The sheer geographical position of the Elaphite islands makes them the perfect opportunity for some Dubrovnik island-hopping. These untouched islands are a wonder of nature and also provide an experience of true island life, Dalmatian style. Situated to the north-west of Dubrovnik this group of islands is made up of thirteen islands, the majority of which are uninhabited, and with this full-day excursion you will have the opportunity to visit two of them – Šipan and Lopud. Take a dip in the crystal clear seas, stroll in the shade of Mediterranean vegetation, explore quaint hamlets and even enjoy a meal at sea, this was going to be fun. I hopped onto the charming wooden boat and was greeted with a smile, “Welcome to the Elaphite Islands excursion,” explained my tour guide for the day. As my feet were no longer on terra firma so I guessed my Elaphite Islands excursion with Croatia Excursions had begun.
“I never knew that there were so many islands along the Croatian coastline,” explained a couple from North London as the boat eased away from the Dubrovnik shoreline. “Yes, over a thousand, but not many of them are inhabited, there are so many I don’t know who had time to count them all,” I joked. We were off to see two of those islands, Dubrovnik islands, the Elaphite Islands.
I have to be honest I am not a great sailor. Although I was born on an island, well the UK is slightly larger than the two I would be visiting today; I have never found my sea legs. “There is no need to worry, she is very stable,” added the captain, “And the seas in this region tend to be as flat as a pancake most of the summer,” he reassured me. Just the idea of island-hopping seemed so exotic, so very Mediterranean. It might seem plainly obvious but the great thing about island-hopping is that you get the chance to see the Dubrovnik countryside from a completely different angle, from the sea. As we sailed out of the Port of Dubrovnik the only sound that you could hear above the wash of the Adriatic was the click of cameras. “I have to be honest I didn’t expect it to be so mountainous,” said my new friends from the UK capital. No I guess you don’t see that in the brochures.
The Elaphite Islands stretched out in front of us. Glinting green humps in a sea of turquoise blue. Throughout history these island have been treasured, firstly by the Greeks and later by the noble families of the former Republic of Dubrovnik. It is easy to see why. They are so serene and peaceful, like natures own spa centre. The nobility of the Republic built many summer residences on the islands in order to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Five centuries later we were doing the same thing, although just for a day, we were kings for a day.
The first stop was the island of Lopud. The island is considered by many as the most beautiful of all of the Elaphite islands as well as being blessed with stunning sandy beaches. This is the ideal spot to unwind and take a swim on this island tour. It is a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of life as there are no cars on the island. A morning coffee on one of the many seafront cafe bars and then some free time to explore. For such a small island there is certainly plenty to see, the place is rammed packed with history. Our guide for the day highlighted the main points of attraction and told us to meet by our boat at 1 o’clock. Great, plenty of time to explore, a sandy beach just near the harbour is a top spot to cool off, but first I wanted to work up a sweat.
The Franciscan monastery was larger than expected; the grand Lopud Park was inviting and the stone facades along the coastline charming. Back from a dip in the Adriatic, and I wasn’t the only one. Here I have a quick tip – you can rent a bike right in the harbour which will give you more time to see everything. Right back onto the ship.
“That was a charming island, a true Mediterranean feel to it,” now I had jumped into conversation with a mother and daughter team from Wales. “I agree, it feels like life is much simpler there, more laid back,” I replied. We were off to our next island in the sun, Sipan. But, and as I was feeling peckish, not before a meal at sea. With a choice of a meat lunch or a fish lunch I had plumped for fish, well I was on the sea after all. We glided over the Adriatic with the Elaphite Islands all around us and we were all enjoying a great lunch with wine, this was the life!
We were moving onto the largest of the Elaphite islands, Sipan. Well to be more precise the picturesque village of Suđurađ of Sipan. And if you have problems pronouncing that village name don’t worry, I have lived here for eighteen years and it still ties my tongue in knots. It is only a short hop from Lopud to Sipan, but enough time for lunch. We docked in the quaint harbour and once again were given instructions on the highlights. Many of those summer residences I was talking about were constructed on this island. Remains, and a few intact ones, can still be seen today. According to the information from our guide there are a grand total of 42 summer residences on Sipan. And once again we had plenty of time to explore, basically to follow our noses. I hitched up with the North London couple and we made our way up to the impressive 15th century church that overlooks the village. Time for another tip! When you get to the church, and it is about a ten-minute walk, climb to the top of the bell-tower the panoramic views are breathtaking.
Enough time for another swim in the Adriatic Sea, well I was island-hopping after all, and back onto the boat for the sail home to Dubrovnik. My face clearly wasn’t the only one covered with a smile from ear to ear. The whole ship was in jolly mood and who could blame them. We had experienced so much in one day, seen so much, learned so much, swam, walked and eaten. We had every right to be more than a little contented. Dubrovnik’s islands in the sun, the Elaphite Islands, were a joy and they had all given us memories to last a lifetime.
By Mark Thomas
The Elaphite Islands is a full-day excursion offered by the Gulliver Travel agency. For more information, including prices, dates and how to book, please visit the Gulliver Travel website here.