I just returned from a five-day solo hideaway on Šipan Island near Dubrovnik. I’ve heard about it through several friends who all brought up the island as one of the least spoiled spots along the Adriatic coast. So I decided to see for myself.
During the peak summer season – that is, July and August – sailboats and yachts dock here and tourists from afar drop by for a holiday. Still, the island, part of the Elaphite archipelago, has managed to ward off big-scale tourism and keep its magic.
While it can be easily visited on a day trip from Dubrovnik (the boat ride is only an hour), I highly recommend an overnight stay in one of two fishing villages – Šipanska Luka or Suđurađ. If you really want to hide away, renting a private room or apartment is the best thing to do. Those are still quite affordable but few so need to be booked in advance; the tourist office on the island has details (call 020-758 084). The only two hotels on the island, Hotel Šipan in Šipanska Luka and Hotel Božica in Suđurađ are for those with some cash to splash.
Here are things I loved about Šipan: Renaissance villas, fragrant winds (the island is famous for its herbs), clean seas, coastal paths, fishermen weaving their nets and colorful sunsets. Things I wasn’t crazy about: a tourist or two too many (was expecting a half-deserted place), the aggressive wasps (the island swarms with them when it hasn’t rained for a while) and the sea urchins (although it’s a sign the sea is clean, watch out for those when getting in and out of water!).
I can imagine staying in Šipanska Luka out of season (say, in late September/early October) and feeling like I’ve stumbled straight into Macondo from One Hundred Years of Solitude. Šipan is a mythical type of place, full of legends, crazy winds, interesting characters, a long history… You can still feel it if you tune out the chatter and tune into the island’s natural rhythms.