There are places where you really feel how special they are just by experiencing the surroundings, soaking in the beauty of the landscape and sound. One of such places is definitely the area around Rastoke village in the center of Croatia. Located right next to the city Slunj, just an hour and a half from the capital of Zagreb and less than 30 minutes from the world-famous Plitvice lakes National Park, this small piece of paradise on Earth is certainly worth visiting.
Start your day with the visit to the amazing Ranch Deer Valley, a gorgeous family-owned ranch that spreads out in the woods on over 15 hectares of land, hosting many different kinds of animals, both wild and domestic ones, and, as the name says, with the main inhabitants being a deer population.
You can enjoy the guided tour, learn about deer and their life, their natural habitat and just enjoy observing these beautiful animals in their natural surroundings. As a bonus, you will also get to feed the deer with the food given out by the guide which they will very much enjoy as treats and might even let you pet them – the feeling is amazing.
But deer are not the only inhabitants of this very special farm – you will also meet the black pigs, pheasants, as well as beautiful horses that you can also pet and feed. At the end of the tour, relax in the special area next to the ranch, enjoying traditional delicacies and home-made cookies, some of which you can also buy to enjoy at home. A tip before you go – the ranch works by appointment only as the tours depend on the animals and the weather. Additionally, if you’d like to visit during a weekend, make sure you call and book your visit a couple of days in advance just to make sure you get your spot for this beautiful experience.
For a perfect lunch head to the restaurant Ambar – located on the top of the hill above the village Rastoke, besides delicious food, the restaurant offers a great ambiance and a truly beautiful view of the surroundings. The menu, created in collaboration with one of the most famous Croatian chefs, Mate Janković, is based on local, traditional ingredients and varies depending on the season and availability of the ingredients.
To give you a taste – as an appetizer I had popular cheese ‘škripavac’ (meaning squeaky cheese in Croatian as it squeaks when being chewed), grilled and complimented with mushrooms and salad. Trout with polenta and zucchini as a main dish was just as delicious and I couldn’t resist the dessert to round it all up – tasty apple crumble with cream. One thing is for sure – you will enjoy every bite.
After lunch is the ideal time to enjoy the nature and the rivers and take a stroll through Rastoke village. Laying right on the River Korana and Slunjčica, you will be amazed by the waterfalls Slunjčica creates, making the village into a true water-murmuring paradise. The old, traditional wooden houses only add to the fairytale-like quality of the village, making it a great spot for relaxation, connecting with nature and of course taking beautiful pictures.
Last but not least, enjoy coffee at the best-positioned café in Rastoke, Vodena ovca (The Water Sheep) with the terrace right at the top of a beautiful waterfall. The view is just amazing and the sound of the waterfall will take you away, making the experience unforgettable.