Pantelleria is not for those looking for a traditional beach holiday. The volcanic island situated off the coast of Sicily is distinctly lacking in beaches. Instead the impressive coastline is shaped by marine grottos and rocky bluffs which meet the cobalt waters and shelter hidden coves and caves.
It’s an idyllic location to let your cares float away in the natural swimming pools and thermal waters, sunbath on black lava plateau, and dive the crystalline waters through ancient shipwrecks and the rich marine life.
Pantelleria offers that rejuvenation fix that everyone needs at least once in their life.
Swimming on Pantelleria
Laghetto delle Ondine
This natural saltwater pool is located in Punta Spadilla, to the east of Pantelleria. Due to its exceptional location, Laghetto delle Ondine has become one of the symbolic landmarks and ‘must see’ spots on the island.
Favourite experience: Even when the sea is rough you can swim in the light waves of the Laghetto delle Ondine. And when the wind blows in from the north the choppy waves break around the pool, and the contrast is sublime!
Arco dell’Elefante (Arch of the Elephant) is the ultimate picture postcard of Pantelleria. The spectacular rock formation arches over the sea forming the contour of an elephant dipping its trunk into the water. And there is a lot more to the Arco dell’Elefante than just a photo opp. Closeby is one of the most popular swimming spots on Pantelleria. A sheltered natural harbour, a wonderful afternoon sun trap; perfect for when the wind picks. This is also one of the few swimming spots on the island where you can eat lunch. Head to Le Cale for a fabulous breakfast, brunch or lunch.
Favourite experience: Kayaking to Arco dell’Elefante for an afternoon dip.
When planning your trip to Pantelleria, make sure to organise a trip to Nika Grotto. What is exceptional about this cave is the hot spring water which rises up through the shallows. It’s healing waters flow into the shallows at a temperature of 40 degrees. Nikka Grotto is only accessed by boat, which can be rented from the whitewashed village of Scauri.
Nika Cave is located on the south-west coast, a few kilometres from the Grotto di Sataria (Cave Sataria), where legend has it that Odysseus and Calypso used to eat their love encounters. Nowadays, its waters are renowned for relieving the symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis.
Favourite experience: As the day cools off, and the sun goes down, the warm thermal waters of Nikka Grotto are the perfect place for a warming swim.
Cala Levante and Cala Tramontana
Cala Levante and neighbouring Cala Tramontana are one of the best places to watch the sunrise on Pantelleria, and they are pretty good spots for swimming and diving. From here you can take in the wonderful view to the Arco dell’Elefante. There is a small rocky beach backed by lava formations and green hills, and the sea a piercing blue and crystalline-like. A man-made sun terrace has also been built above the beach, the perfect place to sunbathe and enjoy the views.
Favourite experience: Cooling off in the crystalline waters.
Cala Gadir is a very special place. Giorgio Armani has a home here. Perhaps he fell in love with the perfect design of mother nature. At Cala Gadir you can soak in the tidal pool, or in one of several natural hot thermal pools. There is also a lovely sun deck to chill out on, and several restaurants around the pretty harbour area.
Favourite experience: Finding you’ve got the tidal pool all to yourself. Enjoy it while you can!
Diving off Pantelleria
Balata dei Turchi
The bay of Balata dei Turchi (above photo) can be found at the southernmost reach of Pantelleria. The landscape is remarkable. Solidified lava flows down to sea surrounded by soaring cliffs of up to 300 metres above sea level. Even getting to Balata dei Turchi is an adventure. The dusty roads are whipped up by the wind, but the trip is worth it to enjoy the stunning scenery, and of course the diving.
The word Balata comes from the Arabic word balàt, meaning a stone slab that forms a platform gently sloping into the sea. One of the most popular diving spots on Pantelleria, you’ll start your dive by jumping into the sea to the left of the lava platform. The depth is around 4-5 metres. The waters are crystalline and there is an abundance of marine life to view. Contact Aquasub Diving School for more information.
Favourite experience: Sunbathing on the lava rocks after a refreshing dive.
In the pretty bay of Cala Tramontana there is a hidden shipwreck. The wreck of a modern Libyan fishing boat can be found on a sandy plateau at a depth of 18 metres. Diving around the shipwreck is allowed, but care must be taken, as there are still many fishing nets tangled around the boat. There are many other wonderful archaeological relics on the seabed, such as ceramic fragments, amphoras of both Ancient Greek and Punic origin, and lithic anchors. It’s said that between Cala Tramontana and neighbouring Cala Levante, there are more ancient wrecks to be found.
Get in touch with the Cala Levante diving school to arrange a diving trip to the wreck.
Favourite experience: An easy and impressive dive. Great for beginners.
Cala Gadir is a UNESCO world heritage site, and to dive here you must be accompanied by a certified guide. Highlights of the dive include 3rd Century BC and 2nd Century AD anchors, amphoras, ceramics and wooden fragments of ancient wrecks. Navigating this medium difficulty dive is easy as there is a rope leading you through this underwater archeological museum. Contact Dive-X to book a guided dive tour of Cala Gadir.
Favourite experience: Diving through history