Updated: Jun 27, 2020
My second stop in Croatia was the serene and tranquil Plitvice Lakes. I think that out of all the natural sights I saw in Croatia, this was my favourite.
The national park consists of 12 upper lakes and 4 lower lakes, with a limestone canyon and several waterfalls of varying heights, the highest being Veliki Slap, at 78m high. Veliki Slap can be seen from many areas of the part, but close up it can be very crowded, and it's quite likely you'll get wet from mist near the waterfall, so you may want to cover up your camera.
There are several hiking trails throughout the park of varying lengths and difficulties. These go through forested areas and onto wooden walkways over the lakes themselves for a close up view.
I started on a trail on the upper lakes first thing in the morning, which was perfect up until a point. Most of the lakes were empty of tourists at the time, which gave it a much calmer yet adventurous feel. However, the trail I'd taken was meant to take a few hours, but only took 45 minutes, which lead to much confusion. I asked a member of staff at the car park where I could continue the route, for her to explain that half of that route had been changed due to some type of renovation.
Thankfully I was able to get a shuttle bus to the lower lakes, which runs between the various entrances every few minutes. Once at the lower lakes, even though it was still early, tourists were already in their hundreds, and it was quite a contrast to my first hike at the upper lakes. The major problem here is that the boardwalks are small, so if the crowds are big, you can't pass people and are left walking slowly through the park within a crowd of people.
Both areas of the park are stunning, but obviously more so the less people are there. So I preferred walking around the upper lakes. The lower lakes are possibly more beautiful, so I would suggest visiting them as early as possible, to avoid the the crowds. If you're unable to visit so early, then I suggest visiting later in the afternoon when many of the tourists have left.
I stayed overnight in a hotel next to the lakes. It was a little pricey, but it ensured I was able to enter the park as soon at it opened, giving me a head start against the day tourists.
If the crowds are still an issues, maybe consider walking the trails in the opposite direction, so you're not caught behind the large tour groups. It may be a little difficult trying to squeeze by people coming the other way though.
As well as the bus which runs between entrances, there are small passenger ferries that take you across the lakes in between some of the walking trails. These can of course get quite busy during peak times, but if you're near to the edge of the boat, you'll get some scenic views once on the water.
It's also possible to hire out rowing boats on some parts of the lake, which I imagine could be very romantic if you're with your other half.
Lower Lakes Hiking Trails
Trail A - Starts at Entrance 1. Great Waterfall and Kozjakas Bridge. (2-3 hours - 3.5km)
Trail B - Similar to Trail A but includes sailing across Lake Kozjak. (3-4 hours -4km)
Trail C - Extended Trail B including part of the upper lakes. (4-6 hours - 8km)
Trail K - Explores the whole park (6-8 hours - 18.3km)
Upper Lakes Hiking Trails
Trail E - To Proscansko Jezero, starts on a boat across Lake Kozjak. (2-3 hours - 5.2 km)
Trail F - Walk the upper and lower lakes and sail across Lake Kozjak. (3-4 hours - 4.6km)
Trail H - Walk the upper and lower lakes then sail across Lake Kozjak. (4-6 hours - 8.9km)
Trail K - explore the whole park. (6-8 hours - 18.3km)