The Egadi Islands (Isole Egadi in Italian, also called Aegadian Islands in English) are three islands off the western coast of Sicily, close to Trapani and Marsala, and conveniently located for Trapani Airport (a Ryanair base). The islands make an attractive holiday destination.
The Egadi Islands are not as dramatic as the volcanic Aeolian Islands, nor breathtakingly beautiful and exclusive like Capri. Their appeal is more low-key, but this, along with their accessibility, gives them their own brand of charm. Visitors can relax in a picturesque island piazza on Favignana with a cheap glass of wine, see prehistoric cave-paintings on the little picture-postcard island of Levanzo, or step further from the hectic world on Marettimo, for a leisurely holiday based around swimming and diving in the clear water around the coast, or hill-walking in the island’s interior. There is a protected marine reserve around the islands, whose coastal waters contain caves, shipwrecks and rich marine life.
The Egadi Islands aren’t much known to non-Italians, and outside the peak Italian holiday period of July-August, tourism isn’t too intrusive. There are services for tourists – good places to stay, restaurants, cafes, shops, bike hire and boat trips – but you’ll still encounter a very authentic and welcoming local atmosphere. It is really quite remarkable how easily and quickly you find yourself in a different world: pottering past the rickety fish stalls where Favignana’s fishermen sell their catch, or sipping wine at a cafe table as a local wedding spills out from the Chiesa Madrice into the wide piazza, where small children play on their bicycles.
You could visit one, or even two, of the islands as a day trip from Trapani, but it would be a pity to rush your visit and miss the chance to sit and relax on the islands as the sun goes down.
> Favignana is the largest and busiest island, and close to the mainland. It has a good range of accommodation options and plenty of ferry connections. It makes the most convenient base for visiting the islands.
> Levanzo has a tiny settlement by the port and an edge-of-the-world feeling; there are a couple of hotels and residences for solitude-seekers.
> Marettimo is the most remote island, with little choice of accommodation. It’s mountainous and popular with walkers as well as swimmers and divers attracted by the clean, shallow waters. This is the place to stay if you want to get away from it all.
Things to do
The most obvious activity is simply to do some island-hopping, and visit each of the three islands, pottering around their villages and sampling their food and drink. you can tour the islands on scheduled ferry services, but you’ll also, during tourist season, have the option of taking boat trips, often informally run and marketed at the quayside by ageing skippers, to circle the islands’ coastlines, visit grottoes, catch a lift to beaches, or enjoy a cruise with lunch and some swimming opportunities. ‘Pescaturismo’, which is basically fishing tourism, can also be arranged at the fishing harbours, and tourists can have the adventure of accompanying a local fisherman on a fishing trip.
Cycling is a popular pastime and practical way to get about on Favignana, where you’ll find bargain bicycle hire rates. Scooters, buggies and cars are also available for rent on the island; shops hiring out all these vehicles are easy to find right by the port in Favignana. There aren’t any big sandy beaches on the islands, which have quite rocky shores, but there are popular coves for swimming, and some smaller beaches with sand. As well as swimming and sunbathing, the more active can go snorkelling and diving in the crystalline protected waters. Marettimo is particularly popular with divers, but diving excursions can be organised on all of the islands.
Marettimo is mountainous and offers some serious opportunities for hiking up slopes, through wild flowers, and to ruins, as well as shorter walks. Favignana is mostly flat, with roads and lanes to walk along, but also has one steep ridge crowned by a historic fortress; this makes a scenic though strenuous excursion. Levanzo is hilly with walks along the coastline and over its rural interior.
Although there are lots of things to do on the islands, they are also ideal if all you want is to enjoy a relaxing and peaceful island holiday.
Travel to the Egadi Islands
The Egadi Islands are not far off the coast of Sicily, and their proximity to Trapani airport makes them extremely accessible to international visitors. You can catch an early morning flight from the UK and be on Favignana in time for lunch.
Here’s a map of the Egadi islands and western Sicily, with key locations highlighted to help with travel planning: Western Sicily and the Egadi islands.
Airports and buses
The nearest airports are Trapani (Ryanair flights from all over Europe including UK and Ireland airports) and Palermo (a busy international airport). AST buses from Trapani Airport run to the port in Trapani, stopping just over the road from the hydrofoil jetty. At the time of writing the buses run hourly from right outside the airport terminal building, departing at 30 minutes past the hour, and tickets can be bought from the driver. The journey takes 45 minutes. Ask the driver for the porto; it’s pretty obvious when you arrive, though.
Trapani is the principal port for the Egadi Islands, with frequent passenger ferry services to all three islands, operated by Liberty Lines and Siremar; sometimes Levanzo is the first stop and sometimes Favignana. Unfortunately, the passenger hydrofoils (aliscafi), though fast and efficient, don’t offer much of an experience; it’s hard to get a view from their salt-encrusted windows. There are also larger Caronte & Tourist car ferries (navi) which offer cheaper passenger tickets, but are much slower. Hydrofoils (for passengers only) leave from the dock along Via Ammiraglio Staiti in Trapani; the two ferry companies each have a ticket kiosk on the roadside by the jetty. Move quickly when alighting from the airport bus in order to beat any queue that might form. Navi depart from the Stazione Marittima, further west along the waterfront.
In addition to the regular Trapani services, there are also ferry connections between Favignana and Marsala, operated by Liberty Lines.
If you’re planning to do some island-hopping, pick up timetables for the two ferry companies at the ticket kiosks, or note down relevant times from the timetables on display. The islands are connected by several ferries each day – enough for you to see two islands in one trip – but you will need to plan around their timings and be sure not to miss the last ferry. Although the islands are not expensive places to stay, hydrofoils are costly and you’ll find the expense mounts up if you plan a lot of travel. Look out for any potential discount: for example, when I stayed in Trapani the tourist office sold a ‘Trapani Welcome Card’ which included a small discount on some of the ferries.
There are local businesses offering direct transfers between airport and islands, which include ferry tickets and lifts to/from the airport and your hotel. The journey’s a simple one, so this isn’t really a necessary service, but it may smooth your way. Once you’re in the islands, you’ll probably see some very competitive offers pasted up for your return transfer; it might be worth taking advantage of these.
Be aware that, like Italy’s other islands, the Egadi Islands can occasionally become cut off during storms and when sea conditions are rough. They are not far off-shore and have plenty of hydrofoil connections, so the risk of problems is fairly low. If you do run into difficulties getting there, I’d suggest calling your hotel; they will be experienced at dealing with such setbacks and may provide practical advice.
There’s not much point in paying to take a car to the islands: Favignana is the only island with a road network, and there are restrictions on bringing cars (ask your hotel about the current situation before setting off). In Trapani there is a car park for the Egadi Island ferries, situated at Piazzale Ilio at the mainland end of the docks, with a free shuttle bus to the port. Look out for signs saying something like ‘Parcheggio per le Isole Egadi’.
Most of the accommodation on the Egadi Islands is on Favignana, either in Favignana town or along the coast. There are one or two places to stay on both Levanzo and Marettimo, some of them semi-independent holiday lets geared at the traditional longer-term Italian summer visitor. Favignana has a much larger choice of accommodation types, from apartment lets to good-quality four-star hotels. This isn’t a luxury destination, but you can stay very comfortably on the island, without spending a great deal.
We stayed in the Hotel Il Portico, about a minute’s walk from the main piazza in Favignana and five minutes (or less) from the ferry port – a small, modern hotel with comfortable rooms and a pleasant sun terrace on the roof.
Egadi Islands facts
* The names Egadi and Levanzo are both pronounced with the stress on the first syllable (EH-gaddy; LEH-vantsoh). Marettimo is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable (Mar-ETT-eemo, while Favignana has the standard Italian pronounciation with the stress on the penultimate syllable (Faviny-AH-na).
* The Egadi Islands were the scene of an important sea battle betweens the Romans and Carthaginians in 241BC; the Roman victory ended the First Punic War. The name of Cala Rossa on Favignana (‘Red cove’) is said to derive from the blood of Carthaginians washing ashore. You can see the remains of a Punic ship, perhaps wrecked in the conflict, in the archaeological museum in Marsala.
* The islands are famous as a setting for the mattanza, a traditional annual slaughter of migrating tuna fish which takes place in May or June. The barbaric spectacle is now a tourist attraction.
On this site
Useful external links
AST buses (Trapani Airport – Trapani port)
First Punic War (Wikipedia)
Siciltrasfert – airport transfers