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Best anchorages in Aeolian Islands

Suggestions from an experienced local skipper

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Located near the northern shores of Sicily, in the southernmost region of Italy, there lies a timeless scenery of sulfur, pumice, and obsidian that emerges from the deep, dark waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The physical shape of this area is typical of islands formed by volcanic activity, molded by the forces of nature over countless centuries. Like skilled artists, the sea and wind have diligently crafted this landscape, resulting in the breathtaking scenery we witness today. It is not a mere coincidence that the Aeolian Islands were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

Each of the seven Aeolian islands has its distinct landscape and offerings. Walking on extinct (and active!) volcanoes, bathing on black sand beaches, and visiting the incredible rock formations and caves off the coast are just some of the highlights. Hiring a boat to explore them all allows you to visit them all in a playful itinerary that gets better each day.

This is a circular itinerary that will take you from Vulcano all the way to Filicudi, written in collaboration with a local Sicilian skipper, Giovanni Arena. With several years of experience on his shoulders, Giovanni shares some nautical nuggets and insider tips on the Aeolian Islands that you will hardly find somewhere else!

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Departures for the Aeolian Islands

There are two main ports from which you can set sail for the Aeolian Islands:

1) Portorosa, 15 NM from the island of Vulcano (the closest one to the mainland) - about 2h30min sailing

2) Capo D'Orlando, 16 NM from Vulcano (about 2h45min sailing). 

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Boat Rental Aeolian Islands: book your holiday today!

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Best anchorages in the Aeolian Islands

- Vulcano

- Lipari

- Panarea 

- Stromboli

- Salina

- Filicudi 

- Alicudi


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Vulcano

Vulcano is the third largest and southernmost island in the Aeolian group. It is from here that our boat trip begins. In the past, the volcanic activity that periodically takes place in the Gran Cratere has resulted in people having to evacuate the island.

Today, the activity is limited to the fumaroles found in the area around the Fossa and on the isthmus between the Faraglioni and Vulcanello. A strip of land separates Vulcanello from the island, giving rise to the bays of Porto Levante and Porto Ponente from where it is possible to reach the village.

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Best anchorages on Vulcano

  • Bay of Porto Levante: famous for its warm water right next to the beach, this is the central bay from where you can reach Vulcano. It is a bay with a fair amount of maritime traffic due to being the only commercial port on the island. Pay attention when entering the bay, giving precedence to the various regular ferries.

Anchoring is possible in front of the beach with a sandy and muddy seabed. Buoys are available in the bay or moor at nearby jetties. It is recommended to book in advance during peak season.

  • Bay of Porto Ponente: this bay has a beautiful sunset view, but be careful of rocks. Anchor in the center on a seabed of 5 to 14 meters. The seabed is ideal for staying overnight, but be cautious of strong winds, which can hit quite strongly here.
  • Grotta del Cavallo: named after the boulder at the end of the cave that looks just like a horse's head., this rocky cove also presents a Piscina di Venere (Venus' Pool), perfect for a day of snorkelling.

Anchoring here is only recommended during the daytime by dropping your anchor inside the bay immediately to the south, circumnavigating the Pietra Quaglietta rock on the outside. The bay has a sandy seabed in the centre with large boulders near the cliff.

  • Baia di Gelso: Located on the southernmost tip of Vulcano, presents a small jetty as a landing place for small boats or tenders. Here you can have lunch at the famous da Pina Restaurant (best to book).
  • Baia Della Spiaggia del Cannatella: not far from the aforementioned, this bay is another safe anchoring spot with a bar where you can enjoy an aperitif on the beach.

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Recommendations on Vulcano

Especially for trekking lovers, the free excursion to the island's crater. Estimated time 1 hour to reach the summit. To enjoy an excellent Sicilian granita, I recommend Ritrovo Remigio in front of the commercial port. Get a taste of the typical Aeolian cuisine at La Bottega Restaurant right in the village centre. 

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Lipari 

Lipari is the largest and oldest of the Aeolian Islands, located 6 NM from Vulcano. It is divided into two villages, Marina Corta and Marina Lunga. The island has white beaches with pumice quarries, clear seabeds, obsidian flows in Acquacalda, and impressive cliffs on the western side. Exploring by boat allows for a unique view of coves, caves, and rock formations not visible from land.

Best anchorages in Lipari 

  • In Marina Corta, you will find a small harbour for small fishing boats only and, in any case, reserved for local boats. In front of Marina Corta or immediately to the south of the harbour entrance, it is possible to anchor on a sandy seabed of about 12 metres. Beware of local traffic when approaching. This anchoring is ideal for visiting the village or spending the night.
  • In Marina Lunga, you can moor on several floating bridges and take advantage of all the essential yachting services. Alternatively, floating docks are a little further down in the small pleasure port (Porto Pignataro), which also provides refueling spots.

Other bays worth a stop are Capo Rosso, on the northeastern side of the island, only reachable by boat, and Spiaggia Praia di Vinci at the southern end of the island, perfect for snorkeling.

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Recommendations on Lipari

On Lipari, I suggest hiring a car or moped to explore the island. The landscapes, as well as the amazing restaurants, are worth a stop; Trattoria del Vicolo, where you will find traditional Sicilian and Aeolian dishes reinterpreted in a modern key; la Kasbah, housed in an old theatre, is nestled in the alleyways of Lipari; and finally, Ristorante da Filippino for tasting the excellent fish.

Don't forget to try the delicious granita of La Pasticceria d'Ambra in Marina Corta or Subba in Marina Lunga. 

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Panarea

Panarea is 10NM from Lipari (about 1h40min) and is famous for its nightlife, lounge bars, discos under the stars, boutiques, and white houses with blue doors and windows, but above all for its crystal clear water ideal for snorkelling. From the harbour area, you can visit the quaint city centre on foot. 

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Best anchorages in Panarea

At the island's southern tip, there are two main coves: Cala Zimmari and Cala Junco.

  • Cala Zimmari is a safe harbour, well sheltered from the winds and the regular sea coming from the fourth quadrant, so it is ideal for anchoring both during the day and at night. From here you can land on the beach and reach the nearby prehistoric village or the island's centre in about 20 minutes.
  • Cala Junco is a corner of paradise set among the rocks. I strongly recommend doing some snorkelling here: the seabed inside the cove is exceptional.

If you want to visit the island and anchor the boat in a safe spot, I recommend you take one of the many buoys with taxi service included in the price positioned along the east coast of the island. It is possible to book them in advance or directly on the spot.

  • The Islets of Bottaro and Lisca Bianca: you can anchor between the islets on a sandy bottom between 5 and 13 metres, paying attention to the shallow waters in the channel between the two. Here you can enjoy a swim above the solfatara - bubbles coming from the bottom of the sea and ideal for a natural hydro-massage.
  • Basiluzzo islet: The colours of the seabed and the turquoise water are exceptional here. For safe anchoring, I recommend stopping in front of the east coast of the islet on a 9 to 14-meter sand and stone bottom.

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Recommendations on Panarea

Pay a visit to the prehistoric village between Cala Junco and Cala Zimmari and trek along the path from Cala Zimmari around the whole island.

The restaurants Cusiritati and Da Pina are perfect for a fish dinner, while Il macellaio offers delicious meat or pizza. For an elegant and suggestive aperitif, I recommend Raya restaurant with a panoramic terrace overlooking the bay of Panarea and Stromboli.

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Stromboli 

Stromboli is undoubtedly the most surprising of the archipelago's islands. Its volcano, in perpetual explosive activity, gives incandescent plays of lava that, especially at nightfall, offer unique emotions. Navigating from Panarea to Stromboli is fascinating and unique throughout the journey that separates them (about 2 hours of navigation).

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Best anchorages in Stromboli 

  • Punta Lena: On the northeastern side of the island is the main town. Here it is possible to anchor on a mixed bed of sand and stones between 5 and 12 metres. Otherwise, it is safer to moor at one of the many buoys in front of the beach at Punta Lena.

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Recommendations on Stromboli 

The most popular activity on the island is trekking up the volcano with a guide to see the magma pouring out of the crater. Bar Ingrid is a recommended stop for delicious food and a beautiful view over Strombolicchio islet.

On the west side of Stromboli, you can admire the rocky wall shaped by magma flows over the years. For the more experienced, I recommend sailing at sunset to be enchanted by the explosions of fire and lapilli rolling down to the sea. Always check the local protocols on the distance necessary from the coast on this side of the island. 

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Salina 

Salina is the second-largest island of the Aeolian Archipelago, after Lipari, with an area of about 27 square kilometers.  The rich vegetation of ferns, poplars, oaks, vineyards, and capers also makes it the greenest, especially in the spring and summer seasons.

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Best anchorages in Salina

  • Santa Marina Salina: this is the island's central landing place where you can find two ports, one commercial, where you can stock up on fuel and water, and one dedicated to pleasure boats with all the essential services. You can also anchor safely just outside the harbour and reach the island by tender.
  • Pollara Bay: made famous by the film Il Postino, is a secret treasure of the island and one of the most beautiful in the archipelago. A surreal place where time seems to have frozen. Enter the bay from the northwest, keeping between Punta Perciato and Scoglio Faraglione to anchor on a sandy and rocky sea bed of between 5 and 10 metres. Beware of large boulders almost at water level.

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Recommendations on Salina

Lingua is a village on the extreme south-eastern tip of the island where you can anchor on a bottom between 5 and 12 metres for a day or night stop.

The lake is very suggestive: it was built by the Romans to collect the salt used to preserve capers and fish. Let yourself be delighted by the Pane Cunzato and granitas of the Ristorante da Alfredo before returning to the boat.

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Filicudi 

Together with Alicudi, Filicudi is the furthest island from Sicily, characterized by a rocky coastline and formed by a group of craters. With no roads, the locals often travel on donkeys. Both islands are perfect for those who want to get off the beaten track.

It distances 10NM from Salina, about 1h40min by boat. 

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Best anchorages in Filicudi

  • Main harbour bay: on the north side of the island is the bay with the main pier for ferries. Here I do not recommend anchoring as the sea bed is not a good seal, but you can moor at the small floating dock with water service or the buoys.
  • Southern coast: as you approach the first small beach, you can anchor from 11 metres upwards to avoid the large boulders that have crumbled from the rock face over time. 
  • Pecorini a Mare: you can moor near the many buoys available in front of the village.
  • Montenassari rock: you can anchor here at 12-16 metres, preferably during the daylight hours and with a snorkel because of the rocky seabed. Enjoy a nice swim in these waters!

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Recommendations in Filicudi

On the west coast of the island of Filicudi, you can admire the beautiful Grotta del Bue (Ox Cave), and half a mile further out to sea, you can see the Canna - a solitary 85-meter high stack in the middle of the sea.

Don't forget to try the Malvasia, a liquored wine typical of this island!

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Alicudi 

Alicudi is the smallest of the Aeolian Islands. It has a surface of 5,10 square kilometres, with a few dozen of people as inhabitants; it is quite far from Filicudi, about 10 miles heading west - 1h40min of navigation.

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Best anchorages in Alicudi

The island has a coin shape, therefore you will not find many sheltered bays, and the seabed drops rapidly. If you want to visit it, I recommend mooring at the buoys available in front of the small village.

It is also good to check the weather forecasts to make sure you find favourable wind and sea conditions.

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Whether you are an experienced sailor or a skipper, you will know that traveling by boat requires flexibility in planning.

Always consider wind and current conditions to modify your return route. The predominant winds during the summer season are those coming from the northeast (Grecale). In the winter season, winds from the southwest (Libeccio) and west (Ponente) are more frequent. 

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About skipper Giovanni Arena

"I come from a small fishing village on the Strait of Messina, and since I was a child, I grew up in close contact with the sea and boats. I started having my first experience at sea with a sailing dinghy at the age of 14. A few years later, at the age of 19, I obtained my sailing license and immediately afterward the title of Yacht & Monotype sailing instructor, the latter obtained on Lake Garda. Here I had the opportunity to work for a couple of seasons in a sailing school as an instructor, interspersed with skippering experience in Italy and Greece."

Folllow Giovanni on Instagram @vita_da_barca

 skipper Giovanni Arena

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