Large body of turquoise water surrounded by rocky hills with green foliage in Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Ultimate Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Itinerary

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most stunning natural wonders in Croatia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to 16 turquoise lakes and almost a hundred waterfalls, and day trips from Zagreb to Plitvice are extremely popular.

But how do you get there from Croatia’s capital and largest city? And what are the best things to see and do once you arrive? In this article, we’ll give you the ultimate Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes itinerary, covering everything you need to know for the perfect trip.

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How to Get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes

You can travel from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes by car, bus or train, depending on your budget, preference, and how much time you have. Here are some details about each option:

Driving from Zagreb to Plitvice

Driving from Zagreb to Plitvice takes about two hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions. You need to take the A1 highway south from Zagreb, following the signs towards Split or Zadar. Then, exit the highway at the Ogulin exit and continue on the D42 road towards Plitvice Lakes National Park.

This is the fastest and most flexible way to travel from Zagreb to Plitvice, as you can stop along the way and explore other attractions, such as the town of Rastoke or the Barać Caves. Platforms such as Discover Cars and Qeeq provides car rentals in Croatia, so compare them to find the best option.

However, you also need to consider the cost of renting a car, paying for gas, tolls, and parking. You can find parking lots near the entrances of the park, but they tend to fill up quickly during peak season, so make sure to arrive early or book in advance.

Buses from Zagreb to Plitvice

Taking a bus from Zagreb to Plitvice is a convenient and affordable option. There are about ten buses that run daily from Zagreb’s main bus station to Plitvice Lakes bus station. The journey time is between 1 hour 50 minutes and 2 hours 40 minutes, depending on the bus route.

The ticket prices are from 6 to 12 euros, depending on the route and bus company. You can book your tickets online or at the bus station. The bus station in Plitvice is located near Entrance 2 of the park, which is the main entrance for most visitors. From there, you can buy your park ticket and start exploring the lakes.

The bus schedule is usually aligned with the park opening hours, so you can easily catch a bus back to Zagreb after your visit. However, you should also check the bus timetable in advance and plan your time accordingly, as the buses can be delayed or crowded during high season.

Trains from Zagreb to Plitvice

Taking a train from Zagreb to Plitvice is a slower but scenic option. There is no direct train connection between the two places, so you need to take a train from Zagreb to Karlovac, and then a bus from Karlovac to Plitvice. The train journey takes about an hour and a half, and the bus journey takes about an hour. The total cost is from 12 to 55 euros, depending on the train and bus type.

You can buy your train tickets online or at the train station, and your bus tickets at the bus station or on the bus. The train station in Karlovac is about 2 kilometers from the bus station, so you need to take a taxi or walk to get there. The bus station in Plitvice is the same as the one for the bus option, near Entrance 2 of the park.

The train option is a good choice if you want to enjoy countryside views and avoid traffic, but it’s also less frequent and reliable than the bus option, so you need to check the train and bus schedules carefully and allow enough time for transfers.

As you can see, there are pros and cons for each way of travelling from Zagreb to Plitvice. You can choose the one that suits your needs and preferences best, or even combine them for a more varied experience.

Guided Tours from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes

If you’d rather avoid the hassle of arranging your own transportation, guided tours are a popular way to get from Zagreb to Plitvice. There are plenty of options, from group tours to private tours; we recommend checking out Get Your Guide to see what’s available.

You can either select a tour that picks you up from your hotel or hostel in Zagreb and drops you back there at the end of the day, or a tour that begins and ends at a specific meeting point in central Zagreb (such as the bus station).

Check what inclusions your chosen tour offers before booking- at the very least, they should offer transport both to and from the park, as well as your entry ticket and a tour of the park itself. Some tours also include snacks.

What to See and Do at Plitvice Lakes

Once you arrive at Plitvice Lakes, you will be amazed by the beauty and diversity of the park. The park covers an area of 296 square kilometres, and consists of 16 lakes connected by waterfalls and streams.

The lakes are divided into two groups: the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes, which can be explored by walking along a series of wooden boardwalks and trails. There are eight different routes that you can choose from, depending on your time, fitness, and interest.

The routes are marked with letters from A to K, and range from 2 to 18 kilometres in length. The shortest and easiest route is A, which takes about an hour and covers the Lower Lakes. The longest and hardest route is K, which takes about 8 hours and covers both the Upper and Lower Lakes.

Besides walking, you can also enjoy other activities at the park, such as boating, biking, or skiing. You can also take a boat ride across Lake Kozjak, the largest lake in the park, which is included in your park ticket.

During summer, spring, and autumn, a great way to explore is to rent a bike and cycle along the designated paths around the park, or join a guided bike tour. If you visit the park in winter, you can ski or snowshoe on the snow-covered trails, or admire the frozen waterfalls and ice sculptures.

You can find a map of the routes at the park entrances, or download it online. You can also find out more about activities and the routes in our article The Complete Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park: Tips and Tricks, which includes information about the history of the park, the best time to visit, wildlife and amenities.

What to Eat at Plitvice Lakes

After a long day of exploring the park, you’ll surely be hungry and thirsty. Luckily, there are plenty of options to satisfy your appetite at Plitvice Lakes. You can find several restaurants, cafes, and snack bars within or near the park, offering a variety of dishes and drinks, from traditional Croatian cuisine to international options. Here are the most popular and recommended places to eat at Plitvice Lakes:

Licka Kuca

Located near Entrance 1 of the park, this traditional restaurant serves authentic local dishes, such as roasted lamb, grilled trout, cheese pie, and plum dumplings. The restaurant has a rustic atmosphere, with a fireplace and wooden furniture. You can also enjoy live music and folk dances on some evenings.

Plitvice Hotel

Also located near Entrance 1 of the park, the Plitvice Hotel offers a buffet-style breakfast and dinner for its guests and visitors, with vegetarian or gluten-free options available. It has an elegant and comfortable dining room, with panoramic views of the park. You can enjoy a variety of dishes, from cold and hot appetisers to main courses and desserts, and you can also order a la carte from the menu.


Poljana is a modern restaurant located near Entrance 2 of the park, offering a variety of dishes. You can choose anything from salads and meat and fish dishes to pizzas and pastas, accompanied by a wide selection of drinks. The restaurant has a spacious and bright interior, as well as a terrace overlooking Lake Kozjak.

Pizzeria Vučnica

Another great option located near Entrance 2 of the park, this cosy pizzeria serves delicious homemade food, such as soups, stews, pies, and cakes. The bistro has a warm and friendly atmosphere, with a fireplace and wooden decor.

These are just some of the places where you can eat at Plitvice Lakes, but there are many more to choose from, including Restaurant Jezero, Restaurant Grabovac, Restaurant Korana and Buffet Labudovac. You can also find grocery stores and vending machines near the park entrances, where you can buy snacks and drinks.

While you’re in the area, you should also try some local specialties, such as smoked cheese, honey, or rakija (a traditional fruit brandy, usually made from plums, apricots or cherries). You can have these as appetisers, sides with your meal or even just as a snack.


Plitvice Lakes National Park is a truly amazing place to visit, and one of the highlights of Croatia. It’s the perfect destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and culture enthusiasts, and you can easily travel from Zagreb to Plitvice and spend a day or more exploring the park.

Ultimately, if you find yourself in Zagreb, it’s one of the best day trips to take no matter the time of year, and if you’ve gotten to the end of this article then you’ll now know that there are plenty of convenient ways to help you tick this bucket list destination off your list!

CTA: Check out our article From Plitvice to Krka: The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Croatia’s Breathtaking National Parks for information about the rest of Croatia’s national parks!

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