While Croatia is home to eight beautiful national parks, two seem to dominate the conversation: Krka and Plitvice; often, those are the only national parks in Croatia that tourists have heard of, and there’s a reason for that. These national parks have much to offer: towering waterfalls, hundreds of animal species, and lush greenery. No Croatian itinerary is complete without stopping at least one of these national parks.
Krka and Plitvice are truly stunning and unique in their ways, and I believe they are both worth visiting. But which national park should you visit if you only had time to visit one? That’s a hard question, but I’ll do my best to answer it. In this post, I’ll compare and contrast these two popular destinations, highlighting their unique features and helping you decide which one to add to your Croatian itinerary. So buckle up, grab a coffee, tea, or kombucha, and dive in!
Want to read more about Croatia? You’re in luck! This post is a part of the Croatia series. Here is the complete 15-part series:
Krka National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Krka National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice vs Krka – Krka vs Plitvice National Park: Which One Should You Visit?
Mljet National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Mljet National Park, Croatia
The verdict: should you visit Plitvice National Park or Krka National Park?
I recommend visiting Plitvice National Park over Krka National Park because it’s far more impressive, offers more activities to do, and is more scenic, grand, and memorable overall. Despite being more remote and farther away from the big cities in Croatia, I think it is worth the detour to experience this majestic park. Just go! You won’t regret it for a second.
I had many more wow moments at Plitvice than at Krka. The waterfalls were more majestic, the trails were more picturesque, and the park was awe-inspiring. It’s like comparing Mount Everest with Mount Denali. They’re both impressive in their way, but Mount Everest has the edge due to its grandeur and mystique. The same can be said for Plitvice National Park and Krka National Park. The former has that extra wow factor that makes it worth visiting.
Now that we’ve established the verdict let’s break down the five criteria that we used to declare Plitvice National Park the winner of this competition.
Location and accessibility
Krka National Park is located in central Dalmatia, near Šibenik. It covers an area of over 42 square miles and sits along the Krka River, which flows into the Adriatic Sea. The park is easily accessible by car or public transportation. The nearest airport is Split Airport, which is about 24 miles away, and there are regular bus services from Šibenik and other nearby towns. Visitors can also take a boat tour along the Krka River to explore the park and its waterfalls.
On the other hand, Plitvice National Park is located in central Croatia, about 87 miles southeast of the capital city of Zagreb. It covers an area of over 114 square miles in a rugged and mountainous region. The park is known for its interconnected series of 16 lakes, which cascade into each other through waterfalls and are surrounded by lush forests and natural landscapes.
Plitvice National Park is located further inland and is a bit more remote, but still accessible by car or public transportation. The nearest airport is Zagreb Airport, which is about 77 miles away, and there are regular bus services from Zagreb, Zadar, and other nearby towns. You can also take a train or bus to the park’s entrance, where they can purchase tickets and begin their tour of the lakes and waterfalls.
Krka National Park is closer to the coastal city of Split, while Plitvice National Park is further inland and closer to the capital city of Zagreb. Both parks are accessible by car or public transportation, but Krka is easier. In terms of accessibility, Krka wins hands down. And visitors can easily plan a trip to either park based on location and preferences.
Winner: Krka National Park
Plitvice National Park and Krka National Park are known for their numerous waterfalls and natural beauty. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so this category is entirely subjective. Plitvice National Park is more beautiful than Krka National Park. I distinctly remember standing at a rail overlooking Veliki Slap, the highest waterfall, and being so in awe of the place. The waterfall cascaded down rocky cliffs covered in moss and shrubbery, emptying into a turquoise lake below. It had an otherworldly beauty, like something out of a painting. I never experienced that same level of awe at Krka National Park.
The biggest attraction at Krka National Park is the famous Skradinski Buk, a waterfall spanning over 2,500 feet. While it’s impressive in its own right, it is nowhere near the majesticness of Veliki Slap or the other 15 waterfalls at Plitvice. Krka is home to seven waterfalls, including Roski Slap, further down the Krka River. If you want to see waterfalls, Plitvice wins hands down.
Winner: Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park is teeming with wildlife. There are over 50 different mammal species that inhabit this park. You’re bound to spot some of the park’s most iconic animals, such as brown bears, lynx, wolves, deer, and various birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
One of the most common animals you’ll see at Plitvice is the European brown bear. These majestic creatures can weigh up to 800 pounds and are known for their shaggy fur and distinctive hump on their shoulders. While they are generally shy and avoid humans, you should always be cautious and keep a safe distance if you encounter one.
Another animal that you might see at Plitvice is the Eurasian lynx. These elusive cats are known for their tufted ears and spotted fur and are a rare sight in the wild. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, keep your distance and enjoy the sight from afar.
Deer are also common at Plitvice, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon when they come out to graze. You might see red deer, roe deer, or fallow deer, all native to Croatia.
In addition to these larger animals, Plitvice is also home to various birds, reptiles, and amphibians. You might see everything from golden eagles and peregrine falcons to lizards and salamanders.
There are plenty of opportunities to spot various animals during your visit to Krka National Park. 46 different animal species call this park home.
One of the most common animals you might see at Krka National Park is the European otter. These playful creatures are known for their playful nature and can often be seen swimming and playing in the park’s many streams and rivers. You might even glimpse a mother otter with her babies in tow if you’re lucky.
Winner: Plitvice National Park
Hiking trails and activities
Krka National Park and Plitvice National Park offer a range of hiking trails catering to different preferences and fitness levels. Here’s a comparison of the hiking trails in terms of length, difficulty level, and scenic views:
Krka National Park:
Skradinski Buk Trail: This popular trail is approximately 1.8 miles long (round trip) and is considered easy to moderate in difficulty. It takes you along the stunning Skradinski Buk waterfall, allowing you to appreciate the cascades up close.
Visovac Trail: This trail is about 3.1 miles long (round trip) and has moderate difficulty. It leads you to the picturesque Visovac Island in the middle of the Krka River. The trail offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes and the river.
Roški Slap Trail: This trail is longer, about 6.2 miles long (round trip), and is considered moderate in difficulty. It takes you to the impressive Roški Slap waterfall, offering scenic views of the river and the surrounding countryside.
What makes Krka National Park different from Plitvice National Park are its historic landmarks and cultural heritage sites. It’s not just a park. It also has many cultural activities.
Plitvice National Park:
A Trail (Plitvica Lakes Upper Lakes): This trail is approximately 3.7 miles long and is considered easy to moderate in difficulty. It guides you through the upper lakes area, where you can admire the stunning turquoise lakes, lush forests, and picturesque waterfalls.
H Trail (Plitvica Lakes Lower Lakes): This trail is longer, around 5.6 miles in length, and is considered moderate in difficulty. It takes you through the lower lakes area, offering breathtaking views of waterfalls, wooden footbridges, and diverse flora and fauna.
K Trail (Plitvica Lakes Kozjak Lake): This trail is approximately 8.1 miles long and is considered moderate to difficult in difficulty. It leads you to Kozjak Lake, the largest lake in the park, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and cascading waterfalls.
Both parks provide well-marked trails with wooden footbridges and pathways that allow you to navigate the natural landscapes comfortably. However, it’s important to note that some trails may be closed during certain seasons or due to maintenance, so it’s advisable to check the park’s official website or visitor center for the latest information.
Regarding scenic views, Krka and Plitvice National Parks offer stunning natural beauty, including waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and lush vegetation. Krka is known for its cascading waterfalls and the opportunity to swim in crystal-clear waters. At the same time, Plitvice is renowned for its interconnected lakes and waterfalls that create a truly magical atmosphere.
Ultimately, the choice of hiking trail will depend on your fitness level, time available, and personal preferences. Regardless of the trail you choose, both parks promise unforgettable experiences and breathtaking scenery.
Winner: Plitvice National Park
Crowds and tourists
Regarding popularity and visitor numbers, both Krka National Park and Plitvice National Park attract significant tourists each year. However, there are some differences in terms of overall popularity and visitor numbers.
Krka National Park has gained considerable popularity in recent years. Its accessibility to popular tourist destinations such as Split and Šibenik and its magnificent waterfalls and swimming opportunities has made it a sought-after destination. During the peak tourist season, the park can get quite crowded, particularly at the popular Skradinski Buk waterfall. However, with its vast area and numerous trails, it is still possible to find quieter spots and enjoy a more serene experience.
On the other hand, Plitvice National Park is widely regarded as one of Croatia’s most iconic and breathtaking natural attractions. Its unique system of cascading lakes and waterfalls has captured the imagination of travelers from around the world. As a result, Plitvice National Park sees a higher number of visitors than Krka. During peak season, particularly in the summer, the park can become quite crowded, with large groups and tour buses. However, Plitvice is vast, and by exploring the less crowded trails or visiting during off-peak hours, you can still find moments of tranquility and appreciate the park’s natural beauty.
It’s worth noting that both parks have made efforts to manage the influx of visitors and preserve the delicate ecosystems. They have implemented measures such as timed entry, visitor quotas, and well-maintained trails to ensure a sustainable and enjoyable experience for visitors.
In summary, while Krka and Plitvice National Parks attract many tourists, Plitvice tends to be more popular and thus can get more crowded, especially during the peak tourist season. However, with proper planning and a willingness to explore different park areas, you can still have a remarkable and unforgettable experience at both destinations.
Cost and budget
The cost of visiting Krka National Park and Plitvice National Park can vary depending on several factors, including the time of year, type of ticket, and additional activities. However, here is a general comparison of the costs associated with visiting each park:
Entrance Fees: Both parks charge entrance fees, and the prices may differ based on the season. Plitvice National Park typically has higher entrance fees compared to Krka National Park. Prices for Plitvice range from around 200 to 300 HRK (Croatian Kuna) for adults, while Krka’s entrance fees range from around 100 to 200 HRK for adults. Children and students often receive discounted rates, and children under a certain age may enter for free.
Guided Tours: Additional costs may be involved if you opt for a guided tour in either park. Guided tours can provide informative insights and a structured experience, but they generally come at an extra expense. Prices for guided tours can vary, so it’s advisable to check with official tour operators or park websites for the most accurate information.
Transportation: The cost of transportation to and from the parks will depend on your location and preferred mode of travel. If you stay in nearby towns, you may find affordable bus or train options to reach the parks. Additionally, some tour operators offer transportation services as part of their packages. Private transportation or rental cars will incur additional costs, including park parking fees.
Additional Activities: Both parks offer additional activities such as boat rides, electric boat tours, and hiking trails that may have separate fees. These activities can enhance your experience but come with additional costs. Prices for boat rides and other activities can vary, so it’s best to check the park’s official website or inquire on-site for the latest prices.
It’s important to note that the prices mentioned above are approximate and subject to change. It’s recommended to visit the official websites of Plitvice National Park and Krka National Park for the most up-to-date information on entrance fees, tours, and additional activities.
Which is better, Krka or Plitvice?
Determining which national park is “better” between Krka and Plitvice is subjective and depends on individual preferences. Both parks offer unique natural beauty and stunning waterfalls but have distinct characteristics.
Plitvice National Park is renowned for its interconnected terraced lakes, creating a mesmerizing system of cascading waterfalls. The park’s picturesque wooden footbridges and pathways allow visitors to explore the natural wonders up close. Plitvice is often praised for its ethereal and fairytale-like landscapes, making it a popular choice for many nature enthusiasts.
On the other hand, Krka National Park offers cascading waterfalls along the Krka River and provides opportunities for swimming in designated areas, such as the famous Skradinski Buk waterfall. Krka offers a more interactive experience, allowing visitors to cool off and enjoy the refreshing waters amidst the beautiful surroundings.
Ultimately, the choice between Krka and Plitvice depends on personal preferences. Krka might be the preferred choice if you prefer a more immersive experience with the chance to swim and be close to the waterfalls. If you are captivated by interconnected lakes and the fairytale-like atmosphere, Plitvice could be the park that resonates with you.
Both parks offer incredible natural beauty and are worth exploring if you have the opportunity. Consider the features and experiences that appeal to you the most, and you’ll be able to choose the park that aligns with your interests and preferences.
What is the difference between Plitvice and Krka National Park?
Plitvice National Park and Krka National Park offer distinct experiences. Plitvice is much bigger than Krka and is known for its interconnected terraced lakes, creating a captivating landscape of cascading waterfalls and pristine turquoise waters. There’s much more to do and see at Plitvice National Park, located further inland in Croatia. You can access Plitvice from Zagreb and Zadar, but it’s far from Dubrovnik and Split. On the other hand, Krka is a short distance from Dubrovnik and Split. This smaller national park is home to cascading waterfalls along the Krka River, where swimming is allowed in designated areas. Both parks showcase the natural beauty of Croatia in their unique way, making them must-visit destinations for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Is it worth going to Krka National Park?
I can confidently say that Krka National Park is worth visiting. It offers a unique and captivating experience showcasing Croatia’s natural beauty. The park is known for its stunning waterfalls cascading along the Krka River, creating a picturesque and enchanting landscape. The park’s most famous waterfall, Skradinski Buk, is a true spectacle, with crystal-clear turquoise waters and lush greenery. Swimming in certain park areas adds an immersive and refreshing element to the experience.
Beyond the waterfalls, Krka National Park boasts diverse flora and fauna, charming walking trails, and beautiful viewpoints that allow you to appreciate the park’s natural wonders from different perspectives. The park’s well-maintained wooden footbridges and pathways make navigating and exploring the different areas easy, ensuring an enjoyable and safe visit.
Can you swim in Krka or Plitvice?
Swimming is permitted only in certain designated areas within Krka National Park. At Krka National Park, visitors can swim in specific locations, most notably at the Skradinski Buk waterfall. Skradinski Buk is a popular spot for swimming due to its crystal-clear waters and beautiful surroundings. However, it’s important to note that swimming is only allowed in designated areas and under the supervision of park authorities. These areas are marked, and following the park’s rules and guidelines is essential for a safe and enjoyable swimming experience.
On the other hand, swimming is generally not permitted within the lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice National Park. Plitvice is primarily a nature reserve, focusing on preserving the ecological balance of the lakes and their delicate ecosystem. Swimming is strictly prohibited to maintain the park’s natural integrity and protect wildlife.
Should I visit both Krka and Plitvice?
If you have the time while visiting Croatia, I recommend visiting Krka and Plitvice. Each national park is unique in its way and offers an unforgettable experience. These are some of the most stunning destinations in Croatia, and you won’t be disappointed by either one.
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