Panarea is the second smallest of the Aeolian islands, a group of volcanic islands off the north-eastern coast of Sicily. Now a popular tourist destination due to its beaches and scenery, Panarea is well equipped with facilities for such a small island.
The landing beach for the island is at San Pietro on the east coast, and is a village with all services. There is also a small port for ships, hydrofoils, fishing boats and pleasure boats. To get to Panarea take a ferry from Milazzo in Sicily or Naples on mainland Italy. There are also regular boats to and from the other islands.
Panarea has been a popular tourist destination with the rich and famous since the 1960s and many of Italy and Europe's aristocratic families own a home here.The Borghese, Visconti and Bulgari families along with Prince Laurent of Belgium among them. Hollywood celebrities are also among its visitors including Uma Thurman, Kate Moss and Melanie Griffith. Of course large luxury yachts and their billionaire owners can be spotted here too.
Its town and harbour is at San Pietro and here all the houses are painted white with details in blue. It is very attractive and views from here over Stromboli and some of the other islands is magnificent. There are various hotels and appartments to rent in the town but the hippest and most famous is the Hotel Raya which was built in 1960s and has been a top destination ever since.
Coast and beaches of Panarea
Certainly the sea, and especially the beaches, are the distinguishing feature of Panarea. Many are only accessible by sea, but there are also those that visitors can reach by land.
Among the beaches of Panarea are Cala Junco, in the southernmost part of the island and accessible both by sea and by land along a path that leads to the beach. Along the road to Cala Junco you can also reach the beach of Cala degli Zimmari. These are the only two beaches on the island accessible by land.
The other beaches, accessible only by sea, include Lisca Bianca, Basiluzzo and Spinazzola.
A visit to the most famous of Panarea's islets is also very interesting: these include Lisca Bianca, which takes its name from the color of the rock and Basiluzzo, a dome-shaped islet with sheer cliffs overlooking the sea about three kilometers from Panarea.
Near the “Punta Levante” a path leads to a height of 200 meters and offers an excellent view across Panarea and Stromboli.
Last but not least the rock of Spinazzola, which is undoubtedly difficult to reach, is worth visiting for the presence of the rare 'dwarf palms'.
Drauto, Bronze Age settlement on Panarea
Leaving from San Pietro, archeology enthusiasts can follow the road south across Panarea to reach "Drauto". From here a path leads to the promontory of Capo Milazzese where a prehistoric Bronze Age village was situated. It is located in Cala Junco, a bay closed by cliffs.
The village consists of 23 huts, mostly of an oval or rectangular structure. Some of these huts contain slabs of stone that were used for various everyday uses, such as table or to mill grain.
Close to here underwater archeology has found many Roman remains from three shipwrecks that took place on the treacherous rocks of the "Ants" just off the coast of Panarea - all the material from these excavations is on display at the Museum of Lipari.
Volcanoes and geysers
Visitors hoping to see some phenomena associated with the volcanic origins of Panarea can visit the Calcara beach, known for its geysers.
This area has also been the subject of extensive excavations which have uncovered remains from the early Bronze Age and traces of settlement by local people during more than two millennia, until the Imperial Age. It is known that the area was a place of worship of deities until the Neolithic and then through the Greeks and Roman periods.
Rest and relaxation - eating out on Panarea
After an overdose of archeology on Panarea having nourished the mind it is surely time to feed the body! In Panarea there are numerous restaurants offering good quality cuisine.
Among the wide range of dishes available we recommend the swordfish and the fried dough ‘panarellese’, based on noodles and anchovies. Among main dishes try the salt cod with capers, the trig or 'rosmarinu" (red mullet with rosemary), and tomatoes stuffed with fish.
Among the sweets you will find the "spicchidedda" based on mulled wine and cloves, the "munnuli" cake made with almonds and typical Christmas sweets called "vastedduzzi" and "nacatuli," stuffed with almonds, cinnamon, mandarin and cloves. A perfect end to your Panarea excursion!
See also Panarea history and etymology.
Places to visit nearby
Stromboli is another of the Aeolian islands and is home to one of only three active volcanoes in Europe. Another is on mainland Sicily and the third is also in Italy, near Naples. Another of the Aeolian islands is Lipari and this is the liveliest of the islands and has a cute fishing harbour.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.