Travel Notes blog
Enjoy Sicilian solitude: Our guide to the Aeolian Islands
by Laura Bardell-Smith
9 min read

Enjoy Sicilian solitude: Our guide to the Aeolian Islands

Enjoy Sicilian solitude: Our guide to the Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands are a gem to the north of Sicily, from lovely Lipari to sensational Stromboli. We've put together a guide to help you get the most out of this incredible island chain.
Table of contents

Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea - welcome to the Aeolian Islands. These seven spectacular islands at the tip of Italy’s toe are home to breathtaking scenery formed by the region’s volcanic activity. Rich in local culture and recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s a good reason why these mesmerising islands are known as the pearls of the Mediterranean.

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An introduction to the seven Aeolian Islands

1. Lipari

The largest of the seven significant Aeolian Islands, Lipari is an ideal base from which to explore the entire chain, and features their best-served port. The town of Lipari itself is a pretty pastel-coloured cluster of winding streets, alive with restaurants, shops and bars in the summer months. 

Perched above the harbour, Lipari’s historic old town comprises a castle, cathedral and fascinating archaeological museum. Guests at Posidonia, one of our finest villas on the Minor Italian Islands, can wake up to a sweeping view that spans from the Lipari harbour to the rocky outcrop that forms its historic centre. Outside of the town itself, the island is criss-crossed with spectacular walking trails and ringed with lava sand and pebble beaches ready to be explored.

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2. Vulcano

As the name of this unique island might suggest, Vulcano is the site of considerable volcanic activity. Visitors can enjoy cycling, hiking, kayaking and more, and when it’s time to unwind, they can take a dip in the local thermal waters by the wonderful Laghetto dei Fanghi mud baths.

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3. Salina

Known as the green pearl of the Aeolian Islands, the verdant, vineyard-dotted Salina is a particularly peaceful haven. Perfect for rest, relaxation, wandering and daydreaming, the flower-strewn island is topped with two extinct volcano peaks and is home to charming little communities serving delicious, locally grown produce.

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4. Stromboli

The Aeolian’s most dramatic island, Stromboli, is an active volcano that rises up impressively from the waters of the Mediterranean. With a few settlements on the coast, it is a unique destination. Lava spurts are visible throughout the day - they are particularly spectacular once darkness falls.

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5. Filicudi

Largely untouched, with some areas accessible only by donkey, the wild beauty of Filicudi includes shimmering blue coves, ancient pathways and tiny traditional villages.

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6. Alicudi

The most remote and least populated of the Aeolian Islands, Alicudi was formed from a now extinct volcano. Perfect for artists and adventurers, this ‘away-from-it-all’ island lies far from the beaten track.

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7. Panarea

The jewel in the Aeolian’s crown, Panarea is the smallest island in the chain, as well as the most exclusive. Beloved by celebrities, this gem-like destination boasts gorgeous beaches, stunning scenery and more.

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When and how to visit the Aeolian Islands

The best way to get to the Aeolian Islands

For those wondering how to get to the Aeolian Islands, the answer will depend upon both your budget and your spirit of adventure. For visitors seeking luxury and excitement, helicopters allow transport from as far afield as Rome, while shorter helicopter trips can be made from destinations such as Palermo - perfect for guests travelling to Lipari from any of our top five villas in Sicily. We would be happy to arrange helicopter travel for you, or help you plan Aeolian Islands tours via helicopter to explore the area during your stay.

Travel by helicopter may offer a superb bird’s eye view of this beautiful Italian atoll, but sailing the Aeolian Islands has a magic all of its own. For those interested in private boat hire, there is no shortage of services to the chain. A privately chartered boat trip will allow visitors to reach their destination at their own pace, while getting to enjoy one of the greatest pleasures of the Aeolian Islands along the way: snorkelling. Please speak to a member of our expert team to arrange private boat hire for your journey to Lipari.

To reach the Aeolian Islands by public transportation, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time, as travel can be affected by sea conditions and the season. Ferries to Lipari run from many Italian destinations, including a six-hour crossing from Naples. However, flying into Catania, Palermo or Reggio Calabria will place you in the easiest reach of the islands. Arriving via Catania is perhaps one of the most efficient routes. A short journey to the port in Milazzo will connect you with ferries and hydrofoils direct to Lipari and (less frequently) the other Aeolian Islands. We can provide detailed travel guidance to ensure every step of your journey runs smoothly.

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Aeolian Islands weather

Much like the weather in Sicily, the Aeolian Islands’ climate is classically Mediterranean: Hot and sunny from late spring to late autumn, with temperatures peaking at an average of 29°C in August. At times, the Sirocco southeasterly winds can blow in heat waves during the June to August period, at which time the temperature can reach unusual heights of 40°C.

Spring and autumn are mild in the Aeolian Islands; average winter temperatures remain above 13°C. The heaviest rainfall occurs in the autumn and winter when visitors can expect sunny spells interspersed with rain and storms. The highest average rainfall occurs in November, with nine rainy days on average.

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What to do on the Aeolian Islands

Sailing and boat hire on the Aeolian Islands

Private boat hire is one of the finest ways to experience the Aeolian. We can arrange private chartered boats that allow you to explore the Aeolian volcanoes, coves, grottoes and beaches at your own pace. A view of Stromboli’s lava jets at night from the water is not to be missed.

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Aeolian Islands snorkelling

The pristine waters that surround the Aeolian Islands make this a magical destination for snorkelling. We can arrange for equipment and a boat hire to introduce you to the extraordinary marine life of this archipelago, including dolphins and sea turtles.

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Aeolian Islands villa rental

The Aeolian Islands are full of inspiring retreats, but Lipari features one of our favourites. There you can find the exquisite 14-person Posidonia, which boasts extraordinary views of Lipari town and the island’s black sand coast. With an in-villa chef, private pool, easy beach access and spectacular al fresco design, this villa is a slice of authentic Aeolian luxury.

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Volcanic adventures

No visit to the Aeolian islands would be complete without enjoying some of the archipelago’s volcanic experiences:

  • Climb to the peak of Stromboli

  • Watch lava spurt from Stromboli from a private boat

  • Fly over Stromboli

    by helicopter

  • Climb to Vulcano’s sulphurous crater

  • Bathe in the Laghetto dei Fanghi mud baths and thermal waters

  • Climb Salinas’ two extinct volcanic peaks

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Preserving the natural beauty of the Aeolian Islands

We are committed to doing everything we can to secure the future of the Aeolian Islands. Sharing the islands’ cultural, historical and natural riches is our passion, but preserving them for generations to come is something we hold especially dear to our hearts. As part of our commitment to the environment in the region, we have partnered with the Aeolian Preservation Foundation.

Launched in 2015 by Luca del Bono and Ben Goldsmith, the foundation was created to preserve the beauty and ecosystems of the Aeolian Islands. Promoting sustainable tourism lies at the heart of the initiative, which funds Aeolian-grown projects that directly benefit the local environment.

“We are a small entity but with big dreams, because we strongly believe our islands deserve all the love in the world. They are indeed a magical and unique place. We want to help as much as possible.”

Anita Motta, Director

In 2021, the foundation worked with Oceanic Global and Mare Vivo to help the island of Lipari challenge its use of plastics. The island’s businesses were rewarded for adapting to plastic-free practises. The initiative further supported these companies by negotiating competitive pricing on non-plastic products, which made it more accessible for Aeolian businesses to make environmentally-friendly choices

Elsewhere in the archipelago, the foundation has supported Filicudi Wildlife Conservation, boosting the aid and conservation of Aeolian animals, including the region’s sea turtles. In Salina, they have been giving strong support to the creation of the first Marina Protection Area and a number of other sustainable tourism initiatives, including the mapping of mountain paths. 

COVID-19 has shifted the focus of the Aeolian Preservation Foundation, which is now more determined than ever to keep making positive change in the archipelago by putting their efforts primarily into small, holistic sustainable improvements rather than large-scale interventions. We can offer more information about how you can help the foundation and give back to this beautiful island chain, whether that is donating time, money, skills or materials.

“Our ongoing mission is to raise awareness about the importance of conservation for our islands and we are here to create a dialogue on ways to take action.”

Motta

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Immerse yourself in the Aeolian Islands

Discover the Aeolian Islands with The Thinking Traveller. Contact us and allow us to assist you in choosing the perfect villa from which to explore this extraordinary volcanic island chain. We will be with you each step of the way to take care of every detail, from coordinating helicopter transport and sharing local hidden gems to booking exclusive in-villa luxuries and advising you on sustainable travel in the region.