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Lipari, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Panarea, Filicudi, Alicudi and Basiluzzo, the eight volcanic islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Sicily, named after the mythical ruler of the winds, Aeolus. A must-see in every itinerary in Sicily, a trip to the Aeolian Islands is just a ferry ride away from the Northern shores of Sicily. The massive volcano of Stromboli meets cosmopolitan Lipari, the contrast between the vineyards of greener and quieter Salina and the celebrity glamourous Panarea is striking, with the backdrop remaining equally dramatic! Pick one of the islands as your first destination, but don’t just stay there; explore them all! As a very popular destination, the archipelagos tends to get fully booked soon, so plan ahead and book flights and accommodation in the Aeolian Islands as early as you can!
The ancient Greeks named the eight isles of the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Sicily after Aeolus, God of the winds who, according to mythology, used to live there. Since then, a veil of mystery covers the Aeolian Islands, adding up to their special charm that mesmerise visitors.
Two are the main volcanoes of this volcanic archipelagos – and they’re both active! Stromboli and Vulcano has always been a constant threat to locals and visitors ever since antiquity; however, they also form an eternal source of beauty, mystery and inspiration.
The Aeolian Islands were probably the region of Sicily to be first inhabited, during the Palaeolithic Era. In their attempt to understand and explain the existence of the massive volcanoes, ancient Greeks attributed their activity to Greek god of fire Hephaestus, with Roman equivalent being God Vulcan.
Not only the volcanoes never stopped travellers from visiting, but it’s safe to say that they helped attract more and more visitors, contributing to the tremendous growth and tourist development of the seven inhabited Aeolian Islands.
When you’ve satisfied your instincts of adventure, you can move on, exploring the idyllic villages with white-washed houses, flowered fields and vineyards and taking in the culture of the few permanent inhabitants that call the Aeolian Islands home.
The airport of Catania (Aeroporto di Catania-Fontanarossa Vincenzo Bellini) is located 142 kilometres south of Milazzo and 109 kilometres south of Messina. You can reach either of the two cities by bus and then take a ferry or a hydrofoil to the Aeolian Islands.
Getting around Aeolian Islands
Lipari, Vulcano and Salina, the three largest of the islands, are served by a quite good bus network and have a decent road system, so renting a scooter is also an option.
Stromboli and Panarea hardly have any roads, but they’re small and can easily be explored on foot.
Remote Alicudi and Filicudi are very poor in infrastructure, but the owner of your hotel or apartment should arrange your transportation within the island.
Boats are also available to rent for touring around the nearby islands.
Aeolian Islands Guide
- The largest of the Aeolian Islands, Lipari is the ancient city Meligunis and features an impressive landscape with volcanic peaks and rugged rocks that end on the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s also the most popular of all the islands and is considered as the most cosmopolitan destination of Sicily after Taormina, attracting thousands of visitors, especially during the summer.
- Salina is the second largest island of the archipelagos and you’ll immediately recognise it by its iconic landscape and its two peaks. Compared to the other islands, Salina is rather quieter, more laid-back and definitely greener. You’ll notice flowers, trees and vineyards everywhere you look; this is the home of the Malvasia wine!
Monte Fossa delle Felci is the highest peak in the Aeolian Islands!
- Vulcano is the nearest island to the shores of Sicily and the first stop of every ferry and hydrofoil departing from the port of Milazzo. With all the volcanoes of this world named after this particular Vulcano, it’s no wonder that ancient Greeks and Romans believed this was the home of Hephaestus or Vulcan respectively, both gods of fire!
A mud-bath is an experience you simply must have here; otherwise, there is not much to do on this island, so allow some time to get to the crater, have a hot mud-bath and prepare to venture out to the more remote of the Aeolian Islands!
- Panarea, though the smallest of all the isles, has recently been in the spotlight as a glamourous destination, extremely popular for celebrities. Expect luxurious yachts, expensive restaurants and hotels, the crème de la crème of the European showbiz and visitors that seek to experience their own dolce vita.
- Stromboli is the remotest of the Aeolian Islands and for sure the most impressive one. Once you catch a glimpse of it, even before you arrive at the port, you know that Stromboli is the definition the word volcano. In fact, it is the volcano of Stromboli that gave its name to the Strombolian eruptions!
The part of the island above sea-level is 900 metres high; but forms the top of a gigantic submarine volcano that rises 3,000 metres above sea floor.
Stromboli is one of Italy’s three active volcanoes and one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. It’s estimated that remains in a state of continuous eruption for the past 2,000 years, as it’s mentioned in the first ever written human testimonies!
It’s highly likely that if you visit Stromboli, you will witness signs of the activity of the volcano. Permissions to access to the summit are reviewed daily, due to the usually moderate to strong activity of the volcano. Depending on its state, you can probably hike to the main crater, but it’s very important you do that with a trained guide; otherwise, you will face penalties, fines and unexpected dangers. You can though reach as far as an altitude of 400 metres without a guide.
If you consider climbing to the crater, apart from the above, you should also take into account your physical state and shape; the path can be quite demanding!
Beyond the volcano, Stromboli features two beautiful villages and a number of black volcanic beaches – cameras ready, prepare to flash!
- Filicudi most probably was the first of the Aeolian Islands to be formed, as research places its creation somewhere around 700,000 years ago. Magnificent coastline, little coves, caves and beaches, crystal water, a heaven on earth!
- Alicudi is the perfect remote destination to get away from it all. With a population of merely 120, Alicudi doesn’t boast any luxurious restaurants, grand hotel and celebrities; instead, you’ll find just one hotel and a small number of private apartments the locals rent.
- Basiluzzo is located between Panarea and Stromboli and, with a surface barely reaching 1 km2, it is the smallest of the Aeolian Islands. The island is uninhabited and you cannot spend the night there, but you can visit the isle by renting a boat or taking a ferry tour around the islands.
The official language of the Aeolian Islands is Italian.