The Elaphiti Islands are a group of islands situated west from Dubrovnik. The Elaphites are mentioned as early as the 1st century AD, and their name is derived from the Greek word elaphos, which means deer. The larger Elaphites are Šipan, Koločep (called Kalamota by locals) and Lopud. The smaller Elaphites are: Daksa, St. Andrew (Sv. Andrija), Ruda, Mišnjak, Kosmeč, Goleč, Crkvine, Tajan, Olipa – the westernmost island in the group. Daksa is an islet located across from Gruž, the main Dubrovnik harbour, while on the island of St. Andrew there is a lighthouse and it is not inhabited. Jakljan has a beautiful sandy bay with a children resort and a recreational centre. All inhabited islands abound in monuments and cultural and historical heritage. You can reach the Elaphiti Islands by ferry 4 times per day from Dubrovnik (Gruž harbour); the ferry connects Koločep, Lopud and Šipan (Suđurađ). Lopud and Koločep are car-free islands, while you can take your vehicle to Šipan.
Šipan is the largest and the furthermost island from Dubrovnik. Suđurađ and the port of Šipan are the only two towns on the island and they are connected with a bus line. A field divides them. During the 15th century a number of Dubrovnik families built their summer houses on Šipan. There is a summer house in Suđurađ, built in the 16th century by a wealthy ship owner and merchant Vice Stjepović Skočibuha. It is the only preserved historical-architectural monument of Dubrovnik countryside architecture in Croatia. It comprises about 3000 m2 and it is walled. There is also the unusual Church of the Holy Spirit. That building was originally planned as a fort which was supposed to have protection purpose. It was only later that it was repurposed as a church. Gun turrets are visible even today. In Šipan harbour there is St. Stephen’s Church which houses a painting of the Madonna with child, dating to the 15th century. It was painted by the Venetian master Panteleone. There is also the Rector’s Palace, erected in 1470. A number of churches and summer houses are scattered around the island.
The island of Lopud is the most developed island of the Elaphites, situated between Koločep and Šipan. It is about an hour from Dubrovnik by ferry. The inhabitants work mostly in tourism, agriculture and fishing. There are two bays on the island – Šunj and Lopud Bay, and they are about 20-minute walk away. The bay of Šunj is known for its eponymous sandy beach. The sandy shallow waters stretch as much as hundred metres from the coast, so it is ideal for parents with small children. The Church of Our Lady of Šunj towers above the bay. Lopud is a very peaceful, relaxing island, car-free and thus great for walking, swimming and perfect for enjoying the Mediterranean landscape and lush vegetation. The town of Lopud is on the northwestern part of the island. From the port in Lopud you can take the promenade to the Belvedere viewpoint and enjoy an unforgettable view of the Elaphites. The highest island point is Polačica, at 216 m above sea level. The island is 4.6 km long, while the total coastline is 13.2 km long. In the town itself you can visit the Đorđić-Mayneri Park which covers about 13 000 m2 and is divided into two parts by a dry stone wall. This park has eucalyptus and palm trees and other Mediterranean undergrowth. The Romans brought Christianity to the island and there are a number of early Christian sites and a huge number of small churches (St. Elias, St. Nicholas and the Franciscan and the Dominican monasteries). Above the town of Lopud there is the Spanish fort of St. Simon from 1512.
After 1497 Lopud become one of the regional centres of the Republic of Dubrovnik. At that time about 1000 inhabitants lived there, and Lopud people owned as many as 80 boats!
Koločep is the only island on the Adriatic with two names. The inhabitants also call it Kalamota, while they call themselves Kalamotezi. It is believed that the name of the island is derived from the Greek word calamos – fishing rod. Koločep is the southernmost inhabited Croatian island and it is 3 km from Dubrovnik. There are two towns on the island, Gornje Čelo and Donje Čelo, about 15 minutes on foot. There is a number of valuable monuments on the island, mostly small churches and chapels, which were built up to the 16th century.
On the southern part of the island there is Bezdan (“Abyss”) cape with a lighthouse on it. It is one of the sites for shallow dives and a descent into the abyss. On that site, at a depth of 16–19 m, there is a shipping wreck – the Aurora sailing boat. The divers says this is a very interesting dive, with a diverse flora and fauna, and a number of caves, coves and underwater reefs. There is also the Blue Cave with its abyss, descending to almost 40 m. It is well known among divers as an amazing underwater attraction, especially during warm summer evenings with starlit skies.