The string of islands that crowd the sea between Dubrovnik and the Pelješac peninsula to the north are known as the Elaphites ("deer islands"), a name apparently first coined by Pliny the Elder in his 37-volume Historic Naturalis.

The Elaphites became part of the Dubrovnik Republic from the fourteenth century, sharing in its prosperity and then its decline — by the middle of the eighteenth century many island villages lay abandoned and depopulation had become a major problem. Today, only three of the islands are inhabited — Koločep, Lopud and Sipan — each of which supports a modest tourist industry. Of the three, Lopud is perhaps the most developed, although tourism everywhere is fairly low key, the almost total absence of cars contributing to the mellow feel (private vehicles are not allowed on any of the islands except Sipan, but almost all the ferries that go there are passenger-only).

All three islands are linked to Dubrovnik by a ferry which runs up to Sipan and back again and are great places for getting away from it all — whether for a day-trip or an extended stay. As you leave Gruž harbour you'll pass the first of the Elaphiti, tiny uninhabited Daksa — just off Babin Kuk, it's notorious as the site of a 1945 massacre when over two hundred political opponents of the new communist regime were liquidated.


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