Sometimes you need a break from the city crowds, and the lush, laid-back Elafiti Islands are happy to provide a retreat. Historically, the 13 tiny islets have always been under Dubrovnik's control, first when monks from the Franciscan monastery used to visit the islands to gather herbs for use in their pharmacy; later, the local aristocracy kept summer villas here. Today only the three larger ones—Koločep, Lopud, and Šipan—are inhabited, with a total population of around 1,000, and only Šipan has cars. Any of the three can be comfortably visited as a day trip from Dubrovnik by ferry or, much more fun, by kayak. If you intend to stay a night, Lopud is best equipped to deal with visitors. With a year-round population of approximately 300, it has only one settlement, Lopud Town, made up of old stone houses built around a sheltered bay. The main sights are a semiderelict 15th-century Franciscan Monastery, and the remains of 30 churches built around the tiny island during the golden age of the Republic. There are a handful of seasonal eateries, several small family-run hotels occupying restored villas, and a tourist office, open only from May through October—like most everything else on the island. From town, a footpath leads through pinewoods and herb-scented olive groves: follow the signs, and in 15 minutes you will have crossed the island to arrive at family-friendly Šunj, one of the region’s rare sandy beaches.
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