Aeolian islands is the world on it’s own. Smell of sulphur, black volcanic sand beaches, lava running down the hill, dramatic coastal landscape. And they are just short ferry ride from Sicily.
We describe the best attractions, prices, how to get there and where to stay. All that in our Aeolian islands travel guide.
We will stick to our 3 favourite islands – Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli – and suggest itinerary for 2 nights 3 days around these islands which is especially suitable for the first time visitors. But you can easily stay longer at any of the islands which is a great idea if you have more time.
In the end of the article you can find summarized itinerary and expenses.
How to get there
The easiest way how to get to Aeolian islands is by ferry from Milazzo.
If you are traveling around Sicily by car then you can park it on the streets around port of Milazzo, but it is paid. We paid 7 euros per day back in 2014 during our first visit, now it will be more likely around 12 euros per day. If you prefer to get guarded parking, check this one. It starts from 12 euros. Preferably leave your heavy luggage at the car and take just small bag with you to the islands, so you are flexible.
There are 2 ferry companies going from Milazzo to Aeolian islands (and also between the islands):
We recommend to take morning ferry (at 7:30, 8:00 or 9:00) from Milazzo to Vulcano island (it will cost 12-15 euros per person), spend there a whole day and in the evening (18:00 or 19:00) continue by another ferry to Lipari (5-6 euros). See the links above to make sure that schedule and prices didn’t сhange since we wrote this article in December 2018.
Let’s check what you can do in 1 day in Vulcano according to our Aeolian islands travel guide .
In 1 day we soaked ourselves in volcanic mud baths, relaxed on black sand beach, swam in the sea and later hiked to the black lava monsters. Island is very small and everything is close, so we walked around all attractions by foot.
What to do in Vulcano
Volcanic mud bath
Terme di Vulcano baths are located about 100 metres from the port, so you cannot miss it, just go straight and follow the smell.
Entrance fee is 3 euros and you pay extra for showers, but you can swim in the sea (on the property of the bath) instead, where you will see bubbles coming up from the bottom and the temperature of water there is slightly higher.
Sulphur mud is therapeutical and it is very good for your skin, but not for your swimming suit. So better take old swimming suit which you don’t mind to spoil. Just be careful not to get the mud into your eyes – it burns like hell.
Sabbie Nere beach
The black sand beach is around 500 metres from the bath, so you can easily walk there by foot. There is very nice restaurant on the way and we enjoyed arancini (sicilian street food) there for lunch. It is great experience to lie on the black sand for a change.
Valle dei Mostri hike
If you had enough of relaxing on the beach, you can hike (1.5km from the beach) to the lava rock formations on the north coast which resembles black monsters guarding the coast. Bring enough of water as it might be hot even in October (which is btw the best time to visit Sicily according to our local friends). We would rate the hike and the monsters 4.5 out of 5 as it is something quite unique.
And that’s it for Vulcano. Time to take evening ferry (18:00 or 19:00) and continue to Lipari island.
But if you decide to enjoy local beaches and scenery more than for a day, we recommend to stay at this beautiful house with private garden and terrace. 1 double room for couples or 1 family room for 4 people.
Lipari is the largest of Aeolian islands. There is a nice small town of the same name just next to the port, but during the summer it is full of tourists, expensive and (for our taste) not attractive during this time. Luckily there is much more to do outside of Lipari town.
On the Lipari island works reasonably good public transport, you can check the schedule here.
The cost depends on the distance you go, but it shouldn’t be more than 2 euros per ride. If the public transport doesn’t suit you, then you can take taxi or hitchhike as we did. Locals are very friendly and it was very easy to catch a ride. There are not that many roads around island, so it will be easy to find someone going your direction. Some of the hotels also offer pick-up service.
Where to stay on Lipari
1. We stayed at this lovely villa which we reached by hitchhiking from the port. You will have double room with access to terrace and beautiful views around. Because it is outside of the Lipari town, it has very reasonable price (30 euros for 2 people per night). Owners were super nice and we will stay there again in future. We brought some pastry, cheese, olives and wine from the market and enjoyed romantic evening on the terrace, which we had just for ourselves. It is the top seller on booking, so don’t wait too long with reservation.
2. If you prefer to stay in Lipari town, place with the best value/price ratio is Alberghiero residence. 50 euros for 2 people studio is great price for the Lipari town (price might change in summer). Only 10 minutes walk from port, located just on the main avenue. It is very quite and comfortable inside.
What to do in Lipari
Famous viewpoint on the dramatic coast of Lipari island.
Our tip: If you come by evening ferry as we did you can hitchhike to this viewpoint and after you enjoy the sunset views, walk 1500 metres to our recommended accommodation or again hitchhike.
Hike along the coast
If you stay in our recommended accommodation, it is only 2.5km away from the start of the beautiful coastal hike. So pack all your things in the morning and either walk, take a taxi or hope for hitchhike (not that many cars on this road) to the starting point – Terme di San Calogero (museum of thermal bath). You can check the whole hike here.
It is 5.8km long and is not very demanding, but bring at least 2 litres of water per person during sunny day. The hike reveals views on the island of Salina along the way lined by cacti. It ends in Quattropani village which is conveniently first station of public transport (marked exactly as ending point of the hike linked above) which will bring you all the way back to the Lipari town.
Lipari town is cute small town with calm atmosphere, but in main season of July and August it will be crowded with people. Get lost in the small streets and try some of the local restaurants or street food.
For those into archaeology definitely don’t miss the archaeological museum in Lipari town. It has amazing collection and you will love it.
If you follow our itinerary, after the visit of Lipari town catch afternoon ferry (at 15:00 for 17 euros) to the most magnificent spot of our Aeolian islands travel guide – Stromboli island.
Stromboli island is very small and you can reach everything around by foot. The most amazing thing which you cannot see in many places all around the world is the lava eruptions or lava flow during the night. It depends on the type of activity of volcano, but it is almost for sure that you will witness amazing natural show on Stromboli. Read more below.
Always pay attention to the current situation of volcano and listen to the local advices. Stromboli is active volcano and while it is safe basically all the time on the island, going further than allowed can have fatal consequences.
What to do on Stromboli
There are several small black sand beaches along the north coast of the Stromboli. We really enjoyed Grotta d’Eolo, but just choose the one close to your accommodation and enjoy it before it’s time for night hike to volcano.
Night hike on volcano
The lava show is visible only during the night, and it is literally a blast! The sound of crumbling lava and red blazing magma being thrown in the air is something you won’t ever forget. Without doubts it is the best experience from whole Aeolian islands.
As mentioned before there are 2 types of volcanic activity which also determines from where will be visible the show:
- Lava flow means there will be no explosions from the top and you will be usually allowed to go only to 400m altitude viewpoint (that was also our case). From there you will watch lava running down the hill. In this case the hike is easy/average with maximum inclination up to 25% and it will take about 1 hour to go up there from the restaurant Osservatorio. You don’t need a guide to walk here. The terrain can be rough, so better have hiking shoes.
- Normal Strombolian activity means there will be mild explosions from the craters on the top every few minutes. You should go all the way up to 918m altitude viewpoint to see the show. There will be no lava flow during this activity and you won’t see much from 400m viewpoint. Note that you need a guide to hike there. If you go without one, you might be fined 500 euros if caught. The guide costs about 35 euros per person and you should be fit otherwise the guide will refuse to bring you to the top. And it makes sense because the hike is very steep and demanding. The hike usually starts around 15:30 and takes several hours.
Always respect current situation. Don’t go beyond the point allowed on that day. You definitely need a torch for the hike and be aware that public lights around the island are very limited, so better keep your torch with you after the sunset.
If you want to enjoy romantic dinner during the sunset with views on the sea, there is great place (altough quite pricey) just at the starting point of the hike (lava flow) – restaurant Osservatorio. And after you finish your preferably light dinner or drink at the restaurant, it is time for the hike. Or you can stop there on the way down.
It is very easy to follow the trail from the restaurant starting point.
Very rarely the eruptions on the Stromboli can be dangerous to stay on the island, inform yourself about the situation before you go there.
Where to stay on Stromboli
1. We stayed at Casa del Sole which is not on booking.com (recommendation of our Sicilian friend), so you have to contact them by email if you want to stay there. The traditional house is amazing place with 10 rooms and common garden, kitchen and terrace where you can enjoy the views on the sea and volcano. The price is 50 euros per night for double room with shared bathroomm and 60 euros with private bathroom.
2. If full or you prefer to book over booking.com then we totally recommend La Lampara. The house is decorated in traditional way for Stromboli, it has also big terrace and they make their own pizza! We met a solo traveler who stayed there and she praised it so much that we will stay there next time to compare.
If you come in high season (July and August), book long time in advance otherwise all good places might be full.
The last day of your trip to Aeolian islands you can have a swim again on the beach and take the ferry (at 11:50, 13:15 or 16:15) for 15-20 euros back to Milazzo.
Summary and prices
Ferry Milazzo – Vulcano – 13 euros
Vulcano mud baths – 3 euros
Black sand beach – free
Hike to the lava monsters – free
Ferry Vulcano – Lipari – 5 euros
Belvedere Quattrocchi viewpoint – free
Accommodation in Angelica villa – 30 / 2 = 15 euros per person
Hike along the coast – free
Public transport – 2 euros
Ferry Lipari – Stromboli – 17 euros
Black sand beach – free
Night hike to see lava and eruption – free (might be 35 euros for a guide)
Accommodation in Casa del Sole – 50 / 2 = 25 euros per person
Ferry Stromboli – Milazzo – 18 euros
In total we paid for this 3 days / 2 night itinerary 98 euros per person. Food is not included.
Aeolian islands are more expensive than the rest of Sicily, but it is understandable. It was so worth it and we fully recommend to visit the islands.
This is our Aeolian islands travel guide. If you know about some other places around Aeolian islands which we should visit, then please share them with us in the comments below.