The marina of Portorosa is an ideal base to start this incredible sailing holiday towards the Aeolian Islands. Close to this marina, there is a supermarket (Maxì) where all the provisions can be bought. Make sure you prepare well and always check the weather forecasts before leaving the harbor. When you are sailing with a hired skipper, there is no need. At the end of this suggested itinerary, you can find information on VHF frequencies and good weather forecast websites. The assumed cruising speed is an average of 6 knots.
Moreover, this route can mainly provide information on the Aeolian Islands. It is entirely up to you which eventual course will be initiated. The Aeolian Islands are suitable for people who are looking for a calm and relaxing place without mass tourism. And remember – the Tubber Experts are always here to assist you!
Start sailing from Portorosa
The Aeolian island Vulcano has located only 14 n.m. away from the Marina of Portorosa, but won’t be the first destination of this route. This route will first take part along the coast of Sicily towards the picturesque town of Cefalú. This town has a beautiful harbor and comfortable beach. The houses and buildings that surround the port of Cefalù seem to rise out of the sea itself, a real postcard scenery. It takes about eight hours to cross the distance of 53 n.m. to Cefalù from Portorosa.
The Aeolian Islands
Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina, Vulcano, Panarea, Stromboli and Lipari
The Aeolian archipelago has volcanic roots located on the north side of Sicily and consists of seven different beautiful islands. Lipari, Salina, and Vulcano are the biggest. In the west, the smaller Filicudi and Alicudi can be found, and at the north-side, Panarea and Stromboli. An interesting fact is that Filicudi and Alicudi are the oldest islands of the island group.
The younger islands are Vulcano and Stromboli. These islands still have quite severe volcanic activity, which is something to bear in mind! The other islands are also known for their volcanic activity, but this is more manifested by hot waters, thermal muds, and underwater springs.
The distance from Cefalú to Alicudi is 38 n.m. and will take between five and six hours. Alicudi has never been a very populated island, because it is quite bare and very rough, however also breathtaking.
The island name is inspired by the plant name “Ericusa”, which means ‘heather’, a plant that is present on the island and where a few inhabitants make handicrafts from. Because the island was a target by incessant pirate aggressions in the old days, the island residents were compelled to find housing build on high terraces. To this day the primary manner of transportation is by donkey! It is possible to overnight at Alicudi, but circumnavigate the island and sail to the nearby island of Filicudi is very much possible as well. The islands are only 8 n.m. apart.
Filicudi is, as mentioned before, together with Alicudi the oldest of the Aeolian archipelago. This island has three small towns with a total of 300 residents. The archaeological aspects of the island are truly beautiful! Most famous are the caves of Filicudi, specifically the Bue Marino. Rumor has it that a monster lives within this cave and when passing by you can hear its voice.
Furthermore, close to Scoglio di Montenassari, few meters away from La Canna – a towering rock formation, there is a perfect snorkeling location and therefore a perfect opportunity to put down anchor.
Setting sail to Vulcano from Filicudi takes 3.5 hours and is 21 n.m. to the southeast. Vulcano is the most savage of the Aeolian islands; they say that Vulcano changes appearance according to the colors of the sky.
On the north side of the island, you can find Vulcanello, the peninsula was born by a very violent underwater volcano eruption. Along the isthmus that connects Vulcanello to the rest of the island, the bays of Porto Ponente and Porto Levante are located.
The underwater boils make the water very hot at Porto Ponente, and Porto Levante gets the name from its thin black sand. Visit the ‘Piscina di Venere’ on the far west of the island and discover the white/yellow rocks further to the south.
The far south of the island enables easy docking, and on the east, the plot of caves around Punta Luccia is mesmerizing. Don’t forget that crystal clear turquoise water surrounds all these places.
This journey’s next stop is the Aeolian Islands of Panarea. This island lies only 14 n.m. away from Vulcano, towards the north-east. It is very tiny, but has three towns! Furthermore, Panarea is known as an archipelago within an archipelago because of all the small islands that surround it. There are many caves to be discovered, and the island itself is covered by lush Mediterranean flora. Moreover, several thermal springs can be found.
This island lies further to the north-east from Panarea and takes less than two hours of sailing to reach. The waters around Stromboli are around 1.200 meters deep, and Stromboli itself is known as the highest dry volcano of Europe. The lava runs on the northwest side of the island. Therefore, the island is inhabited in the northeast. I personally wouldn’t recommend it, though. The whole island should be visited, special attention should be paid to Ginostra, just amazing. It doesn’t really matter where you start the circumnavigation of the island, as long as you see the Strombolicchio, a rock that rises fifty meters high above the water. Don’t miss the lava on the northwest of the island falling into the ocean, especially at night; this show of nature is spectacular.
It takes 20 n.m. of sailing from Stromboli to reach the second-largest island of the Aeolian archipelago, Salina. Iconic is the volcano twins, Monte del Porri and Fossa delle Felci. The island’s name is derived from the saltwater lake on the south of the island, where high quality (cooking)salt was made in the past.
However, this is also the only Aeolian island that has freshwater. Therefore there is much more lush and green leaf vegetation to be discovered. A beautiful contrast when you arrive at the sea. This also leads to the fact that Salina is very famous for its vineyards. Moreover, the delicious and unique Malvasia wine originates from here! An extra reason to buy a bottle or two.
Many say that Pollara is the only nice area on the island to visit, they are wrong. With over 20 kilometers of coastline, there are many more small fishing towns, coves, and scenic shores to be found. The island lends itself perfect for long walks.
The final Aeolian island in this suggested itinerary is the biggest island of the island group, Lipari. Like its relatives, the environment of Lipari is also volcanic. The latest of these movements happened (only) 11,000 years ago.
The island has around 10.000 residents, this doubles in the high season with all the tourists. It has four towns that are similarly beautiful and are all rich in ancient ruins and Roman buildings. A must-see is an ancient acropolis in the village of Lipari, the Archaeological Park and Museum. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Spiaggia Bianca, meaning ‘white shore’; this beautiful coast is made out of the defining volcanic pumice, which results in the unique scenery.
To give final advice on the best places to anchor in around the Aeolian Islands: see for yourself! There is an abundance of beautiful places to lay, anchor, just find your perfect spot and put on your snorkel set to enjoy the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Additional places visiting Sicily
Having extra time on your hands? It is very much possible to visit the capital of Sicily when sailing around the Aeolian islands. It is a long trip, around 70 n.m.; therefore, it is advisable to have several persons on board who can skipper the boat. But you won’t be disappointed; Palermo’s is Sicily’s cultural, touristic, and economic capital. The city is very rich in culture, art, music, and food. Especially the food is incredibly diverse and delicious.
The old Roman buildings, palaces, and churches are just a lust for the eye. Even if you prefer to have a nice and quiet vacation, Palermo won’t disappoint you. Because of its beautiful old architecture, the city has a profound place as to the UNESCO world heritage site. Therefore, it is not a surprise that Palermo is one of the top tourist destinations in the whole of Europe.
Likewise, of the Palermo suggestion, when you are will go for the next step, the island of Ustica is a possible place to visit as well. The island is located at 34 n.m. above Palermo or 55 n.m. to the east of Alicudi. Ustica is a small and cozy island, also known as the black pearl, and is famous for its scuba diving. In 1989 a sizeable prehistoric village was dug up and revealed over 300 stone build houses! The overall scenery is breathtaking, and the feeling of being on that single island in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea is unique, to say the least. The island was used as a prison in the old days; it is also known as a fascist island! Don’t worry, you won’t find any old fascists here anymore.
And if this is not enough, check out another Sicily Sailing Itinerary.
Nice to know
WEATHER FORECAST: VHF channel No. 68 at any time ( in Italian and English) or Windguru
The prevailing winds around the Aeolian Islands during the summer tend to be from NW or NE. However, in calm weather, sea breezes can be encountered from any direction blowing onto and between the islands. While infrequent, gales are not unknown during the spring and early summer, and careful forward planning are necessary as there are only two harbors that offer adequate shelter (and even then, not in strong southerlies). In winter, the gregale is a strong NE wind that can affect the whole of the island group and blow for several days.