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Vulcano is the closest of the Aeolian Islands to Sicily and can easily be reached by ferry from Milazzo on the northern coast of Sicily. The 25 kilometer crossing takes about 45 minutes. It is also possible to get there from Messina on the north-east coast of Sicily.
Vulcano is not to everybody's taste. For one thing it has a very strong smell of sulphur, especially around the numerous fumeroles or near the craters. However if you are looking for something out of the ordinary and wish to hike to a volcano crater then this is a good choice. The nearby island of Stromboli is another possibility though this volcano is active and so it is not always possible to do the hike.
On Vulcano the main hikes are to the crater of Vulcanello which is the most recent crater. Vulcanello was once a seperate island but a series of eruptions joined it to Vulcano by a narrow strip of land. The hike to Vulcanello is fairly easy and takes you to the large caldera (depression left by the vocano cone collapsing). Nearby you can walk to 'Monster Valley' where wind and rain have eroded the larva into weird shapes including ones that look like monsters. Sadly some of these have been taken to adorn the gardens of villas on the island!
Be sure to either go with a guide or stick to the paths at all times. The volcano is dormant not extinct and the smoking fumaroles that you meet on the way emit hot gases.
From Vulcanello another hour of hiking will see you to the 'Grand Cratere' from where you can not only admire the huge crater but there are fabulous views over the sea to the other Aeolian Islands and when conditions are particularly good you can see Sicily and Italy too. The huge crater has a diameter of 500 meters. It is not possible to descend into the crater because of the constant emission of noxious gases.
After the volcanoes the other main draw to Vulcano is a visit to the hot mud baths that are walking distance from Porto di Levante where the ferries arrive. The hot mud is supposed to be good for the skin but be warned it reeks of sulphur and does not wash out of swimming costumes so bring an old one you can throw out. It is possible to buy cheap costumes nearby for precisely this purpose! The smell will linger on your skin for a couple of days.
Porto di Levante also has a beach and shops and bars and so you can spend a few hours or a couple of nights here whilst you try out Vulcano's various attractions.
Places to visit nearby
The Aeolian Islands are situated in the Tyrrenhian Sea and each island has its own particular attractions. Lipari is the liveliest and has a pretty harbour town, Panarea attracts the 'jet set' and is the most chic, Stromboli attracts those wanting to hike up a live volcano or you can do a night-time boat trip and enjoy the fiery display from the boat. There are regular ferries to all of the islands.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.