Have u ever been to Croatia? Last May I was here for the first time in my life and explored the region around Split and Dubrovnik on a road trip down the coast through the amazing Makarska Riviera, about which you can read all here and here.
This certainly was a beautiful trip with many Game of Thrones sights, culture, history and gorgeous views upon the coast and surrounding islands, where this country is so well known for. But we did miss the National Parks and waterfalls of Croatia on this trip, which are unique and an absolute must visit if you like nature and hiking.
That is why I went back to this country last week on a road trip with the girls to explore more of the northern region around Zadar and visit both Krka National Park and Plitvice Lakes.
Some people asked me which of the National Parks I liked best and which you should definitely visit, but honestly there is no comparing them…
Top 2 Krka NP and bottom 2 Plitvice Lakes
What I can say is that you should definitely visit both once in your life and when you do, do it in autumn! Why? Here is 8 reasons and 30 pics to convince you:
1. Both Krka and Plitvice NP are gorgeous
Both Parks are very popular because of their abundant flora and fauna, including many bird species, waterfalls and even bears!
The Parks cover an area of several hundred square km with a variety of areas and lakes.
Plitvice consists of 16 lakes with 90 waterfalls and Krka has 7 travertine barriers with waterfalls and even houses several cultural and historical monuments throughout the park.
Both were stunning and diverse, but the colors of autumn this time of year in Plitvice NP blew us away. See for yourself why:
2. More quiet in autumn and easier to explore
As the months September, October and November are low season obviously both parks will be much more quiet and easy to walk around then.
Although we did encounter our share of groups and crowds on the narrow walkways in some parts of the Parks I heard horror stories from other people’s visits in July and August having to wait in line for hours and nearly being pushed off the walkways into the river.
Did you know that in high season Krka NP sometimes even gets 15,000 visitors a day?! Needless to say why October is a better period to visit this park.
Krka’s main entrance is easy to find and parking is free, but you can also enter the park from other entrances to explore more down the Krka River. Plitvice Lakes National Park has 2 entrances with big parking area’s which are paid, but quite inexpensive, as are the entrance fees.
From here you can follow several trails which will lead you through the park in 2-8 hours, depending on the trails.
Of course it is much more convenient to walk around here in low season and because of this you will be able to explore more, and follow more trails to visit several areas of the Parks. We did however find that 1 day is not nearly enough to explore all the beauty these Parks have to offer.
3. Less hot with wonderful scents of autumn
Although I loved the waterfalls and fresh colors of Krka NP, Plitvice Lakes NP really amazed me with its chalky limestone cliffs, lush forests, and cascading waterfalls, with hiking trails and wooden boardwalks everywhere. An enchanted forest if ever I saw one. The scents of autumn are purifying while wandering around this huge National Park, and we were very lucky with the weather as it was still around 20 degrees and sunny, while the mushrooms and colorful foliage of Fall were already visible.
4. Clearest and most colorful waters
The Lakes of Plitvice NP are so clear that you can even see the branches and trees that cover the bottom. The water ranges in color from electric turquoise to deep emerald because of its rich mineral content.
In Krka - unlike in Plitvice National Park, it is possible to swim at several spots during summer until October, although it can be swarmed with people then. After the 1st of October this is no longer allowed, but it looked so refreshing and quiet that I did dare to take a dip regardless😊
Pic 1 Krka NP, 2 and 3 Plitvice Lakes
5. The waterfalls are phenomenal
Top attractions of both parks are their magnificent waterfalls, including the Skradinski Buk falls in Krka, and the Veliki Slap at Plitvice Lakes which are among some of Croatia’s most famous sights.
Pic 1 Plitvice NP and 2 and 3 Krka NP
In Plitvice the Big Waterfall definitely steals the show and takes your breath away with immediate views like this when you follow the path down at entrance 1 after arrival.
If you get down in front of the big waterfall I was advised by an Instagram friend to take the steps up to the left to get one of the most amazing birdeye views over the Park, and we did. Just see for yourself here:
6. Combine with a hotel stay nearby
As 1 day is not nearly enough to explore either of the Parks I would advise you to take at least 2 days per park to explore more. There are 4 hotels in Plitvice NP, so easy to combine with a stay in the Park. Or you can stay at nearby village Korana, just 6 km away from entrance 1, surrounded by small waterfalls and lush nature areas.
From Krka I would recommend staying in the beautiful ancient town Sibenik or in the countryside at Agriturizam Kalpic, which we both visited and were amazing. More about this in my next blog.
7. Do a boat trip
You have smaller boats for rent in the Parks but a longer boat trip on the Krka River to see more of Krka NP is certainly recommended. We unfortunately didn’t have time for this, but if you do I would recommend going to nearby town Skradin (one of the entrances to Krka NP, entrance fee included in boat trip price, which is not high) to take the boat from there into the Park for about 1 hour 30 minutes.
8. Easy to reach from both Split and Zagreb
Both Krka and Plitvice are easy to combine in 1 trip. Krka NP is 47 minutes’ drive from Split airport, and Plitvice is 2 hours and 17 minutes’ drive from Split airport. But only 1 hour and 50 minutes from Krka. It is however also possible to visit Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Slovenia.
Outside of high season it is easier and more quiet to drive around, and you can easily get around by public transportation as well.
I myself however always prefer to rent a car for road trips as the roads are good here, the views are amazing with very diverse landscapes and sea views, and it is easy to get around yourself, so no bus or tour company needed for this. Next to that it's such a freeing feeling to drive around here at your own pace!
We were happy to rent a car again at one of our most trusted Dutch car rental agents Sunny Cars.
Sunny Cars is an intermediary between the car rental company and you, they handle all insurances and hassles when something might happen. I find this very convenient and relaxing, as this is the last thing I want to worry about on a trip.
We booked their premium package, with many extra’s such as online registration in advance, only cars less than 1 years old and an express check-in, which had us on the road in only 10 minutes after arriving at the airport!
I can definitely recommend Sunnycars.nl/Kroatie if you are looking for a reliable car rental for your trip through Croatia or any other destination around the world.
Have I convinced you to visit Croatia, and especially the National Parks in autumn? Or have you been here already?
Always happy to hear from you in the comments below or find me on social media, where I post daily pics, direct links at the bottom😊