Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Sicily's Aeolian Islands

Chloe on a sail boat cruising around Sicily's Aeolian Islands Chloe gets ready to hit the seas around Sicily's Aeolian Islands © Chloe Gunning

Chloe Gunning, Lonely Planet Trailblazer and blogger at Wanderlust Chloe, recently returned from a trip to Sicily’s Aeolian Islands – which just so happened to make our Best in Travel list for 2018!

Tell us more… I spent a week sailing around Sicily’s Aeolian Islands. Cruising around on a yacht with seven other guests – with Italian skipper Beatrice at the helm – was a pretty unique way to see the region. We spent our days at sea sailing, swimming and paddle boarding, and our afternoons and evenings on land exploring the epic landscapes and cute towns of this region.

In a nutshell… The Aeolian Islands are volcanic which makes for some pretty special landscapes. There’s the active volcano Stromboli which looks like it's been taken straight out of a geography textbook with its perfect pointy cone, distinctive crater and an ominous smoking top. Meanwhile, the island of Vulcano is totally different, covered with distinct jagged rocks and pungent sulphur mud baths. The sea around these islands is a rich sapphire blue, and is just as crystal clear as the Caribbean Sea.

A burst of lava from Stromboli illuminates the night sky A burst of lava from Stromboli illuminates the night sky © Chloe Gunning

Defining moment? It has to be hiking Stromboli. The round trip took around six hours and the ascent to the 900m summit was more than a little challenging. We started our climb late afternoon, passing through the island’s adorable main town with its skinny streets and white houses. Then it was onto a steep, black sand section, then rock and scree. The views of the bay and the island of Strombolicchio with its little lighthouse were incredible.

It wasn’t long before the sun was setting and we were hiking in the dark with just the light of our head torches to guide us. By the time we reached the top, we were immersed in mist and clouds, unable to see much, wondering if the journey had been worth it. Suddenly we heard a huge rumble and the darkness was illuminated by a huge burst of fiery-orange lava spraying high into the air.

Good grub? Well of course, not only does Sicily have amazing Italian cuisine, it also has some great regional dishes too. I loved snacking on arancini (risotto balls covered in crispy breadcrumbs) and discovered a new favourite pasta dish – pasta alla norma (pasta with tomato, aubergine and ricotta). I also found space for a few cannolis (crispy pastry tubes stuffed with ricotta and garnished with chocolate chips, nuts and fruit) as well as some delicious Italian gelato.

A Sicilian cannoli sprinkled with chopped nuts Treat yourself to a few cannolis between sightseeing and island hopping © Chloe Gunning

You’d be a muppet to miss… a dip in Vulcano’s mud baths! If you can make it beyond the smell of rotten eggs, the sulphur mud baths are well worth a wallow. It was a strange sensation feeling the squelch of slimy mud underfoot and rubbing handfuls of it all over our bodies – but it didn’t take long to see the benefits as after my soak my skin felt super soft.

Lesson learnt... You can’t predict the weather! While in Sicily a big storm hit the whole of the Mediterranean leaving us stuck on the island of Salina for three days. While it would have been great to squeeze in a few more islands, we made the most of our time there with an afternoon of wine tasting, some of the best pizza I’ve eaten in a long while and plenty of exploring.

If you do one thing… It’s all about Stromboli! I never thought I’d see fiery molten lava being thrust up in the air. Being on a volcano as it erupted is something I’ll never forget.

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Chloe Gunning travelled to Sicily with support from MedSailors. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Destination Editor Tasmin Waby got up to on her recent trip to Australia's Northern Territory.