Plitvice Lakes: 10 reasons why this is a must-visit Croatia National Park

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What comes to your mind when you think of Croatia

Balmy crystal-clear sapphire waters of the Adriatic coast or the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik? Little unexplored hamlets and remote islands of Zadar and Split or the cascading waterfalls and lakes of Croatia National Park? Gastronomic delights and wines of Istria or Zagreb’s unrivalled café culture and festivals?

Croatia has all this and a lot more. Living up to its slogan, “Croatia – Full of life”, this tiny young nation is filled with attractions of unimaginable beauty and diversity. No wonder, it draws visitors five times more than its own population(18.5 million vs 4 million).

Instagram updates, Facebook galleries, and glossy travel magazines had put Croatia on top of my wish list. Finally, in August 2017, I decided to find out what the fuss was all about.  I am happy to say I am bewitched by Croatia, and it is now one of my favourite countries in Europe (I will share that in another post).

While most people spend the majority of their time on its glorious 1778 km-long coast and a staggering 1185 islands, I decided to go offbeat (like always). Instead of running from pillar to post in 10 days, I chose to travel slowly but deep in two places Plitvice Lakes National Park region and Zagreb. The reason to do that was simple – I didn’t want to be a part of the problem (Over tourism in a few places) but wanted to play a constructive role in finding a solution (under tourism in unexplored regions). You can soon read about that in my upcoming story on how Croatia is fighting Over tourism.

Today, I am here to share why this beautiful Croatia National Park should be on your travel map.

10 reasons to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park region

1. Well connected

Plitvice Lakes is in the Lika county, which is bejewelled between Zagreb and Zadar and located a stone’s throw-away distance from the Bosnia Herzegovina border. Whether you are coming by road, train or air, getting here is a child’s play. It takes just two hours to reach the park from Zagreb or Split. More info here.

Image result for how to reach plitvice lakes, croatia travel map
Plitvice: This Croatia National Park is a great starting base to explore the country.
Well connected to reach from anywhere, this Croatia National Park

2. UNESCO World Heritage site

Plitvice is the oldest and the most well-known Croatia National Park. As you walk through the maze of paths, woods, and meadows in Croatia’spostcard-image of Paradise on Earth, you realise why this park is the country’s one and only natural UNESCO World Heritage site.

Spread over a green valley in the Croatian interior, a series of over 90 waterfalls tumbledown from one spectacular cascade to the next, pausing in the 16 sparkling turquoise lakes before disappearing into a sheer karst canyon. These lakes took shape only 12,000 years ago, but even today, Plitvice’s landscape is one of Mother Nature’s ongoing works in progress. Not only is it loved by visitors, but it is also much loved by its resident bears and wolves and over 120 species of birds.

3. Adventure Playground

The Lika region is blessed with modest Continental and mild Mediterranean climates, which makes it an ideal adventure playground for various activities that can be enjoyed throughout the year. You can bike the forest trails or hike the mountain peaks, ride a horse or swoosh through a zip line, buggy ride or ride the waves. The possibilities are endless. All you need is an adventurous spirit and let your curiosity be your guide. Wherever you go, the memories will follow.

4. Friendly, generous and funny people

Locals are the unsung heroes of your travels. They can make or break your trip. Luckily, Croatians tend to be friendly, generous, well-read and bred, culturally conscious and English-speaking, and funny and hospitable. One of the reasons why I can’t stop raving about Croatia is because of the likes of Boris (the funny, caring, intelligent and well-connected man), Maja (beautiful and elegant lady from Plitvice as well as Gospic), Ivica (the man behind the trails of Plitvice Lakes National Park) and many others who went out of their way to make me feel at home.

Friendly hosts of Croatia National Park

I was welcomed with open arms and a heart filled with love wherever I went. Whenever I dinned with Boris, he didn’t let me pay even once for my drinks or food. And, not just that. He even took me to his folk’s place to try homemade ‘Rakija’ (fruit-based alcoholic beverage). His sense of humour and caring personality was the reason my trip became so memorable. Never even once did I have a dull moment during the entire trip.

5. Birthplace of Nikola Tesla

65km away from Plitvice Lakes in the tiny village of Smiljan, the greatest mind of the modern world, Nikola Tesla, was born. Thanks to him, we can enjoy electricity and wireless technology today. Therefore, visiting the Plitvice Lakes and not visiting his birthplace would be a crime.  His home is now converted into a museum displaying key moments of his life and working replicas of some of his most famous inventions.

Croatia National Park region: Nikola Tesla’s birthplace

6. Gastronomic Delights

While Istria is the undisputed leader when it comes to the culinary delights of Croatia, the Lika region is second to none with its traditional dishes and drinks. It is impossible not to lick your fingers when the ‘Peka’ dish arrives on your table along with the ‘Rakija’ (local homemade brandy). A Peka is a Dalmatia region signature dish made with a blending of vegetables and meat, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and then baked to perfection under a bell-like dome, or ispod čripnje in embers of a fireplace.

When offered a Rakija, always clink glasses, look into your fellow drinker’s eyes, and shoot it down. It is not meant to be sipped.

And, don’t forget to enjoy Medica(honey liqueur) or digestives after meals.

7. Historical War towns

While the Plitvice Lakes are the biggest draw for the Lika region, other important historical war sites are worthy of a visit. For example, the town of Udbina and Gospic in Lika county, have been military frontiers in many important wars like the Hungarian war with the Turks in the 15th century, WWII between the Axis and Allied forces, and the latest Yugoslavian war fought between Serbs and Croats in the 90s. The wars were so brutal that much of the region and its records were destroyed. The tragic and bloodiest battle on Croatian soil was fought at Krbavsko polje valley with the Turks in 1493. Today there is a Church of Croatian Martyrs and a Croatian National Shrine in Udbina to honour and pay tribute to known and unknown victims of historical misfortunes.

Udbina near Croatia National Park

On the brighter side, did you know that Udbina is also the sunniest part of Croatia? It could be raining in the neighbouring Plitvice Lakes, but it will be sunny here.

8. Abandoned largest underground military base in Europe

Just next to the lakes lies Zelijava UndergroundAirbase, built by the Yugoslav government between 1958 and 1968 and extensively used in the Yugoslav war in 1991. The bunker is one of Europe’s last remaining underground airbases built to withstand a nuclear attack. It was like an underground city equipped with all facilities to last for months in case war erupted.

The underground base once housed dozens of MIG Fighter Jets, but it is left abandoned today.

9. Underground World of Barac Caves 

Just a 20-minute drive from the lakes lies the underground world of stalactites, stalagmites, and stagnates in the village of Nova Krslja. There is a 45-minute long guided tour available to help you uncover the underground treasures of Barac Caves.

10. White-water rafting at Una National Park

Just 40 km from the Plitvice National Park lies Una National Park, which is the youngest and one of the prettiest of the three national parks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While Plitvice is overrun by hordes of tourists, nearby Una National Park is still an offbeat gem and fairly unknown.

Una National Park is one of the prettiest of the three national parks in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As per Amarildo Mulic, the Director of the National Park Una,

The main purpose of the park is to protect the extraordinary river scenery of waterfalls that lie on Una and Unac rivers running through the park.

The showstopper of the park is 24.5 meters high, Štrbački Buk waterfall, the highest and most spectacular waterfall of National Park Una. The best thing is you can raft on the waterfall itself. A 9-km long 2-hour rafting tour starts below Strbacki Buk and continues downstream until Loskun. Here’s a video about my experience. PS: Getting to Una National Park is a little bit difficult if you don’t have a private car. However, you can always rent a car in Bosnia or Croatia.

So, as you might have gauged by now, Plitvice National Park region is a perfect playground for nature lovers, landscape photographers, Instagrammers, wildlife enthusiasts, history diggers and anyone who likes to connect to nature and people. Forests, caves, crevices, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, mountains and hidden treasures mean that at the extremely picturesque Plitvice National Park region, even the most ham-fisted amateur can leave feeling like Ansel Adams.

Here’s a video about 10 Offbeat things to do in the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

I hope these 10 reasons inspire you to visit the Plitvice region beyond the lakes. Don’t forget to read the Complete Travel Guide: From Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes.

Have you ever visited Croatia National Park or any other sight? If yes, I would love to hear from you. Also, don’t forget to check the rest of the stories from my 4 months solo budget travel in Europe.

Inspired? Pin these to your Pinterest boards.


I was invited by Plitvice Lakes Tourism Board. However, everything expressed above is based on my personal experiences and conversations I had in the country. Images used are shot by me. Please do not copy anything without written permission.


  • Blair villanueva says:

    Thanks for virtually touring us here at this famous lake. I am intrigued by their gastronomy tourism.
    Which are your favorite foods from them?

  • Rachelle says:

    After reading about the gastronomic delights, I’m trying to think of a Croatian dish…and I can’t. It’s basically a blank slate for me to discover! I had no idea that Tesla was born in this region. A visit to his home village would definitely be a must-do for me!

  • Annick says:

    I still haven’t had the pleasure of discovering Croatia. I like that you focused on a less crowded area of the county. The Plitvice Lakes region offers so much to the visitor. I really like that the people are so welcoming as well. The Štrbački Buk waterfall is an amazing reward for exploring. I wonder if Medica is similar to mead – made from honey.

  • Soumya Gayatri says:

    A great article! Plitvice has always been on my list. And now you have given me so many more reasons to visit it. I would love to do some of those historical war towns, underground caves, and taste that wonderful food. Will keep this post handy for when I plan my trip. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Amy Chung says:

    When we were in Zagreb we did a day trip to Plitvice Lakes. My oh my….. how absolutely stunning was that place??? We were very lucky as it only reopened from the winter the week before so we just made it. The boardwalk and the cascading waterfalls are beyond anything I have seen before. The closest I got to Tesla was a street mural. LOL! Wish I had time to visit the rest of the region. Looks amazing.

  • Daniel says:

    I fell in love with Plitvice when I visited for the first time as a child. The place is absolutely spectacular. You did a great job of covering all the important things one should know before visiting. Lovely write-up, keep up the great work 🙂

  • Paula says:

    Oh Croatia, you have been on my bucket list for a long time! This post just made me excited to plan a trip there. That turquoise water looks amazing, and I always love to visit UNESCO sites. I have read about the Una National Park before but this is a good guide what all one should see on their trip. Also, Peka looks delicious. This is the first time I hear about it but it seems like something I need to try when we visit Croatia.

  • MEENAKSHI J says:

    What a lovely place Plitvice seems to be. The underground tanks, the historical places and those caves sound exciting. Una reminds me of our own Una in Himachal for sure 😀

  • Yukti says:

    Croatia is always on my wishlist and Plitvice is definitely worth visiting place here. I would love to go for this tour as it is natural world UNESCO heritage and has 90 stunning waterfalls. I never knew that Tesla belongs to this place and therefore birthplace of this man would be also worth visiting and watching his home turned into museum would be really great. Una waterfall photo is wonderful.

  • Cat Lin says:

    I have been seeing all the beautiful pictures of Plitvice Lakes online that makes me wanna plan a trip to Croatia. I didn’t know there are so many fun activities you can do in the region as well! I would love to kayak and do quad biking – to tour the area on land and in water!

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