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15 Tips For Visiting Plitvice Lakes with Kids

Every family will love visiting Plitvice Lakes with kids! Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s national treasures, where boardwalks and hiking trails wind around 12 scenic upper lakes and 4 lower lakes. Kids of all ages will love walking past beautiful waterfalls along wooden pathways. Visiting the Plitvice Lakes UNESCO World Heritage site with our kids was on our bucket list, so we were we very excited when it finally happened!

After a bit of a rocky start, we are happy to report that we loved our time at Plitvice Lakes with our kids – it’s totally worth the effort to get there. Even though it can be very crowded, don’t skip out on visiting Plitvice Lakes with kids. You are virtually guaranteed to fall in love with this place!

Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

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15 Tips for Visiting Plitvice Lakes with Kids

1. Do not Bring a Stroller to Plitvice Lakes

If you are visiting Plitvice Lakes with a baby or a toddler, we recommend you bring a baby carrier. Sure, you can visit Plitvice Lakes with a stroller, but it will not be enjoyable.

There are stairs everywhere and most of the Plitvice Lakes walking paths are on uneven wooden boards (think wooden cobblestone). The paths are crowded and narrow and your stroller will simply get in the way. If your little one is too small to walk for your whole visit, we recommend you bring a baby or toddler carrier to Plitvice Lakes.

Do not bring a stroller to Plitvice Lakes National Park

For our visit to Plitvice Lakes with our kids, we used a Lillebaby CarryOn Toddler carrier for our 4 year old and the Onya Baby Nexstep for our two year old.

If you are going to visit Plitvice Lakes with a stroller, make sure your stroller is a lightweight one for travel. (You can find the best lightweight travel strollers on our Baby Can Travel site).

Lillebaby

2. Watch Your Kids Carefully

There are very few handrails on the Plitvice Lakes boardwalks and even those are built for adults. The boardwalks can get super crowded and are full of people who are late for their tour bus or aggressively jostling for their Instagram photo.

Plitvice Lakes with kids

Let’s just say common courtesy isn’t always afforded to others… If your kids aren’t paying attention (and really, whose kids pay attention?), they will get in the way of someone who is also not paying attention.

We strongly recommend putting your small kids in a carrier near the Plitvice Lakes waterfall sections, as you’ll have a much more enjoyable time. We made the mistake of letting our kids walk the waterfall loop near Entrance 2 and we spent all our time and attention making sure they were ok, which really impacted our enjoyment of this really beautiful area of Plitvice Lakes.  

Plitvice Lakes with a toddler in a carrier

3. Pre-Plan Your Route Around Plitvice Lakes with Kids

Around the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls, you will find 25x more people than anywhere else. When planning your visit to Plitvice Lakes with kids, look at the map and look for waterfalls. Brace yourself for some insanity at these spots. The small loop near the P2 boat dock and near the big waterfall (Veliki Slap) near Entrance 1 are the worst.

If you arrive early at Plitvice Lakes with kids (see #6 below), try to visit the most popular Plitvice Lakes waterfalls first to help avoid the crowds.

Hiking Plitvice Lakes with kids

4. Be Flexible

If the line to take the boat back from P2 to P1 is huge, you can walk back to Entrance 2 on the same road the Plitvice Lakes scenic train takes. It takes about 30-40 minutes to walk, but that will likely equal your time waiting for the boat. Plus you and your kids get the benefit of some bonus exercise and scenery.

Tips for Plitvice Lakes with a toddler

Is Krka National Park also part of your itinerary for Croatia with kids? Here are some great tips on visiting the Makarska Riviera with kids.

5. Buy a 2 Day Ticket to Plitvice Lakes

On our first afternoon at Plitvice Lakes with kids we started at Entrance 2 hoping it would be less busy, but instead we were greeted with a very long line for the boat. 

Boats at Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

Once we were on the Plitvice Lakes walking routes, the tour groups were quite pushy, trying to see as much of Plitvice Lakes as possible before making it back to the tour bus. Many people pushed past us on the walkways with little regard for our two small kids.

Despite these challenges, we managed to cover the whole section around the Plitvice Upper Lakes in our first afternoon. It was a little hard, but we tried to enjoy the small moments of solitude we found in-between the crazy tour groups. 

Plitvice Lakes with Kids - running on wooden boardwalk

If you are visiting Plitvice Lakes with kids, then you will need extra time. For us, visiting Plitvice Lakes with a toddler and a preschooler meant taking it a little slower. We recommend planning at least one full day at Plitvice Lakes with kids, but preferably 1.5 to 2 days. 

If you are visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park for multiple days, you can buy a 2 day ticket at a discounted price vs. 2 single day tickets.

6. Arrive early to the Plitvice Lakes with Kids

When visiting popular attractions around the world, we try to arrive early to beat the crowds. After a challenging first afternoon, we were excited to have a full second day at Plitvice Lakes with kids. This time, we were able to walk from our Plitvice Lakes rental apartment to Entrance 2 to be at Plitvice Lakes before it opened.

We quickly made our way to what we expected would be the busiest part of the Plitvice Lower Lakes. The first 40 minutes we enjoyed complete solitude as we walked along the shore of Kozjak Lake, which was stunning first thing in the morning.

View of Kozjak Lake at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

As we approached the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls, the crowds from Entrance 1 started to arrive. Learning from our first day at Plitvice Lakes with kids, we put the kids in their carriers for the crowded boardwalks which didn’t have railings.

After getting nice and close to the Plitvice Big Waterfall, we took a walking path that got us some incredible views from up high (see tip #8 below). Our kids loved this part of the hike in Plitvice Lakes National Park.

View of Veliki Slap waterfall at Plitvice Lakes Croatia

We then spent the rest our time at Plitvice Lakes with kids in near isolation on a much less busy walking trail on the other side of Kozjak Lake.

As you can see, in a place as busy as Plitvice Lakes, it pays to arrive at opening and go straight to the most popular Plitvice waterfalls. Your experience at Plitvice Lakes with kids will be so much better if you arrive early too. 

Staying overnight near the national park is a treat, so you don’t have to get up ridiculously early to take day trip to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Split. See below for recommended places to stay in Plitvice Lakes with kids.

visiting Plitvice Lakes with kids

7. Set Your Expectations Accordingly

We’ve all seen the amazing pictures of Plitvice Lakes waterfalls, and this place is truly as beautiful as you dream it will be. But what the pictures don’t prepare you for are the crowds. The areas around the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls are Disneyland busy – at least it was the first afternoon we visited in late April which, keep in mind, is only shoulder season – peak season will be even worse.

Hiking Plitvice Lakes with a toddler

8. Enjoy the Non-Waterfall Walking Paths at Plitvice Lakes

Some of our favorite moments hiking in Plitvice Lakes with kids were walking along the nearly deserted walking paths which don’t have any waterfalls on them.

Many of these paths are incredibly beautiful in their own right, being lakeside or high above with views of the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls below. Yet, incredibly, many of these Plitvice Lakes walking paths are largely ignored! If you need a break from the crowds, seek these beauties out. We loved them! Three of our favorites are:

  • A lakeside stroll, walking north on the east side of Kozjak Lake at Entrance 2. It is especially beautiful at opening with the reflection of trees, mountains and clouds in the still, glass-like water.
Tips for Hiking Plitvice Lakes with kids
  • The upper trail heading south from Entrance 1. There are several lookout points along this trail of the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls and boardwalks below that are especially good.
Aerial view of walkways past Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls
  • The lakeside hike on the west side of Kozjak Lake. This is a real hike on a real hiking trail, so be sure to wear proper footwear. We had to take off our shoes and wade through the water in spots, or hop from log-to-log to avoid big mud puddles, but most of the hiking trail was in really good shape. The seclusion and the scenery are what makes this Plitvice Lakes hiking trail special. 
Hiking trail around Kozjak Lake in Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

9. Watch and Listen for Wildlife

You can see fish everywhere in the water and ducks are plentiful, but keep your eyes and ears open for frogs (you can hear them by reeds), water snakes, large snails, etc.

Hiking Plitvice Lakes with kids

10. Bring the Family Dog to Plitvice Lakes

If you travel with your family dog, you can bring it along to the national park. We were surprised at how many people were at Plitvice Lakes with their dogs.

11. Believe the Duration of the Plitvice Lakes Walking Trails

The official Plitvice Lakes webpage offers many lake tour programs (walking trails). At first I didn’t believe the suggestion duration of each of the Plitvice Lakes walking paths as I knew I can walk at a much faster pace than they state, even with kids. But their suggested walking times were pretty accurate as they take into account the crowded walking trails and the fact you’ll be taking tons of pictures.

Visit Plitvice Lakes Croatia with children

12. Walk Against the Flow at Plitvice Lakes

When you walk with the main direction of traffic on the Plitvice Lakes walking paths, chances are you’ll get stuck behind a large group. Once this happens it’s nearly impossible to break free and find spots to take pictures without anyone in them.

boardwalks near Plitvice Lakes waterfalls

When you walk against the flow of traffic, it’s much easier to find breaks in the hordes of people allowing you to take great pictures of Plitvice Lakes a lot easier.

13. Limit Your Coffee Intake

There are very few toilets within the Plitvice Lakes national park and there is rushing water everywhere; a bad combination if you just finished a Starbucks Venti latte. Don’t think you can just duck into the trees either, as the Plitvice Lakes walking paths are really busy and the slopes are steep, making it tough to find a spot to go.

It’s a little easier for small kids at Plitvice Lakes as people will forgive them for peeing next to the walking trail.

Plitvice Lakes waterfalls

14. Bring a Garbage Bag

There are surprisingly few garbage bins within the park. Plitvice Lakes is a special place and is surprisingly clean and litter free considering how many people visit there. Bring your own garbage bags to cart out any garbage you generate during your visit.

15. Bring Plenty of Water and Snacks

There are some restaurants at Plitvice Lakes, but it’s best to have plenty of your own water and snacks with you, especially when visiting Plitvice Lakes with kids!

waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia

How to Get to Plitvice Lakes with Kids

Visit Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb

After a day in Zagreb with kids, we took a bus to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was a 2 hour bus ride from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes that was simple to do with our two small kids.

If you’d prefer not to take a bus to Plitvice Lakes with kids, you can always arrange a private tour to Plitvice Lakes or take a full-day group tour from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes.

Visit Plitvice Lakes from Split

Your choices to visit Plitvice Lakes from Split are pretty similar. The cheapest way to get to Plitvice Lakes from Split is by bus, but a more convenient way would be to take a group tour or private tour.

Tips for Plitvice Lakes with Kids

Where to Stay in Plitvice Lakes with Kids

As mentioned in our Plitvice Lakes tips above, staying overnight at Plitvice Lakes allowed us to arrive at the national park right at opening time. Staying overnight at Plitvice Lakes will enable you to get ahead of the crowds in the morning and will maximize your enjoyment of Plitvice Lakes with your kids.

Families trying to find a place to stay at Plitvice Lakes with kids can choose from a reasonably small selection of nearby hotels, guesthouses and vacation rentals.

We stayed at a Plitvice Lakes vacation rental in the small village of Mukinje, just a few kilometers south of Plitvice Parks Entrance 2. In the morning, we enjoyed a beautiful walk through the forest from our Plitvice vacation rental to Entrance 2, arriving around 15 minutes before the national park opened.

When traveling with kids, we have a strong preference for staying in a vacation home rental. We find that the kids sleep better when they have their own bedrooms, and it’s nice to have laundry facilities to wash our clothes.

If you’d prefer to stay at a kid-friendly Plitvice Lakes hotel, we personally use and recommend Booking.com as we find their Top Picks for Families suggestions make it super easy to find a great place to stay.

Read more about our European family vacation with stops in the Czech Republic with kids, Budapest with kids, Croatia with kids and a final stop in Iceland with kids.

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