Ljubljana to Plitvice Lake

Feb 1st, 2015, 05:33 PM
  #1  
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Ljubljana to Plitvice Lake

I'm trying to figure out the best method of getting to Plitvice Lake after a guided tour that ends in Ljubljana. Our last night will be spent at Lake Bled, but it looks like they take us back to the airport in Ljubljana. I'm thinking to get public transportation from Ljubljana to Zagreb (is there any?) and then a bus from Zagreb to Plitvice where we would spend a couple of nights, bus back to Zagreb to fly home. Does that sound like a good plan? I thought about renting a car in Ljubljana but I understand moving around with a rental car between Slovenia and Croatia would be expensive for three days. I drove a stick shift car for 14 years, but it was about 20 years ago. I think I could handle it with a little practice.

I still need to look into flights from Zagreb. Not sure if it is more or less expensive than flying from Ljubljana to Los Angeles.

There will be two of us gals, mid-60s.

Would appreciate your thoughts.

Diane
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Feb 1st, 2015, 06:26 PM
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I had another thought -- wondering if this is logical thinking. We fly from California to Zagreb and take a bus to Plitvice Lakes, stay two or three nights at the lakes, bus back to Zagreb and take a one hour flight on Croatia Air to Dubrovnik where our tour starts. Good thinking or bad?

Diane
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Feb 1st, 2015, 06:49 PM
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Yes, you can get a train from Ljubljana to Zagreb. Or a bus. There are a few direct trains a day I believe. I took one of them back in 2009.

You really don't need three nights at Plitvice. One night is really plenty for most people, unless they are super serious hikers. It's an amazing park, but it can be seen in a relatively short time. I had an afternoon and a morning there (spending one night at a park hotel), and I felt that was adequate for me.

If you don't have a car, you may find the area dull at night. You can stay at one of the park hotels and eat there too but the nearby tiny town is too far to walk to. I'd find eating at a park hotel dull after one night. Back in say Zagreb you'd have more evening options for restaurants etc.

Yes, consider renting a car. I rented a car in Zagreb, drove the two hours to Plitvice, spent a night, and drove on to Dubrovnik (with a few stops) and dropped my car there. I didn't mind driving in Croatia. The road from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is mostly a wide modern freeway (til maybe an hour north of Dubrovnik where it ends), and to get to Plitvice is only a side detour of maybe a half hour off that main highway. The roads are modern and you drive on the same side of the road as in California. Drivers are pretty aggressive about passing in Croatia, but I imagine they are in LA too, right? ;-)

The problem with cars between Slovenia and Croatia is the one-way drop fee you usually incur when dropping a car off in a different country that you rented it in. Of course, if you fly into Zagreb instead of Ljubljana then that isn't an issue. Otherwise, it's not a problem to drive a car rented in one country into the other (though you need to make sure it has a permit travel outside the country and perhaps to countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina. You might as well just check the rental car rates (e.g. on www.kayak.com) and see what the difference in cost is between renting in Ljubljana/drop in Croatia vs. renting in Zagreb/dropping somewhere in Croatia. It may not be that much more or may be worth it to avoid other hassles. I guess it also depends on the difference in cost of flying into Ljubljana vs. Zagreb. (Hint: if you fly into Venice, you can catch a 3.5 hour direct bus from the Marco Polo airport directly to Ljubljana, if that is cheaper for you.)

If you are going to take public transit in Croatia, you might fly into Zagreb and spend your first day and night there, then set off for the park the next day by bus, spend a night, see it both the afternoon and next morning like I did, then bus back to Zagreb - if you can't fly to Dubrovnik the same night, stay another night. Or instead bus down to the Adriatic - catch a ferry somewhere like Zadar or Split on to Dubrovnik or just take a longer bus ride all the way down.

(Click on my name to find my 2009 trip report for Croatia.)
Andrew is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 09:29 AM
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There are direct trains from Bled through Ljubljana to Zagreb (3 hrs journey).
A bus ride from Zagreb to Plitvice takes 2 1/4 hrs and another one from Plitvice to Dubrovnik takes 10 hrs. There are buses during the day and overnight buses.
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 04:19 PM
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Thank you all for your responses. I'm learning a lot about Croatia and Slovenia. Still not sure how we are going to handle this, but we have plenty of time to figure it out.

Andrew, I enjoyed reading your report from 2009 and viewing some of your photos.
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 05:17 PM
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Thanks! I found planning trips in Slovenia/Croatia the most challenging I have ever done - because you can't simply train everywhere at will like you can say in much of Western Europe - but also I found Croatia and especially Slovenia extremely rewarding. (I am looking at a return trip to the area early this year.) Plitvice is amazing - I hope you manage to fit it in one way or another.
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 05:29 PM
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I found the roads in Croatia and Slovenia to be much better than the ones here in L.A. (just hit a nice pothole today).

Here's my 2008 Trip Report with photos. Chapters Eleven to Twenty-Three are all on Croatia and Slovenia (I've added a lot since I started this new website). I agree with Andrew, one night in Plitvice (perhaps as beautiful a national park as I have ever visited) is probably enough. It takes a few hours to traverse the lower and upper lakes.

Have a wonderful trip!

http://travelswithmaitaitom.com/cent...e-venice-2008/

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Feb 2nd, 2015, 06:45 PM
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kja
 
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As others have noted, you can easily get from Ljubljana to Zagreb by bus or train.

I agree that a single night is sufficient for a visit to the Plitvice Lakes. I strongly recommend that you take a single, LONG circuit through the park to be sure to reach some of it's more distant regions. Part of what makes this set of lakes so spectacular is that the lakes are different colors because each lake has unique color-producing microbiota; the only way to really appreciate that is to get deep into the park. A circuit of 6 or 7 hours is usually enough. Of course, if there are mobility or other issues that limit your time, better to have two separate visits than none at all! IME, the rangers at the entrances are happy to help visitors identify the options that best suit their needs.

Before I traveled to the area (May/June 2009), I read that many people had difficulty getting a bus FROM Plitvice onwards, because they were all full. I don't know if that was true -- I used a rental car for that part of my trip. If you decide to rent a car, no need to rent before leaving Slovenia - you could wait until you are ready to leave Zagreb (which is not particularly car-friendly IME). If you can drive a standard, you'll probably have a much wider range of options than if you can only drive an automatic.

Whether to visit the Plitvice Lakes at the start or end of your trip probably depends on what else you want to see and experience. Are there things you want to see that would be closed on the days that you would then be in any specific place? Would you be in Dubrovnik on days when a lot of cruise boats are there (and so lots of tourists)?

Hope that helps!
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 09:57 AM
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Are there days when there are few cruise ships in Dubrovnik? Fortunately, the tour I'm taking includes four nights in Dubrovnik (including a couple of day trips outside the city) so I'll have plenty of time there.

Some how, some way, I will be including Plitvice Lakes into my itinerary.

Maitaitom, I read your trip report a couple of days ago. I spent over an hour in there. Very fun read. You have a knack for writing in an entertaining way. I also live in So. Calif. in Palm Desert.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 06:17 PM
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kja
 
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"Are there days when there are few cruise ships in Dubrovnik?" -- there's a site you can check, but I don't know it off-hand. If you look at a few threads on Croatia, you'll probably find it.
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