Vulcano – first experience of Aeolian Islands

Arriving on the ferry, at Vulcano, the first thing to strike you is the sulphurous smell, indicating that you have arrived on a volcanic island. The smoking crater, rising above Porto di Levante provides further evidence of geological activity in the area. The ancient Romans believed that the volcano was the chimney of the fire god, Vulcan.
The crater rises to a height of 391 metres and a walk around its rim should be on the tick list of anybody visiting the island, which is the closest of the Aeolian Islands, to mainland Sicily. Although I am fascinated by physical geography, the reason for our visit was to rent kayaks from Sicily in Kayak at the start of a 7 day paddle around the islands. As we disembarked the owner Eugenio was waiting with his distinctive yellow mini bus to transport us round the start of our journey, just in front of his premises.
After the usual delay as equipment was sorted, kayaks packed and provisions purchased we were were soon heading south along the east coast of the island.  Whilst packing we became aware of one of the more intrusive aspects of life on Vulcano, mosquitoes.  Some of the group reacting more than others, but everybody was finding them surprisingly active, if visiting be prepared.

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Paddling through an arch on the east coast of Vulcano. Stromboli is just discernible in the distance.
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The statue of the Little Mermaid, close to Punta Roia on the east coast.

The slopes drop steeply into the Mediterranean Sea, although in places there appeared to be signs of some old terracing.  Ahead we could see the north coast of Sicily but what was really attracting our attention was the view towards the other islands, particularly Stromboli with a plume of gases rising steadily from its summit.  There is virtually no access to the east coast, with the first easy landing being Spiaggia Cannitello, on the south coast.  There was a bar, restaurant, sun beds etc but absolutely no sign of human activity.

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The old lighthouse, just to the west of Gelso on the south coast.

The were a few people fishing off the jetty at the small port of Gelso then we were on our own again along the west coast of the island.  There are a number of amazing caves along this stretch of coast, including the Grotta del Cavallo, which is big enough to accommodate tourist boats.  As kayakers we will probably want to explore some of the smaller caves, which are just waiting to be discovered by the inquisitive paddlers.

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On the west coast of the island there are some spectacular caves waiting to be explored.
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West coast paddling scenery.
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The black sand of the Spiaggia Sabina Nera, just to the west of the town.

Just before reaching Vulcanello are the black sands of Spiaggia Sabina Nera, its probably easy to identify because of the number of yachts at anchor in the bay.  There is a bar on the beach but it is a relatively short walk across the isthmus to the port area where there are more options for food and drink.  The isthmus was created in 1550, the last eruption of Vulcanello, which constitutes the northern part of the island.  Vulcanello appeared in 183 B.C. following some underwater eruptions. From the north coast of Vulcanello it is a relatively short crossing to Lipari or you could follow the coast back to harbour and your departure point.
Which ever option you chose you won’t be disappointed Vulcano is a pretty dramatic sea kayaking destination.  We were out for 7 days so our interest lay to the north and some truly spectacular kayaking.

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Looking across to Vulcano from Lipari. The crater rim is clearly visible.  Paddling through the stacks was particularly memorable.