What landscape comes to your mind when you think of Croatia? Perhaps clear waterfalls – that’s because of overly popular (yet stunning) Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park. Or it could be an image of a historical beach destination, thanks to Game of Thrones because Dubrovnik was the shooting location for King’s landing.
As a person who has visited Croatia year after year, I have to tell you that even though the country is stunning, the a majority of beautiful places are overrun by tourists.
Because of this, visiting places like Durbovnik or Krka National Park in peak times can be super stressful and may not feel like a vacation. Although the same is often thought to be the case for the Plitvice Lakes, but I have a post about how it can be done in a way to avoid crowds.
I’m here to tell you about another place that I have been visiting year after year and it hardly receives any tourists. It is a town called Slunj, with a waterfall village inside it called Rastoke.
Introducing Rastoke, Slunj
So what is Rastoke all about? It is a historical village in a Slunj town with many small waterfalls and cascades and surrounded by rivers Korana, Slunjčica and Plitvica.
The entire village is overwater, which is why it made it so special for me. Rastoke village is over three big islands and a bunch of smaller islands connected via bridges with water around.
Rastoke is known for its watermills too, which contributed to Slunj’s economic development.
Rastoke is called “Mini Plitvice Lakes” because one can see a similar natural phenomena as that in the nearby Plitvice Lakes. Rastoke is where Slunjčica River flows into the Korana River, which is one of the two rivers of Plitvice Lakes national Park.
I can’t compare Rastoke with Plitvice Lakes because the Plitvice Lakes are super stunning and not many places compare to the epic scale of natural beauty of those lakes. Having said that, I’d like to mention that Rastoke is much smaller but it is a thousand times more relaxing experience because there aren’t many visitors.
What’s more is that this village is completely overwater. So if you rent a place to stay here, most likely it will be an overwater cottage. So, you can actually be a part of the landscape in a much more deeper way as compared to the Plitvice Lakes.
Is Rastoke a Secret?
Are there any secret places in this age of Instagram? Hardly any. That changes the real definition of secret. In today’s age, a secret spot is one that’s not yet popular on Instagram.
The difference is that you wouldn’t see long queues of influencers in fancy evening gowns or cocktail dresses, so you can actually stand on scenic spots without thinking that you’re messing up someone’s photo (or Instagram reel).Rastoke in Slunj is one such place. I have visited Slunj on many occasions because of a music festival that occurs near this town in a nature park along the River Mrežnica. This particular nature park has no network coverage, but don’t worry, Rastoke and Slunj definitely has good network.
In order to truly experience Rastoke and Slunj town’s offbeat vibes, stay in one of the waterfront cottages here in Rastoke with the sounds of the waterfall in the background. I will share more information about this at the end of the post.
Where is Rastoke, Slunj
Rastoke is in the mountainous part of Central Croatia. It is located along the fast moving route between Karlovac and Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is a North-South route to the Adriatic Sea. Rastoke, Slunj is a 25 KMs from the Plitvice Lakes and just 16 KMs away from the nearest border of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Rastoke is a part of Slunj town. Slunj is a very small town with a castle, river, many restaurants, supermarkets and bakeries. Just like some parts of Zagreb, you will also see little hills in the background in most of Slunj.
How to reach Rastoke, Slunj
The best way to travel within Croatia is by driving. If you live in a nearby country within Europe then you will probabaly drive to Croatia and travel within the country with your own car. Alternatively, you can fly to Zagreb and just rent a car from there (or any other city of Croatia).
We did travel to Slunj on our campervan and the journey was straightforward because Slunj is located on the important North-South route between Karlovac and Plitvice Lakes. In order to see the car rental prices, you can check this link for a comparison and estimate.
On the few occasions I have visited Slunj, I have traveled here by both bus and car. I found the bus travel in Croatia uncomplicated, affordable and stress free. It was effortless to travel to the bus stops within Croatia using Uber or Bolt taxi services.
It is very easy to reach Slunj on a bus from Zagreb or Plitvice Lakes or Karlovac. The journey from Zagreb to Slunj took us two hours on the last occasion and it was booked on Omio app (which is amazing for travel within Europe).
Rastoke is seven minutes walk from Slunj bus station. If you’re walking in summer with full sun and luggage, then this walk can take you 10-12 minutes.
I saw three parking areas right at the entry of Rastoke. The parking here didn’t seem to have an option of card payment so keep Croatian Kuna coins with you.
Rastoke Entry Fee (2022)
The entry ticket prices are in Kunas and usually 1 EUR = 7.5 Kunas. Here’s the entry info for visiting Rastoke in 2022:
- Adults: 45 Kunas in July & August; 40 Kunas in the other months
- Children / Students / Seniors: 30 Kunas throughout the year
- Family Ticket for 3: 110 Kunas in July & August; 100 Kunas in the other months
- Family Ticket for 4: 130 Kunas in July & August; 120 Kunas in the other months (additional child 20 kunas)
What to see in Rastoke
There are three main waterfalls in Rastoke. Yes, the map mentions more but I could just find three big ones. The rest of the waterfalls were small and there were also some small cascades. If you visit and find more than three big waterfalls here, I’d be happy to hear from you.
Walk around in Rastoke, and explore the three islands. Don’t be fooled by the small size, there is a lot to see here. The most obvious thing to do here would be to see the waterfalls, but there’s more.
Rastoke Village with Little Islands, Meadows & Bridges
Apart from the streams and waterfalls, Rastoke has meadows, little islands that are connected with bridges, an 18th Century mill, a traditional carpet washer made of wood, a fishpond, a cave, a Winnetou totem, and even a fairy garden.
Yes, you read that right. You can find your fairy in the fairy garden, get a fairy name and check out the meaning of your fairy name.
Fairies form an important part of Croatian and Slavic legends. This is one of the reasons why one of the waterfalls of Rastoke is called vilinska kosa – which means Fairy’s Hair.
Rastoke and the Legend of Fairies
The legend of the fairies exists in Rastoke as long as the settlement itself. Legend has it that the riverbanks in Rastoke were home to the fairies. This is the reason why a lot of water flowed through the mills.
The fairies of Rastoke had supernatural powers. They dressed in white and wore crowns or green garlands. They wove their hair in thick braids.
As per the legend, while the millers were busy grounding corn into flour at night with their mills, the fairies stole their horses. They brought the horses back before dawn with their manes braided up.
There are more stories and legends about the fairies of Rastoke. It was believed that the fairies would lead lost travelers in fog to the right path, heal a sick person with herbs, and put a restless child to sleep.
How long do you need for Rastoke?
Slunj town is small and Rastoke is even smaller. You don’t need more than half a day to see everything here unlike the nearby Plitvice Lakes national park that takes easily two days if you want to cover everything. However, I suggest you try to stay here for one night for a more relaxing experience.
If you stay in Rastoke for a night, then you can also try to be a part of one of the kayaking trips on Mrežnica river which is an unbelievably clear. This river makes many waterfalls, springs, and caves. If you arrive here on your own car or camper van, then you can also try to include Primišlje village. But I will talk about that later.
Slunjčica Walking Trail & Stari Grad
While you are in Rastoke, take some time out to experience the best of the surrounding natural beauty and walk along the river. Do the Slunjčica walking trail to see the clear water of this river and the sights around.
One of the places that you will see on the Slunjčica walking trail is a Stari Grad, which is a big castle that’s on the opposite side of the main road as you drive to Rastoke from Slunj. Stari Grad is not inside Rastoke but you will see it from the parking spot or the bus stop of Rastoke. You don’t have to actually go inside the castle to admire it.
In order to start the Slunjčica walking trail, arrive at Moćanovo bridge (Moćanovog mosta) and then follow the trail along the river.
Primišlje village near Slunj
If you don’t believe in fairies and magic forests, then your mind will change after you visit Primišlje. It is a small nature park along Mrežnica River where it makes many streams, waterfalls and cascades. This river is super clear and lush greenery dragonflies and magical misty foliage.
The only way you can visit Primišlje from Slunj is by driving. So, it works well if you have a rental car or your own car. Another way to reach Primišlje would be to hire a taxi from Slunj.
Be prepared to spend a few hours here without network coverage, so I recommend you download an offline version of Google Maps before you start driving here from Slunj.
If you don’t have a car, and you’re alone then I suggest you skip Primišlje because it would be too much of an effort to arrive here. Another way to experience this area is by kayaking. I found the below kayaking tour of Mrežnica that includes Primišlje on GetYourGuide that you can sign up for.
Where to Stay in Rastoke, SlunjSlunj town has a number of guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts but I highly recommend picking a place to stay next to the waterfalls of Rastoke. There aren’t many such places but I can tell you about one of them, it is called Holiday House Rastoke Pod Lipom.
Holiday House Rastoke Pod Lipom is a waterfront property and the river flows right under it, so it is extra special. Sleeping with the sounds of water is therapeutic and you can experience it here.
Having visited Croatia a number of times, I’d recommend staying longer in a place like Rastoke as compared to some of the other highly touristy spots such as Dubrovnik, Split, Krka National Park or Plitvice Lakes.
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