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Europe Travel: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia Day Trip from Zagreb During Winter — Activity Recommendations

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This post describes a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park from Zagreb, Croatia during winter. The national park, one of the largest and oldest in Croatia, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The basics

  • Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
  • The park receives about one million visitors a year; late spring, summer and early fall are high season. Consider visiting during the winter where the park is nearly empty.
  • Winter weather brings snow-topped trees, frozen waterfalls and snowy trails.

About Plitvice Lakes National Park

  • Became Croatia’s first national park in 1949.
  • Inscribed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 1979.
  • Covers 300 square kilometers.
  • Lakes totaling a distance of eight kilometers.
  • Includes 16 named and several smaller unnamed lakes that have been divided into the Upper (12) and Lower (4) lakes.
  • Eight routes to tour the lake system by hike, boat ride and train.

Citation: Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera, 2020

Getting there

  • Arrive to Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia by way of Zagreb, Croatia, a two hour drive by car.
  • Stop in Rastoke, Croatia en route to Plitvice.
  • Arrange a private car or organize a tour.
  • If you’re interested in a high quality, full day tour with a Croat, we recommend this one.

Connected itineraries

Map from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park


UNESCO Heritage: Plitvice Lakes National Park

In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its geological and ecological value.

“The waters flowing over the limestone and chalk have, over thousands of years, deposited travertine barriers, creating natural dams which in turn have created a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls. These geological processes continue today. The forests in the park are home to bears, wolves and many rare bird species.”

Citation: UNESCO World Heritage Center, 2020.
If you haven’t already, check out why you should incorporate UNESCO World Heritage sites into your travel plans.

Depart Zagreb for Rastoke

Rastoke is a small village known for the Slunjčica river, which flows into the river Korana. The village sits on the banks of the rivers that lead into a waterfall, one of the largest in Rastoke. Stop off here for scenic views, a coffee and bathroom. Note that many restaurants, bars and hangouts permit smoking inside.

Depart Rastoke for Plitvice Lakes

See a different side of Croatia through its county landscapes. If you look closely enough, you might see bullet holes, a reminder of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001).

Arrive to Plitvice Lakes

Make your way to the visitor lodge for tickets and park maps.

Plitvice National Park includes 16 lakes that are connected by a series of waterfalls. With its kilometers of pedestrian boardwalks, tourists can enjoy views from above or at water level of the crystal clear water and sweeping landscape.

After picking up your tickets and maps, proceed down the entry boardwalk towards Entrance One “Rastovača”. This entrance gives you sweeping views of the lakes and waterfalls from a bird’s eye view.

Cave Supljara

This subterranean cave habitat has special ecological characteristics. In 1964 it was a granted protection as a geomorphological nature monument.

Because the air is fully saturated and the air outside of the cave sits at about 10.5°C (51°F), there are only a handful of fauna that are adapted to this environment. In 1895 a new troglobiont, then thought of as a pseudoscorpion, was discovered. Troglobionts are species that are strictly bound to cave habitats.

Bird’s eye views of the lake

Electric Boat Ride on Lake Kozjaka

There are a number of different options to get on the water. We elected to take boat ride Program A.

  • Duration – 2 to 3 hours
  • Trail length – 3 500 m

Boat Ride A “starts at the north entrance (Entrance One). The tour is circular and provides an opportunity to admire the Great Waterfall – the largest fall of the Plitvice Lakes and in Croatia. The path leads on upstream, through the Lower Lakes“ canyon, along the lakes “Novakovića brod”, “Kaluđerovac”, “Gavanovac” and “Milanovac”, to a point at Kozjak Bridge“ where the trail begins to ascend towards the eastern side of the canyon. From this part, you return to the starting point (Entrance One)” (Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera, 2020).

Following the boat ride, hop on the park bus back to the main entrance.

End of Day: Return to Zagreb, Croatia

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