7 Great Reasons to Visit Ischia Island

The Island of Ischia is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland of Italy.  Easily accessible by ferry from Naples or Sorrento in about an hour, makes it a lovely escape for a day trip or ideally longer.  A medium sized island (10km by 7km) with small towns, fishing villages, sandy beaches and famously its own thermal heating. There are plenty of reasons to visit Ischia Island.

Cheap flights to Naples means Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast  in Italy are accessible from Bristol. We were lucky enough to go from Exeter in 2019 but that option has been discontinued.  My parents took me to the area when I was 9 years old.  I have some recollection of Pompeii but none of visiting well known Capri, I am sure there are some great 1980’s photos somewhere!

My school geography is good enough to know the region is volcanic and that Vesuvius dominates the Bay of Naples. However I had never heard of the nearby island of Ischia. It was not until I chatted to a friend about her trip to the area, that I learnt about the natural hot springs and other great reasons to visit Ischia.

A mum and daughters holiday

I decided it was time for return visit and the chance to have a holiday with my girls.

How had I not heard about this place before? Telling my friends it’s apparent I’m not alone here in the UK.

Sadly this does not make it some sort of undiscovered idyll – it turns out it’s pretty popular for Italian day trippers and the Germans have been going there for years.

Reasons to Visit Ischia Island girls on beach

Where to Stay in Ischia

Most ferries come in and out of the town called Port Ischia that sprawls along the north coast of the island. It is also the terminus for all the buses which run in loops clockwise and anti-clockwise around the island.

There is plenty of choice for places to stay to suit all budgets, easy to find and book on the likes of  Expedia or AirBnB.

Ischia map from www.amoitaly.com

Knowing that we were only using public transport,  I picked a hotel in Ischia Port for our base,  but there are many other towns to choose.  The Hotel Bellevue Beneserre is a 10 minute walk from the town centre (uphill) and 20 minutes from the port (or 5 minutes by taxi). It served us well, clean rooms and helpful staff who let us check in early,  as well as a swimming pool. Breakfast was good but don’t bother with the evening meal!

I splashed out a bit and chose a hotel with a thermally heated swimming pool. I’ve been caught out so many times going to Europe in the spring and the swimming pool being freezing.

7 Things to See and Do in Ischia

We bolted on a 2 night trip to Ischia after 4 nights in Sorrento.  Trying to research where to stay and what to expect was not terribly easy.  Overall I’m pretty happy with what we did for our short stay but I would like to return and see more.  Here are a few pearls of wisdom of what to see on the island, not all of which we got to experience. I’ve added web links and prices in at the end for reference.

Visit A Thermal Park

This was top of my list and the main reason for visiting the Island.  There are a few recommended on different websites, all with a series of thermally heated pools of different temperatures and other facilities.  I chose Negombo at Lacco Ameno as during my research the rules for children seemed less strict.  It was also the closest,  just 20 minutes by bus from Port Ischia followed by a 5 minute walk.

Negombo Thermal Park
Negombo Thermal park is fantastic and certainly was one of the highlights of the holiday. Fun, relaxing and in a really beautiful location. A series of thermally heated swimming pools, plunge pools and grottos to explore. Set across a hillside, they range from almost too hot, perfect for wallowing, to freezing cold. There is also a lovely beach set in a small bay called San Montano (one half of which is separate to the park and open to the public).

Negombo is ideal for adults and teens but some of the pools would be too hot for younger children. It’s not all accessible if you or a family member had any mobility issues as there are quite a few steps.

Negombo Park opens from Easter until October (check online for details) and stays open until 7pm. There are also restaurants at the park. It’s not the cheapest day out, around 35E per person, but we found out that entry after 1.30pm was a few Euro less at 27E for adults.  For Negombo the nearest bus stop is San Montano in Lacco Ameno.  The best way is to ask the driver for bus stop.

Take a look at the video I made to give you more of an idea.

Explore the medieval Aragonese Castle

You first glimpse Aragonese Castle when you arrive on the island by ferry.  This medieval castle is a popular tourist attraction.  Standing guard proudly over the island it is in the area called Ischia Ponte, which also a good place for a wander,  with old winding streets and fisherman’s houses.  The Castle is open 7 days a week, all year, from 9 am until sunset. Entrance tickets cost €10. We had a lovely view of the castle from our hotel, which we decided was all we needed to see!

Relax in Port Ischia

Ischia has an attractive port area and a pleasant pedestrianised town with plenty of shops and restaurants to suit all budgets.  We found tasty pizza, gelato and a lovely coffee shop with cakes near the bus station. There is a large public beach called San Pietro Beach that is popular with the locals as it is free. There are also quieter areas where you can pay to hire a sunbed.

Argonese Castle Ischia
Round the headland it turns rocky with small coves and restaurants in the hotels overlooking the sea.  Further on you head towards Ischia Ponte, with views across to the Castle are free beaches; Spiaggia dei Pescatori (Fisherman’s Beach), a pretty beach where you share the sand with fishing boats and La Mandra.  Between the Castle and the main town is a public park called Parco Pineta Mirtina. Reviews say it’s a bit neglected but still pleasant.

Hike to Mount Epomeo

Take a hike and enjoy the view from the top of Mount Epomeo, Ischia’s highest point is 2,589 feet.

There are various paths you can take to get to the top and the view is apparently one of the best in Italy with vistas of the whole island. A popular starting point for the walk is from the main square in the village of Fontana.  More route details are on the Ischia Review website  or look on Trip Advisor.

The hike is quite short, around 3km or 60 minutes to the top and the route is marked.  It starts on easy tracks but nearer the top the path gets very narrow and steep,  so walking shoes or boots are recommended.  Along the way there three restaurants and another one very near the top, perfect for well earned refreshments.  For a longer walk of 2 -3 hours you can hike from Forio or Casamicciola.

Take a Water Taxi to Sant’Angelo

Sant’Angelo is a picture perfect seaside village set on the south side of the island. Traditional quaint painted houses surround a small harbour where fishing boats bob gently. You can stroll around the pedestrianised area, enjoy lunch or a delicious gelato.  There is a beach either side of the road to the headland.  One side is public and the other private (where you have to hire a sunbed),  peddalos are also available.

Sant' Angelo Ischia Island
Water Taxi to Sant Angelo Ischia
The bus for the town stops just out of town up the hill so be prepared for a short walk. There are golf buggy taxis if needed. The other option is to arrive or leave on one of the small water taxis.  We arrived by boat from Baia di Sorgeto for (5 Euros each). As a beach and thermal experience it was rather disappointing, however the boat ride around the headland was lovely.
Just along the coast the other side of Sant’Angelo (20 minutes walk or via water taxi) is Le Fumarole beach. This is famous for its unique steaming thermal vents where locals even cook under the sand.

You can also get the boat from the popular Maronti Beach, one of the largest on the island at 2km long.​

Overlooking Sant'Angelo

Visit Gardens on Ischia at Forio

Popular with visitors, Ischia is well know for two beautiful gardens.

La Mortella (The Myrtle), is the former home of English composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinian wife, Lady Susana Walton who moved to Ischia after World War 11.  In 1956 they purchased La Mortella and set about transforming the stone quarry on a volcanic hill, into a tropical garden paradise with an extraordinary and fascinating array of rare and exotic plant life.

The couple attracted a star-studded list of celebrities to their home such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Maria Callas to name but a few. Their fascinating former home and gardens can now be enjoyed by all.  La Mortella is split into various levels and situated on the highest part of the garden is an open-air Greek theatre.  Throughout the summer the concerts are held with the stunning backdrop of the bay of Forio behind the performers.

Ravino Gardens

Ravino Gardens is a Tropical Mediterranean Botanical Park botanical haven, created by Captain Giuseppe D’Ambra.  What started out as a hobby, became a life’s work.  The ever-growing collection includes rare specimens he collected on his travels.

As well as rare and exotic plants there are cacti and bonsai. One of the main exhibits at Ravino is the “Wollemi Pine”. Once thought to be extinct, the plant which dates back to the Jurassic period, 90 million years ago,  was re-discovered in 1994 and now grows freely in the gardens. Another feature of the park are the resident peacocks.

There is also an art gallery and a cafe at the gardens. Entrance charges apply.

Relax on a Beach

We didn’t get much time to sit on the beach but passed a few while we were on the bus going round the island. Note that on most beaches you will need to hire a sunbed or look for the public section. Here are some recommendations, listed anti-clockwise from Ischia Port.

 

On the North coast there are a few small beaches with golden sand, such as the coastal resort of Casamicciola and Lacco Ameno.  Next along is San Montano is set in the lovely bay, half the beach is owned by the at Negombo Thermal Park.

 

On the West Coast two large beaches are popular. Spiaggia della Chiaia  at Forio and Citara a little further down the coast. Citara beach is also where you find the Poseidon Thermal Gardens.   At the north end of the Forio bay area is the smaller San Francesco beach which is sheltered and good for snorkelling.

Baia di Sorgeto Ischia thermal beach

On the south coast Baia di Sorgeto is famous for its hot springs in the sea. By public bus it was a 10 minute walk down a lane and then steps down to the beach. It looked really promising. Once down,  there is a café where you can hire a sunbed and public toilets. Otherwise the area to sit was narrow with large stones and even in April it was crowded.

The actual hot springs in the sea are unusual but the thermal warm area was quite small and those already sitting were reluctant to move or share. It was very slippery unless you were in the water there was nowhere much to sit except for the little jetty’s. It is often cited as one of the things to do but I was really disappointed.

The best part was taking the little water taxi to Sant’Angelo (cost per person is €5)  – it seemed to just keep coming back and forwards about every half hour.

Other beaches on the South coast are Sant’Angelo and the popular Maronti. 

Useful Links for Visiting Ischia

Writing this up has made me realise how much more there is to do on Ischia,  I wish I’d done more research before we went! I really hope you get the chance to go, certainly check out the cheap Ryan Air flights as some of the late deals available are excellent.

Links for your own research. The website called Ischia Insider has lots of useful information

Ferries

Sorrento to Ischia ferries are daily from Easter to September, less frequent off season. We walked down to the ferry port to enquire and double check times as there are a number of operators. In peak weeks it may be advisable to book in advance. Price in April 2019 was 23E one way

Ischia to Naples ferry (1.5 hours) or hydofoil (1 hour) daily with a number or service options (ours stopped briefly at the island of Procida which would make  a nice day trip)

Timetable and prices here on Ischia Insider

BUSES

NAPLES: There is a tourist bus from Naples ferry port to Naples train station and airport called Alibus which runs every 20 – 30 minutes from 6am to midnight. Currently 5E per person  From the ferry terminal turn right and go past the large car park (it was not signposted).  Link to Unico Alibus website.      This website called Moovit has a map that may be helpfulas well as other Nalples bus information.

ISCHIA:  Bus timetables on Ischia here on Ischia Review.    By single journeys, day passes or 3 day passes. You stamp the ticket on the bus yourself and a day or three day pass is valid from the time you first stamp it. Don’t get caught without a ticket.

I hope you find this post useful –  have you been the area?  I have also written about our visit to Sorrento (here) which you may find helpful as well.

 

Dislcaimer:  This posts contains affiliate links to Expedia. That means I may receive a small commission if you book a holiday with Expedia at no extra cost to yourself.