Here’s Why Ischia Should be at the Top of Your Travel List
With Europe once again open to travelers from around the world, we’re all daydreaming of that perfect Euro trip. If it’s sand and sun you’re looking for, complete with some wine, cuisine, and a little culture and history, too, there are plenty of spots to choose from on the European continent, especially in summer. And the Italian island of Ischia should be one of them.
Never Heard of Ischia? Now You Have!
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples, Italy. Yes, you’ve obviously heard of Capri — maybe you’ve even been. But Ischia is Capri’s quiet little sister that nobody notices (except locals, and the occasional European visitor).
Just a quick boat ride away from Naples, Ischia is full of gorgeous beaches, quaint villages, a castle unlike any other, and a number of natural hot springs. Read on to find out all the reasons why Ischia should be your next Italian adventure.
Top Reasons to Visit Ischia Italy
It’s easily accessible from Italy’s mainland
If you’re already planning a trip to explore the Amalfi coast or sample the pizza in Naples, Ischia is just over an hour ferry ride away from the southern Italian city. The most efficient way to get to Ischia is to fly into Naples Capodichino Airport, and you can browse current flight deals into Naples with Kayak. Book your round-trip ferry tickets from Naples in advance. Once you get off the ferry, you can rent a car, motorbike, or grab a taxi and head to whatever part of the island you choose. There are ferries that allow you to bring a car from the mainland, too.
The best way to explore the island is by leveraging a local’s expertise. On our last visit, we were picked up by our private guide Alessandra from Tours of Ischia at the ferry dock. She took us to all of the must-see landmarks (we mention some of our favorites later), as well as recommended the best restaurants and gelato on the island that locals frequent. If you’re staying in Naples and prefer to have your round-trip ferry and private guide included, the same company offers a full package day trip.
You can spend weeks in Ischia, or just a few days, combining a trip to the island with various other Italian destinations.
It’s underrated and authentic
Ever been to Capri? It’s stunningly beautiful. It’s also expensive and crowded with tourists, and while it’s nice to experience a luxury trip, Capri is not where most Italians vacation.
Ischia, on the other hand, is just as beautiful. However, it’s affordable, authentic, and where you’ll get a real taste of Italian island life.
But it still caters to tourists
Just because Ischia is an ‘authentic’ Italian island doesn’t mean you won’t get the comforts of home. With plenty of hotel options ranging from luxury to budget, as well as a number of villa and apartment rentals, you’ll have the vacation experience with the comforts you need without breaking the bank.
Ischia has activities galore
From the Aragonese castle that sits on its very own islet off Ischia (trust us — this is one of the most unique castles you may ever see) to over 100 different thermal springs (we highly recommend the Parco Idrotermale Negombo, home to its own beach and a variety of unique springs rising up a cliff), Ischia has some truly special attractions.
The small fishing village of Sant’ Angelo is also a must-visit, as is the whitewashed town of Forio. Beaches are scattered throughout the island, though many have a darker, volcanic color sand (our favorite is the sprawling Maronti Beach). The smaller, nearby island of Procida is a vibrant, colorful spot for a day trip, too.
If you’re looking for a unique and romantic experience, schedule a day trip with your honey on a Gozzo Fratelli Aprea. These are the classic Sorrentine-style boats first designed in the 1890s, but now remade with modern amenities. This private guided experience operated by West Coast Ischia is fully customizable. Many couples love getting out on the turquoise water for the day and snorkeling.
Visit Ischia’s hot springs
Ischia’s thermal hot springs have been drawing visitors for centuries due to their unique healing properties and serene atmosphere. One of the most famous thermal parks on the island is Poseidon Thermal Gardens, located on the beautiful Citara Bay. With over 20 pools of varying temperatures and mineral compositions, Poseidon offers a truly immersive experience. Surrounded by lush Mediterranean vegetation and offering breathtaking views of the sea, visitors can indulge in rejuvenating spa treatments, mud therapies, and massages, or simply relax in the warm embrace of the mineral-rich waters. Access to Poseidon is easy, with several public buses serving the area, as well as ample parking for those with a rental car.
Another outstanding thermal park is Negombo, situated in the picturesque San Montano Bay. This park, designed by the renowned architect Paolo Soleri, offers an enchanting blend of modern design and natural beauty. The 12 pools at Negombo range from sea-water pools to thermal pools, allowing visitors to experience the full spectrum of Ischia’s healing waters. The park also boasts a private beach, tropical gardens, and a spa offering various treatments, making it an ideal destination for a day of pampering and relaxation. To reach Negombo, visitors can take a bus or taxi from the nearby town of Lacco Ameno.
Castiglione, another popular thermal park, is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and accessibility. It features ten thermal pools, a sauna, and water slides, catering to visitors of all ages. Conveniently located near the port of Ischia, Castiglione is easily accessible by public transportation or car.
Indulge in food and wine
Winetraveler is all about gastronomy while traveling, right? And Ischia has a delectable food and wine scene that’s way more affordable and authentic than its neighbor Capri, or even many locations along the Amalfi coast.
For delicious eats, Ischia’s proximity to Naples means you can find traditional Neopolitan pizza almost anywhere on the island. Of course, being an island, sampling seafood is also a must. But the real winner on Ischia is the Coniglio all’Ischitana, Ischian rabbit stew, complete with olive oil, tomato and rosemary. Don’t forget to sample anything and everything lemon or orange, as there are plenty of citrus fruits grown in the region. If you aren’t sure where to eat and drink, then you must do an authentic private food & wine tour with a local (hotel pick up and drop off included).
Most of Ischia’s wines are cultivated on the mountainous slopes of the island’s interior. Seven different types of wine boast the island’s DOC: Ischia Bianco, Ischia Bianco Spumante, Forastera and Biancolella (whites), and Ischia Rosso, Per’ e Palummo, and Per’ e Palummo Passito (reds). Vineyards like Cenatiempo and Pietratorcia offer tours and tastings, and our favorite wine bar/restaurant on the island is Un Attimo di Vino (though there’s really no bad place to sip!).
Lush gardens, nature and beauty
La Mortella, a spectacular botanical garden, is a true testament to the passion and dedication of its creators, William Walton and his wife Susana. Originally a barren rocky slope, the couple transformed this space into an enchanting garden that houses more than 3,000 species of exotic and Mediterranean plants. As you stroll through the meandering pathways, you’ll encounter an array of vibrant colors, intoxicating fragrances, and the soothing sounds of water features. The garden is divided into two main areas: the Valley Garden, which offers a subtropical ambiance, and the Hill Garden, where terraces lead visitors uphill to enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Throughout the year, La Mortella hosts a series of musical performances and cultural events, celebrating the garden’s artistic roots and its creators’ love for music.
Visiting La Mortella is not only an opportunity to appreciate the island’s natural beauty but also to learn about the diverse flora and the importance of conservation efforts. Knowledgeable guides are available to provide insight into the garden’s history and the unique plant species that call it home. To reach La Mortella, you can take a bus or taxi from Forio, the nearest town, or drive to the garden if you have your own transportation. The garden is open to the public from April to October, and its opening days and hours may vary depending on the season. The enchanting atmosphere of La Mortella makes it a must-visit destination for nature lovers, garden enthusiasts, and anyone seeking a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Visit Ischia’s beautiful beaches
Ischia’s diverse coastline offers a range of beach experiences, from bustling, popular spots to more secluded, hidden gems. Although some beaches may attract more tourists, their natural beauty and unique features often make them worth visiting.
Maronti, one of Ischia’s most popular beaches, stretches over three kilometers and is known for its golden sand and crystal-clear waters. While it can be crowded during peak season, the beach’s size offers plenty of space to find a more secluded spot. Maronti is also famous for its natural thermal springs that emerge directly on the beach, providing visitors with a unique experience of combining sunbathing with therapeutic spa treatments. To access Maronti, take a bus from the nearby village of Barano or reach it by boat from Sant’Angelo.
Citara, another popular beach, is located near the Poseidon Thermal Gardens. Its soft sand, shallow waters, and convenient amenities make it an ideal destination for families. While Citara can be touristy, its proximity to the thermal park and vibrant atmosphere make it an attractive option for visitors looking for a lively beach experience. Citara is easily accessible by bus from Forio or by car, with ample parking available.
If you’re seeking a more tranquil, off-the-beaten-path experience, consider visiting Cava dell’Isola, a small beach located between Forio and Lacco Ameno. This secluded spot is favored by locals and can be reached via a short walk from the main road. Surrounded by cliffs and vegetation, Cava dell’Isola offers a peaceful atmosphere and a perfect setting for snorkeling.
Another lesser-known beach worth exploring is Spiaggia degli Inglesi, also known as the “English Beach.” Located near Ischia Porto, this small, rocky beach offers clear waters and is a great spot for snorkeling and diving. The beach is accessible via a steep staircase, which helps keep crowds at bay, providing a more intimate and serene experience.
How to Get to and Around Ischia
Getting to Ischia typically involves a combination of air travel and a ferry or hydrofoil ride. The closest major airports to Ischia are Naples International Airport (NAP) and Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Naples International Airport is the most convenient option, as it is only about 45-60 minutes away from the island by ferry or hydrofoil. Alternatively, travelers can fly into Rome and then take a train or bus to Naples, which takes approximately 2-3 hours.
Once you’ve arrived in Naples, you’ll need to make your way to one of the city’s ports, either Molo Beverello or Calata Porta di Massa. Both ports offer ferry and hydrofoil services to Ischia. The hydrofoil is faster, taking around 45-60 minutes, while the ferry takes about 90 minutes but is generally cheaper. Services run frequently throughout the day, with companies such as Alilauro, Caremar, and Medmar operating these routes.
Upon arriving in Ischia, you’ll have a few options for getting around the island. Public transportation, including buses and taxis, is readily available and can take you to most towns and attractions. The island’s bus network is quite extensive and cost-effective, but it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the routes and timetables. Taxis are more expensive, but they offer the convenience of taking you directly to your destination.
Renting a car, scooter, or bicycle is another option for exploring Ischia at your own pace. However, keep in mind that the island’s roads can be narrow, winding, and congested, especially during peak season. If you’re comfortable navigating these conditions, renting a vehicle can provide you with the flexibility to self-guide your exploration of the island.
For those who prefer a more structured experience, numerous guided tours and day trips are available on Ischia. These tours often include visits to the island’s top attractions, such as the Aragonese Castle, thermal parks, and gardens, as well as transportation and expert guidance from local tour operators. Depending on your interests and time constraints, guided tours can be an excellent way to maximize your experience on the island.
Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Ischia
If you’re ready to head to Europe anytime soon, don’t discount Ischia. The island’s charm is captivating, and who doesn’t love an affordable and authentic trip? Plus, it can easily be combined with all the most popular Italian hotspots like Capri or the Amalfi coast. Buon viaggio!