The Plitvice Lakes in northern Croatia

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
1
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
6
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
5
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
70 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
Croatia
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 50
Time of year visited
July
All Tags
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
114th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 40% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

I am amazed that these lakes aren’t more famous.  When people think of the most beautiful lakes in the world, you think of the likes of Lake Tahoe, Malawi, Torres del Paine, Atitlan, or Lake Bled and Como far closer in Europe.  But the Plitvice Lakes are right up there for sheer beauty and have the added advantage of hundreds of waterfalls linking them all together.  A must if visiting Croatia

highlights

#1 The stunning views across the turquoise lakes from one of the many lookout points

#2 The hundreds of wonderful waterfalls that interconnect the lakes and leave you regularly stopping for that "wow" moment

33 Just how crystal clear the water all through this National Park is

#4 Finding those prefect spots on one of the hikes where you have that mesmerizing blue from the lakes poking through the bright greens of the trees. Really does feel magical at times

#5 Taking a rowing boat and heading off into the beautiful lakes for that super tranquil feeling

Travel Tips

Some simple tips for the visit:

  • Try to stay overnight nearby – we had a great time with only half a day there, but it would have been awesome to start super early (the park opens at 7am, but only gets busy at 10am) and get the place all to ourselves
  • You want to see both the Lower Lakes and the Upper Lakes.  Ideally you’ll hike between them (less tourists) but not everyone wants to walk the 3kms or so, nor has the time, so take the ferry or the shuttle between the two
  • Start from Entrance number 1 – you’ve got two entrances: Entrance 1 is by the Lower Lakes and Entrance 2 is closer to the Upper Lakes.  Take Entrance 1 – its slightly more uphill, but means you will be facing the waterfalls as you walk
  • Don’t only spend time at the boardwalks – your basic activity is to walk along the boardwalks that interlace the lakes.  They are beautiful and give you some great views of the lakes and waterfalls, but its the walking routes away from the boardwalks that give the better views and get you away from the crowds a bit.   When you arrive at the entrance you have 7 walkways or programmes as they call them, which allows you to choose your route.  Just ask at the Entrance for what they suggest for more of a hike and the quieter spots
  • Be sure to rent a rowing boat – super views and just fun thing to do
  • Part of a 2-3 week itinerary – the Western Balkans are a seriously underrated part of Europe and represent one of the best 2-3 week trips you can do in this part of the world with stunning castles and old towns, and some of the best coastline in the world all compactly housed within 8 countries.  For the 2-3 week itinerary for the highlights and general tips for this part of the world, see this travel entry and where the Pltivice Lakes fits in –3 week trip around the Balkans States

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone