Ruth and Max enjoying a beautiful rainbow at the Natyra e Qete Restaurant & Camping near Berat, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Berat, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Greece.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia - our frugality and research paid off!

Let's start by saying this... Plitvice Lakes National Park is stunning. There is no question that the unique geography and waterfalls deserve the UNESCO world heritage rating, and there is a reason it's so popular. It's a really pretty area.

But it's also ridiculously expensive. I don't blame them for charging what they do. If the masses are willing to pay it (and apparently they are) then the market dictates the price, as it should be.

The relatively new park campground holds 2,500 campers. Yikes. This alone should give you an idea of the popularity of the park. For a basic unserviced site, it would have cost 173 kuna ($33 CAD, $27 USD, €23). But it's located 6 kms from the park entrance, and we didn't really want to stay with the masses.

So I came across a listing on the popular European app park4night. It was a private rural residence that offers a couple of rooms for rent, and perhaps three or four random spots for campervans or small motorhomes to park without services. For only €10 ($14.50 CAD, $11.50 USD) per night.

As recommended, I bought our tickets to the park online. We got lucky in this regard... they had an online special that ended yesterday, and it was quite a discount.

Prices to enter the park vary by season, with the July/August timeframe being the most expensive. That's the busiest time of year, and for that you will pay 250 kuna ($48 CAD, $39 USD, €33) per adult for the joy of visiting when everyone else does. 

Prices at this time of year drop to 180 kuna ($34 CAD, $28 USD, €24) per adult.

But, for whatever reason, they had a one week online special that ended yesterday. An adult ticket was discounted to 100 kuna ($19 CAD, $15 USD, €13), which is about what we think the price should be to begin with. But as I said, I fully understand why the price is high... and hopefully the high price dissuades some people, which I'm sure it must. We would have had a hard time justifying the regular price.

We arrived at the small pension where we hoped to park up. There's a really steep, narrow (but paved) driveway but I figured Max was up to the task, and he did fine. Once up there, we saw two other vans. I parked up and the hosts came out to greet us. A nice young couple. They pointed us to a couple of parking choices, and we got ourselves set up. A really nice spot with a very friendly little dog and cat.

Entrance tickets are timed, and we had the 11:00am slot. But there was an unadvertised route into the park that was showing on my maps.me app, and I asked the girl about that. Yes, it was about a 3 km (1.8 mile) walk, and she said it would be surprising if anybody even asked for our tickets. Maybe to get on the boat, which is included in the ticket price.

Ruth packed us a lunch, and off we went...

It was still really foggy at 10:30am!

Zoomed in on some waterfalls in the distance.

The water in the river down below is crystal clear.

A viewpoint from the upper trail.

There was absolutely nobody on the upper trail overlooking the canyon. Everybody was on the boardwalk trail leading in from the main entrance gate. We could see them down below. We made a plan to continue on the upper trail, and then take the lower one on the way back. Hopefully that way we would not encounter so many of the crowds.

Our first view of the lower lakes.

You can see the people on the boardwalk on the right side.

The sun is coming out!

Looking down on more people snaking their way along the lower boardwalk.

This photo gives you a good perspective of the separation between the lakes. 

There are a continuous chain of 16 different lakes, with waterfalls separating each lake. Some are quite a lot smaller than the ones shown above.


Our route eventually led us through an entrance booth. This is entrance #3, and is unadvertised on the national park website. It is located at GPS 44.895637, 15.608301

Everything shown above could be accessed totally free of charge. And in fact, there are even several free parking spots large enough for Max if we would have arrived there early enough.

But at entrance #3, there was a very bored looking guy who scanned our tickets. He is bored because the masses are all entering at gates #1 and #2. Like I said gate #3 is unadvertised.

A little further on is the boat launch, and also toilet and restaurant facilities.

Getting on the boat.

The boats are included in your ticket price, as are the park buses. I guess that's one reason the tickets are expensive, however they don't give you an option to not pay for the boats or buses. It is possible to see absolutely everything without using the boats or buses... simply by using your feet. But we understand that not everybody has the ambition to do the kind of walking that we do. It's just a shame they don't give you a non transport ticket option.

As it was, we used the one longer (20 minute) boat ride because we had no idea how much time we would spend at the upper lake. And we used the short (5 minute) boat ride to cut off a possible 2 km extra walk on the road the bus uses. We didn't use any of the buses.

It turned out to be a beautiful day.

The fall colors are really nice.

The larger boats used for the longer boat ride hold 100 people each and there are four of them running constantly. They were perhaps 80% full, but they would be totally full during busy season. Given the length of the waiting area, there would also be wait times during busy season. We did not have to wait.

When you get off the boat, there is only one place you can go. We kind of hung back a little bit to avoid the crowd. The problem is that most of the walking is done on a fairly narrow boardwalk with no railings. I'm quite certain that there must be times when people are jostled into the water due to crowding.

Very few areas actually have a railing.



Scenery along the way.


Waterfalls everywhere!

There are 22 kms (13.7 miles) of pathways, 
and they have a full time staff constantly repairing and maintaining them.

The upper lake.


Note the waterfall running down the left side of the trail.

We would guess that more than 99% of people take the boat both ways. But the 2.5 km (1.1 mile) path along the lakeshore is well maintained and flat... and away from the people because they are all on the boat. It was actually a really nice walk. The most peaceful part of our day!


Ruth on the lakeshore walk.

Looking out at the people on the boat.



The route back.

There is a cave along the way. 
Can you see me?


The largest waterfall in Croatia.

So is it worth it? 

Well, we had a pretty good day. Our frugality and research paid off, in our opinion. It's really frustrating dealing with the people though. I had an especially difficult time with it, I can't imagine what it would be like during busy season. I had read some reviews of how the crowds of people make it hard to have an enjoyable experience because so many people are so oblivious to what's going on around them. And we saw so many examples of that. People would just come to a dead stop to take a photo or blow their nose right in the middle of a boardwalk without any regard for people trying to get by them. Or they would walk two abreast in the same direction, and make very little (or no) effort to move for someone walking the opposite way. Not everyone of course. But enough that it was frustrating.

We would not have gone if it were busy season at full ticket prices. Not our thing.

Including  the walk from and to our overnight spot to the entrance gate, we did almost 20 kms (12.4 miles). It sure felt good to sit down and have a beer! The dog and cat came over to say hi as well...

Max, parked up at GPS 44.926374, 15.61156

The cat is really friendly.

And this little dog quickly became my best friend, sitting right at my feet.

We like it here, and it's another beautiful day. Think we're just going to relax and enjoy the day. Maybe we'll go for a bike ride!

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18 comments:

  1. That drives me crazy when there are two people coming towards you on a path and they don't make room for one person coming from the other direction. Seems like a basic courtesy.

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    1. Yep, it drives us crazy too and we have said that for years now. We thought it was a basic courtesy as well but I guess not! We made sure that along the boardwalks and any narrow path that we walked single file.

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  2. We visited Plitvice in 2011 on our one and only 3.5 month RV tour of Europe with the kids (this cemented our wish to travel with RV once retired). I guess we were fortunate as there were not as many people as in your photos (we visited in early October).

    Having been to Europe many times I was shocked with the sheer number of tourists has skyrocketed! One had to plan carefully to get to see anything (we preferred early morning visits before crowds became too dense).

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    1. Back in 2011, Plitvice Lakes National Park received just over 866,000 visitors and in 2017 they received 1.7 million just to give you and idea of how many more people have been visiting the park. Apparently in high season in 2019 they would get over 14,000 on average in just ONE day! So that is a huge difference from when you were there. We found it busy enough on Sunday and that is in the lower season and with COVID still affecting a lot of the travel with foreign visitors. I think you got to visit at a great time.

      Yes, the number of tourists have definitely increased but I don't think it is just in Europe but in many countries around the world. Lots of the really popular National Parks in the US and Canada have mentioned how they are thinking of restricting the number of people that enter each day. Usually early morning or late in the day and in the shoulder season, are normally the best times for visiting high profile attractions.

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  3. What an incredible place, but I am with you two in wanting to avoid crowds. I have never seen a phenomenon like this with so many waterfalls. I know nothing of geology but this must be very unusual. Your good research is certainly paying off.

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    1. It really is an amazing place to see and yes, this is a fairly rare geological phenomenon that is only seen in a few places around the world which is why it is now a UNESCO designated site.

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  4. Well that looks like one of the most beautiful parks in the world. The people would have driven me crazy as well. You guys were lucky to have seen it when you did.

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    1. I have to agree, I think it is also one of the most beautiful parks but there are definitely lots of gorgeous National Parks around the world and we haven't been to them all yet but we are working on it. :-)

      Covid has definitely helped in that respect because there are still a lot of people that aren't traveling yet, so yes we were lucky to not have had hordes of people around us. As it was there were enough people there to make it fill a little crowded at times.

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  5. Replies
    1. It was definitely a very cool place, the waterfalls were amazing. It would have been neat to see it there when the water level is a little higher but at least at this time of year there were less people and we had the added enjoyment of seeing the beautiful fall colours.

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  6. Wow what a breathtaking park. Thanks as we will most likely not get there.

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    1. It really is a stunning park and we are glad that we went when we did. We are glad that you enjoyed the post and the pictures. :-)

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  7. Beautiful pictures. When an approaching pair fail to share the path, I usually just stop, on the right half of the path (for the US,) and occupy that space. Then one of them MUST move. The lack of awareness of their surroundings that some people exhibit is astonishing.

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    1. It is a shame that you have to do that in the first place, I am glad that we aren't the only ones that think this is rude behaviour and that people are just so unaware of how they are affecting the people around them.

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  8. What a beautiful park! You did good with finding the most budget-friendly way to do it, and the route to avoid as many tourists as possible. We are with you on that and agree that so many people are so unaware of others around them. On our walks here in the US, we find the same thing and almost always are the ones who have to "give way" to people walking three and four abreast, taking up the entire road or trail. Drives us nuts. Great day of walking you had, though, and fun with the four-leggeds after. So sweet!

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    1. We think we did well in finding the most cost effective way to see the park. We really did hit it lucky with the day that we visited being the last day of the lowest discounted price on the entrance fee to the park during it's entire year. There is no way we would have paid full price in the summer with the throngs of people visiting. Glad to see that we aren't the only ones that get frustrated with lack of courtesy from people walking two or three abreast and not making any attempt to move aside for others coming their way.

      We think that early spring or late fall are definitely the best times to visit and avoid the crowds, plus in the spring you would see more water volume and in the fall you get the beautiful fall foliage.

      It was definitely another great day with lots of exercise and a greeting party to welcome us back to Max. :-)

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  9. Absolutely beautiful! The waterfalls & awesome Fall colors! We agree, basic courtesy goes a long way to improve human relations!! We sorely need that right now.

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    1. It truly was beautiful, we are so happy to have visited in the fall and been able to see such an amazing display of fall foliage mixed in amongst the waterfalls.

      Yes, it seems that the world is lacking in basic courtesy right now, in many ways!

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