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Sicily Aeolian Island Walk & Cruise

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  • Location: Italy
  • Duration: 9 Days/8 Nights
  • Departing from: Catania, Friday 7 p.m. Day 1
  • Tour finishes: Catania, 10 a.m. Saturday, Day 9
  • Departures 2019: Private departures only, contact us for details.
  • Price 2019: Price depends on group size and dates, contact us for more details.

Explore the stunning Aeolian Islands of Sicily on foot while traveling on board a private two-masted sailing ketch. This archipelago of 8 small islands just off the northern coast of Sicily is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a prime destination for travel-savvy Italians. The islands are all different, each one offering something extraordinary: hike along the volcanic crater of Vulcano (after which all volcanoes were named!); visit the Archaeological Museum of Lipari, with its extensive collection of ancient artefacts that bear witness to a lively trade in the area as far back as 6,000 years ago; test your style in the chic hideaway of Panarea; climb the slopes of majestic Stromboli, one of the only continuously active volcanoes in the world; enjoy the lush greenery and delicious malvasia wines of Salina; then hike to Bronze Age ruins on tiny Filicudi. We begin our trip in Catania, which is easily reached by air from many European hubs. We then spend 7 nights aboard a luxury “Turkish-style” sailing yacht known as a “gulet” (the same that we use on our trips in Turkey, Greece and Croatia), all cabins with en suite bathroom, shower, and air-conditioning.

The best way to see the islands is by boat, since many towns, trails and beaches are only accessible by sea. The rich history, amazing natural beauty, and luxury of our own private yacht make this the trip of a lifetime!

Sicily Aeolian Island Walk & Cruise itinerary

Day 1 – Friday

Independent Arrival Catania: Make your way independently to Catania, which is well connected to the rest of Italy and other European hubs by standard airlines (Alitalia) as well as low-cost carriers (Ryan Air, Easy Jet, etc.). Meet the rest of the group at 7 p.m. for drinks followed by dinner in town. Overnight Catania. Hotel and dinner included.

Day 2 – Saturday

Transfer to Milazzo to board the yacht: We have an hour-and-a-half van transfer this morning to Milazzo, where we can have lunch and explore the Baroque city streets before boarding our private “gulet.” From here we have a one-hour (or so) motor to Lipari, whose history goes back 6,000 years to Neolithic times when a lively trade in obsidian put the island on the map. Rich archaeological remains make this a fascinating place to start our trip. We’ll have a short walk through the old town before dinner, plus a visit of the fascinating Archaeological Museum. Return to the gulet for cocktails and then enjoy a fresh seafood dinner on deck or in town. Overnight Lipari. All meals included.

Day 3 – Sunday

Lipari Island walk then cruise to Vulcano Island: After breakfast on board, we cruise around to the other side of the island for a hike along the rugged east coast with sweeping views over the sea. Return to the boat for a tasty lunch and then sail around to the crystal waters of the Faraglioni di Lipari for a swim.  In the late afternoon, cruise (only 30 mins) across the straights to the neighboring island of Vulcano, where we can try a soak in the famous thermal mud baths. Vulcano used to strike terror into the hearts of the Greeks and Romans as the legendary forge of the god Vulcanus, whose workshop produced the weapons for Mars, the god of war. Now it’s one of the hot-spots of the Italian coast, offering an active volcano, open-air thermal pools which bubble into the Mediterranean, and a beautiful black sand beach. Overnight Vulcano.

Day 4 – Monday

Vulcano hike and cruise to Panarea Island: Today after breakfast we have an exciting hike up to the crater rim of the volcano. You’ll have spectacular views over all of the Aeolian Islands, and get a peek into the crater, which, though dormant, still emits sulfurous fumes. We board our yacht again for lunch and a rest, then a swim in a quiet bay on the other side of the island. In the late afternoon we depart for the beautiful island of Panarea (2 hrs), the darling of Italy’s jet-set. Dine tonight at a local restaurant in town. Overnight Panarea.

Day 5 – Tuesday

Panarea walk and cruise to Salina Island: Wake up with a splash this morning! Try a morning swim with your coffee in the shimmering waters of Panarea Bay. Panarea is the second-smallest of the Aeolian Islands with only 280 year-round residents, and in recent years it has become known for its celebrity visitors. There is archaeological evidence on the island dating back to Mycenaean inhabitants (~ 1200 BCE) from Greece; later the island was settled by Romans. It remained inhabited until the fall of Rome, when pirates and other invaders made it too dangerous to live there. We have a lovely hike this morning to beautiful Cala Junco and Zimmari cove, where we can see the Bronze Age ruins of an ancient settlement. Return to our gulet for lunch and a swim at Lisca Bianca, where the Italian movie “L’Avventura” was filmed (in 1960) by acclaimed director Michelangelo Antonioni, while 25 m (75 ft.) below us lies the shipwreck of a British tanker that went down in 1885. Afterwards, motor over to our next destination (2 hrs): Stromboli (pronounced with the accent on the FIRST syllable, not as in the folded-over pizza dish). Overnight Stromboli.

Day 6 – Wednesday

Stromboli Island and cruise to Salina: Wake up in the shadow of the massive Stromboli volcano, which has been in continuous eruption for the past 2,000 years! We can attempt a hike to the summit, or else take a more gentle 11 km loop walk from town up and around the base of the volcano. Return to the gulet for a swim and lunch, then cruise over to verdant Salina island (2 hrs). We’ll disembark upon arrival to sample some of their famous wines. Overnight Salina.

Day 7 – Thursday

Salina Island and motor to Filicudi: Salina is the greenest island of the archipelago and graced with acres of delicious malvasia grapes. We begin our hike in the port of Rinella, known as Didyme (= twin) in ancient times for the twin peaks of the island’s silhouette. Set out after breakfast for a hike up to Monte de Porri, which commands fabulous views over the surrounding islands and over to the natural preserve of Monte delle Felci. Descend to the picturesque village of Pollara, where the Oscar-winning movie “Il Postino” was filmed. Return to the yacht for lunch and a swim in a turquoise bay, then eventually set motor for the tranquil island of Filicudi (3 hrs). Overnight Filicudi.

Day 8 – Friday

Filicudi Island and motor back to Lipari: Set out this morning to explore the wild and rugged island of Filicudi, hree-quarters of which is now a Nature Reserve. The name “Filicudi” comes from the ancient Greek “Phoenicusa,” and indeed the island was settled since the Neolithic Age, around 3000 BC. There is archaeological evidence on the island from the Bronze Age, as well as the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods. We’ll hike out to see the Bronze Age ruins of Capo Graziano and then head into the island’s interior. Return to the gulet for lunch on board and then a swim and a visit of the suggestive “Cave of the Monk Seal,” which is 30 m wide and 20 m high and used to be home to local seals. Later in the afternoon we motor back to Lipari (3 hrs). Overnight Lipari. 

Day 9 -- Saturday

Leave your sea-legs behind and return to Milazzo this morning, then transfer back to Catania for onward journeys. Let us know if you would like us to help organize more walks or activities for you (we have an entire week-long Sicily walk that begins from Catania).

** Optional Extension **

Combine this amazing walking tour with our "classic" Sicily walk, which also begins and ends in Catania. We explore the area around Mount Etna (another active volcano) as well as the beautiful Baroque city of Noto and the historically important city of Siracusa, which once rivaled Athens as the most important city in "Magna Grecia." See our trip here.

The walks in the Aeolian Islands,

though not long in terms of distance, can be strenuous at times as we ascend or descend rugged trails and volcanic hillsides.  We have designed the trip so that there is always plenty of free time in the late afternoon so you can relax, read, or have a swim. Breakfast is included every day, and dinners reflect the excellent traditional food of the region. Daily distance between 6 and 12 kms.

Activity Level 2 + = Easy to Moderate Plus:
In general: This is an Easy to Moderate tour for fit hikers, and a little challenging but do-able for not-so-fit hikers.
Terrain: Flat to gently rolling terrain but with some rocky, rugged terrain. May have some short, relatively steep climbs and descents, but nothing longer than 30 minutes of sustained ascents or descents. The walks are shorter in distance than those found on a 3 rated tour. 
Actual walking time: Between 2-4 hours per day, mostly in the morning but sometimes also in the afternoon.
Distances: Usually between 7 and 10 kms/4.5 and 6 miles. Max distance is 12 kms/7 miles.
Surfaces: Trails consisting of mostly compact earth, gravelly earth, and sometimes dirt-gravel roads and on occasion rocky and uneven trails. .
Footing: Good, but on occasion you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes with thick soles with good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
Specifics: Flat to rolling terrain but often on uneven, rocky trails. Daily activity between 2-4 hours per day, mostly in the morning. Max distance 10 km (6 mi.). Note: a typical day starts with a drop-off from the boat and a morning walk of a few hours with a stop along the way. We often end the morning walk at a beach or cove where we are picked up by the boat. Then we have lunch, cruise to our next destination, and sometimes have a short afternoon walk. This tour can become very easy if you choose to skip some of the walks and enjoy relaxing on the boat!
Hiking Poles: Not required, but if you habitually use hiking poles then you will find them helpful.  
Compared to the Cinque Terre: This tour is significantly easier than the hikes in the Cinque Terre.
Other: This tour is appropriate for fit first time “hikers” who enjoy walking and who have good balance and are coordinated. 
Easy to Moderate Plus Tours: in this category are all of our boat–based tours in Turkey, Croatia, and Greece if you decide to do all of the walks on offer. On these trips, we usually do a walk in the morning, return to the boat for a swim and then lunch, then cruise, then sometimes drop off for another late afternoon hike, which you could skip and just relax on the boat. Your guides of course can advise you of the difficulty level and the terrain and footing of each walk. Other Easy to Moderate Plus tours are: Tuscany Val d’Orcia & Maremma Walk and Provence Walk

Trip Cost includes: 1 night Catania + 7 nights accommodation on board Turkish-style "gulet," a two-masted all-wood sailing ketch; all meals; bilingual guide(s); all transfers and visits as noted in the itinerary.

Booking: e-mail us at info@customwalks.com to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.

Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below.  Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.

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By Air: Catania is well connected to other Italian cities as well as many European cities via low-cost airlines like EasyJet, RyanAir, etc. For the most current information, go to the airline’s website (in English), and click on “Flight information > Airlines” for a list of airlines that fly there. Also see also our "Transport Info" page (in the menu heading "Info") for specific airport information and a list of smaller airlines you can consult for flights.

Train: There are trains to Sicily from the Italian mainland, but it's not fast. The train from Rome, for example, will take you around 10 hours, so we suggest you fly!

Getting away at the end of the trip: We disembark the gulet on Saturday morning in Milazzo and then have a 1.5-hour transfer back to the Catania airport, arriving around 10 a.m., so please don't book any onward travel earlier than noon (if you MUST leave earlier, contact us and we'll see if we can help arrange earlier departure for you).

If you should book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip. Please e-mail us with any specific travel questions.

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