Some posts contain compensated links. Please read this disclaimer for more info.
What would an old Mediterranean island paradise look like? The lush green of pine-dominated forests separated by the deep blue waters by jagged rocks? Feeling of serenity and experience of true leisure? Maybe a dash of adventure with the natural environment beckoning physical activity? Fresh seafood, virgin olive oil and great wine? The answer is: “all of the above” and it can be found a stone’s throw away from Dubrovnik, on Elaphfiti islands.
- How to get to Elaphiti islands and get around
- 5 things not to miss
- Where to stay?
- Where to eat?
- Top 5 day trips from Elaphiti islands
- 5 things you didn’t know about Elaphiti islands
There are actually more islands in the Elaphites than most people know. They are a part of the Dubrovnik archipelago and they consist of 8 islands and 5 islets. Only three of them, Kolocep (locally known as Kalamota), Lopud and Sipan, are inhabited and have tourism amenities. The islands are mostly covered in sub-tropical flora and are on top of the dolomitic limestone surface. This means mainly jagged rocks shaped through the influence of the sea over time. Consequently, they provide amazing opportunities for cliff diving, snorkelling or scuba diving.
None of the Elaphiti Islands has any airports available for direct flights. The closest airport servicing Elaphiti islands is Dubrovnik International Airport Cilipi (DBV), located around 20km (12,4 miles) away from the city. D8 Adriatic Highway connects Dubrovnik with the airport.
When it comes to Elaphiti islands, the road will take you as far as Dubrovnik. From there, your best choice is to take the regular Jadrolinija ferry. Read more about the ferry in our “boat” section.
If you are travelling to Dubrovnik by road from the direction of Zagreb, Split or Rijeka, the fastest route will see you taking the A1 Motorway from Zagreb (Zadar, Sibenik or Split) to Ploce where the A1 ends. Once in Ploce you will switch to D8 Adriatic Highway which will take you down to Dubrovnik.
If you have made other arrangements to transfer to the Elaphiti Island of your choice from some other point along the coast (e.g., Lafodia Hotel was known to offer transfers from Brsecine village), know that D8 travels along the coast and goes through the majority of these villages and towns on its way to Dubrovnik.
The regular local bus line runs only on Sipan island between Sipanska Luka and Sudurad. The bus runs several times per day following times aligned with ferry arrivals and local school hours. You can find the timetable on Libertas Public Transportation Company’s website.
National ferry company Jadrolinija connects Dubrovnik to all the inhabited Elaphiti Islands. In fact, they run a regular line from Dubrovnik going to all three of them (Line No. 807) several times a day throughout the year. Check out their website for the timetable and ticket prices:
There is also a regular ferry line (No. 831) going to Lopud and Sipan from Dubrovnik. However, this one is a car ferry. Still, it does not disembark vehicles on Lopud, only passengers.
High speed catamaran operated by G&V line connects Dubrovnik with Mljet Island via Sipanska Luka on Island of Sipan. This is their timetable and pricing info.
There are smaller local companies that run to some of the islands like Europa ship that connects Dubrovnik to Kolocep. Some of these come and go seemingly every summer, so it’s always a good idea to inquire locally if there are any brand new operators.
1) Beaches and Swimming
Whichever island of the Elaphiti archipelago you choose as your base, it will reward you with some spectacular swimming spots. While the majority of the coastline is rocky, which might put some people off, there are plenty of pebbly and some sandy beaches as well to choose from. Don’t discount rugged, rocky coastline, though. Over time it has formed into amazing secluded bays, caves, cliff diving and sunbathing spots.
Blue Cave on Kolocep Island
One must-visit point on Kolocep is Blue Cave. It’s a small cave on the southwestern part of the island accessible by boat. Its name comes from the blue shade of the waters inside. You enter the cave by swimming or diving. It is wide enough to enter without difficulty, but the opening of it is only barely showing from the outside. It is an extremely popular stop for chartered boats and worth visiting for the ride to it as well.
Sunj Beach on Lopud Island
There are quite a few popular beaches in the Dubrovnik area. Some are popular with locals, some with tourists, but none is universally as loved as Sunj Beach on Lopud Island. Sunj is located on the south-eastern end of the Island, facing Dubrovnik. Notably, it is Elaphiti’s most popular port of call for private and chartered boats. You can get to it on foot from Lopud village by following one of the marked footpaths through the woods. It bears the name of Czech writer and politician Viktor Dyk who was in love with Lopud. The path also features a monument built in his honour in 1936. Sunj Beach has some beach amenities available like a bar, restaurant and lounge chairs. It is indeed the most spacious sandy beach of Elaphiti and it will remain everybody’s favourite for quite some time.
Hidden bays of Sipan
Sipan, with its two picturesque large villages of Sudurad and Sipanska Luka, offers plenty of options for leisure and fun beach activities. However, experienced Sipan lovers know the island is home to many hidden beaches and tiny bays best accessed by boat. Whether you are kayaking or chartering a boat, make sure to inquire about some of them, or better yet, surprise yourselves by discovering them yourself. You will not be disappointed.
2) Hike to the Lighthouse on Kolocep
Hiking on Kolocep is a must. Island’s western side is covered in pine forest going straight to the edge of tall cliffs hiding small bays below. Hiking and walking around this area is perfect for recharging your batteries and getting in touch with nature. Speaking of nature, there are no dangerous animals or venomous snakes on the island, so the only real danger one might face is taking on a bit more hiking than planned.
It is hard to agree on the best hiking path, but a good one would be the path from Gornje Celo village over to Placet and then to the lighthouse, ending up back in the village, at the beach. Placet is an amazing place where cliffs descend dramatically into the sea. It is a lovely swimming spot. Stairs down to the sea are sometimes off-limits when dead trees get knocked down off the cliff during a storm. Following the hiking path through the woods, you eventually end up at the Kolocep lighthouse. The stairs down to the lighthouse were badly damaged, but it is still fairly easy to get down. The lighthouse stands on a small cliff offering great views of Dubrovnik and the island of Daksa. Below the lighthouse is a natural pool carved in the rocks. Obviously, it is a perfect swimming spot.
3) Hike across Sipan to Velji Vrh
Sipan Island is also a great walking, hiking or trekking destination. The island houses 39 old churches as well as 42 medieval residences of varying degrees of upkeep. The most magnificent of aristocratic residences on Sipan Island is Vice Stjepovic-Skocibuha Summer Residence in Sudurad. Aside from examples of old architecture, hiking across Sipan means walking through olive orchards and shrubs of Mediterranean aromatic herbs. The highest peak of Sipan is Velji Vrh at 243 metres above sea level. Hiking up to it is not too strenuous, but you should bring water and sunscreen along. From there you will have a great view over the island and the surrounding archipelago.
4) Discover Lopud’s Historical Centre
Lopud Village on the island bearing the same name is one of the most beautiful urban centres of 15th and 16th century Dubrovnik area. Historical stone houses, charming streets and storefronts offer plenty to explore as you wander around.
The fortified complex of the Franciscan Monastery built in the late 15th and early 16th century dominates the entrance to the bay. The monastery features a 30m (98 feet) tall bell tower as well as a defensive fortress dating to 1592. The bay of Lopud is also home to a few beautiful former homes and summer residences of the local aristocracy. One open for the public and well worth your time is the Dordic-Mayneri Summer Residence. Summer residence’s botanical garden is a thing of beauty and a must-see for any visitors of the island. Ruins of once imposing Rector’s Palace are also visible in the centre of the village. There are also several churches and chapels waiting to be caught by your mobile phone’s camera lens. In fact, it would be difficult to find a house in Lopud not worth stopping by and admiring.
Behind the village is a hiking path that will lead you to the top of St. Simeon Hill overlooking the island. There, at the most spectacular of viewpoints, you will find Sutvrac Fort, built in 1563. This imposing structure was meant to act as a shelter for up to a few thousand people in case of attacks on Lopud. It is a must-see spot for all those fit enough to hike for an hour up a rocky, steep terrain of Lopud island. With this in mind, pay a visit, just make sure you bring water, sunscreen and most of all – your camera.
5) Your Black Horizon Art Pavillion on Lopud
One thing you might not expect to find among the olive and cypress trees of Lopud is an exhibit from 2005 Venice Art Biennale. Be that as it may, David Adjaye and Olafur Eliasson created a piece called Your Black Horizon for the biennale originally on the island of St. Lazzaro. The two are an architect and a contemporary artist and their work reflects this interdisciplinary approach. The piece is a wooden structure playing with the light and shadow in its narrow corridor. The interior is black with a small sliver of light changing as it emulates the changes in sunlight through the day. It is a beautiful piece and a remarkably interesting concept that makes one reflect on one’s own concept of light, darkness and the horizon.
Options abound when it comes to Elaphiti Islands accommodation. There is something for every budget and everyone’s idea of a perfect holiday. Just keep in mind that with around 2600 sunshine hours per year, you are likely to spend little time indoors and plenty of time out and about, enjoying the best island life has to offer.
When it comes to Kolocep hotels, your choices come down to two candidates. Newly renovated Kalamota Beach House is in the bay of Gornje Celo and TUI Blue Kalamota Island Resort in Donje Celo. Both hotels are right by the water and the beach. Kalamota Beach House offers a more intimate feel being smaller of the two, while TUI Blue Kalamota Island Resort features more amenities and is located in a larger of the two villages.
Being the smallest of the three inhabited Elaphiti Islands, Kolocep has the most limited choice when it comes to private accommodation. Don’t let that discourage you, though. Kolocep features lovely settlements and houses that are a few steps away from the beach or a hiking path. For those wishing to get the best out of the island private accommodation, it pays to book well in advance to get the biggest choice.
Lopud hotels are also two and you can find them in Lopud Village. They are both close to the sea but are vastly different in their design and feel. Hotel Glavovic is a 3-star property and is a recently revived historical hotel originally opened in 1927. On the other hand, 4-star Lafodia Sea Resort is quite a different story. It is a big, modern, and stylishly designed property featuring plenty of amenities and amazing sea views.
Lopud Villas with Pools and Apartments
Private accommodation on Lopud is a bit more numerous than that of Kolocep, but it’s the upscale private accommodation where this island shines. Self-catering houses and villas with pools on Lopud represent great options for guests wanting both privacy and luxury. This island has traditionally appealed to those looking to relax in style. Furthermore, things haven’t changed much.
Hotels on Sipan Island are Hotel Bozica in Sudurad and Hotel Sipan in Sipanska Luka. Hotel Bozica is a 4-star property, highly rated and situated in a beautiful location in the bay of Sudurad. Consequently, it overlooks the bay and surrounding islands. It is built in a typical Mediterranean style fitting in nicely with the local houses. At the same time, Hotel Sipan is in the middle of Sipanska Luka bay and is a great choice for those wishing to be centrally located with easy access to great restaurants, bars and beaches.
Although not particularly rich in private accommodation, you will have a good choice of apartments and homestays on Sipan if you book early enough. Its two main villages offer everything you need for an idyllic stay in self-catering accommodation.
The Elaphiti Islands are located on the very south of Croatia. This means they have a certain reputation to uphold when it comes to delicious local food, especially seafood. Fresh fish is always the right choice, although locals also love their octopus, calamari or prawn dishes. Boiled leafy greens, like Swiss chard, cabbage or spinach, and potatoes are the most popular sides for seafood dishes. Olive oil is always an important addition along with garlic and parsley. This trio is an absolute must when you are eating fish grilled over an open flame on what is locally known as “gradele”.
Whenever possible, you should try the local wine. Even if you haven’t planned on trying Croatian wine, there will rarely be anything else on restaurants’ wine lists. This is because Croatia is an Old World winemaking country with a huge diversity of wine varieties and styles. When it comes to the Elaphiti Islands, they were all known for grapes and wine throughout their history. Unfortunately, the times have changed in this respect and now there is no more wine production on Kolocep. Lopud and Sipan are doing a bit better in this respect.
Even though Kolocep Island is quite small, there are a few nice restaurants in both Gornje Celo and Donje Celo villages. In fact, Vila Ruza (Rose) in Donje Celo is hailed as one of the nicest restaurants in the Dubrovnik area. Its setting and beautiful terrace are reasons enough to visit. When you add to that great food and service you quickly understand why Villa Ruza is one place attracting guests from Dubrovnik year after year. In Gronje Celo, restaurant G Chelo belonging to Kalamota Beach House Hotel is a recent addition to the island’s dining scene. It features a lovely seating area and an imaginative menu. On the other side of the bay, Konoba Skerac is the local’s favourite.
The majority of Lopud Island’s dining spots are in Lopud Village with some dining options also on Sunj Beach. You will find great choices in the historical Lopud with restaurants Dubrovnik and Obala worthy of a special mention. Hotel Lafodia is also a place where you can find great cuisine. Their La Baja Bar & Grill is a cool option for enjoying a bite to eat or a refreshing drink next to the beach. This restaurant is known for featuring live entertainment in the evenings as well. Many of Lopud restaurants have terraces with amazing views over the bay and will not let you forget what a gorgeous place you are spending your vacation.
Sipan Island has been gaining local acclaim as a very serious dining destination, especially when it comes to fresh fish. It helps that chartered boats and Three Island Cruises (Elaphiti Island Tour from Dubrovnik) stop for lunch on Sipan. Olive oil of Sipan is really good, so make sure you are getting quality local stuff when you sit down to eat. Places like Kod Marka or Tauris have long lists of satisfied customers singing them praises. A recent addition, Bowa, is nothing less than spectacular. It is a restaurant in a secluded bay. It is accessible mainly by boat and it features seating on the wooden pontoons over the water. The owner is an avid big game fisherman and the resulting food is fresh, delicious and above all – local.
Day trips from the Elaphiti Islands might be a bit less straightforward to book than those from some bigger destinations. Since you will be staying in small villages, there is going to be a few tours companies and individuals offering tours. On the other hand, the local population is usually very approachable and many of them will be able to point you in the direction of someone offering boat transfers, sea kayaking tours or bicycles for rent.
Dubrovnik Tour from Elaphiti Islands
As is usually the case when setting up lists of top day trips from areas close to Dubrovnik, the tour to this ancient city sits at the very top. If you have missed Dubrovnik before your Elaphiti Islands holiday make sure to visit it. Guests have traditionally been doing the opposite: staying in Dubrovnik and visiting Elaphiti Island for a day. With Dubrovnik getting busier and busier during peak season and Elaphiti offering more options and higher quality when it comes to accommodation and dining, it comes as no surprise the trend is beginning to change, In the near future, Elaphiti Islands might become a welcomed alternative for enjoying holidays in Dubrovnik area.
Dubrovnik is an incredible place. Its historical centre, the Old Town is well preserved and begs exploration. Restaurants and bars are numerous and diverse and there are plenty of places to shop for local souvenirs or products. When visiting Dubrovnik you will want to visit the Old Town and perhaps walk the City Walls. City Walls of Dubrovnik encircle the historical district and are a true gem of medieval architecture. Doing a historical tour, be it a regularly scheduled group tour or a tour with a private guide is always a great idea. Aside from historical tours, you can enjoy a number of themed tours in the city from movie and TV filming locations tours (Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Last Jedi are just two of the titles filmed partially in Dubrovnik), food tours, wine tastings, pub crawls, ghost story tours, and many more.
Dubrovnik is way too serious of a destination to miss while staying so close to it, so make sure you don’t miss it.
Boat Charter or Renting a Boat
Staying on an island is one thing, but seeing it from a boat is a completely different experience. Boat charter is a great option for those wishing to explore either the mainland villages of the Dubrovnik area (like Zaton, Brsecine or Orasac) or the other Elaphiti Islands. Even if you are simply exploring the island you are staying on, a boat will allow you to travel to areas you might not be able or willing to access on foot, like Kolocep’s Blue Cave.
For those with boating licenses, there are options of chartering boats or sailing boats without skippers, especially in Dubrovnik. The number of these boats is limited and some companies only do this type of arrangement on a week-long basis. If you are planning to charter a boat without a skipper, make sure to do so ahead of time to give yourself the best chance of getting the type of boat you were hoping for.
Hop over to the Neighbouring Island
If you are staying on any of the Elaphiti Islands, know that the other two are also well worth visiting and experiencing. With regular ferry lines or boat transfers, you can hop over to the neighbouring island. Mljet is a great option for this and houses one of the most popular Croatian national parks. The island is a perfect getaway spot for those wishing to explore nature, bathe in the warm waters of the national park, or visit a larger island with more amenities. Mljet is connected with Sipanska Luka on Sipan Island via G&V Line high-speed catamaran, but mostly all of these trips will include you arranging your own transportation.
Peljesac Peninsula, Trsteno Botanical Garden
If you arrange a transfer from Lopud or Sipan over to Brsecine on the mainland, or from Kolocep over to Zaton, you can organise a private tour to pick you up there and take you to Peljesac Peninsula. Peljesac is one of Croatia’s most renowned wine regions. The town of Ston on Peljesac is a must-visit place. This beautifully renovated historical town with one of the longest defensive walls in Europe also houses a 14th-century sea salt extraction complex that is still in operation. Neighboring Mali Ston is renowned for oysters and mussels production and is a great destination for foodies.
Trsteno Arboretum is a former garden of aristocratic family Gozze-Gucetic. It is open for visits every day and features a large collections of trees and plants from all corners of the world, all arranged around a renaissance garden. This garden was one of the filming location for famous TV series Game of Thrones.
Where does the Elaphiti Name Come From?
The Elaphiti Islands, known as Elafiti locally, are islands with a long history of human settlements and activity. In fact, their name is most likely derived from the Greek word ἔλαφος, meaning “dear“ (animal). The oldest recorded mention of this name come from Roman historian Gaius Plinius Secundus Maior in the 1st century AD. While no traces of ancient dear has been found on the Elaphiti Islands, the name might have been metaphoric in nature.
Lopud was a Serious Maritime Power
Although known simply as “Isola di Mezzo” or “The Middle Island” for much of its history, Lopud was a very important place at one point. 15th and 16th century are described in history books as the “Golden Age” of Dubrovnik. For a reason. The city lived through its most glorious and prosperous times in the span of those two hundred years. The city was a centre of the Dubrovnik Republic which was a big merchant force in the Mediterranean. The Elaphiti Islands were a part of the Republic and contributed to its success. Lopud island became an important centre. In 1457 it boasted 4000 inhabitants at the time, compared to around 150 year-round residents on record today. Lopud Island was also the homeport for around 80 merchant ships and known for its skilful seafarers and captains.
Kolocep Island – a Medieval Treasure Trove of Coral
Red Mediterranean coral is the only precious material found naturally in the Dubrovnik area. The Dubrovnik Republic in its heyday became known for high-quality jewellery produced by its skilled goldsmiths and silversmith. Islanders of Kolocep quickly caught on and developed special techniques of extracting coral from the depths of the Adriatic and even the Aegean Sea. They would sell the expensive material to Dubrovnik jewellery makers and made a good living doing so. Today, Mediterranean Red Coral is still a highly coveted material because harvesting it is safer for the environment than for some other types of coral around the world.
Sipan Island – Olive Paradise
You already know that Sipan Island is known for olive oil production, but what you might not have known is that this island was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the place with more olive trees per capita than anywhere else in the world. It just goes to show how important these natural symbols of the Mediterranean climate are to the local population. Olive trees are one landmark you will never be too far away from on any of the Elaphiti Islands, especially Sipan.
Other Elaphiti Islands
The islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan might be the only permanently settled Elaphiti Islands, but they are not the only islands of the archipelago. Discounting various reefs and smaller islets, the Elaphiti archipelago consists of 13 islands and islets: Daksa, Kolocep, Sveti Andrija (St. Andrew), Lopud, Ruda, Sipan, Misnjak, Jakljan, Kosmec, Golec, Crkvina, Tajan and Olipa.
Daksa is closest to Dubrovnik and seems to welcome all those sailing into the city’s main harbour. It might be a tiny island, but its history is very turbulent and at times quite dark. This is probably the reason it was never sold, although it was offered for sale. Daksa holds a lovely lighthouse today and is a wonderful spot for swimming for those who can get to it.
Sveti Andrija Island is also home to a lighthouse, but this one is one of the biggest and second oldest in Croatia. It is 69 metres tall and was built in 1873. Sveti Andrija was under the control of the Benedictine monks who came to the island in the 13th century from Monte Casino. Being an important strategic location and quite far away from Dubrovnik (almost 7 nautical miles), the island was a dangerous place to live on throughout history because of the constant threat of pirate attacks.
Ruda is a small island between Lopud and Sipan. In the past, it was owned by Dubrovnik noble family Valija whose members sold it to another aristocratic family, Kaboga. Kabogas built their summer residence on the island in 1435. Today the residence is unfortunately in ruins. Ruda had its share of turbulent history as well, having housed a French defensive fortress at one point and then falling under English rule in the early 19th century. Today it does not have any functioning buildings and it mainly used as a nice spot for boating, fishing or scuba diving.
The Elaphiti Islands are managed through Dubrovnik’s Tourism Board. Small travel agents on individual islands are also a good source of travel and related local information. Two main Dubrovnik information centres are as follows:
Tourist Information Centre PILE (Historical Centre)
Address: Brsalje 5, 20000 Dubrovnik
Tel: +385 20 312011
E-mail: [email protected]
Working hours: every day 8 am –6pm
Tourist Information Centre: GRUZ (main harbour area)
Address: Obala Pape Ivana Pavla 1
Tel: +385 20 417 983
E-mail: [email protected]
Monday to Friday 8:00am – 3.00pm
Saturday – 8.00am-1.00pmSunday and Holiday – Closed
To follow the latest news from DESTINATION, check out the dedicated TCN page.