Otok Sipan looking east

Otok Sipan

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Otok Sipan is the largest of the Elaphiti Archipelago, the line of islands that lies between Dubrovnik and the Stonski Kanal 18 nm to the WNW. Otok Sipan, 10 nm to the WNW of Dubrovnik forms the souther side of the Kolosepski Kanal and is one of three permanently occupied islands in the chain (along with O.Lopud and O. Kolocep to the ESE). Sipan is ca 5nm long and 2nm wide and has a population of 500 in two main settlements, Sudurad at its SE end and Luka Town at its NW end.

Though the first mention of Sipan as an Island comes in medieval texts of the 14th Century (1371), the Elaphati are mentioned in the text ‘Natrilis Historia’ of Pliny the Elder (23-79AD). The name Elaphati translates as Deer and is said to have come from the abundance of deer on the islands during Roman times. While the writing of Pliny the Elder may point to the Elaphati as being a destination for hunting during the first Millennium AD during the later Medieval period the islands, and Sipan in particular became popular as a summer retreat for the rich mercantile classes and aristocracy of Dubrovnik. Sudurad is famous for the remains of a 16th Century fortified villa built for a shipbuilding magnate from the city and elsewhere on the island there are said to be the remains of as many as 42 other villas and 34 churches from this period of prosperity.

Sipan today is a lush green ridge of limestone hills rising at its highest point to 234 metres (Sv. Ilija). It’s primarily industry is agriculture, with good geological conditions at its eastern end providing suitable soils for growing olives, figs, vines, carob, almonds, oranges and other citrus fruit. The island is said to boast no nightlife, and while this may be off putting to some, there are good restaurants and cafes in both settlements, providing a quiet but pleasant experience for visitors.

The island’s primary attraction is its undeveloped nature and its quiet atmosphere combined by quiet and for the most part unstrenuous hiking routes. While Sudurad is said to be popular with trippers from Dubrovnik in the summer, Sipanska Luka Town seems to be quieter throughout the season perhaps due to the additional distance you need to cover to reach it (5nm along the length of the island and then 2.5nm back along Sipanska Luka).

Sipanska Luka

Sipanska Luka Town

Sipanska Luka is the long inlet at Sipan’s NW end providing the island’s main anchorage. It is partially formed on its SW side by the uninhabited island of Jakljan (once the site of a Yugoslav children’s camp and now subject to redevelopment as a high end hotel.) Sipanska Luka  runs back into the heart of Otok Sipan for 3nm and at its widest point (its entrance) is a 1nm across. At its SE end is the village of Sipanska Luka (Luka Town) a clatter of houses, small holdings and restaurants surrounding a large open bay which for much of its coast has been protected by a concrete harbour wall.

Otok Sipan and Mljet

Sipanska Luka and O. Jakljan from the top of Sv. Ilija

The town boasts all of the facilities one might expect in a small Croatian settlement  including a good choice of restaurants and bars,  a bank machine and cycle hire as well as one hotel and a tourist office. The main attraction here for any staying for more than a quick overnight stop are the potential for a day walking with options ranging from the 7km to Sudurad, through a route along the southern edge of Sipanska Luka to various beaches, to a climb to the highest point on the island Sv. Ilija, overlooking the bay and the town (ca 5km round).

Mooring options in Sipanska Luka are threefold, the bay in the town shallows rapidly the further you head to the SE and though some pilots (and 777 for example) suggest that there are mooring possibilities right at the eastern end of the bay in front of the hotel these are probably impractical for all but lifting keel vessels as the harbour front in this area seems to be little more than 1-1.5m deep. The town harbour is located to port (north) as you enter, just beyond the ferry pier and has laid moorings (lazylines) for 10+ boats and a depth of 2-2.5 metres and there are now proposals to add more laid moorings along the side of the former ferry pier. It is possible to anchor in the centre of the bay in 3-5 metres of water though the holding is said to be patchy. Finally there are 3-4 mooring buoys located on the south side of the bay, which are provided by the Restoran Kod Marka (with the usual arrangements of frequenting the establishment applying).

Sipanska Luka Harbour

Luka Town Harbour Wall

It is worth noting that a Mistral from the NW will raise uncomfortable waves in the the anchorage, though the ferry pier should provide some shelter on the harbour wall. Anything drawing over 1.8-2 metres is likely to struggle to get into the wall and would best consider anchoring or taking one of the laid buoys.

Sipan is often ignored because of its lack of apparent attractions and developments, but this in itself is a good reason to visit. The quiet settlements are backed by several interesting walks and a number of secluded and empty beaches. It is also in a very handy location for those who are heading NW towards the attractions of Miljet, Korcula or Ston from the Dubrovnik area providing a short day’s sail from the city and a handy jumping off point for either Miljet or Ston or the base for a longer day’s sailing to Korcula.