Better than Plitvice Lakes? Hidden gem Rastoke - fairy village and dreamy waterfalls

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"iznenađenje" (= surprise)! Let me guess: you have never heard of Rastoke? Join the club :)
I can promise you, once you have read this post and watched the videos, you will want to pack your stuff and go. Rastoke has so far been the biggest 'surprise find' in all of my travels. If you have a thing for fairytale settings in real life, you won't be disappointed.
Ready? Then let's go:

Rastoke / image by Balate Dorin via

If you're a fan of natural beauty and off-the-beaten-path destinations, Rastoke, Croatia should definitely be on your radar. Located in the western part of the country, near the city of Slunj, Rastoke is a small village that is home to some of the most stunning waterfalls in the region.


Rastoke, Croatia

Rastoke is a small village in central Croatia, known among insiders for its picturesque watermills and other historical buildings that give it a very unique character.

Despite only being a 30 minute drive from Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction in Croatia, Rastoke is to this day rather unknown and a true hidden gem.

For those who are interested in history, nature, and cultural heritage, Rastoke is a great place to visit.
The confluence of the rivers Slunjcica and Korana creates plenty of waterfalls . These waterfalls, known as the "Little Plitvice" (after the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park), are a series of small cascades that flow into the river below. The water is crystal clear, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

Rastoke / image by BalateDorin via

In addition to the waterfalls, Rastoke is also home to a number of charming old mills that have been converted into restaurants, guesthouses, and other small businesses. Not only are these mills a testament to the village's history, but they definitely add to the dreamy vibes of the place. They are built in a traditional Croatian style, with stone walls, tiled roofs, and wooden beams.

"the Fairytale Village"

Rastoke, Croatia, waterfalls

The "fairy village" is a popular nickname for the old part of Rastoke because of its charming, rustic appearance and the beautiful natural surroundings.
As I said, Rastoke is known for its picturesque historic watermills, which were historically used to grind grain but are no longer in use. They are built along the Slunjčica river, which flows through the center of the village and creates a series of small waterfalls and pools.
Simple maths: take watermills, old houses set in lush greenery, a river with waterfalls and you have a typical fairytale setting. Rastoke ticks all these boxes and more and is an ideal backdrop for weddings and other events.


Rastoke / image by Balate Dorin via

How did I even learn about Rastoke? Truth is: I didn't! We literally stumbled across it.
Let me tell you how that happened: when planning our Croatia trip (one week of sailing), we decided to go by car rather than fly and also extend the stay for two more nights, since I wanted to revisit Plitvice Lakes. I vaguely remember having been there in my early teens, but it had rained the whole time and my appreciation for natural beauty was rather 'age appropriate' (aka non-existent) at the time. With that of course having changed drastically, I could not let the opportunity to see and fully appreciate the world famous Plitvice Lakes slip. So we booked an accomodation in the 'vicinity', which happened to be in Rastoke.


On our way to the hotel, we passed the very humble road sign that read 'Rastoke historical village' and decided to go there to stretch our legs and grab a quick bite. The first impression was cute, but we were on the 'wrong end' of the fairy village and thus didn't really see much apart from the bridge and one waterfall. Our exploration got cut short unexpectedly, when I got a couple of wasp bites (oh the pain!!). The next day we visited Plitvice Lakes, so again no time to explore Rastoke, and we almost forgot about it, until the following day (check-out), when we decided to give it another go.
I cannot tell you quite how breathtaking our experience was this time around - we had no idea what to expect, but man, were we in for a surprise!
We immediately felt like we had traveled back in time and were strolling through a picturesque world in 'the good old times'. We also were literally the only people around (much unlike Plitvice Lakes), which really helped getting fully immersed in the experience.


If you're planning a trip to Croatia, Rastoke should definitely be on your itinerary!
It's an easy day trip from Plitvice Lakes (30min drive) or Zagreb (1.5h drive), and it's a great way to escape the crowds and see something a little bit different. The village is small and intimate, and it's the perfect place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you're interested in hiking, swimming, kayaking or just taking in the sights and sounds of nature, Rastoke has something for everyone.




Municipality of Slunj

(30minutes North of Plitvice Lakes / 1.5h south of Zagreb

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