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The Elaphite islands, a cluster of islands north of Dubrovnik, Croatia, offer a delightful opportunity to sample the more leisurely pace of Croatian life, away from the crowds. Easily accessible by ferry, they make a great day trip or multi-night stay.
Kolocep, the closest of the three to Dubrovbik, is ideal if you enjoy hiking. The island has many well-marked walking and hiking trails direct from the port which take you to rocky bays and fantastic cliff-top views. The paths going inland take you past olive, fig, almond & cherry trees, which lend a welcome shade from the hot sun. Closer to the sea, pine tress dominate, with the sounds of chirping cicadas filling the air The island is great for families, with plenty of child-friendly cafes and a small playground by the port.
Lopud is ideal if you are travelling with a family, as the island is entirely car-free and has one of the only sandy beaches in the region. The harbour side of the island, where the ferry drops you off, is the 'busy' side, with cafes and restaurants dotting the sea front and overlooking the small beach. The better beach is on the other side of the island - about a 15 minute walk. The walk takes you away from the main village and up past crumbling houses and meadows filled with wild flowers. Children will love looking out for geckos basking in the sun as they go. If you want to get a fantastic view of the island, then you can head up to the ruins of an old fort at the top of the hill on the Lopud. It takes about 1/2 an hour, but the views are well worth it.
Sipan, the largest of the three islands, is sleepier than the others, with crumbling summer houses and laid-back fishing ports. There are two fishing villages on the island, Sipanska Luka or Sudurad and the two are connected by bus. Fewer tourists make it here, preferring to stop off at Lupod or Kolocep instead, making it a quieter option. Whilst there are no sandy beaches on the island, there are some lovely bays to stop for swimming, as well as some excellent coastal paths to explore. The rocky coastline is particularly to those who enjoy snorkelling and kayaking.
All three islands have their fair share of day-trippers, but once they have returned to Dubrovnik in the late afternoon, they become quieter and more relaxing for their local inhabitants and longer-stay guests. You can explore the islands on day trips from Dubrovnik by ferry, or if you fancy a more laid back way of travelling, you can spend a week kayaking between them. We recommend travelling to the Elaphiti Islands in May, June or September when there are fewer tourists around.