Blue waters, beautiful beaches, unspoilt nature, years of history and culture, caves and volcanoes of irresistible charm, one of the tastiest cuisines in the Mediterranean and a wide range day and night entertainment: these are the reasons why the Aeolian Islands have always attracted tourists from all over the world.
And if a "normal" holiday will leave you ecstatic, a trip by sailing boat, powerboat, luxury yacht or catamaran will be even more memorable and exclusive and will allow you to discover gems, coves, bays and beaches that are generally tricky to get to from the land. The Aeolian Islands, also known as the Seven Sisters, are an archipelago of volcanic origin, located in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, facing the coast of Messina, about a dozen nautical miles from Capo Milazzo.
Panoramic view of Panarea
Lipari, Salina, Vulcano, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea: seven gems, so praised and loved by many, all different from each other and each one of them able to offer itineraries and experiences that mould around different types of tourism, from the expert navigator who is looking for a bareboat solution and being able to plan in detail his/her trip to the tourist without a sailing license who prefers to rely on the experience of a skipper and enjoys his/her holiday in full relaxation.
Enjoying the Aeolian Islands on a sailing boat is definitely a unique experience: you will visit places full of history that has been heavily influenced by the Greeks, the Romans, passing through Arabs and Spaniards; everyone leaving some wonderful traditions and heritage into the soil of these islands. The presence of two active volcanoes and the typical nature 'isolana' (that is typical of Mediterranean islands) makes this archipelago special and magic. Let's take you by the hand in this nautical trip of the Aeolian sisters.
Here we come to Salina, the second largest, with three municipalities and about two thousand inhabitants, known for the production of capers and malvasia. Here you absolutely must not miss the beautiful beach of the bay of Pollara, which rises in practice in what is a partially collapsed volcanic crater.
Panoramic view from Salina - photo by Thomas Holzheu
Formed by as many as six volcanoes and equipped with the highest reliefs of the archipelago, as well as the thickest vegetation, Salina frequently wins the "Cinque Vele" prize awarded by Legambiente (the Italian national organization awarding beaches for their cleanliness) to the best beaches in Italy.
From Salina we move on to Vulcano which, as its name suggests, is also formed by the union of some volcanoes, with many activities that are still present nowadays such as 'fumarole' and steam jets. Not to be missed are the baths in the thermal mud puddle, the fascinating Black Sands Beach and finally the exclusive climb to the crater for a breathtaking view of the entire archipelago.
The island of Stromboli is completely dominated by its volcano, which is almost a thousand meters high and still active. It certainly deserves a special excursion. Heavily recommended to get there at night (see this wonderful picture for example): on board the sailboat or motorboat you can enjoy the spectacle of lapilli lit against the darkness of the night sky, a unique event.
Stromboli volcano - photo by Thomas Holzheu
Full of coves and small bays, caves and spectacular stacks, Filicudi is perhaps the island that lends itself to be enjoyed from sea and is a real paradise for those who love water sports and snorkeling, but also offers great opportunities for walking and hiking, with significant weather changes due to 'monte Fossa Felci', a volcano that is almost eight hundred meters high.
Alicudi is located right after Filicudi (if you move away from the Sicilian coast): very few inhabitants, extremely clean sea and pristine beaches for what is the westernmost of the Aeolian Islands and also the 'wildest' and less touched by tourism, a great reason to reach it by sea and enjoy a spot of total peace and utter tranquility.
And after visiting the quietest island, we arrive to what could be the opposite of Alicudi, a livelier, trendier island: Panarea may be the smallest of the Seven Sisters but it has achieved incredible tourist success since the seventies and is now known as the "VIP island". With its buzzing nightlife compared to the other islands, this is your go-to place if you're looking for entertainment and a wider offer of restaurants, bars, etc...
It is a unique place that can offer some of the trendiest and most interesting 'night life' of the entire archipelago and which, if visited in low season, produces one of the most exciting natural and precious landscape totally worth exploring.
"Sicily is wonderful, with its strong climate, as frank as the flavours of its products. Ginostra an enchantment. We arrived at sunset and the small port welcomed us silently.' Marta on holiday in the Aeolian Islands with her family
View of Ginostra from the sea
With Thomas Holzheu's crew photos speak by themselves...
Sicilian breakfast on the Aeolian islands - brioche and icecream!
In this Q&A we explore the Aeolian Archipelago with Marco, Dream Yacht Charter base manager in Portorosa. Portorosa is a strategic port from which you can easily get to the Aeolian Archipelago as it's just 15 miles from the closest island, Vulcano. Given the proximity of the islands from one another, only 6-8 miles apart, what makes sailing around the seven sisters so special and peculiar is visiting a different island every day.
"There are no particular difficulties to report around sailing here. The only thing to mention is the seabed depth: in all the bays of the islands the depth is quite high, this is due to the volcanic nature of the archipelago. That's why at the beginning of each charter we generally offer a briefing with our guests pointing out the safest areas to sail taking also in consideration the weather forecast for the week".
Among the bays you should definitely not miss in the Aeolian Islands, I recommend the Bay of Pollara on the island of Salina, made famous by the movie 'Il Postino' with Massimo Troisi. The Spiaggia delle Pomici on the island of Lipari, with a sandy seabed with a five meter depth only seabed and a large bay where you can easily anchor, and the bay of Baia Milazzese on the island of Panarea. Depending on the weather conditions there are many other bays you can easily reach by boat".
On all the islands of the archipelago you will find moorings with floating docks or buoy fields. There are no special procedures for booking during the season starting in May and ending in November. In the two central weeks of August it is advisable to make a reservation.
Sicily will amaze you from a culinary point of view, wherever you find wonderful restaurants with Sicilian specialties and fresh fish. I can say that you can start your tour directly in Portorosa right behind our office with the excellent restaurant La Plaza.
If you want to sail along the Strait of Messina I suggest you to do it during the daytime and consult the current tables to avoid encountering contrary currents. If you want to sail around Sicily, my advice is to take minimum two weeks. After the Strait of Messina you will find many coastal cities, including Taormina, Syracuse, Agrigento, Trapani, Palermo and Cefalù. You can visit the fantastic different archipelagos Sicily is surrounded by such as the archipelago of the Egadi Islands, of the Pelagie Islands with Pantelleria, Linosa and Lampedusa.
The island of Ustica is a true paradise for divers, a nature reserve for more than twenty years. And the already mentioned Aeolian Islands Archipelago. I wish you fair wind and look forward to welcoming you in our Portorosa base in Sicily!"
Check out Marco's Q&A here (you can enable English subtitles by clicking on the Gear icon at the bottom right of the video, then Subtitles)