For connoisseurs of soothingly unspoilt islands with no traffic and no hotels, kidney-shaped Silba is as perfect as they come. Not only are there no cars on the island, an unofficial ban on bicycles from mid-July to late August serves to preserve the island’s pedestrian pace. Strolling along maquis-lined country lanes in search of wild beaches is the only adrenalin sport you are likely to encounter here.
Eight kilometres in length and only 1km wide at its narrowest point, Silba probably gets its name from the Latin word silva (wood) and is still covered with trees (notably crnika or Mediterranean black oak), giving it an atmosphere quite different from that of its scrub-covered neighbours. The island’s one settlement, Silba Town, has an air of relaxed luxury, its palm-shaded stone houses and their walled gardens serving as reminders of the island’s erstwhile commercial wealth, when sailing ships from Silba dominated the carrying trade between Dalmatia and Venice – only to be put out of business by the steam-powered vessels of the nineteenth century. During the 1970s Silba attracted a significant slice of both Croatia and Slovenia’s post-hippy, pre-punk intelligentsia, who camped wild on the southern part of the island. Nowadays a permanent population of about three hundred is swelled tenfold in summer, when weekenders from Zadar and independent travellers from all over Croatia come to enjoy the island’s uniquely relaxing rural atmosphere.