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27th Jan 2013 9:42am | By Helen Elfer
There’s no better way to explore the Adriatic coast than off Dubrovnik – island-hop, cruise and swim to your heart’s content
There are two ways to ‘do’ Dubrovnik.
The first is to head out to see the Old Town sights in the morning, walk a circuit of the stunning medieval walls, admire frescos in the old churches and wander the cobbled streets licking ice creams.
Which is all very nice, sure, but you’ll have to share the experience with at least 5000 other tourists – and Dubrovnik’s not a big place.
The picturesque city is hugely popular as a cruise port, and when the ships dock in the morning, it can feel as though you’re drowning in a sea of stampeding holidaymakers.
So go for option two: leave your sightseeing until the late afternoon, when they’ve all been herded back to their ships.
In the meantime, make the absolute most of the sparkling, warm waves of the Adriatic Sea by taking one of these terrific boat trips.
There’s no better feeling than pulling on your swimmers, climbing on board a sexy speedboat and enjoying the spray of the sea and heat of the sun while someone else does the driving – in this case, it’s around the Elaphiti Islands.
This archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik consists of four main islands: Sipan, Lopud, Lokrum and Kolocep, plus a few dozen other smaller ones.
Depending on what kind of trip you’re after, most tour companies will allow you to mix and match stops at all or just some of them.
Sipan is the largest of the islands, and particularly lush with olive, fig and orange trees growing across it.
If you like here so much you don’t want to leave, you can stay overnight in one of the two fishing villages on the island – Šipanska Luka or Sudurad.
Both are far quieter and less touristy places to stay than on Dubrovnik’s mainland.
Lopud is a much smaller island, at only 4.6 square kilometres, but it’s inhabited, too.
Most people stop here to spend a few hours on Sunj beach, which is one of the only sandy stretches in Dubrovnik (most of the beaches are too pebbly to lie about on).
If lazing in the sun isn’t your thing, there are heaps of winding, easy-to-follow forest paths here for a little light trekking.
As for Lokrum, it’s also extremely pretty, but completely uninhabited these days, unless you count the families of peacocks that wander the island.
There’s also a 15th-century monastery and well-preserved botanical gardens to explore while you’re here. Finally, don’t miss out on a stop at Kolocep.
The island’s Blue Cave is a must-see, named because it illuminates swimmers with an electric aqua light.
The water’s chillier inside but it’s fine to paddle right into the cove to get the full effect.
There are lots of other caves to explore on the south side of the island, too.
But no matter which of these spots you take in on your tour, make sure you also ask your boat driver to drop anchor somewhere far out to sea, where you can swim and snorkel as much as you like without another tourist in sight.
Do it: Try Dubrovnik Boats for an Elaphite Islands Tour. Prices on request.