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Trip Report T/R - Croatia, Dubrovnik. Elaphite Islands - Sipan

The Elaphite Islands have been on my short list to return to for years. Back in the 60s and 70s, when this part of the world was called Yugoslavia and I used to come here with my parents, I remembered sailing here on the local mail boat. So now, a few years later, we (my wife and travel soul-mate Joan and I) have a home in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and guests wanting to know about “the Islands”.
In this Trip Report we’re visiting the furthest island in the Elaphite Island group: Sipan. The Elaphite Islands are just off the coast to the North West of Dubrovnik and reachable via short rides on the local ferries all year round – great candidates for days out on the water, on the beach or just looking at old Croatia as it was. We’ll use the various forms of public transport available to give you a flavor of them all (you’ll just love them). Read on for the full story. We'll post a seperate one on Lopud (just as nice - but very different).

The Ferry Lines
Jadrolinija is one of the main local (and National) ferry companies, providing a year round passenger service to all of the Islands and a car ferry to Lopud and Sipan (no cars on Kolocep). Low season service runs from 1st October to 31st May (see link for timetable) and peak season service from June 1st to 30th September (see link for timetable). Jadrolinija also provides the main Adriatic coastal car ferries including routes to/from Bari and Ancona in Italy. Jadrolinija also operates a quaint car ferry to Lopud(sometimes) and Sudurad – more about this later. Jadrolinija have ticket booths at all the ports – and a large ticket office in Dubrovnik’s new Port of Gruz by the ferry berths. Tickets < 20kn to the Islands.
G&V Line runs a fleet of large high speed catamarans in the Dubrovnik area. Note: In July and August this line is focused on Mljet, Korcula and Lastovo, and only goes to Sipan in the evening. So in these months use the Jadrolinija boat described above. The rest of the year, the Island of Sipan is one of their destinations on their only sailing of the day. Watch out – when we travelled with them it stopped at Sudurad instead of Luka Sipanski as stated on the schedule… No problem – but good to know , as you can still go to Luka Sipanski on the local Libertas bus down the one road on the island. G&V have little ticket booths at the ports by the ferry berths – generally open about an hour before sailing. The one-way fare on G&V to Sipan was 161/2 kn per person. We paid 19kn pp on the return journey with Jadrolinija.

Getting to the Ferries and the port of Gruz in Dubrovnik
All the above ferries run from the new port of Dubrovnik or “Gruz” which is easy to reach with the number 8 bus from just outside the Ploce or Pile gate. The ferries leave from just opposite the bus stop. After going through the new town, get off after the bus turns along the harbor front. To get home, get on the number 8 at the same stop and return to the Ploce gate. Here’s the link for the bus timetable provided by Libertas, the Dubrovnik bus company. Bus tickets are best purchased before boarding from the newspaper kiosks such as Tisak for less than 1 euro. Buying on the bus is more expensive.

Island of Sipan (pronounced “sheepan”)
There are two main towns/villages on Sipan: Luka Sipanska and Sudorad. The towns are at either end of the island, 4.3km apart. When planning your journey to Sipan, it’s important to be aware of which port the ferry is going to, as ferries go to both ports.
After a short ride on the #8 Libertas bus to Gruz, we chose to try the G&V fast catamaran to the port of Sudurad on Sipan, the only G&V ferry of the day from Dubrovnik, leaving at 14:30 (outside July and August – see above). Grandly called “High Speed line #9807”, this is a modern cat with airline type seating and good viewing windows for photographs.
Our guidebook (here we used Visible Cities - a City Guide by Annabel Barber) tells us that Sipan is noted for its connection with two great men. One of these is Lodovico Beccadelli, a Catholic Cardinal and friend of Michelangelo, who came from Rome at Dubrovnik’s request to act as Bishop. A plaque to his memory is fixed to the wall of the old Archbishops summer house in Sipanske polje.
The village of Sudurad (the ‘d’s in the name are pronounced like ‘j’s) is one of the two small fishing villages on the island. It has a small harbor, a pub and a nice hotel.

There is a medium sized old island bus run by Libertas there to meet the ferry. We, and nearly everyone else paid our 10kuna (1 euro) and jumped on, as it’s heading across the island to Sipanska Luca, the other village. We plan on seeing Sipanska Luca first and then getting the bus or walking back, to see Sudurad next, before boarding the evening ferry home. Everyone appeared to know each other on the bus – it was full, and Joan and I thought all we were missing were the chickens (after our travels in Malaysia) – but they were probably on the morning bus to market :)
It’s a 4.3km drive (about 5-10 mins) drive to Sipanska Luka, through Sipanske Polje – a valley of olive groves and small vineyards – poor agricultural land. If you want to walk, it’s a single track road, hilly at either end and in our opinion, not very interesting. Check the timetable posted on the front of the bus as you get off if you don’t want to be stranded on the Island. Most people speak good English if you have any questions.

Sipanska Luka is bigger than Sudurad and appears more interesting and looks like it had a grand history. The port wraps around the fishing village which is clearly very much still the main industry here. There are a couple of Café restaurants and a Hotel with a nice terrace called – you got it – Hotel Sipan… As well as the extensive harbor, the village also has some great alleyways to walk around and explore. Eating a snack down by the harbor wall proved a challenge as it appears the local cats love Croatian Salami and had brought out all their relatives in expectation of a meal - they didn’t get it!
We then joined the bus back to Sudurad. Sudurad was home to the 16th century turreted fortress-like summer residence of the seafaring, merchant trading Skocibuha family. His town palace is in Dubrovnik – they say one of the finest Renaissance secular buildings in Dubrovnik today. Today it feels like a small fishing village centered round the harbor as we stroll around past homes, a café, a small beach, fishing boats and tackle. There is a beautiful hotel on the other side of the harbor. It’s a new, small 4* hotel in an ideal location - close to the village with superb views. It has such a great reputation that we previewed it during the off-season and were really impressed at what they offered.
Late in the afternoon the fisherman started making their way down from the local houses, and out of the local cafe onto the small fishing boats – time to see what the evening’s catch would be.

Around 5pm when we returned from Sudurad, we actually had a choice of two Jadrolinija ferries: the regular foot passenger ferry (the Postira), or the little car ferry which leaves 30 minutes earlier, has had less passengers on board when we’ve used it, and returns straight back to Dubrovnik without stopping at Lopud or Kolocep, so was a lot faster. Both have cafes on board and both fun- just different - so try them both at some time :)
Sipan feels like the quietest of the Elaphite Islands we’ve visited. It has a very genuine feel about it with its vineyards, olive groves and fisherman - a great base for a few days of absolute peace and quiet in everyday Croatia.

Chris Davies
Absolutely Dubrovnik

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