When planning a trip to Croatia, most visitors will have Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park on their itinerary.
However, choosing which Croatian waterfalls to visit can be a challenge.
Each park is equally stunning, but they are also very different. Krka National Park is smaller and more easily accessible from the coast, while Plitvice Lakes is located inland and has enough trails to warrant an entire day of exploration. While both parks are definitely worth visiting, most itineraries will only allow time for one.
Choosing between Krka National Park or Plitvice Lakes really comes down to two main things: how much time you have and where you’ll be traveling from.
In this post, we’ll compare the top two best national parks in Croatia so that you can choose the best one to add to your Croatia itinerary.
Let’s dive in!
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Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park: Which Should You Choose?
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest and largest national park in all of Croatia. It is a lush oasis of sixteen sparkling lakes and ninety rushing waterfalls, all surrounded by an incredibly picturesque forest. The postcard-perfect scenery is absolutely breathtaking, making it no surprise that Plitvice Falls are one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Where is Plitvice Park Croatia?
Situated in the mountainous Lika region of Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park is located about halfway between Zagreb (Croatia’s capital), and Zadar. The Lakes are about a two-hour drive from Zagreb and about an hour-and-a-half from Zadar.
How to Get to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Getting to Plitvice waterfalls is simple. The parks can be reached by car or by bus from most major cities in Croatia.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes by car is the most convenient, as it allows you to be flexible with the amount of time you plan to spend exploring the trails and waterfalls. Driving to Plitvice Lakes is easy and is a very pleasant drive as the roads are well-marked and in good condition. However, you should take extra caution when visiting in the winter as this particular area in Croatia tends to get a lot of snow, resulting in frozen and slippery roads.
Croatia has an excellent bus system that connects Plitvice National Park to a large number of destinations within the country. Buses are relatively affordable and are also air-conditioned, making them a great budget choice for traveling between destinations.
Plitvice National Park can also be visited with a group tour. Many cities throughout Croatia offer day trips ranging in price, just be sure to compare the different offers to make sure you get the best deal.
The distance to Plitvice National Park from Croatia’s most popular destinations is:
- 130km from Zagreb
- 119km from Zadar
- 243km from Split
- 432km from Dubrovnik
If you are planning to drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park, you might want to consider adding Rastoke to your itinerary. This fairytale village was built over a beautiful network of cascading waterfalls and is located just 25 kilometers away from Plitvice Lakes.
A true hidden gem, Rastoke waterfalls are completely free to visit and make for the perfect place to grab lunch after a day of hiking through Plitvice Lakes.
Entrance to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Entrance tickets to Plitvice Lakes vary in price based on the time of year you choose to visit.
- Adult Ticket (June through September): 300kn
- Adult Ticket (April, May, and October): 180kn
- Adult Ticket (December through March): 80kn
- Children (up to 7 years old): Free
Depending on how long you plan to stay, you can also purchase multi-day tickets. As always, be sure to check the updated pricing on the Plitvice Lakes official website as prices may change.
As of 2019, the park introduced a ticketing system that limits the number of visitors who are able to enter the park per hour. For this reason, it is highly encouraged you purchase your tickets online prior to arriving to Plitvice Lakes.
Parking at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Parking at Plitvice Lakes is located just outside the park and costs 10kn per hour during the summer season, and 8kn per hour during the off-season.
Who Should Visit Plitvice Lakes?
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a natural stop along an epic Croatia road trip from Zagreb to the Adriatic Coast. It is (almost) perfectly halfway between the capital and most major seaside destinations, making it a great way to break up your drive.
Those who are not road-tripping through Croatia but are exploring the northern coast of the Adriatic or Kvarner Bay area will find Plitvice Lakes to be a wonderful day trip.
Anyone who loves taking beautiful photos will also enjoy visiting Plitvice Lakes Croatia. Some of the most spectacular sights you’ll see during your visit to Croatia will be at this very park. In addition to breathtaking scenery, you might be lucky enough to spot some wildlife during your visit. Plitvice Lakes is home to bears, wolves, lynx, birds, and other flora and fauna. To catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures, you’ll need to head to the trails that are further away from the main tourist section.
Plitvice Lakes is definitely not a place you want to go if you have small children in a stroller or if you are in a wheelchair. Many of the park’s pathways narrow and are not designed to be easily accessible by either. Combine that with the many tourists and you’ll run the risk of potentially falling into one of the lakes.
Also, if you want to visit the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls without the crowds, it is highly suggested to avoid high season. This includes the months of July and August when the park’s capacity is at its peak. If you do choose to visit in the summertime, try and get to Plitvice Lakes as soon as it opens at 7:00 AM so that you can enjoy the scenery before the day-trippers arrive.
Krka National Park
A serene natural wonder, Krka National Park is one of Croatia’s best-known attractions. With seven waterfalls cascading into emerald lakes nestled among a fantastically verdant forest, Krka National Park is like something out of a dream.
In addition to show-stopping waterfalls, Krka National Park is also home to ethno villages, caves, and five medieval fortresses. There is no shortage of gorgeous sights when visiting Krka falls.
Where is Krka National Park?
Krka National Park is situated on the Krka River in the Šibenik-Knin region, about halfway along the Croatian coast. Its location allows the park to be easily reached from almost anywhere in Croatia in just a few hours.
Many visitors who are spending the majority of their time on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast will find that Krka lakes are a great day trip option.
How to Get to Krka National Park
Whether you have a car or not, visiting Krka National Park is easy. The closest town to the park is Šibenik, which is just over a fifteen-minute drive away. What most people don’t know is that it is Krka Park covers a large area, and driving will allow you to see absolutely everything. If you are short on time, you can begin your visit by exploring the lower section of the park and then drive to the upper section to finish your visit.
Getting from Split to Krka National Park takes roughly one-and-a-half hours by car, but can also be done by bus. There is a daily bus available from the Split Airport which takes longer than driving and you won’t have as much flexibility when it comes to the length of time you wish to spend at Krka National Park. The park can also be easily reached from Zadar via bus, which will take about an hour.
If you are staying in or around Šibenik, you should know that there are frequent buses that travel between Šibenik and Krka Park’s two main gates in the summertime.
For those staying in other areas of Croatia, there are many buses connecting Krka National Park to other major destinations throughout the country.
If you want to make your visit to Krka Park extra memorable, you might want to consider taking a scenic boat ride from the town of Skradin. The boat takes you on a twenty-five-minute ride down the Krka River all the way to Skradinski Buk waterfall (considered to be the most beautiful waterfall in the entire park). From there, you can disembark and explore the rest of Krka National Park on foot. However, if you would like to see the rest of the park via boat, you can do so by booking an additional boat tour that will take you to the Krka monastery, Roški Slap, and Visovac Island.
The final option to consider when planning a visit to Krka National Park is an organized tour. There are plenty of tour operators offering full or half-day Krka tours. This is a good option to choose if you want to avoid the hassle of having to keep track of the local buses and finding the park entrances. As always, be sure to shop around so that you get the best price possible.
Entrance to Krka National Park
Similar to Plitvice Lakes, the price of Krka National Park tickets will vary based on the time of year you choose to visit.
- Adult Ticket (June through September): 200kn
- Adult Ticket (April, May, and October): 100kn
- Adult Ticket (November through March): 30kn
- Children (up to 7 years old): Free
Like Plitvice Lakes, Krka National Park tends to get extremely crowded in July and August. Therefore, the best time to visit this Croatia national park is in May, September, or October if possible.
For up-to-date Krka National Park entrance fees, be sure to check the official Krka National Park website as entrance fees may change at any time.
Parking at Krka National Park
Krka National Park parking is located in the town of Skradin. Parking here costs 7kn, however, if you park further away from the gates you should be able to find free parking.
There is also a free shuttle to the waterfalls from the parking lot at the Lozovac entrance during the summer season.
Who Should Visit Krka National Park?
Krka waterfalls are the perfect choice if you plan to spend all of your time in the Dalmatia region of Croatia. Those who are staying in or around major Dalmatian cities like Zadar or Split will enjoy the fact that Krka National Park is a relatively short distance away.
Krka is a beautiful park to visit all year round as the incredible natural scenery changes with the arrival of each season. Thus, this Croatia national park is perfect for visiting even in the spring or fall.
While smaller than Plitvice Lakes, Krka National Park offers a variety of activities. Visitors can take a break from admiring the waterfalls to learn about the traditions and heritage that helped shape the area into what it is today at the two ethno villages. In addition to the ethno villages, Krka National Park also boasts five ancient fortresses. These historic ruins were originally constructed in the Middle Ages by Croatian noblemen to serve as settlements and even served as defensive strongholds on occasion.
Similar to Plitvice Lakes, Krka National Park is not a place that is easily accessible by stroller or wheelchair as the narrow trails and uneven pathways could pose a hazard.
Krka National Park Swimming
Anyone who is hoping to take a dip in the blue-green waters of Krka National Park should know that as of January 2021, swimming has been strictly forbidden. Swimming beneath one of the best waterfalls in Croatia has come to a halt in an effort to preserve the park’s biodiversity and conserve resources.
Final Thoughts: Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park
So which Croatia waterfall park should you visit: Plitvice or Krka?
When it comes down to deciding whether you should add Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park to your Croatia itinerary, here’s what we would recommend:
- If you are short on time, Krka National Park Croatia is the winner. The park is closer to most major cities along the Dalmatian coast and is smaller than Plitvice Lakes, making it great for a day trip.
- If you have at least a full day to dedicate to exploration and are interested in hiking and photography, or if you are landing in Zagreb and driving to the coast, then Plitvice Lakes National Park is the choice for you.
However, if you do have the time, it is highly recommended that you visit both Croatian national parks as they are equally stunning and worth checking out.
If you had to choose between Krka or Plitvice, which one would you pick? Let me know in the comments!
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