The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia are some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and near the famous filming locations for Game of Thrones, Plitvice Lakes are a great vacation destination. However, in the summer, the park can get crowded enough to bring the paths to a standstill. Fortunately, there is an entire “backlot” section of the park filled with trails, waterfalls and villages just as beautiful as the main attraction.
Trails A and B in the park are the common trails. They take you around the “lower” lakes and the most iconic spots in the park. The attractions include the “Great Waterfall” and Kozjaka Bridge. Both of these trails are a little over 2 miles, and take 2-4 hours, or perhaps a bit longer if you get stuck behind a tour group.
Trail C is quite possibly the best route. This trail takes you to the “upper” lakes and the back country. You’ll start with the top of the lower lakes, seeing one of the most beautiful waterfalls of the park. Make sure you have a good pair of hiking boots or comfortable shoes, and perhaps a change of socks too, as the log paths are sometimes slightly submerged.
Soon, you’ll come to a sign directing you to the “Planinarske Staze Hiking Trails.” Follow this to the “upper” lakes and the back side of the national park. You’ll find bigger lakes, more waterfalls, open countryside and dense forests. If you get there at the right time of the year, you’ll also find plenty of wild strawberries to feast on.
Toward the end of the trail, before you return to the lower lakes, is a cute little village. Continue on past the village to find a small stream with a few benches – the perfect place to have a picnic. Store your beers and other drinks in the water to keep them chilled.
Your next stop will be at the top of the “Great Waterfall.” You’re not supposed to go right to the waterfall itself…but if you do, you can get some pretty epic photographs. Just be really careful. It’s quite a drop, and those rocks are slippery.
Finally, you can see the rest of the “lower” lakes, either by hiking back to the entrance or taking the ferry. The ferry might be your better option, since the hike does take a few hours, and the boat will take you close to the side of the lake where more stunning waterfalls are.
If you get to the park early in the day, and are a fast walker, you also have the option of Trail D, a 13-mile hike far into the back of the park.
Entrance to the park is roughly $8 in the winter, $17 in the spring and autumn, and $27 in the summer. Your best accommodation for Plitvice Lakes is the Falling Lakes Hostel. Pack a lunch before you leave or eat at one of the cafes in the park, and enjoy.