Plitvice Lakes National Park is composed of sixteen interlocking lakes that are generally visited in two groups: the Upper lakes and the Lower lakes.
The distances between the lakes can involve long stretches of hilly terrain which is why the park admission ticket includes a sightseeing electric bus ride to the Upper lakes (driving is forbidden) and a boat to visit the larger lakes.
[See more practical information about visiting the national park]
There are a number of different routes through the national park but this route is the easiest as you take the train to the top and walk down. Plus, you get to see all the lakes! This walk takes about five hours and roughly follows the "H" route indicated on the park's signs and maps.
I recommend visiting the upper lakes first because that portion of the park is slightly less crowded than the lower lakes. By the time you enter the lower lakes the crowds should have thinned. Note that the park is busiest between 10am and 2pm so try to time your visit after 2pm. This walk begins at Entrance 2 but there are regular shuttles from Entrance I if that's where you're parked.
Lakes and waterfalls walk
From Entrance 2, take the sightseeing train all the way to Okrugljak in the Upper Lakes where the wild, untamed forest makes an immediate impact.
Okrugljak lake is known for its 53m long cave that contains two halls and a small pond. The lake is a little over 4 hectares and is 15.3m deep.
Notice the spectacular 20m high Labudovac Waterfall which empties into Okrugljak.
From Okrugljak, take the well-marked trail up to Proscansko, the highest lake.
Proscansko is large (68.2ha), deep (37.4m) and the highest (636.6m) of Plitvice's Upper lakes. It's also the most remote as it's surrounded by dense forest. You'll hear birds and frogs and can easily spot trout and carp in the lake.
Follow the beautiful, tranquil hiking trail around the lake to Ciginovac, a much smaller lake which receives its water from Proscansko. It covers 7.5 hectares and is a little over 11m deep.
Continue down through a series of small shallow lakes--Batinovac, Great Lake, Small Lake and Vir.
Veliki Jezera, Great Lake
Okrugljak and Proscansko feed into these lakes which are ravishing in spring when the dams and barriers between them are sprinkled with hundreds of small waterfalls.
Continue down the trail to Galovac Lake which covers 12.5 heactares and is 24.4m deep.
Galovac wins the beauty contest of all the Upper Lakes as it's supplied with water by three small lakes and supplies water to a series of ponds that are also linked by waterfalls. There were once concrete stairs over the main waterfall, Galovacki Buk (below) which were in turn covered by travertine and have now become part of the scenery.
On the eastern side is the spectacular chain of cascades known as Prstavci waterfalls.
Keep descending through the foliage and you'll come to peaceful Gradinsko Lake.
Surrounded by reeds, Gradinsko lake is a favourite nesting place of ducks. The lake covers 8.1 hectares and is 10m deep.
Burget is the last great barrier of the Upper Lakes but it is more of a pond than a lake.
Back to civilization at Kozjak lake! Here's where to have a drink, a bite to eat or use the restroom.
Kozjak is the largest lake of the Plitvice lake system at about 3km long, covering 81.5 hectares and it's the last lake in the Upper Lakes. In the middle of the 46.4m-deep lake is a small oval island, Štefanija's island, which now contains a restaurant. Kozjak Lake is notable for the ever-changing colours of the water, a spectacle you can admire from your hotel room as Plitvice hotels have rooms overlooking this lake.
At Kozjak, board a boat for a ride across the lake where the trail continues to the Lower Lakes. It's a different feeling here in the Lower Lakes. The steep shores are surrounded by cliffs and there are an abundance of grottoes and caves. The first lake is Milanovac.
Whether azure, sky-blue or emerald green, this small (3.2ha) lake is beautiful to contemplate as the sun brings out its changing colours. Milanovac lake is set within 20m-high cliffs and features Milanovacki falls.
and the eastern part of the lake features Milka Trnina's falls.
The water from Milanovac rushes down into Gavanovac lake in a powerful array of cascades called the Great Falls or Veliki Slap.
Signs direct you to Veliki Slap which you reach by wooden walkway. This part of the park is the most crowded. You may well be elbow-to-elbow as you approach the falls.
If the scene is too agitated, contemplate the peaceful beauty of Gavanovac lake.
This small (1ha) and shallow (10m) lake took its name from the legend of Gavan, an old miser whose fortune allegedly disappeared in the lake.
Follow the path to Novakovica, the smallest lake at only .3 hectares.
That path takes you right next to spectacular Sastavci falls.
Another path takes you next to where Gavanovac empties into Kaluderovac lake.
Finish up at the intensely blue Kaluderovac (2.1ha) lake.
From Kaluderovac, it's only a few minutes walk back to Entrance 1.