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 adrenaline sport you are likely to encounter.
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 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 houses and 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 independent travellers from all over Croatia and Slovenia come to enjoy the island’s uniquely relaxing rural atmosphere.
SILBA TOWN straddles the island’s narrowest point, its streets sloping down towards two bays. The one on the western side of town contains the ferry dock and has some splendid sections of pebble beach. Rising over the middle of the town is the Marinić Tower, a lookout post with a spiral staircase running up the outside, supposedly built by a sea captain for the beautiful daughter of a woman who jilted him when a young man. Near the town church is an open-air sculpture park devoted to Marija Ujević Galetović (1933–), famous for her expressive human and half-human forms – notably the cat-headed woman who dominates the collection here.
The bay that marks the east of Silba Town is home to a harbour for small boats and yachts, and Šotorišće Beach, a broad, shallow bay with a sandy seafloor and a summer-only café-bar. Paths and gravel roads lead all over the island towards a multitude of other bays and beaches. One of the most popular is Dobre Vode, a majestic sweep of rock and pebble some fifty minutes’ walk south of the village.