When looking for recommendations of what to see in Croatia, I got an overwhelming response suggesting checking out the national park scene. There were two parks that were highly rated and adored!
This recommendation lead me down an internet rabbit hole of discovering these gorgeous parks and I knew we had to go. Thanks to Nomad Life and having a full month in this beautiful country, we were able to take day trips out to both of them.
However, I know when most people visit Croatia they don’t have this much time to spare. So in today’s post, I am going to compare and contrast both Plitvice Lakes and Krka Waterfalls National Parks so you can ultimately decide what’s right for you! (Because trust me, either way, you can’t go wrong!)
Note: It is against the law to swim in National Parks in Croatia to preserve the natural beauty (tourist sunscreen has no business tainting the natural beauty of these parks!). So just be aware that during your visits here, you will be hiking/looking/photographing and not swimming.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Overview:
Of the two national parks, Plitvice Lakes is the older and bigger. Although it was designated a national park in 1949, it gained traction and recognition in the 1970s. For nature lovers, Plitvice Lakes is heaven on earth.
There are blue hues in the lakes that you never knew existed.
The trails just keep going on and on forever.
You’ll look down and see little fish swimming in the lakes and the water is so clear it looks like you’re peering through glass – but it’s all-natural, baby!
There was one section of the park we particularly loved, and as Disney fans, we playfully named it the “Avatar Section” because it looked like it was straight out of Pandora from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However… it was REAL! (Disney fans get it so backward sometimes I know – LOL!) But there were these huge rock formations and vines and waterfalls hanging down, we were astounded by the sights.
People come up to Plitvice Lakes to stay because there is so much exploring to be done. You could be out here for days if you wanted to hike all of the trails! However, we felt completely satisfied by doing a day trip with a guide. She took us on the main trail and we truly got our fill. Just be aware that to get from different sections of the park you may need to take a tram or a boat – yes, it is that big!
Overall, Plitvice Lakes is a place I will always remember. I’m sure the pictures don’t even do it justice, but it was truly stunning beyond words.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Pros:
- The water in Croatia is all beautiful, but the color of Plitvice Lakes is truly stunning. It felt otherworldly and was something to write home about!
- You have a complete plethora of places to hike and things to do because of the sheer size of the park.
- There’s a huge variety of things to see in this park – lakes, waterfalls, foliage, fish, rock formations, etc. Your eyes will most definitely not be bored! (even when your feet get a little tired)
- If you’re coming from Split, it is a 3-HOUR RIDE EACH WAY! This is not a quick trip and it’s a lot of driving in one day. However, doing the GetYourGuide bus tour was great because they took care of transport and all we had to do was sit back and relax until we got there.
- The food options at the park were pretty mediocre – as most parks’ food is. If I was to do this again, I would have packed PB&J’s and snacks for our lunch instead!
- While size is a pro and a con, the con side is that the park is immensely big so you really will only see a portion of it. (But again, if you take a tour they will make sure you see the highlights!)
Krka Waterfalls National Park Overview:
Krka Waterfalls was our second Croatian National Park day trip and it was absolutely lovely as well. It was established as a National Park in 1985 so it is the newer and smaller of the two. Due to the more manageable size, visiting Krka Waterfalls was such an easy day.
We took a day tour out here are well, thanks to GetYourGuide, and had a few hours on our own to explore the park. We lapped the whole route with time to spare! After doing Plitvice, it was sort of nice to be in a park that was a more manageable size.
There is a wooden pathway that you follow that takes you through the whole park. It is easy to walk on and it’s placed right above the bodies of water so you’re able to see everything up close. We saw a significant amount of wildlife here, too! We saw schools of fish swimming against mini waterfall currents, frogs croaking in the plants, and even neon blue dragonflies flying and playing together.
The waterfalls were stunning. As someone who grew up near Niagara Falls in Buffalo, New York, I am no stranger to a good waterfall. Are these as grand as Niagara Falls? No, however, they are still worth seeing because the backdrop is so different and lush. It has a different (and warmer climate) feel.
Something I loved about Krka Waterfalls National Park was all of the coves you could find. The big waterfall, of course, is the main draw but we found little corners with smaller waterfalls, shaded areas, and beautiful foliage that we spent some time cooling down.
Overall, we had a lovely day visiting Krka Waterfalls. Our wonderful Krka Waterfalls Food & Wine Tasting Tour even gave us the opportunity to do a local wine tasting afterward in a nearby Croatian town! It was a lovely way to taste local food/drink and meet some other travelers!
Krka Waterfalls National Park Pros:
- Getting to Krka Waterfalls was only a ONE-HOUR RIDE EACH WAY! That felt like bliss after our 3-hour (each way) journey to Plitvice.
- The size of the park is manageable and you can see it all in a few hours. You won’t feel like you missed anything!
- Who doesn’t love a giant waterfall!?
- The water is still very gorgeous and blue here, but the color vibrancy of the water at Krka has less of a “wow factor” than at Plitvice
- If you’re very go-go-go, there is less to do and see at this park!
My Personal Opinion:
If I only had the opportunity to do one, I would choose Plitvice Lakes!
The pace of our day to Krka was much easier than our day out to Plitvice. It is ultimately more enjoyable if you’re looking for a quick day trip, simplicity, and still seeing some National Parks sights. (TRUST ME they are gorgeous!!)
However, we both agree that Plitvice Lakes was something spectacular. I have never seen such vibrant colors of water before. I truly felt like I was wandering through an enchanting Croatian wonderland the entire day. Although the trip is father, if you have time, I would say it’s most definitely worth the hike. (Pun intended)
Thanks for Reading!
I know how important word-of-mouth recommendations are when planning travel, so I am grateful to serve as your “friendly neighborhood travel guide” and make your decisions a little easier.
I hope this article gave you a little bit of clarity on which National Park is best suited for you! Again, you can’t go wrong – it is all about your pace and personal preference of what you want to see. If you’re visiting Croatia, it will be a feast for the eyes no matter where you go. The National Parks do kick that beauty up a notch.
Until next time… Here’s to doing what makes our souls shine. 🥂☀️
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