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Italy Travel

Pantelleria or Lampedusa – which is best?

Gadír in Pantelleria

Pantelleria and Lampedusa are both Italian islands off the mainland of Sicily. To visit either of them you need to fly or take a ferry. On a map, they don’t look that far from each other but you cannot travel directly between them – meaning that if you wanted to visit both islands on the same holiday, you would need to go back to mainland Sicily to get a flight or a ferry.

Both flights from Palermo are quite short. It’s about an hour to fly to Lampedusa and about 45 minutes to Pantelleria. In terms of ferries, you can get a ferry from Trapani to Pantelleria, which takes 2 and a half hours. Lampedusa by ferry is longer and a bit more complicated as you can only get the ferry from Porto Empedocle in Agrigento, which is a 2 hour train ride from Palermo. The fast ferry to Lampedusa is just over 4 hours.

A note on flights: The airline that flies from Palermo to both Lampedusa and Pantelleria is DAT (Danish Air Transport) and they only release tickets a couple of months in advance so if you’re planning a holiday in July, you’ll only be able to book your flight in May.

DAT flight to Lampedusa

Which island is bigger?

Pantelleria is Italy’s fourth largest island at around 84 square km (32 square miles). It’s also closer to Africa than it is to Sicily. Lampedusa is just 20 square kilometers so much smaller in comparison to Pantelleria.

To get around either island I’d recommend hiring a car or a scooter. On both islands you can rent a Citroen Mehari, which looks like a little jeep. Note that the roads in Lampedusa aren’t great – there are lots of potholes and also dirt roads. Pantelleria definitely has much better roads for driving. Also, public transport on both islands are quite limited.

Which island is prettier?

This is of course subjective, but I thought Pantelleria (pictured below) is much prettier than Lampedusa because it’s very green whereas Lampedusa is fairly dry and arid. The landscape in Lampedusa reminded me of Favignana – another island off Sicily.

A green hill with houses in Pantelleria

When you’re driving around Lampedusa, you notice how little vegetation there is. It does have plants but they are more like desert type plants and succulents.

Totem sign in Lampedusa

Where are the best beaches

Hands down, Lampedusa has the best beaches! That’s also because, technically, Pantelleria doesn’t have any beaches with sand – they have swimming spots with rocks and platforms.

The most stunning beach in Lampedusa (and one of the best in the world, in my opinion) is Spiaggia dei Conigli or Rabbit Beach. In order to preserve the beach and slow down environmental damage, they limit the number of people on the beach and you can only visit either in the morning or the afternoon.

Rabbit Beach Lampedusa

Whilst Pantelleria doesn’t have beaches with sand, it’s got some fabulous swimming spots. Our favourite was Cala Levante, which was conveniently right by our hotel.

Cala Levante in Pantelleria

Pantelleria also has the most amazing natural lake called Specchio di Venere (Venus’s mirror) where the water is incredibly blue. It was formed by a volcanic cater and the mud is therapeutic – people rub it all over themselves! There are also two restaurants where you can have lunch or get takeout.

Specchio di Venere or Venus's Mirror in Pantelleria

Which island has the best sunsets?

To be fair, both islands have beautiful sunsets however Lampedusa has the edge because they have many spots where you can have aperitivo on the cliff tops and watch the sun go down. They are fairly basic in that you sit on cushions on the rocks but they really are fabulous.

In Pantelleria, the best place to watch the sunset is at Sesiventi in Mursia, the west side of the island. They have a very cool rooftop that you can sit on, however you need a reservation. It’s also quite pricey but is to be expected as there’s a DJ and it’s pretty trendy. We didn’t manage to get to sit on the rooftop but the lower level was good enough for us and no reservation needed!

Aperitivo at sunset in Pantelleria

Which island is more luxurious?

Pantelleria is definitely more luxurious than Lampedusa, in terms of hotels, bars and restaurants. Lampedusa is a bit more rustic and family friendly – and cheaper too. Although that’s not to say that there isn’t any luxury in Lampedusa- there is.

One of the best things we did whilst we were in Pantelleria was to have dinner at a small vineyard called Coste Ghirlanda, which is a partner of Sikelia, the most luxurious (and expensive) resort on the island.

If you book a trip to Pantelleria you absolutely must dine at Coste Ghirlanda. Not only is the setting just unbelievably beautiful, the food was incredible.

The restaurant at Coste Ghirlanda in Pantelleria

You can also visit just for an aperitivo and enjoy their wine whilst taking in the stunning scenery. It’s fairly pricey at around €30 per person, however you can have quite a few glasses of wine. And of course they serve some nibbles too.

Aperitivo at Coste Ghirlanda in Pantelleria

Looking for a variety of things to do?

In terms of diversity, I’d say that Pantelleria has the edge over Lampedusa. In Lampedusa there’s not a lot to do other than go to the beach, whereas Pantelleria has a variety of things to do. You can explore the castle, go wine tasting at a vineyard, spend the day at the lake or go on a hike.

Drinking Passito in a vineyard in Pantelleria

A holiday among Italians

If you’re looking for a holiday spot where Italians go then it’s definitely Lampedusa. Of course there are many Italians holidaying in Pantelleria too but there also lots of other nationalities – we came across Americans, French, German, Swedish and British tourists in Pantelleria whereas In Lampedusa I was the only non-Italian person (that we came across – and we were there for a week). In fact, an Italian guy in a supermarket asked me where I was from because he said there are very rarely any non-Italian tourists in Lampedusa!

Where to stay

Both islands are known for their characteristic ‘dammusi’, which are stone structures of Arab origin. They have a domed roof, small windows and the stone helps keep it cool inside.

In Lampedusa we stayed at the I Dammusi di Borgo Cala Creta, which was lovely but fairly basic in terms of the room. It was nicely decorated, had air con and a mini fridge but the bathroom was quite small. They have a great restaurant though and are in a really good location.

Bedroom at I Dammusi di Borgo in Lampedusa

In Pantelleria we also stayed at a dammusi hotel, Pantelleria Dream Resort. The room was much bigger than the one in Lapedusa and slightly more elegant. The resort also had an infinity pool, plus their restaurant is one of the best on the island.

Bedroom at Pantelleria Dream Resort

We also had a beautiful sea-facing view from the terrace of our dammusi at Pantelleria Dream Resort.

Dammusi terrace at Pantelleria Dream Resort

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I hope this blog has helped you to decide between Pantelleria or Lampedusa. Or do what we did and visit both!

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Pantelleria or Lampedusa

Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.



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