BOAT TRIP TO THE ELAPHITE ISLANDS
Destinations like Plitvice Lakes National Park, in central Croatia, Medjugorje in Bosnia Herzegovina, and Montenegro on the Southern Dalmatian coast, can all be visited on full day trips from Dubrovnik. Places like the island of Hvar (off the coast of Split), where the lavender fields bloom, can be reached by ferry with an overnight stay on the island. Closer to the mainland there is a group of 13 islands lying to the north west of Dubrovnik called the Elaphite Islands. Of the 13 islands only 3 are inhabited: Lopud, Koloćep and Sipan. They are definitely worth exploring, as I discovered on a boat trip I took with Zaton Water Sports.
This water sports company are primarily a boat rental company but they also provide private and group tours and trips to the Elaphite Islands. There are several companies like this in Dubrovnik who offer the same tour but this one had a guide, was Trip Advisor recommended and was cheaper than the others at 250 Kuna. I had to pay a deposit of 50 Kuna when I made the booking and the balance I paid on the day of the tour. Pick up was at 8.50am outside my accommodation. There were 20 passengers on the tour, which was a good number, because the boat wasn’t too crowded. We left Port Gruz at 9.30am in glorious sunshine. It was lovely and cool as we cruised along. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, no wind and the sea was a beautiful azure blue. Heaven!
We docked at Lopud at 10.30am and had 3 and ½ hours here to explore the island.
I walked along the waterfront with its white sandy beach and clear crystal water. The view was stunning. The range of mountains that spread along the Dubrovnik coastline was visible. The mountain’s light gray peaks glistened in the sunshine. At the end of the beach was a church which was elevated high on a rock. Its clock tower stood out against the backdrop of the mountains, with the clear blue water of the bay lapping at its feet.
There were souvenir shops scattered along the waterfront, with some lovely cafes and restaurants. I could just imagine myself spending some time here, sitting on the beach taking in the view, enjoying a leisurely breakfast or having dinner at one of the restaurants at sunset. It‘s one of those beautiful island get-aways. There are also quite a few walking paths that take you to the other side of the island, where another sandy beach called Sunj is located. The route I found was a steep one but worth the hike, as it gave magnificent views of the coastline below. The path flattened out after 15 minutes climbing and another 5 minutes brought me to Sunj beach.
It was just after midday when I got to the top of the path and the temperature had just hit 30 degrees. Up here there were dozens of wild pink and yellow flowers, lots of mulitcoloured butterflies and a few black and amber bees flitting from one flowering plant to another. I got glimpses of covered gardens and olive groves. In the past olive trees were more prolific and the wine industry came and went. The Dominican monks brought education to the island and later tourism came to be one of the biggest industries but even that has dropped off in recent years. There are about 350 people living on the island permanently apparently. Renting one of the many apartments on the waterfront for the summer was an appealing thought.
I was reluctant to leave the beauty and tranquility of Lopud but lunch was calling and I had to get back to the boat. We visited Sipan next for 45 minutes and Koloćep thereafter. Sipan has quite a few ruined churches, the most notable being a 16th century fortress which was the summer residence of a local sea merchant. Koloćep is also well known for its sandy beach, slow pace of life and is very popular because of its proximity to Dubrovnik, only 20 minutes away by boat. It’s a place of unspoiled nature, where you can rent kayaks or a motor boat or just explore the island on foot. Lopud for me, was by far the nicest island, which left a big impression on me. The full day’s boat trip to all three islands is one that I would recommend.
OTHER INTERESTING INFORMATION
A lot of people think that the streets in Dubrovnik’s Old Town are made of marble. It is actually karst limestone that they’re made from. They have become polished over the years with thousands of people walking up and down them, giving people the impression that they’re walking on marble. One thing to note though, is that when it rains, these highly polished stone slabs are very slippy underfoot. So it’s recommended that you wear shoes with a good grip in wet weather.
Strolling through the Old Town feels like you’re stepping back in time. Films such as The Game of Thrones and Robin Hood were filmed here. This olde-worlde atmosphere is very noticeable especially around Pile and Ploce Gates and in the meandering maze of high-walled cobblestoned streets near the ramparts. I loved walking around the Old Town at night. During the day the place was heaving with tourists. Most of them were groups from the cruise ships taking guided tours. Around midday the temperature climbed to 30 degrees, which was a little bit too hot for me. But the crowds thinned out in the evening and the heat dipped to a comfortable 20 degrees. There were still quite a lot of people around and it felt safe to wander around the streets at night on my own.
There was some great live music outside some of the bars and restaurants. I really enjoyed that. I did a tour of the City Walls too which took about an hour and a half. There is a one-way walking system around the ramparts, with a lot of steps. The views of the coastline and Adriatic sea are stunning, especially if you do the tour towards the end of the day, when the sun starts to set. There are a few bars along the route that you can stop at to have an ice cream or a glass of wine to quench your thirst. From this vantage point you also get a good view of the red slate rooftops in the Old Town.
One last thing. The old city was full of stray cats and as a cat lover that was a lovely surprise for me. They were in the city when it was first established apparently and have stayed ever since. One reason why there are so many of them is because most people don’t pay to spay or neuter their cats there. They all seem to be healthy and well cared for.
I really enjoyed my time in Dubrovnik. It’s definitely a place I would recommend for its mixture of history, live music, sandy beaches and lovely year round warm weather.