Elafiti, Elaphites or Elaphatiti, no matter how you spell it these islands are a yet another treat when visiting Croatia. Lush and lovely, the Elafiti Islands are located just a bit northwest of Dubrovnik and make a great escape for a day trip. They are made up of an archipelago of six islands sitting like a treasure box off the shore of Dubrovnik. There are three main islands that are especially worth the visit, Kolocep, Lopud and Sapin.
Kolocep and Lopud are vehicle-free which in itself lends to the peaceful ambience of the gentle islands. Compared to the exciting hustle and bustle of the big city these islands are a definite cleansing breath of relaxation. Of course the fact that these three islands claim a total of less than 1000 happy, welcoming residents also adds to the peace and quiet, along with the pristine beaches and lush scenery.
The Elafiti Islands are close to Dubrovnik which means they do make for an excellent day trip. Of course each island offers a little something different. Here we’ll take a look at the three intriguing islands and their exquisite natural gifts. But first a little history…
A Brief History of The Elafiti Islands
The islands first became known thanks to Pliny the Elder, the Roman author, philosopher, naturalist and military commander of the Roman Empire. Pliny mentioned the Elaphite Islands in his 1st century work Naturalis Historia.
The greek word for deer is elafos, and, according to legend, in ancient times large populations of deer roamed these mediterranean forested islands. Although no one really corroborates that legend today, islands are recognized for their exceptionally skilled mariners.
Even though the islands are close to the busy Dubrovnik they seem miles away as you cruise by boat to this lush mediterranean paradise. Each of the three inhabited islands offer gorgeous beaches and an opportunity to swim in the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea or sit beachside and simply enjoy the stunning views. The beauty is truly captivating.
The Three Main Elafiti Islands
The car-free island of Kolocep, or Kalamota as the residents call it, is the closest of the Elafiti to Dubrovnik. Though small, Kolocep is home to two villages. The main village is Donje Celo and is surprisingly lively with restaurants and even a few bars. The other village settlement is called Gornje Celo and you can stroll between the two along a two mile trail built for that purpose.
If you are into snorkeling the west side of Kolocep is a treasure trove of underwater caves and interesting things to see. The crystal blue water makes for easy underwater activities.
For those who enjoy interesting shops with one-of-a-kind artisan goods, Lopud shouldn’t be missed. This is the second biggest island of the three, although all three are charmingly small and quaint. Many of the locals on the island run restaurants and bars as well as the shops.
One of Lopud’s biggest attractions is the famous sandy beach, Sunj. This one kilometer beach boasts a beautiful shallow shoreline where you can stroll the entire beach ankle-deep in the crystal clear water of the Adriatic. The beach is a lively spot with a few bars and restaurants from which you can enjoy a cocktail or nosh shoreside.
The largest of the Elafiti Islands is Sipan. Like its sister island Kolocep Sipan has two villages, the northern Sipanska Luka and the Sucurac on the south side. Sucurac was famous among the more noble residents and there is a castle built by Skocibuha, a prominent 16th century merchant and Rector’s Palace, a 14th century palace built to house the Rector of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) from the 14th century until the early 19th century.
The island of Sipan was also the home of the famous Marino Ghetaldi, a 16th-17th century mathematician and physicist who traveled Europe and studied with such greats as Galileo Galilei. Ghetaldi built a home on the island of Sipan that’s a popular tourist attraction.
In addition to the palaces and home there are several churches in the island and even wells that date back to Roman times. Navigating the island may be a bit of a challenge so plan to do some hiking idc you want to see the sites up close.
The three most popular islands are such a wonderful getaway for a day of hiking, bike riding or simply sitting on the natural and pristine beaches and looking out at the azure Adriatic as you relax and unwind.
If You Have the Time
There is a fourth island you may want to visit called Lokrum Island. South of Dubrovnik this island is quite accessible by ferry and is a recognized nature preserve. Carless Lokrum boasts a 15th century Arboretum and several beautiful creatures such as peacocks. Rabbits abound on Lokrum due to the fact that their biggest predator, snakes, are nowhere on the island.
Beautifully maintained trails make it easy to explore on foot and there is a Benedictine Monastery and fortress at the top of a hill that’s definitely worthy of the trek. The island was used in the filming of the popular series Game of Thrones. There is a seawater filled lake on the island and you may even witness a few cliff-jumpers as well.
Are You Ready?
Ready to plan a day trip to the Elafiti Islands? The easiest way is via a group tour from Dubrovnik, however a private boat tour offers a much more fulfilling experience. With the views of Dubrovnik at your back you make your way toward this otherworldly paradise.