Šipan Island, a Mediterranean refuge

A quiet island with pebblestone beaches and funky olive trees, spitting distance from Dubrovnik. 

Why visit? 
The Dalmatian coast is stunning: it's also at times stunningly overrun with tourists. 

The old town of Dubrovnik is wonderful and deserves to be visited- but it also seems to attract more cruise ships per capita than anywhere else on the planet. 

So whenever the crowds of cruise passengers sporting name badges and checkered shorts become too much, simply hop on a slow boat out of town and escape to quiet Šipan island. 

Just 17 km northwest of Dubrovnik. Map

EVER HEARD OF the Republic of Ragusa? Maybe not. This state was one of the leading maritime powers in the eastern Med, competing with the likes of Venice and Genoa, until Napoleon marched in and snuffed it out in 1808, and Ragusa disappeared into the dustbin of European history. 

Ragusa was centered on Dubrovnik but the Republic (not quite as serene as the Most Serene Republic of Venice, but still pretty swell) also covered a substantial bit of the Dalmatian coast, including the Elaphiti Islands, just northwest of Dubrovnik town. 

The Elaphiti islands form a small archipelago of which only three islands are inhabited, Šipan being the largest of the three. Don't expect any urban crowds: if Wikipedia is to be believed, Šipan has the grand total of exactly 436 inhabitants. 

Being so close to Dubrovnik, yet so far, is what makes Šipan so attractive: it's easy to get to, but once there you're left with few things to distract you, except for some pebble stone beaches, groovy olive groves, a smattering of medieval churches, and, for the physically inclined, plenty of opportunities to go canoeing, walking or cycling. 

Getting to Šipan is half the fun- take one the Jadrolinija ferries and watch most of the day-tripping passengers alight at Lopud, the neighbouring island which, although also attractive, sports bigger beaches and therefore larger crowds. Eventually the ferry will drop you at the port of Suđurađ on the southeastern tip of Šipan. From here, the truly adventurous can push further ('on on!') by rickety bus until you reach the End of the World at Šipanska Luka in the northeast. Welcome to your Adriatic paradise. 

Šipan is one of these places where you need to spend a few nights to truly appreciate it- you'll see some lost day trippers from Dubrovnik looking for Lopud's beaches, but that's not the way to do it. This is a place to unwind. Entertainment is limited- bring a good book (or two), as well as plenty of sunscreen. 

There are a few restaurants offering fresh fish, and when you tire of swimming you should be able to rent a canoe to explore the surrounding waters. Or get yourself some fishing gear and join the locals in bringing in the catch of the day.  
Šipan's cats know where the freshest fish is to be found. 
Šipan's beaches are small and filled with pebbles rather than fine sand- don't expect any sweeping tropical vistas. But they're fine spots for chilling and swimming and because they are small, you're likely to have your own private beach for that multi-billionaire private island feeling. 

They also have some weird funky olive trees that would be fit for a Tolkien movie and look like they could start moving any moment... 
By foot or by bike, it's a worthwhile trip back to Suđurađ, whose medieval towers remind you of the days when this was a distant outpost of Ragusa. The Rector's Palace with its carved image of St Blaise, patron saint of Dubrovik, provides another reminder of who used to call the shots here.  
Is it a Tuscan hilltown? No, it's Suđurađ. 
St Blaise is watching you at Suđurađ's Rector's Palace. 

Getting there: 
There are frequent Jadrolinija Ferries from Dubrovnik's new town to Šipan. Once on the island, there are barely any cars apart from the bus that connects the towns and, from the looks of it, has been in use since the late '50s. 

Useful links:
Jadrolinija ferry timetable


  1. I went on a Jadrolinija ferry to Koločep and Lopud, the two other inhabited islands of the Elaphiti, but your pictures make me wish I'd have carried on to Šipan instead.
    The castle of Vice Stjepovic Skocibuha looks awesome from your photo - very similar to the famous one in Škrip on the island Brač.
    As you say, a perfect escape from the frenzy of Dubrovnik during {anywhere near) high season.

  2. Thanks Jon. yes, as is often the case, all it takes is to go just a tiny bit further than most people and you leave the crowds behind you. As Sipan is the 3rd island the ferry stops at, most people get off at the first two islands... Any plans to come back to Croatia any time soon?


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