Balata dei Turchi_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Take the plunge: The best swimming and diving spots on Pantelleria

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

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Picture perfect Arco dell’Elefante

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.

Nika Grotto

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

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Cala Gadir tidal pool

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.

Cala Tramontana

Cala Tramontana_Diving_Pantelleria_Villa italy

Cala Tramontana

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

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

Pantelleria_Venus Mirror_Vacation Rental

Secluded Italy: The Best of Pantelleria

Pantelleria_Venus Mirror_Vacation Rental

If you consider yourself a vacation trailblazer, the Sicilian island of Pantelleria should be on your bucket list. The ‘black pearl of the Mediterranean’; so named for its unpolished volcanic landscape and glittering coastline is the destination choice for those Italian a-listers who don’t want to see and be seen.

Lying south of the western-most tip of Sicily, Pantelleria is closer to Tunisia and the African continent, than to the Italian mainland. The marriage of influences have beautifully shaped the island’s gastronomy, culture and architecture. Making Pantelleria a singular and exceptional Italian vacation destination.

The island puts on no airs and graces. This is pure organic territory with no swagger or conservatives attached. The windswept landscape is sculpted in lava-stone, strewn with vineyards, which produce the delicious sweet Passito and Moscato wines, and the caper bushes, which harvest the finest capers in the world.

No swagger or conservatives…

The climate is typically Mediterranean with a wind-swept twist. In fact its name derives from the Arabic, Bint-al Rion – Daughter of the Wind. Visitors soon acclimatize to the blustering winds that sweep across the island, leaving the unforgettable aroma of crashing waves, citrus and wood fires in the air; and cooling down the the hazy heat of the summer months.

Pantelleria coastline

Pantelleria isn’t for beach addicts, but is pure bliss for the thalassophile. Forget golden sandy beaches, shelving down to calm seas. The beauty of this tiny outcrop lies in the ruggedness of its coastline: swimming off the rocks into turquoise seas from the tiny marine alcoves  and secluded coves that are dotted around the island. Or taking a dip in one of the island’s natural rock pools.

In fact, there is only one beach to be found on Pantelleria. The muddy shore of Specchio di Venere (the Venus Mirror: a volcanic lake set in the heart of the island. The lake brims with rainwater, which has a wonderful habit of changing hues dependent on the weather; from emerald, to turquoise, to a deep ocean blue that you lose yourself in.

A curative and therapeutic experience

And we are not talking any old mud here. This is Fango, a clay derived from the thermo springs produced by the island’s volcanic minerals. It’s highly sought-after as a curative and therapeutic treatment, so body mask yourself in it and then swim it off in the lake. I promise the experience will leave you energised and with skin as smooth as silk.

Specchio di Venere_Pantelleria_smallIn fact, Specchio di Venere is just one of the island’s therapeutic ‘hot’ spots. The Favare are tiny grottos and crevices set on the side of the island’s tallest mountain, Montagna Grande. They act as steam emissions, ejecting vapour jets, which can reach up to 100ºC. The deep red of the surrounding rock face is fashioned by the sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid emissions, which are also ejected on occasion.

To reach The Favare, you need to hike through the island’s stunning nature reserve. Rich in flora and fauna all year-round and blanketed with flowers during the spring and summer months. Don’t forget your camera, as the hike affords incredible views to the surrounding countryside and Mediterranean Sea.

Dammuso living

A unique feature of Pantelleria is the Dammuso dwellings. Traditional lava-stone homes crowned with white domed rooftops. The thick whitewashed walls keep the baking heat out during the summer months and keep the interiors warm during the winter. Many traditional Dammuso have been stylishly renovated for both visitors and for the comfort of year-round residents.

Corte Pantesca_Villa Pantelleria

Villas such as Corte Pantesca have retained many original features, such as fountains and rainwater cisterns, adding contemporary comforts and luxuries for guests’ enjoyment.

A gastronomy infused with Arabic influences

Over centuries, both Italian and African ingredients and flavours have been lovingly added to the local cuisine of Pantelleria, creating a delicious and eclectic gastronomy. Arabic influences have been introduced in the creation of a delicious CousCous dish, Sciakisciuka – a rich courgette stew, and in desserts infused with almonds and spices.

Sweet wine PantelleriaEven the famous Passito di Pantelleria dessert wine has Arabic origins. Produced with Zibibbo grapes, originally imported by Arabs. The vineyards of Pantelleria are characterized by their terrace landscapes, which are enclosed by muretti a secco (literally translated as dry walls), which form unique shapes around the island.

Lest we forget that we are just off the Sicilian coastline, it would be rude not to indulge in Italian specialities, such as ricotta and mint ravioli or pesto pantesco, and of course anything with capers.

Pantelleria is a place for discovery. For discovering the beauty in simplicity and a slow pace. How nature can restore our energy and zest for life. And good food and wine enjoyed with family and friends will make for a lifetime of memories.

The island will never be saturated by tourism, the locals wouldn’t allow it. But they will share their island with those who appreciate that the better things in life don’t always come with a name tag. Just don’t tell your friends…