This group of 14 islands and islets between Dubrovnik and the Peljesac Peninsula is one of the most popular excursions from Dubrovnik. Only the largest of the "deer islands" (from the Greek elfos) -- Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan -- are populated. They have a long history and are believed to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. During the 10th century, the islands became Dubrovnik territories, liberally strewn with chapels, churches, and crumbling villas designed in a riot of pre-Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. Today, the few residents of these islands are indifferent to tourists, and visitors are mostly left alone to poke around in the pine forests and ruins that cover much of the islands. If you have the time, visit the islands one at a time instead of with the popular "overview" excursion that hits all three (it is a bit of a whirlwind, and you don't get to embrace any island fully). However, if time is short, Vivado Travel Agency (tel. 020/486-471: www.dubrovnik-online.com/vivado) and many others operate ticket kiosks at the Old Harbor near the Ploce Gate. They sell daily fish picnic excursions for about 250kn ($46) per person.
Lokrum is the island closest to Dubrovnik and water taxis leave from the old harbor every 30 minutes daily in summer from 9am-6pm. The journey takes about 15 minutes and costs 35kn ($6.50) round-trip. Once there, you have your choice of relaxing on the beach or exploring the woods and the vestiges of an 11th century Benedictine monastery purchased in 1859 by Hapsburg Archduke Maximillian Ferdinand and his wife Charlotte as a vacation home. Maximillian didn't have much chance to enjoy his Lokrum digs: He was dispatched to Mexico to be its emperor three years after acquiring the property, and never returned to Lokrum -- he was assassinated in Mexico in 1867. But before Maximillian left, he put in a botanic garden at the monastery. The garden still is open to the public, but is a mess. But you can follow his walking path to Fort Royal, a French fortification built on Lokrum's highest hill in 1806.
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