Island hopping is something I’ve loved since I first started travelling alone 8 years ago. It’s exactly what drew me to visiting the Aeolian Islands. In Thailand, it’s so affordable to island hop that I went to over 15 islands on every trip I made there. On a smaller scale, I also did so in Maldives, covering an addition 4 islands on my stay. It makes me wish I had done the same many years ago when I first went to Bali. Instead, I spent about 3 weeks in Indonesia and took a trip across the country and stayed in Bali for about a week.
Last year, I returned to Italy with Tom. Unfortunately, Tom was only able to stay with me for a couple of weeks so I continued my journey alone island hopping in the Aeolian Islands and strolling through Palermo, Sicily for the following 2 weeks. Admittedly, I miss Tom so much that I’ve grown to prefer travelling with him than on my own.
There are 7 islands that make up the Aeolian Islands: Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Vulcano, Salina. I always prefer booking the vital parts of your trip in advanced. The week of flying into Italy, I purchased my hydrofoil speed boat round trip tickets online and noticed the last Hydrofoil running for the entire season was a day before I planned to leave, so of course, I adjusted my itinerary. I wanted to finish off my trip in Capri and Positano (blog posts here and here) have the best pizza I’ve ever had in Naples and then go to the port to start my journey to the Aeolian Islands. From there, I’d move on to Palermo, Sicily where I passed the Fountain of Shame (blog post here). I always prefer to stay just off the strip by a few buildings so I can get a peaceful night’s rest, just far enough from the music and night life that I can sleep, but so close that I could enjoy it and head back really quickly.
Every morning, I’d step out and within a few steps immediately have access to multiple cafes. There’s so many by the hydrofoil docks. I’d order myself a café macchiato and a traditional brioche or my favourites: a fresh cannoli and/or croissant. I stayed near the hydrofoil dock on the most developed of the 7 islands, Lipari. The main road is located right when you get off the hydrfoil dock. The main street consisted mostly of restaurants with live music, gelato shops and lucky for me, a large grocery store for me to get snacks for all my side trips.
There are plenty of dining spots in narrow alleys with romantic little restaurants. This location made the perfect spot for a stroll. Lipari feels really small, and you walk through all the main parts within 15 to 20 minutes, but it has a lovely cathedral up the top of the hill where you can get the most beautiful view of the island.
Each day, I would buy a double scoop of gelato and make my way down towards the ferry dock, to see what tours were available; any excuse to put gelato in my hands! This really worked out perfectly because I stayed where on one side of town and walk to see everything every morning because the ferry dock for tours was on the other side (only a lovely 10 minute walk). Tours are so affordable and a tour agent could be found every 3 to 5 buildings apart, so there’s never any shortage. Most of them sell the same tours and might throw in a little gift or be a couple of euros cheaper. Of course, being the avid single explorer, I purchased a few tours during my stay and ended up visiting 5 of the 7 islands.
One of my most memorable visits was the volcanic island of Stromboli. On our way, a group of dolphins swam next to us and circled us. I honestly never get sick of seeing these intelligent and beautiful creatures! As we approached one side of Stromboli volcano island, we could see it smoking from the top. We docked right on the black sand beach, created from the island’s volcanic activity. Unlike Lipari, Stromboli has multiple paths that quickly go uphill towards a few local shops. You eventually end up at a gorgeous lookout in front of the beautiful cathedral. Next to it, people buy fresh fruit from carts. As we left, we circled Stromboli at sunset and the volcano tossed sparks of lava into the sky.
Alicudi and Filicudi are very remote islands. To many, this might be considered a boring spot, but for those who want to be unreachable, and escape from everyday life, it would be considered paradise. A few of these small islands have very limited wifi, and these would fall into that category. If you want to escape from it all and do nothing but lay on the large stone beach and take in the island’s natural beauty, this is the place to be. Between the two islands are grottos. Much like the one you’ll find in Capri, but because so few people visit in comparison, it hasn’t been seen by quite as many eyes. This is where we stopped for half hour for a swim.
An avid wanderlust also needs to stick around and explore the place she’s staying, so I bought a roundtrip ticket to Porticello Beach on Lipari island for a relaxing day in the sun. Like Capri, the beaches consist mostly of large rocks in crystal clear water (see blog post here), but after my first trip to Cuba 15 years ago, I wanted to find a serene spot with soft sand! After taking a short stroll along the water, I found this piece of heaven and laid out my mandala towel (which you’ll have seen in many posts here and here) and laid out to take in the view.
TRAVEL TIPS TO THE AEOLIAN ISLANDS
1) Book your local ferry or hydrofoil online in advance to ensure dates are available since tourism here is seasonal.
2) Check hotels and guesthouses that have packages that include island tours. I have seen packages that include 2 or 3nts stay and tours for less than the price of a night in New York City.
3) Pricing is the same, as they’re all run by the same operators, so look for the islands you want to see the most and book those first. Specific islands only have tours once or twice a week.
4) I recommend bringing snacks on your tours. It’s not Thailand or Dominican Republic, where you can pay to have food included. You can eat on each of the island if youd don’t mind eating into your free time around the islands.
5) Book your stay near the hydrofoil if you are travelling alone. I don’t recall there being taxis when I got off the hydrofoil, so if you have lots of luggage, make sure you have hired help or stay close to the port or arrival/departure
6) Stay in Stromboli or Lipari for most of your stay. There are more tours, food, a couple of bars/music at night and good wifi if you want or need it. I can’t say there’s much of that on the other islands.
7) If you only want to see one or 2 islands, you might want to consider taking day tours from Sicily instead
8) The islands are so small and less developed than much of Italy, that you only really need 1 day at each of the large islands and a few hours at the smaller ones
9) Like any destination, always ask the locals for recommendations. I wanted the nicest beach and my AirBNB host gave me a recommendation that the books didn’t, and found a gem after walking just a few minutes away
10) Google Translate App is your friend. My host didn’t speak English but he always responded so promptly to me over AirBNB.
Get $40 off your first AirBNB booking here.
I always like to leave something to return to, and next time I go back, it’ll be with Tom and we’ll get to see the two other islands with fresh eyes! I hope you enjoyed this post, and that this inspires you to visit more destinations like these ones. I’m now in Costa Rica, but will be back with another travel post!