The 10 best things to do in the Aeolian Islands

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Planning to visit the Aeolian Islands soon? Read our selection of 10 things to see or do during your trip in this magnificent volcanic archipelago!

Located North of Sicily, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Aeolian Islands have emerged from the waters over the past 260,000 years as a result of volcanic activity. Surrounded by small islets and basalt rocks, this archipelago is well known to geologists and volcanologists who have often come to study its volcanic rock over the past two centuries. Geologically, the archipelago is defined as a volcanic arc, which has resulted from a tectonic compression running north and south, related to the convergence of the African and Eurasian plates in the central Mediterranean.

Although they share the same conical shape, each of the 7 inhabited islands has its own particularity. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, the islands have gradually become a destination of choice for travelers seeking an authentic atmosphere, sheer tranquility, unique landscapes, and crystal clear waters. So what to do in the Aeolian Islands? What are the must-sees?

To help you make the most of your visit to the Aeolian Islands, read our selection of the 10 best things to do in this unique archipelago north of Sicily!

Also read:
The 17 best things to do in Sicily
The best areas to stay in Sicily
Airports of Sicily: Which airport to land in Sicily

1. Vulcano

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Wondering what to do in the Aeolian Islands? Though Vulcano (yes this volcanic island is literally named “volcano”) is not the largest island, nor the most populated, it is undoubtedly one of the best known and appreciated islands of the archipelago! Aside from the capital island of Lipari, Vulcano can easily be your gateway to the archipelago.

Stretching along the coast of the isthmus connecting the island to the Vulcanello peninsula, Vulcano’s beautiful black sandy beach attracts locals and visitors who enjoy basking in the sun.

Don’t miss the Valle dei mostri (the “valley of monsters”), named after the strange rock and lava formations, shaped by the wind and sea, scattered across the black sand dunes. Also, if you’re staying in Vulcano, you’ll have a chance to experience an unusual activity: take a soothing dip in the island’s hot, sulfurous-smelling mud bath. It’s definitely worth a try, though many visitors have reported being nauseated by the smell.

2. The crater of Vulcano

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Vulcano‘s best attraction is a trek up its 390-meter volcano. You should absolutely climb to the top of the Fossa! It’s accessible via a short one-hour hike. Just make sure you start your adventure at dawn before the sun rises: you’ll avoid the blazing, unbearable heat! By the way, don’t forget to bring a hat, sunscreen, and water.

Once at the top, you will be rewarded with a fascinating view of the volcano’s steaming crater, replete with fumaroles as well as red and yellow sulfur crystals. The peak also offers superb views of the island of Lipari and the twin peaks of the island of Salina to the north.

3. Castello de Lipari

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The main town of the Aeolian Islands, Lipari is best known for the Castello di Lipari, a 16th-century castle built by Charles V atop the walls of an ancient Greek acropolis. Located on its eastern coast, Castello is a must-see monument in the Aeolian Islands: it carries with it the weight of its age-old history, dating back to Ancient Greece.

The Archaeological Museum, located in the Episcopal Palace, bears witness to this history punctuated by trade. Next to it is a beautiful Baroque cathedral, home to a small Norman cloister from the 12th century.

4. The Old Lipari

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During your stay in Lipari , be sure to stride along the island’s beautiful beaches and volcanic landscapes, and take the time to wander through the charming streets of the Old Lipari. The narrow, cobbled alleyways are home to typical trattorias, where you can enjoy delicious pizza or pasta with freshly caught fish.

To the south, take the time to walk along Marina Corta – Lipari’s small fishing port, replete with small boats and picturesque buildings.

5. Salina

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In the shade of its two extinct volcanoes, grows the superb vineyards of the island of Salina . Nicknamed the “green pearl” of the Aeolian Islands, Salina is greener than its neighbors and is home more than 400 different types of plants, including grapes of course, as well as olives and capers. You can taste the sweet local Malvasia wine, admire the picturesque houses of Malfa, or stroll through the small port of Rinella.

Exudes a quaint charm, Salina is much appreciated by visitors seeking a calm, authentic island lifestyle, far from the usual hustle of touristic activity.

6. Stromboli

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UPDATE
After a violent eruption on July 4th, 2019, the island is currently inaccessible. Visitors should check with local authorities for when it is safe to return to the island.

What to do in the Aeolian Islands? The island of Stromboli is undoubtedly the best known of the archipelago’s islands. This famous island-volcano has erupted many times and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.” Visitors don’t visit Stromboli for its picturesque beaches or villages, but to climb its 926-meter-high volcano, either by day or by night. It is absolutely imperative to check with local authorities whether it is currently safe to climb the volcano or not, as it is an active volcano and some eruptions are particularly devastating.

After a rather difficult hike, you will be rewarded with a truly breathtaking experience. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable adventure, worth the effort!

7. Alicudi

After discovering Stromboli, the most dramatic and awe-inspiring island in the archipelago, why not take the time to relax and idle away in the sun? The most remote and least populated (a hundred inhabitants) island in the archipelago, Alicudi stands out for its unique, calm atmosphere, and rugged charm. Enjoy Alicudi’s stony beach, an unspoiled, peaceful sunbathing and swimming spot.

In Alicudi, life seems like it hasn’t changed the slightest bit during the past century. You can hear the braying of the donkeys which are the island’s main mode of transport! Climb the hundreds of stone steps leading to the island’s peaks, offering magnificent views of the sea below, or stride along the pebble shoreline.

In the evening, everyone meets in the island’s only bar to enjoy a beer on the terrace facing the sunset. Where else would you want to be?

8. Filicudi

Aside from Alicudi, the island of Filicudi is also a great choice. Here too, idleness is a way of life. Though the island does not have beautiful sandy beaches, you can always rest and enjoy the sea on the pebble beaches or on some well-chosen rock.

Trekking aficionados can hike the island’s winding paths, amidst the low stone walls and prickly pear trees. On the Filicudi’s heights, discover old hamlets, and enjoy magnificent panoramas, especially from the Ficarrisi viewpoint, offering splendid views of the Giafante rock Giafante and Monte Nassari.

9. Panarea

Keen to visit the Aeolian Islands? Panarea is an excellent choice. The island is notorious for having been one of the film locations of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film L’Avventura. Although there are currently about 280 residents living on the island year-round, the population increases dramatically in summer with the influx of tourists. Even though the island has in many ways lost its 70’s aura, it is one of Italy’s luxury tourism destination, famous for attracting celebrities.

Beyond this aspect, and the superficiality that it entails, the island offers some incredible scenery, and sublime views of Stromboli in the distance, as well as beautiful old hamlets, magnificent white villas, preserved seabeds, and breathtaking landscapes.

10. What else to do in the Aeolian Islands?

Wondering what else to do in the Aeolian Islands? Here are a few examples of other activities and places to discover during your stay:

  • Relax in Canneto, a charming seaside resort in Lipari, known for its long, black pebble beach.
  • Swim at Havana Beach, a beautiful beach with enchanting, turquoise waters. An absolute must-see in Lipari!
  • Embark on a boat trip around Filicudi with resident Wildlife Conservation Specialists, and discover the local marine fauna, including sea turtles and whales!
  • Explore the sea caves of Filicudi by boat.
  • Admire the incredible cliffs and crystal-clear waters of Spiaggia di Pollara, on the island of Salina.

How to get to the Aeolian Islands?

To visit the Aeolian Islands, you will first have to go to Sicily. About 3h away from the UK, you have direct flights from London (Gatwick and Stansted) Glasgow or Manchester. Depending on what you want to visit in Sicily, the choice of your airport in Sicily is important, as the island is very large, if your first stop is the Aeolian Islands then we recommend landing in either Palermo or Catania, which are similar distances. To find a cheap flight to Sicily, you can just compare flights using Skyscanner.

You can also travel to Sicily by ferry. It takes about 10 hours to travel to Sicily by boat, which will allow you to travel freely on the island with your own car. Ferries leave from France, notably from Toulon and Nice, and other Italian ports. You can book your ferry to Sicily online on the DirectFerries website.

To reach the islands from Sicily, you can either travel by boat or, alternatively, via helicopter (the latter option being very expensive). From Catania airport, take the bus to the port of Milazzo: from there, you can board a ferry to the islands of Lipari or Vulcano. There are also connections to these two islands from Palermo (between June and September), Messina, Reggio Calabria, and Naples. Visit the following websites to find out more information about local boat trips: Libertylines and Siremar.

From Lipari, it is easy to reach the other islands of the archipelago by boat. For example, you can reach Vulcano in 10 minutes and Stromboli in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Remember that ferry frequencies obviously vary depending on the seasons and the importance of the islands. Non-resident vehicles are also prohibited on the islands during the summer.

Book your ferry ticket from Sicily to the Aeolian Islands

Where to stay in the Aeolian Islands?

If you are planning to visit the Aeolian Islands, the best time to stay in the archipelago is from May to September. Outside this period, there is less transport to the islands, and only a few hotels are open in Lipari and the other islands. In summer, there are much more accommodation possibilities, and needless to stay, rates are higher.

For affordable accommodation, it’s best not to visit the Aeolian Islands during July and August. We recommend looking for local homestay options via platforms such as Airbnb for example. If you make sure to book in advance, you will have no trouble finding your dream home anywhere in the archipelago! To find a hotel at the best price, use this hotel comparator.

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