Beautiful. Secluded. The Elaphiti Islands are exactly what you would expect when you think of life on a small island. Located right off of the Dalmatian coastline, there are thirteen islands in the Elaphiti chain. Covered in olive trees and other vegetation, they are little oases tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik.
To make the island journey all the more magical, I set out from Dubrovnik on the Karaka, a three-mast replica of a sixteenth century sailing ship. The Pirates of the Caribbean fan that I am, I was very excited and it certainly did not disappoint. With three deck levels, the ship was much bigger than I imagined and from the top deck you had a clear, unobstructed view of the Adriatic dotted with islands. There was live music on board as well as a wonderful lunch provided. With the creaking of the masts, the rolling of the ship on the ocean and the spectacular views the atmosphere could not have been more perfect. Aside from the photo-frenzied tourists armed with sunhats and sunglasses, I almost forgot what century I was in.
Šipan, Lopud and Koločep are the only three of the Elaphiti Islands inhabited today. My first stop was Koločep. The tiny settlement stretches from the small port up into the green hills of the island. It is dotted with houses and small churches and it is entirely car free! Imagine that, a world without cars. The islanders here live a very secluded life. It is the kind of island where I am sure everyone knows everyone. There is one school that is so small it looks as though it could only house one classroom. However, one classroom would seem to be all that is needed. According to my guide, last year, there was a grand total of one student who started school there.
The next stop was Šipan. The largest of the three islands, it is by no means big. Sailing into the small port of the village Sudurad was like stepping into a storybook. Overlooking the port is a sixteenth century palace. The imposing palace looks more like a fortress than a palace but unfortunately it is privately owned so it is not open to tourists. Nestled between the hills are rows upon rows of olive trees as well as almond, fig, orange and other trees. Šipan surprisingly has the most olive trees in the world in relation to its size and population. The effect is beautiful. You could spend hours walking through the olive groves between the only two settlements on the island.
My favourite island though was undoubtedly Lopud. We arrived in the port just after lunch with the sun shimmering on the water and lighting up the Franciscan monastery wedged into the hillside. The port itself is lined with adorable shops and cafes and there is a small beach to relax on. There are some very enticing cakes and gelato to enjoy at the outdoor tables and long walks all over the island. Unlike the small port, the rest of the island is largely uninhabited. There are some beautiful walks along the coast as well as shadier paths under the trees. There is also a beautiful beach on the opposite side of the island. There are once again no cars; instead there are golf carts! It is the definition of an island paradise.
The ship, the islands, the sun reflecting off the ocean – the whole experience was enchanting to say the least. Did I love it? Absolutely. Am I ready to abandon everything for a secluded island? Probably not. I am certainly not cut out for the secluded life of an islander. But it was an unforgettable experience and one of the highlights of my Dubrovnik visit. I cannot recommend it enough. What do you think? Are you an islander at heart?
Top: Lopud Island
Middle : The Karaka
Photography by Savannah Hayes