The island of Panarea is the smallest but one among the group of volcanic islands known as the Aeolian islands, situated off the north-western coast of Sicily. Catch a ferry to Panarea from nearby Milazzo on the northern coast of Sicily.
Panarea is very popular with visitors exploring the islands, having a good selection of beaches and facilities, and some very attractive scenery - although note that quite a few of the beaches are hard to access or can only be reached by boat.
Most facilities on the island are focussed around the town of San Pietro on the eastern coast, which is also the arrival point for boats travelling between the islands. San Pietro is charming with its square white houses with blue paintwork and masses of bougainvillea. Also from the town there are wonderful views over the island of Stromboli and other Aegian Islands.
Panarea is the most chic of the Aeolian Islands partly because of the Hotel Raya which was built in the 1960s and has an outdoor disco which goes on all night in the summer and overlooks the great views. Panarea is a holiday home to many of the aristocratic families of Italy and Europe and draws in the jet set and Hollywood filmstars including Kate Moss and Urma Thurman.
The lovely harbour of Panarea is home to both fishing boats and luxury yachts. In the summer the town of San Pietro is buzzing but visit during the rest of the year and you can enjoy its beautiful scenery and tranquility.
Panarea has some excellent beaches though many are quite inaccessible. The two beaches that can be reached by land on Panarea are those at Cala Junco (towards the south, accessible by sea and also by land by following the footpath to Drauto and the beach at Cala degli Zimmari, situated along the road to Cala Junco. The scenery at the cove at Cala Junco is exceptional, with beautiful turquoise waters.
A tour of the islets off the coast of Panarea is also recommended. the three main islets are: Lisca Bianca, named for the whiteness of the rock, and with a cave where it is said that if you kiss your loved one you will be together for always; Basiluzzo, dome-shaped and with cliffs overlooking the sea (3km from Panarea) - follow the path from the Punta Levante that climbs to give great views across Panarea and Stromboli; and Spinazzola, best known and most unusual for the presence of rare dwarf palms.
Panarea is also the site of an important Bronze Age settlement, in a secluded bay surrounded by cliffs called Cala Junco, at Capo Milazzese near Drauto. The settlement included 23 huts, almost all with an oval shape, soma also including a paving slab and other slabs of stone used as tables etc. Further archaeological investigations off the coast have found the remains of three shipwrecked roman ships - visit the Museum at Lipari to see the historical artifacts discovered.
Another suggested trip is to the beach at Calcara, known for its geysers and hot springs.
Panarea and the other Aeolian Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their volcanic origin and activity.
Places to visit nearby
Lipari is the most populated of the Aeolian Islands and has a pretty harbour. Its ancient citadel is very pleasant to explore. Stromboli has an active volcano, one of only three in Europe. View its fiery display during a guided hike or safely from a night time boat tour of the island. Vulcano has a crater you can visit and smoking fumeroles though it also has a strong sulphur smell!
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.