West of Dubrovnik, the sea gives rise to its silent guardians in their unusual formation, for which reason they were named the Elaphites, or Deer islands. The archipelago's typical Mediterranean flora, enriched with exotic imports, blends into a unique symphony of aroma, which has been left untouched by the surge of modern technology.
Elaphiti islands will lull you with their slow lifestyle, from which all noise and stress have been rooted out. Lopud island, for instance, contains neither cars nor roads, and its inhabitants will take you on historical tours riding in golf carts.
The long history of the lively Elaphiti archipelago
The largest of the Elaphites: Šipan, Lopud and Koločep, are the only inhabited islands in the group. The story of their past, inextricably bound to that of Dubrovnik, the monument city, begins in the old stone houses, summer palaces and castles.
The history of Elaphiti islands begins with the Illyrians, whose defensive walls were found on Šipan. Roman remains can be traced in the ruins of a Roman villa in the Šipanska Luka or the Harbor of Šipan, a settlement in the west of the island. On the other, eastern, side, the village of Suđurađ reveals the renaissance stronghold of the Stjepović-Skočibuha family. Its construction began in the year 1529.
Valuable works of art can be found all over the archipelago. They are scattered around the medieval churches and basilicas, the chief of which are a chapel of Saint Anthony on Koločep and the church of Saint Mary of the Caves on Lopud.
The Elaphites color the Mediterranean with the tropical
Unlike Šipan, a favorite holiday spot for the patricians of old Dubrovnik, the chief distinction of Lopud is its fleet and shipyard. Sailors often brought various plant species home from their journeys. Many of these can be found in the town's parks.
Tropical fruit orchards, nested inside pine, cypress and palm groves, color the landscape of the Elaphiti archipelago, and make it particularly attractive to artists.
The famous Koločep red coral, whose coral harvesters were known far and wide, is today merely tangles a fishing net occasionally. However, the clear Elaphite sea still abounds in fish, shellfish, lobsters and crayfish, best watered by the golden drops of Šipan's vineyards.
Birdsong above the blue abyss of Elaphiti islands
The long sandy beaches of the Elaphites culminate with Šunj beach on Lopud. The shallow sea and its bottom, covered with fine white sand, are the ideal playground for children or players of picigin, a locally popular ball game.
Apart from a walking, swimming or diving, adventurers can meet the Elaphites by exploring the cycling paths or taking canoeing expeditions.
A diving attraction of the Elaphiti islands, a submerged wall covered with algae and coral, can be found on the hermit island - Saint Andrew. This island has been the guiding star of seagoing vessels since the year 1873 when the lighthouse was built. Thanks to the numerous bird species which nest there, it was declared a protected bird sanctuary.