By reading this article, I can tell you everything that you should know about making the most of a trip to Panarea Island. You will learn where you should stay, what to see while you are here, and where to eat the best cuisine.
Ciao! It is your Sicilian friend Nico here again. Allora, sit back and read this carefully. I will provide you with all of the details you need to make the most out of your visit to Panarea.
There are many things that you should know, but as I usually say, you are not going to stay in Sicily forever. You need to know the MUST-DOs rather than everything there possibly is to know.
So let’s break this down by importance, shall we?
First, I want to give you an overview of the island (you really shouldn’t skip this.) Then I will divulge what to do, where to stay, where to eat, and where you can cut loose at night.
Ready to do this?
Great! Let’s get started.
Brief Overview of Panarea Island
While it is the smallest of the Aeolian Islands, Panarea is the most famous for two specific reasons: the first of these is that Mother Nature was bountifully generous with this island.
The other reason is that it is among the most popular destinations for celebrities and billionaires alike.
Giorgio Armani, Will Smith, Jeff Bezos, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, Bradley Cooper, Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga are all people that have been to the island and make up its extensive roster of possible encounters.
Don’t get too excited, however. There is a caveat.
This certainly sounds exciting, but this being a celebrity destination has made it among the most expensive getaways on the Mediterranean.
You do not need to be a billionaire to visit, but it can be a little more challenging if you are on a tight budget for your trip.
The tiny island is a real gem. There are incredible beaches, breathtaking natural vistas and beauties to behold, historic attractions, and an active nightlife to experience.
Spending your holiday in Panarea can mean a few days of both relaxation and fun. It is even ideal for families with children or young people out seeing the world. There is something appealing about this island to anyone.
While it is among the smallest of the Aeolian Islands, it offers unique and magnetic attractions like crystal waters, active nightlife scene, and a continual glamourous appeal.
What To Do in Panarea
While the island might be small, there are many things to do – especially if you are someone fond of visiting beaches.
You are not going to stay here forever, so let’s list the top three things that you should do while you are here:
1. Visit San Pietro District
When you reach the island from the boat, you can disembark at the Port of San Pietro. This is the main hub for all activity and tourism, and serves as the diving board for the social scene of the island.
This district is unique and memorable in the architecture of the houses here, with white and blue doors/windows.
The three things that you should do while you are here include:
- Sightseeing the Town – With narrow streets forming of labyrinth at the heart of the island, you can spend hours admiring the gardens and terraces immersed in olive trees, bougainvillea, and palm groves. This town is full of glamourous shops, luxurious clubs, and many sporting and cultural events annually.
- See the Church of San Pietro – This is dedicated to the patron saint of this island and of fishermen. This church was built in the 19th century and has been a testament to the devotion of Panarea residents since the ancient times. This structure held the hope of peace and abundant fishing of this small community. From this church, you also get a remarkable view of the sea.
- Panarea Museum – This is not a large museum, but it does share the store of the island and its culture back to the Bronze Age. A branch of the Bernabo Brea in Lipari is located in a small place consisting of just two rooms owned by the Church of San Pietro.
As I mentioned before, Panarea is becoming a great destination to spot VIPs spending their holidays. If you are on the hunt for celebrities and famous individuals, you are most likely to encounter them in San Pietro.
There are three main centers of the island, San Pietro, Ditella, and Drauto. The most active of these is San Pietro. It is named for the patron saint of this island, and there is a substantial celebration in his honor every year on June 28th and 29th.
2. Explore the Island’s Many Beaches
The beaches that you find on this island are excellent for those looking to relax, casually swim, and maybe more adventurous scuba diving or snorkeling ventures.
To get the most of the sea, you should rent a boat (or at least try out a boating trip.) Some of the best beaches of the island are only accessible by boat.
Below I will list what I consider to be the most beautiful beaches of Panarea.
The first place I will have you visit is a spot I consider to be among the most beautiful beaches of all the Aeolian Islands. This bay has a particular shape that resembles an amphitheater, and for this reason, is among the most popular beaches on the island.
Spiaggia della Calcara
This is located in the northernmost portion of the island, and is famous for volcanic fumaroles. The basin where this smaller, sandy beach is found can get reached through a path starting on the Iditella Trail.
Cala degli Zimmari
This is the only true sand beach in all of Panarea. With the Zimmari Cove having a reddish hue to the sand, many locals have taken to calling this spot Red Beach. The color of the sand enhances the blue of the sea and its allure.
This is actually a separate, smaller island near to Panarea. It is a large rock with jagged walls overlooking the sea. The island is uninhabited, but along the coast you can find many places and coves to stop and swim. I suggest you visit Basiluzzo by taking part in a boat trip.
To the southwest of the Port of San Pietro, you can find a prehistoric village that you should not miss while you are visiting the island. Near this village is a small, picturesque beach rivaled only by the deep blue and emerald shades of the sea it touches.
Panarea beaches are hailed as the best in all of Europe by many. You can reach many of these by land, but if you fail to rent a boat or take one of the chartered trips, you will miss out on some of the best options.
3. Enjoying the Nightlife
This island is all about fun during the day and night, but I should warn you that the offerings here do not suit all budgets.
Having fun here means spending a good deal of money unfortunately. Do not waste your time Googling ‘Panarea low cost’ because nothing is going to come up to help – believe me.
You can focus on three specific activities as a visitor of the island:
- Unmissable Aperitif – The aperitif is a traditional action for Sicilians, and you can do this with an amazing view of the sea. The most famous locations for this include the Banacalii Bar, which is a lounge of the Lisca Bianca hotel.
- Grab An After-Dinner Drink – You can decide to spend your evening in one of many trendy clubs and bars on the island. Here you will find delicious drinks and quality conversation to last you until morning.
- Dance Until Dawn – Dancing here in Panarea mainly refers to Raya. This is the mecca of Sicilian nightlife, the most famous club on the island, and among Europe’s best outdoor nightclub options (allegedly.)
The center for nearly all of the activities is San Pietro – this is where you can find these listed locations.
The beach Punta Milazzese becomes a perfect spot for parties and outdoor entertainment once the sun goes down.
You might also consider a trip over to Drautto, a separate district offering several attractions of its own including a fantastic access to the sea and fun night life.
The nightlife in Panarea is active, fun, and hip. It is expensive as well, however. Make sure you pack the right clothes, especially if you are hitting up the clubs. Know going in that you are not going to have a cheap night.
Getting to Panarea
The island is well served by hydrofoils and ferries departing from the main ports in Southern Italy: Messina, Milazzo, Reggio Calabria, and Palermo.
You can take the Liberty Suite hydrofoil in Palermo to the central port and reach Panarea in just over four and a half hours. The company taking you is called Liberty Lines.
This same outfit can take you from Panarea to the other islands in the Aeolian chain, including Alicudi, Filicudi, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, and Lipari.
Tons of visitors go to the Aeolian Islands for the summer, so tickets on the hydrofoils is very limited. Make sure that you book them far in advance.
Where to Stay While Visiting Panarea
The entire island is less than 3.5 square km, so accommodation options are limited as you might assume. I have selected what I consider to be the three best choices.
Check it out.
Hotel Lisca Bianca
You will find that this is among the most popular options. The renowned Hotel Lisca Bianca is an incredible choice for those seeking elegance and class.
This structure faces the marina of San Pietro. One of the highlights of this hotel is its famous terrace that shows an incredible view of the sea and the other islands. You can become enthralled with this view from dawn to dusk.
In the distance, you can see the island of Stromboli.
There is an excellent and extensive breakfast buffet served on this terrace every day, making it even more appealing.
The rooms are simple in their décor and design, but clean and equipped with the amenities you would expect.
One of the only actual nuisances of choosing this hotel is that some of the rooms might hear music from nearby clubs at night.
This place is named after the ancient title of the island. It is positioned within a wind farm surrounded by lemon and hibiscus trees. The site has a Mediterranean restaurant and their rooms have garden views.
You can expect amenities here, including AC, TV, tiled floors, and a private bathroom. Some rooms also have a balcony.
The theming of this hotel is the peace you can get from its gardens and its simple yet tasteful furnishing. A secluded structure in the narrow streets, it offers a truly remarkably peaceful haven with privacy for its guests.
The downside: like many of the island’s structures, the furnishings are a bit on the basic side.
Hotel Il Tesoriero
This accommodation is a great location only a few meters from the arrival pier. Additionally, the location has an excellent Wi-Fi connectivity.
This is a nice hotel with spacious rooms accessed through a shared, common terrace. Each room has two deck chairs and a table.
Many rooms have a great view of the sea, that when combined with both the well-cooked breakfast, cleaning, and courteous staff, become highlights of this hotel.
One of the only negative aspects is the limited space of showers and the minimalistic layout of furnishings.
Being such a smaller island, you can see how it could be challenging finding availability. Make sure that you book your hotel far in advance if you do not want to run a risk of everything being sold out before you go.
Where to Eat in Panarea
I should note that I have not eaten at these places personally, but they do seem to be preferred among the locals.
- Ristorante da Pina – Local cuisine.
- Hycesia – Sophisticated and stylish.
- Le Delizie Di Nonna Pasqualina – Sicilian fast food.
If you are someone that enjoys fresh sushi, many of the locals rave about the Bridge Sushi Bar. This is a stylish restaurant that offers excellent food as well as panoramic views and delicious wine. I should warn you; this is a pricier option.
N.B. I should note that I don’t take a dime for promoting restaurants or places to eat. I learn these names and places by asking around and getting the best possible answers for those reading.
I would recommend taking a little time and learning some Italian words before coming to Sicily. Unfortunately, few speak English and the best of the restaurants here do not have English menus.
I hope that I have provided you with all of the information that you need to enjoy this island as intended.
In summation, there are three main reasons that you would want to visit this island:
- Fabulous beaches
- Glamorous local life
- Active nightlife
I would recommend this island to anyone who loves enticing beaches and nightlife. I discourage this island, however, for someone looking for fun on a budget.
Panarea has been deemed an island for celebrities, so prices are much more than you might experience in nearby Palermo, Catania, or other cities.
If you have questions or concerns, you can drop a comment in the box below so that I can be sure to get back with you as soon as possible.
P.S. – If you are looking for an islet closer to Sicily with great beaches and good nightlife options, you should check out Favignana.