An easy ferry ride away from Dubrovnik’s Gruž harbour, the lush, vegetation-carpeted Elaphite Islands (Elafiti) present the perfect opportunity to savour the Croatian Adriatic at its unspoilt, get-away-from-it-all best. Strung out between Dubrovnik and the Pelješac peninsula to the north, the Elaphites got their name (literally the “deer islands”) from first-century-AD Roman geographer Pliny the Elder, who mentioned them in his 37-volume Historia 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 Šipan – each of which supports a modest tourist industry. Despite the daily influx of trippers from Dubrovnik, however, tourism on the Elaphites remains reassuringly low key, the almost total absence of cars contributing to the mellow feel: private vehicles are not allowed on any of the islands except Šipan.
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