After seeing the, until that time for me unknown, Aeolian Islands on a TV travel program, I knew it wouldn’t last long before I would visit them. And that was in October 2016. And because not many people know about the existence of these Islands, I decided to write about it. I hope it inspires you to decide what your next holiday would be, or you can write it on your bucket list.
The Aeolian Islands is a group of 7 Vulcanic Islands. On none of the Islands is an airport. But from Amsterdam you can fly straight to Catania, on Sicily, the closest airport. I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the left side of the plane and due to the perfect weather I could see all of the 7 islands from my window.
My goal for this trip was to visit 5 islands. First Lipari, the main Island, followed by Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli and Panarea. Mainly because of geographical and logistic reasons, I ignored the islands of Alicudi and Filicudi. So I have still something to wish for.
Day 1, Lipari, the south
Lipari can be reached easiest from the Port of Milazzo in northeast Sicily. To get there from Milazzo you can take a bus to Messina and than change bus to Milazzo. Total travel time from Catania is about 3 hours, but with beautiful views of the Sicilian northeast coast. On a clear day you can see the islands from Milazzo. from here It takes about one hour on a hydrofoil to get to Lipari.
After check-in i started a hike over the south side of the island. People who know me well, know that i ve seen quite a lot of the world. But rarely I talked so much to myself, being so amazed and astonished by the beauty of the nature, than on this piece of the planet. Repeatedly words like ‘paradise’, ‘wonderful’ ‘wow’ and ‘incredible’ came up. And they have extra impact when you say them loudly while being on your own. In fact I don’t have to explain. Watch the photos and judge for yourself.
Day 2, Lipari, Lipari Town
Lipari Town, early in the morning, about an hour after sunrise. What a beautiful and rustic area. The smell of fresh coffee and bread comes towards you when walking to Marina Corta, the little touristic port. Fischermen and sailers are already busy and slowly some tourists blend in. Although it’s the 10th of October, the temperature already reaches 19 degrees celsius at this time of the day. The Mediterranean is calm and as flat as a mirror, the sun shines nicely and illuminates the beige umbrellas. The little breakfast tables are ready to be used.
However, I didn’t get here to eat, but to go diving. 16 years back I got my Padi Advanced diving certificate, but i guess that the average amount of dives i have had only reaches once a year. Not enough, is my personal opinion, so i signed up for 2 dives. The waters around the Aeolian Islands are known as very blue and clear. I am looking forward to it! Diving School La Gorgonia is situated on a wonderful spot, on a sloping street that ends at a cathedral, which overlooks the harbour.
Friendly people help you to get your equipment and make your way to one of the boats. Every time i have to get used to the diving procedures again. Wetsuit, water shoes, flippers, masks, weight belt, diving vest, oxygen tank etcetera. Run through the different signs. And then throw yourself into the water doing a backflip. And while under water, practising the emergency procedures, depth regulations and breathing techniques. The first minutes of the first dive are not really enjoyable, then you slowly get used after which enjoyment comes in.
And the second dive was just routine and totally enjoyable. The Mediterranean is not known for it’s huge species of fish, but there are lots of smaller fish, like barracuda’s, tuna or groupers. And surely, the visibility is good, about 15 meters at least.
Back at the Marina i choose a table under one of the umbrellas to enjoy a panini and an espresso. How simple but nice can it be. After this i climbed up the stairs to visit Castello di Lipari with marvelous views over Marina Corta and Marina Lunga.
Lipari surprised me again today. And it’s only the first of the five Aeolian Islands I will visit. But stories from other tourists i meet don’t lie. All the islands promise to be beautiful, each with its own character. So I can’t wait to discover more!
Day 3, Lipari, the middle and the north
Today I discovered the middle and the north of the island, by foot again. It started with some rain in the morning but soon the clouds disappeared on my hike towards Quattropani, with nice views on the islands of Alicudi, Filicudi and Salina.
Because of the amount of kilometers the day would bring I tried to hitchhike at some points, but that didn’t go as easy as I expected. Not only because there was little traffic, but the locals that passed smiled and raised helplessly their shoulders and the rare tourists looked sceptical, pointing at that one suitcase on the backseats. And workpeople made themselves look bigger in the smal cabines of their Piaggio Apecars. Apparently there wasn’t even space on the empty trays behind them. The postman seemed of good will but turned more left and right than going straight. Finally, by the fifth time he passed me, he offered me a ride, because for the next 4 kilometers he didn’t have a delivery adres. Now I arrived in Acquacalda, a quiet seaside resort in the north of Lipari. From here good views to Salina as well as Panarea and Stromboli. After a short rest, i continued walking to Porticello on the east side of the island. A strange place, as decayed industrial structures go together with beach recreation, along white chalk cliffs and a turquoise sea.
From here it was another 4 kilometers of hiking to Canneto, the most populair beach town of the island, but nice and quiet in October. After a short stop I walked the last 3 kilometers to Lipari town. With almost 20 kilometers of hiking, and blisters on my feet, the swim in the warm water of the port of Lipari was a real treat. And yes, Lipari surprised me again! What a beautiful island.
Day 4, Vulcano
Today I made a daytrip to the island of Vulcano. Vulcano is the closest island from Lipari and only 10 minutes by boat. According to a legend here is where the Roman god of fire used to live. Vulcano has three vulcanos and one is still active; the ‘Gran Cratere’. From the moment the doors of the hydrofoil open, the smell of rotten eggs comes towards you. But with a bit of wind on the island you’ll survive.
A hiking trail leads you in about an hour to the summit of the Gran Gratere. From here you get a fantastic view on Vulcano and the other Aeolian islands.
You can walk around this impressive crater which looks like a moonscape. On the east side of the crater there is fumarole activity with sulphur fumes (like rotting eggs). Careful where you walk, to avoid melting shoes! The fumes give it a mysterious touch, but don’t hang around too long. It makes you cough en your clothes smell terribly.
The total hike to, around and from the crater lasts less than 3 hours, but is definitely worth it.
Back down you can even enjoy the warmth of the mud baths. This phosphor bath is supposed tho have a healing function. But for me, that also counts for an Italian espresso, so I choose this less cumbersome option. Back in Lipari I take a shower, put my clothes in the washing bin and enjoy the sunshine from my balcony. Holland still seems far away.
Day 5, Salina: Santa Marina, Malfa & Pollara
Today I arrived on the island of Salina, the greenest of the Aeolian Islands. Salina can be recognised from a distance by the conical shapes of the Fossa delle Felci & Monti dei Porri mountains (see previous photos of Lipari and Vulcano). Although the island does not yet have 2500 inhabitants, there are regular bus connections to all places on the island. I stay in Santa Marina, a cozy harbour town.
This afternoon I went by bus to Malfa, the largest place on the island, located on the north side of the island. At the foot of a valley, between the two mountains. You will find vineyards with white grapes here. The sweet white wine Malvasia is produced here, very tasty! Malfa has a small harbor with mainly fishing boats.
After a late but extensive lunch, around 4 pm I took the bus to Pollara, on the west side. I was really looking forward to this, because I had already heard from other tourists that this was very beautiful. Pollara is beautifully enclosed in a green ridge, on a plateau above the sea with a beautifully shaped rock face.
Pollara is known as the film location of the in Italy well-known film “Il Postino” (1994), about a postman who is in love with the bartender but does not know how to handle this and therefore calls in the help of a famous poet. Some scenes are set on the only but beautiful rocky beach. To get here you have to walk about 15 minutes, but this little effort is nothing compared to the reward downstairs. Really very beautiful. And it was no coincidence that I wast here at the end of the day; What a beautiful sunset!
Day 6, Salina: Fossa delle Felci, Rinella & Lingua
Today I climbed the highest mountain (Fossa delle Felci), on a hike from Santa Marina. This was almost two hours of exhausting climbing, with hardly a straight piece to recover. I am in good condition but was really done when I was upstairs. But here I also heard from a tourist that this was also the toughest side. Nevertheless I made it. On top it was a lot easier and here you have a nice view of the other mountain, Monti dei Porri, on the small harbour town of Rinella (in the south) and the valley of Malfa (in the north).
The descent to Rinella was less difficult but it was a long one. I ended up in Rinella after 3 1/2 hours. It was 26 degrees today, so the dive into the sea was wonderful, and so were the panini caprese and the espresso Italiano I ordered
From Rinella you can take the boat back to Santa Marina. But the boats didn’t go because the sea was too rough, so I took the bus. I got off the bus in Lingua for a short sightseeing. Here you find a former salt lake (salt used to be extracted here, that’s where the island’s name comes from), which is now a place for migrating birds. I walked the last 3 kilometers back to Santa Marina, towards sunset in a lovely balmy evening wind.
Salina is also a beautiful island that is definitely worth a visit. With its own unique and relaxed atmosphere. Yes, you can also write this island on your bucket list!
Day 7, Panarea
Today I took the boat again and arrived in Panarea. No big stories, but a relaxing day.
Day 8, Stromboli (daytrip)
Today I took the boat to Stromboli. Stromboli consists almost entirely of a volcano. It is the most active volcano in Europe. Every day the volcano erupts in the 3 craters. The island is also called the lighthouse of the Mediterranean.
I wanted to see these craters, but what I had already heard and read; the craters are at a height of about 750 meters, the viewpoint for this is at about 900 meters But as an individual hiker you are only allowed to hike to a little viewpoint at about 400 meters. Another option is to do an organized group tour. But a) these are expensive, b) I don’t like organized tour and c) I don’t like large groups. The option I had was walking to the viewpoint at 400 meters. A relatively simple walk. Here you have a wonderful view of the Sciara del Fuoco (fire stream). In the past, lava has regularly flowed here into the sea in a straight stream. From this point you can partly see the crater from the side.
Here I met 3 Italian hikers and I asked them if they knew where the little winding path that I saw was heading to. They indicated that the path was closed for public as you are not allowed to get there. This did not prevent me from trying the path. This went very well, but every now and I struggled on quite steep parts, and my feet slid away regularly in the soft volcanic sand. But with the help of a stick that I found, it went reasonably well. Eventually the path got better and I got more and more view of the volcano, every now and then I heard it booming. I also came across lava refuge cabins.
The volcano landscape became more and more beautiful and panoramic. The remarkable thing was that I didn’t see any people at all. Even when I was at the top of the viewpoint at 916 meters, there was no one to be seen. Not even in the distance. I had this very beautiful volcano landscape to myself! And regularly that roaring sound of the volcano with upcoming lava (But that often went so fast that I was unable to catch this properly on photo or video). Another moment that I caught myself talking to myself …
One of the reasons that I didn’t see any people at all is that all organised groups work according to the same principle … they all leave in the second half of the afternoon, walk up slowly, see the sunset down on top of the lookout point, watch the eruptions in the craters in the twilight and walk back in the dark. I arrived at the lookout point around half past one, with the knowledge that the organised groups would depart from the village below at 3 p.m. That’s why I didn’t stay up too long and went down the steep slope of volcanic sand. I had only just arrived in the village and I already met the groups. Laughing to myself, about the adventure I just had experienced. Now first a beer.
Day 9, Hiking Panarea
Today I explored Panarea. This is the smallest of the Aeolian Islands. With a beautiful Greek looking town with narrow streets, where no cars are available, only electric golf carts and tricycles. The island has less than 300 inhabitants. You could conclude from the information on Wikipedia that education here is very good and personal. I quote: “There is one educational institution on the island, for both primary and secondary education. There are two teachers and two students “.
In the summer Panarea supposed to be very busy and the decor of the jet set, but now it is very relaxed with little tourism. And here too, during a walk around the island, I had the most beautiful places totally for myself. Like on the top of Punta Curvo, the highest point of Panarea with panoramic views of the other islands, the coastline of Sicily and Mount Etna.
And Capo Milazzese, where a village from the Bronze Age was discovered. And behind that Cala Junco, a beautiful semi-enclosed bay with very clear water.
Yes, Panarea is beautiful too! This was my last day on the Aeolian Islands. It’s a shame to leave!
I look back at a wonderful time at the 5 (out of 7) Aeolian Islands. They are beautiful. Each island has its own atmosphere and surprising nature. In advance you hear from other tourists about the beautiful and nice places, and that’s wat you believe. But once you get there, they are even more beautiful and better than you already imagined. Or actually you can’t even imagine the beauty and atmosphere of these places. And that is precisely what makes them so surprising! My advice: Write them all on your bucket list!
I started writing about the Aeolian Islands because they are still relatively unknown. If my stories and photos have inspired you, if you want to go there or if you know someone who wants to go there, don’t hesitate to ask me for advice or information. I would like to help you!