best bases to do this from are either Zadar or Zagreb. If you don’t have a car, both places have buses which go to the park regularly. To make the most of the park, leave early especially if you are going in the summer months when it can get very crowded.
This is the largest and most famous national park in Croatia, home to sixteen lakes. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is why you can’t swim in any of the lakes and are requested to be respectful to your surroundings. Due to its size, a lot of people spend two days here, wandering around and taking all of the scenery in. However, if you are rushed for time, you can achieve it in a day, and at a real push, half a day. We covered a lot of ground in one day. The public transport within the park is a real help, there is a boat and a bus which takes you between various entrances and stations. Often the paths have little dips in them, especially those that go across the water and they can be slippery, so make sure you wear sensible shoes. Even with appropriate footwear, in my clumsy manner, I managed to fall over twice at Plitvice and once at Krka. I honestly don’t know how the women I saw wearing heels managed! Even though it is more challenging than Krka, it was still a fairly easy path. The wooden walkways add to the ambience and are straightforward to follow with clear sign-posted directions. Hiking is an option for those who are more adventurous.
Entrance One has the attractions of Veliki slap (Large waterfall) and the lower lakes canyon. I’d argue that it is the more scenic of the two entrances, although a lot of it was sectioned off. After noticing others had disregarded the warnings, we too didn’t take much notice of them, especially as the large waterfall was one of the attractions closed. If you have a similar dilemma on your visit then proceed with caution, as the paths which were marked off didn’t have railings, or were sometimes immersed in water. While it didn’t seem extremely dangerous, it wouldn’t be everyone’s ideal venture especially with younger children.
Entrance Two’s main attraction is the Galovački buk (Galovac Waterfall). I’d say there is a lot more to see in comparison to Krka and in my opinion, it is more aesthetically impressive. That being said, I do think Krka is immensely underrated, and is extremely beautiful.
Krka National Park
It’s cheaper than Plitvice…
March-May and Oct 90Kn/70Kn
It’s arguably more accessible as it is easily reached from coastal places like Split which is fairly close by. You have to go to the town Skradin, and then catch a ferry across to the park (you can walk, but this will take a substantial amount of time). The town is easy to drive to, or if you are taking the bus, then first proceed to Sibenik where you can then change to get to Skradin. Many nearby towns also offer official excursions.
There are boat excursions around the park which allow you to visit the charming island Visovak (home to a little monastery), but we were pushed for time so opted out of this. Krka was a day trip for us on our way from Split to Dubrovnik so we only spent a couple of hours there. In that amount of time, we managed to walk the entire trail around the park, so it is a more manageable route than those in Plitvice.
The main advantage is that you can swim in the lake here, which is strictly forbidden in Plitvice. This is permitted in Skradinski buk, the most famous attraction in the park. You can’t miss it, it’ll be one of the first things you see upon your arrival. There are also several archaeological remains of fortresses. A trip here is easily combined with visiting the nearby stunning Šibenik, which is a UNESCO world heritage site even though Krka itself is not.