After collecting our hire car from central Zagreb it was time to head south towards Croatia’s most famed national park, the Plitvice Lakes. I was sweating it a bit driving out of a busy city on a busy weekday morning, but the gps instructions were easy and once out of Zagreb the road was super easy to get to our destination.
We arrived in the afternoon, and decided not to push to go see the lakes straight away as we had two nights booked at our hotel. We took a walk down to the ticket booth from our hotel, and bought our tickets for the following day so we could be up early and in the park. The afternoon was very crisp and fresh – the difference in temperatures between here and the coast only 2 hours away was quite surprising. It was chilly, foggy and the coldest we had been this trip. So we snuggled in our room, baby A watched some cartoons and we relaxed. We decided to jump into the car and head around 10km back up the road towards Zagreb to eat at Restaurant Degenija. We had heard good things about this place, and our visit confirmed that this place is great for a good feed. So good we went back the following night too.
Anyway the next day we were up early and at 8.30am we entered the park. It was very fresh, but clear and pleasant. We jumped onto the inner park shuttle bus and got dropped off to the very top of the park. From there we walked and wound our way all the way down, past the numerous lakes and so much water! The second part of the walk involved a little boat taking us across the main lake to the “lower section”, which is home to biggest waterfall in the park. The boat trip across the lake was short, but it was sooooo cold on the water. Luckily at the other end there is a warm, but overpriced cafe/restaurant where we got some hot coffee and food. Not the best, but it was warm and did the job.
Overall we walked over 8km on numerous dirt trails, boardwalks and bridges. We were a bit concerned about baby A not being able to cope, but she absolutely LOVED it here. She walked the whole time with no complaints. Towards the end she was a bit tired and worn out, but she totally surprised us with her resiliance and love for the place! This place is a must see!!!!
- Hotel/Restaurant Degenija is on the main road about 10km north. Very reasonably priced and great size serves.
- We stayed at the Hotel Plitvice. This was the worst place we stayed at for the price. Quite expensive for a run down, old 1970s inspired room, BUT BUT BUT… you cannot beat the location. A short walk to the main entry. And I will give it that it was very clean considering how old it is.
- Having a hire car was a godsend. The hotel restaurant didnt look promising, so having easy access to surrounding towns to eat at local places or stop at small stores to buy juice, yogurts (for Baby A) etc was helpful.
- It gets COLD here. Mid september and the air already had a winter chill. We wore all our layers here. Even with a jacket the boat transfer in the park was freezing. Two hours later in Split on the coast it was warm, so yes, this region has its own microclimate while is chillier than the coast.
- If you have small children do NOT bring a pram/pusher. We saw two people with this and they looked as miserable as all hell. There are heaps of up and down, rickety platforms, uneven steps etc. You will need to carry your child if they cannot walk.
- Not many places to stop and buy drinks/snacks in the park. Bring your own backpack as you will spend most of the day out and you might need snacks inbetween.