The Ultimate Guide to the Aeolian Islands

I think being somewhere new and beautiful is good for your soul

Last updated on April 27th, 2019 at 08:10 pm

  1. How not to annoy or get annoyed by others on holiday
  2. Burano, Murano and Torcello – review of Viator tour
  3. A photo diary of Venice
  4. Perfect little lunch spots in Venice
  5. Sight-seeing in Venice – Secret Itinerary, Museum Pass and Chorus Scheme
  6. Searching for Romeo and Juliet
  7. Verona card review and top picks
  8. Best Gelato and Ravioli in Verona (or the World…)
  9. The Ultimate Hiking Guide to Porto Venere
  10. Vulcano – Part 1 of the 3 Boat Trips You Must Take in the Aeolian Islands
  11. Lipari – Salina: Part 2 of the 3 Boat Trips You Must Take in the Aeolian Islands
  12. Panarea – Stromboli – Part 3 of the 3 Boat Trips you Must take in the Aeolian Islands
  13. A Night hike up Stromboli
  14. The Ultimate Guide to the Aeolian Islands
  15. A Short Guide to Taormina
  16. Top 5 things to do in Palermo Sicily
  17. Top 5 things to do in Catania Sicily
  18. Mount Etna tours review – a geo adventure
  19. Club di Giulietta – The secret life of a Secretary of Juliet
  20. A budget foodie’s guide to Verona
  21. The Ultimate guide to Verona Opera Festival – tips and expectations
  22. Top 5 of Padua, Italy
  23. Mantua – a hidden town of palaces
  24. The Ultimate Guide to 48 hours in Milan
  25. Things to do in Sirmione – an escape to Lake Garda
  26. The Ultimate Guide to Cinque Terre
  27. Secret Spots in Verona – off the beaten path
  28. Day trips from Venice: 7+ quick escapes for you
  29. Lago di Soprais – how to do the Lake Soprais hike in the Italian Dolomites
  30. Cortina d’Ampezzo Summer guide for hikers
  31. Lagazuoi hike: seeing WWI tunnel warfare in the Dolomites
  32. 6 day Dolomite itinerary for the photo + hike enthusiast
  33. Tre Cime di Lavaredo: how to hike the classic three peaks in Dolomite Italy
  34. Bologna food guide: best restaurants, gelateria, and what to eat
  35. What to do in Bologna aside from eating
  36. What to see in Treviso Italy
  37. What to do on a San Marino Day Trip
  38. Day Trips from Bologna: amazing cities in Italy you don’t want to miss
  39. Northern Italy Itinerary: 5 different 10-14 days itineraries

The Aeolian Islands have long been a popular holiday destination for Italians and international tourists alike. A result of volcanism, its dramatic geology, beautiful sceneries was enough to draw visitors by the thousand even without the Sicilian cuisine. With 8 islands in the group and a dazzling array of hotels, resorts and activities to choose from – you can have your hands full deciding your itinerary. But that’s where I come in with my own experience.

Geological history of the Aeolian Islands

I will save the technical details and give you the simplified version of the story: even though it all really started 250 million years ago, involving a sea that no longer exists called the Tethys Ocean and two super continents known as Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south.

Due to plate-tectonics i.e. the movement of the top layer of the earth’s crust, Gondwana land was forced northwards and collided with Laurasia about 260,000 years ago. Part of the chain was Africa, which is forced into the Eurasia plate and under. This generates volcanism under the Mediterranean Sea, a remnant of the Tethys Ocean plate, where subduction is occurring at depth, and generated the Aeolian Island arcs.

Of course – the real geological history is much more complex than that. If you want to learn more, read here; if you want to read even more, go here.

The Aeolian Islands



Named after the Roman god of forges, Vulcano is a very green island completed with a volcano crater and hot sulfur springs. The southernmost island of the group, its last eruption was on the 3rd August 1880 and lasted two years. It is worth noting that the town only grew on the island since the last eruption – and the volcano is still active and might one day erupt again.


View of Lipari main port,Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy
View of Lipari main port

The most populated and largest Aeolian Island, Lipari is the central hub where most activities occur. It’s definitely the most touristy islands of the bunch, but it also has the best facilities. Settlements were formed on this island as far back as the Neolithic age as a center of trade for obsidian, and there are several archeological sites you can visit during your stay.


Salina - Monte dei Porri
Salina – Monte dei Porri

The second largest Aeolian Island, it is just northeast of Lipari and home to six volcanoes which are no longer active. The last eruption ended 13,000 years ago, forming the gorgeous Pallara that you can visit on a boat trip. Its name Salina comes from the activities of salt mining in the town of Lingua and there is a bus service connecting the settlements on the island.


Panarea - vista dal villaggio preistorico
The infamous cove of Panarea

Most recognizable by the gorgeous semi-circular pool that’s a protected UNESCO site, Panarea is the second smallest island right after Basiluzzo. It is a popular holiday spot for celebrities and a great spot for scuba diving and enjoy the serenity that only exists on an island of 280 year-round inhabitants. You can swim behind this bay on a boat trip!


Stromboli, an active volcano in the Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy
The volcano of Stromboli is still active and eruption can be seen almost nightly

With eruptions still occurring almost daily, Stromboli is the northernmost Aeolian Islands. For any thrill seekers or adventurers, excursions to climb the volcano can be done in the evening which allows you to observe the eruptions up close and personal. Don’t worry too much – the craters are still a fair distance away and the basaltic eruptions are mild and nongaseous.


Basiluzzo, smallest of the Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy

Barely 1km2 in size, Basiluzzo is the smallest of the eight Aeolian Islands and remains uninhabited.


Alicudi looking towards Filicudi, Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy
Alicudi looking towards Filicudi

The westernmost island of the group, Alicudi is the most remote and youngest. Originally named Island of Erica, there are only 120 inhabitants on this island.


Just east of Alicudi, the original name of Filicudi has been the Phoenician Island. It was periodically inhabited by the Greeks and Romans, and saw in influx of modern day celebrity inhabitants in the 70s.

Do – Boat trips

Clear blue water of Lipari, Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy
The bluest water I have ever seen

Given the secluded nature of the Aeolian Islands and the beautiful Mediterranean weather as well as the geological wonders, there is no better way to explore the beauty of the islands other than to take boat trips.

Most boat trips offered can be separated into four categories:

  1. Vulcano
  2. Lipari-Salina
  3. Panarea-Stromboli
  4. Alicudi-Filicudi

We only had time to visit the first three – which were an absolute highlight of my epic summer adventure. We also went an extra step and added an evening hike up the Stromboli, which was best described as an experience of a lifetime.

Getting to the Aeolian Islands

Hydrofoil from Milazzo to Aeolian Islands
Hydrofoil from Milazzo to Aeolian Islands

Even though you can get a ferry ride to Lipari directly from Palermo or Messina, I would recommend taking advantage of the faster train services and head off to the islands via Milazzo, the closest land point.

Ferry Milazzo Lipari

Ferries to each Aeolian Islands run from this port; however the most frequent would be the one to Lipari, with a stop with Vulcano. It takes from 45 minutes to 3 hours to cross and it’s best to check the schedule prior to the date of your departure.

Ferries also run between the islands themselves, but less frequently – so make sure you check and plan your trip in advance.

Where to stay on Aeolian Islands

It’s very tempting to go for the cheap AirBnB or hostel you find on the internet, and the former is exactly what I did until we were forced to evacuate from the ant-infested room.

We ended up staying in a twin room at the Hotel Residence Mendolita* in Lipari and it was a great choice. Though a little further from the town center (about ten, fifteen minutes’ walk), it’s quiet and the ground floor of the villa our room occupies is nothing short of stunning.

Despite the 50 Euros per person per night fee – I really thought it was worth the dosh, simply because:

  • Comfort – if you, like us, visit in the hot summer months – you will be constantly in the heat and if you make the most out of your day you would be exhausted when you are back. Which lead us onto the next two points
  • En-suite bathroom – getting in and out of the sea and being in the sun all day, sometimes all you want is to take a shower. Though some hostels are lovely, some aren’t. And having an en-suite bathroom you can rely on can make all the difference.
  • Working air conditioning – the AirBnB we stayed in at first didn’t have working air conditioning – and unless you are used to the suffocating heat, you will need it.
  • Studio kitchen – you don’t always want to eat out – have a small stove, sink and fridge gives you some option. And cold drinks.
  • Breakfast included – need I say more?
  • Daily cleaners – you are bound to bring home some sand.

Written by Nam Cheah

Hi, my name is Nam. I am 24 and spent half my life in Hong Kong and the other half in UK. I believe there's endless experience and beauty in the world and this is me chronicling how to experience the best at the best price.


One Ping

  1. Pingback:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

View of sunset, smoke and other hikers from Stromboli | Laugh Travel Eat

A Night hike up Stromboli

5 reasons why I ditched London and move back to Hong Kong

The Millennium Bridge across the River Thames in London at twilight | Laugh Travel Eat