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Lampedusa is a small island, just 13 kilometres long from east to west and with an average width of 3 kilometres situated about 200 km to the south-east of Sicily and 110 kilometres from Africa. It forms part of the Pelagian Islands. The natural environment of Lampedusa, that is the main attraction of Lampedusa, is as African in character as Italian.
Perhaps not surprisingly given its location, there are not too many tourists who come to enjoy the scenery and beautiful beaches on Lampedusa. The island is very popular with scuba divers, due to the exceptionally clear water and the diversity of fish and sealife to be found here.
Explore Lampedusa: tourism and travel guide
There is only one town on the island, also called Lampedusa, with a population of about 4000 and the centre for tourist activities on the islands. The old port in a protected cove in the town still retains its traditional character, although the port and town are quite basic when compared with many Mediterranean resorts - you are likely to visit for the beaches, scenery and diving rather than for the town centre.
The local population and accommodation for visitors are also concentrated in and around Lampedusa town.
The island itself is ideally discovered by circumnavigating the island by boat and also by following some of the country paths that traverse the island to discover the beaches and bays and to enjoy the landscape, its fauna and flora.
The so-called Cala Pulcino, for example, can be reached through a path, or by walking halfway up the ridge that divides the beach from the Isola dei Conigli (island of rabbits).
The beaches and bays are located in the south of the island, while the north is composed of bluffs and cliffs falling steeply to the sea. There are also a couple of stacks, one known as La Vela (the sail) because of its shape.
The northern area of the island is only accessible by sea or by renting a boat for a day trip. The landscape here is characterized by numerous rocks overhanging the sea, such as the so-called Tabaccara.
Lampedusa is a rocky island with a barren interior and the flora consists of agave plants, thistles, low thorny bushes, myrtles, and a few palm trees planted close to the so-called “dammusi”, domed stone houses, that are widespread in Pantelleria, Lampedusa and Limosa. These 'dammusi' buildings are characterized by extremely thick walls, from 80 centimeters to 2 meters - a design feature that allows the walls to absorb the thrust of the dome roofs and also to allow the channeling of rainwater.
Among the beaches of Lampedusa the "Tabaccara" stands out. It is a bay accessible by boat and surrounded by a clear sea, from where you can access the Bay of the 'Island of Rabbits', the most famous beach of the island, situated on the southern side of Lampedusa.
Each year, between May and August, the turtles called "Caretta-Caretta" (Loggerhead Turtles) come here to spawn. In addition to turtles the fauna of the island is characterized by a large number of 'lizards of Malta', the “Berte” (birds with a cry like a hiccup), some species of dolphin, the common rorqual, cachalot, the Hawk Queen, peregrine falcon, and the herring gull.
Among the peculiar insects on Lampedusa keep your eyes peeled for the large grasshopper with no wings and the 'Julodis', a beetle with iridescent colors.
Continuing around the coast of Lampedusa from the 'Island of the Rabbits' you come to the “Capo Ponente” (Western Cape), the western extremity of the island and from where the view is different: the coast that characterizes the entire northern side of the island consists of a high steep wall that overlooks the sea with numerous caves.
Beyond the “Baia della Madonnina” (Bay of the Virgin Mary), you encounter the imposing cliffs of the “Faraglione” and "Sacrament", facing a very deep cave of the same name. The north-east side, called the “Capo Grecale”, has a lighthouse which is visible up to 60 miles away.
Just beyond the "Cala Pisana" is the “Grotta del Teschio” (Cave of the Skull), from where, through a passage, you can reach a beach about 15 km long.
Near the lighthouse of “Capo Grecale” you have an extensive view,which becomes even broader from the so-called “Albero del Sole” (Tree of the Sun), the highest point on Lampedusa and with an evocative view of the “Faraglione” and the cliffs overhanging the sea.
Next visit the site of the "Madonna di Porto Salvo" (Our Lady of Porto Salvo), the protector of fishermen, for whom a small statue has been placed underwater in the sea near the “Cala Galera” and whose anniversary is celebrated each Sept. 22.
Since we're on the subject of anniversaries, note that in March the Carnival is celebrated in Lampedusa (on the Tuesday before Lent), and in summer, on August 24, is the Feast of St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of Lampedusa.
Today Lampedusa is an ideal place to spend a holiday away from better known Sicilian sea resorts. The island is busiest in August, but in other months of the year the island reverts to a lonely and quiet place, and early and late summer are the ideal time to explore the island in all its aspects.
To get here, the island has a ferry terminal with ferries from Porto Empedocle on the southern cost of Sicily near Agrigento, and a small airport.
Your visit should include a chance to taste the typical dishes of Lampedusa, based on fish which occupies an important place in the culture and tradition of the Pelagian Islands. The local specialty is made with couscous, a traditional fish dish of Arab origin. In addition to the couscous, other dishes of local interest are the eggplant rolls, noodles swordfish and the lentil soup of Lampedusa.
Note: because of its position between Africa and Europe, Lampedusa is also a common arrival point for those seeking to clandestinely enter Europe.
See also Lampedusa history and etymology.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.