There are many things to do in Catania and its surroundings. This is one of the most beautiful and lively cities in Sicily, with plenty of attractions to keep you busy for a few days, and it should definitely be included in your Sicily Itinerary.
Catania is the second largest city in Sicily. It counts little over 315000 inhabitants. However, its metropolitan area goes well beyond 700000. The city is located on the eastern coast of Sicily, at the foothill of Mount Etna, and at about one hour drive from Messina – from where ferries to mainland Italy leave.
The city was founded by the Greeks. However, throughout history Catania has undergone several dominations which include that of the Romans. The Renaissance times were particularly flourishing here and Catania developed a rich culture and arts.
Most importantly, if you plan to visit Sicily, you’ll be happy to know that there are many fun things to do in Catania and that this is a great city to explore. Not only you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in town: the surroundings are incredible! Keep in mind that this is the closest main city to Mount Etna, where a day trip is a must!
These are some excellent guided tours of Catania that will help you get to know the city:
In this post, I highlight all the best things to do in Catania and share some practical information to organize your trip there.
The Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo are unmissable places to visit in Catania
The Most Fun Things To Do In Catania
Visit Sant’Agata Cathedral and Piazza Duomo
As soon as you get to Catania, make sure to head to the main square. The Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo are located in the heart of the old town, are perfect starting point for a walk in the city center. The church is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It was originally built over the ruins of the Roman Baths in 1078, and subsequently restored various times, due to the many earthquakes that hit Sicily and Catania in particular.
Inside the church you can admire various frescoes as well as the tomb Bellini, one of the most famous Italian composers.
Make sure to also spend some time in Piazza del Duomo – it’s one of the best things to do in Catania. At the center you’ll find the beautiful Fontana dell’Elefante. This large square is a popular gathering place for both locals and tourists. There are many cafés and restaurants where you can sit for a drink or lunch and observe life passing by.
Walk along Via dei Crociferi
A walk along Via dei Crociferi is a must! This is one of the main streets in the historical center of town. It’s located between the Roman Theater and the Giardini Bellini and here you’ll find many impressive buildings, including a whopping four churches: the church of St. Francesco Borgia; that of San Benedetto and of St. Francis of Assisi; and the Church of Santa Giuliana.
You should not skip the Roman Theater
Explore the Roman Amphitheater
Many cities in Italy have buildings that testify the presence of the Roman rule. Catania is one of them. Make sure to visit the Teatro Romano, which is still very well kept. It’s located between the Benedectine Monastery and the cathedral. It was built in the 2nd century BC. It has a main seating area and a smaller theater to the left.
Go to the Benedectine Monastery
The Benedectine Monastery is located very close to the Roman Theaters. It is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, founded in 1558 and subsequently developed in mixture of many styles. For incredible views of the monastery, make sure to walk up the roof of the Cathedral.
Visit San Nicolò l’Arena
This church is built over am ancient Greek Acropolis of which you’ll still be able to see several original columns that stand on the front façade. It is connected to the monastery. It’s the largest church in Sicily, and one of the most unique ones – mostly weird looking because it was never really completed. Besides, the columns look a bit out of place. Nevertheless, visiting is one of the things to do in Catania.
Walk through Porta Garibaldi
Porta Garibaldi was originally built in 1768 in honor of King Ferdinand IV and his wife. It was then renamed in honor or Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, who in the second half of the 19th century played a vital role in the unification of the country. Make sure to pay a visit, as it is one of the most impressive structures in town.
Make sure to visit Castello Ursino and the Museo Civico
Visit Castello Ursino and Museo Civico.
Sicily has a few well kept castles that were built when it was under foreign rule. One of them is Ursino, which dates back to the 13th century and was built during the Kingdom of Sicily by Emperor Frederick II. A visit is what to do in Catania to learn more about its history – besides, the four towers are great to photograph. Keep in mind that the Museo Civico is located inside, so your visit can have a double purpose!
You just have to eat arancini!
Explore the market and eat all the street food
The main market of Catania is in Piazza Carlo Alberto. Visiting is one of the most fun things to do in Catania: you’ll get to buy fresh produce, observe a bit of local action, and most likely try a lot of local street food – I am sure food in Sicily won’t disappoint you!
A guided tour of the market may be a good idea to fully appreciate it. Here are a few good ones – all of them include some street food:
West of Piazza Carlo Alberto, where the market takes place, you will find the beautiful Giardini Bellini and the Parco Maestranze. Giardini Bellini has a beautiful garden and is famous for its flower beds. Parco Maestranze has several walking trails.
Wander around Catania Botanical Gardens
Not far from the Giardini Bellini, in the heart of Catania and in the grounds of Catania University, the Botanical gardens of Catania are a nice place to explore to relax and connect to nature. They are very well kept and organized.
A day trip to Mount Etna is a must when in Catania
Visit Mount Etna
One of the unmissable things to do in Catania is visiting Mount Etna. This is Europe’s most active volcano. It is easily visible from town, located at about one hour drive from it. You can go there on a day trip, independently or organized. However, keep in mind that you can’t hike it by yourself.
These are some of the best guided tours of Mount Etna – some are classic, others more adventurous and include a hike:
Taormina is on the way to Messina and Milazzo, where ferries to the Aeolian Islands depart from, and you can visit it on a day trip departing from Catania. The city is small, and lovely. You can wander the narrow streets, visit the Cathedral and the ancient Greek Theater.
These are some good guided tours that go to Taormina:
If you visit in the summer, one of the things to do in Catania is heading to the beach. San Giovanni li Cuti is a dark sand beach with black rocks and volcanic ashes – after all, the city is at the foothill of the volcano. The beach gets quite crowded during summer weekends.
Visit Aci Castello
Aci Castello is located at about 12 km off the north of Catania. It’s a lovely village that was originally built around a castle (hence its name), which remains its main sight. The castle was built in 1076 and is a beautiful place to visit.
Go wine tasting
Sicilian wines are world famous for their outstanding quality. The vineyards that grow around Mount Etna produce some excellent wines and one of the nicest things to do in Catania is tasting the unique volcanic wines. I recommend going on a wine tour to get a better understanding of the uniqueness of these wines.
These are some of the best tours that include wine tasting:
If you visit Catania, a day trip to Noto is a great add on
Visit Noto and Syracuse.
Noto is one of the nicest places to visit in Sicily. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, it is a masterpiece of Baroque style architecture, a maze of narrow streets and beautiful buildings. Visiting is what to do in Catania to experience a truly unique place.
Syracuse, on the other hand, is one of the best remaining examples of Greek architecture in Sicily. The city is lovely, and I actually recommend spending a couple of days there. But if you don’t have that much time, a day trip will do.
You can visit Noto and Syracuse on a day trip from Catania. Joining a guided tour will most likely help you save the hassle of organizing it and take you to all the best places.
These are some of the best guided trips that go to Noto and Syracuse:
There are plenty of good places to eat in Catania. One of the best things to do in Catania if looking for good food is heading to the market. There, you’ll find plenty of eateries and cafés. Il Gambero Pazzo has the best fish and seafood in town. Scirocco serves the best fried fish and calamari. For the best arancini go to Salumeria Scollo.
Best time to visit Catania
Catania never gets too cold. However, if you want to enjoy good weather and hike Mount Etna, make sure to visit in the late spring, summer or early fall months as it regularly gets snow. Early fall is also when you’ll find less tourists. Beaches are at their best in the summer months.
Guided tours of Sicily that also go to Catania
If you are pressed on time or aren’t a fan of organizing your trips, make sure to join a guided tour. The following are some excellent options:
Best of Sicily – This G Adventures 8 days trip goes to all the best places to visit in Sicily, including Catania and Mount Etna. You can review it and check the priceshere.
Catania Fontanarossa airport is well connected to Italy and Europe by regular and budget airlines. From the airport, you have several options to reach the center of Catania.
You can find plenty of taxis just outside the main terminal.
By private transfer
A private transfer can be booked online and will save you the hassle of worrying about the price, traffic, etc. You can do so here or here.
The cheapest option to get from the airport to the city center is by bus. AMT Alibus runs every 25 minutes. It departs from the terminal and goes to the center of Catania, making various stops along the way.
How to move around and outside Catania
If you are staying in the center of Catania, your best option is to walk around. If you like the idea of getting out of the city, you can do so on guided tours, or else travel by rental car or train.
By bus or train
Traveling by bus or train is very cheap. You can check out the train timetable and buy train tickets here. Keep in mind that train may be running a few minutes late at times.
If you want to save yourself the hassle of using public transportation, or are traveling with friends or family, renting a car may be a good option. Check out the prices of car rental here.
What to pack for a trip to Catania
This short packing list is suitable for the spring and summer months, and takes into account a trip to Mount Etna and one to the beach:
Are you planning a trip to Sicily? Here’s a fantastic 8 days Sicily itinerary that will take you to some unique places and that will be a great introduction to the island.
Fact: you won’t be able to visit all of Sicily in one go – unless you plan to spend a couple of months there. Chances are you don’t really have two months on a row to travel – not if you have a full time job, and most likely not even if you have a part time one with the best possible contract.
It’ll take you several trips to really get to know Sicily and appreciate all that it has to offer – unique history, culture and archeology; beautiful cities; fantastic beaches; nature and mouthwatering food to name but a few.
I wholeheartedly recommend to restrict your visit to a small part of the island if you only have a short time for your trip. By exploring more locally, you will get to better appreciate the places you visit and discover hidden gems. After all, people in Sicily are not only very welcoming, but also quite relaxed – and it only makes sense to be a bit more relaxed when visiting.
This 8 days Sicily itinerary focuses on Catania and the Aeolian islands and is perfect for people who would like to explore a lovely city but at the same time want to immerse themselves in nature, and enjoy volcanoes and hiking. You can easily add more days into it if you feel like exploring even more; or if you don’t even have 8 days, you can push yourself and just spend 5 days in Sicily, cutting a night in each place.
The itinerary starts and ends in Catania, one of the most interesting cities in Sicily. There, an airport connects the island to the rest of Italy and Europe.
Catania is one of the nicest places to visit in Sicily
A Unique 8 Days Sicily Itinerary
Days 1, 2 and 3 – Catania
This 8-days Sicily itinerary starts in Catania, the second largest city on the island with little over 315000 inhabitants (though Catania’s metropolitan area goes well beyond 700000). Catania is located on the eastern coast of Sicily, at about one hour drive from Messina – from where ferries to mainland Italy leave.
Founded by the Greeks, Catania has undergone several dominations including that of the Romans. It was particularly flourishing during the Renaissance, thanks to its rich culture and arts – of which you can still find many traces today.
Most importantly, Catania is a fun city to explore and one of the best places to visit in Sicily. The city has a lot to offer in terms of things to see and do, and the surroundings are just as amazing. Keep in mind that it’s the closest city to Mount Etna, and a day trip there has to be included!
The following are some excellent guided tours of Catania that will help you get a better taste of the city:
The Cathedral and the square where it is located, in the heart of the old town, are perfect starting point to explore Catania. The church is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, initially built in 1078 over the ruins of the Roman Baths, and restored numerous times following the earthquakes that have often shaken this part of Sicily.
Inside the cathedral you’ll find beautiful frescoes as well as the tomb of famous Italian composer Bellini.
To be fair though, it’s the Piazza del Duomo that steals the show here. Characterized by the famous Fontana dell’Elefante, it is a very large and airy square that is a favorite gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Here you’ll find a multitude of cafés and restaurants where you can sit for a drink or a meal enjoying the views.
The lovely Cathedral and the main square
Via dei Crociferi
Via dei Crociferi is one of the main streets in the historical center of Catania, right between the Roman Theater and the Giardini Bellini. Various beautiful historical buildings are located along this street, including the church of St. Francesco Borgia; that of San Benedetto and of St. Francis of Assisi; and the Church of Santa Giuliana.
The Roman Amphitheater
The Teatro Romano of Catania is stunning. You may well stumble upon it and only notice it when you are there, as it is well hidden between the Benedectine Monastery and the cathedral. It was built in the 2nd century BC and features a main seating area and a smaller theater to the left. It is very well kept and a must when on a trip to Sicily.
The Benedectine Monastery
Very close to the Roman theater, the Benedectine Monastery is one of the largest in Europe. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded in 1558 and is a mixture of many styles. The best views of the monastery are from the roof of the Cathedral.
Originally built in 1768 in honor of King Ferdinand IV and his wife, this impressive arch was renamed in honor of Giuseppe Garibaldi who played a vital role in the unification of Italy in the second half of the 19th century. It’s one of the impressive structures in Catania, and you should not miss it.
The well kept Roman theater of Catania
Castello Ursino and Museo Civico.
There are several beautifully kept castles in Sicily, typically dating back to the time when the island was under foreign rule. Ursino is a beautiful one that you should add to your Sicily itinerary. It’s located in the center of Catania. It dates back to the 13th century and was built during the Kingdom of Sicily by Emperor Frederick II. I recommend visiting both the inside, where the Museo Civico is located, and the outside, to observe its four towers.
The market and all the street food
Piazza Carlo Alberto hosts the main market of Catania. It’s a fun place to walk around, not to mention the best place in town to get fresh produce. This is likely going to be the only market you’ll visit during this suggested Sicily itinerary, so make sure to stop by for a couple of hours. It’s also an excellent place to taste some of the best local street food.
If you want, you can even go on a market and street food tour. Here are a few good ones:
Unmissable in any proper Sicily itinerary is a tour of Mount Etna – after all this is one of the best places to visit in Sicily. This is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It is located at about one hour drive from Catania. You can easily visit it on a day trip and even independently – though keep in mind that you can’t hike it by yourself.
Unless you have a car, I actually recommend joining a guided tour to save yourself the hassle of juggling the public transportation.
As your first stop in your Sicily itinerary, you’ll be relieved to know that Catania has a very good selection of places to stay. You can opt for a small apartment which is perfect if you like self catering (though food is so good, why would you want to miss on that?); a small bed and breakfast or a hotel proper.
This is a selection of the best places to stay in Catania:
You’ll find no shortage of good places to eat in Catania. The area around the market is where you’ll get the best street food and budget eateries. Il Gambero Pazzo serves the best fish and seafood in town. At Scirocco you’ll find the best fried fish and calamari. For the best arancini head straight to Salumeria Scollo.
One of the nice beaches of Vulcano
Days 4, 5 and 6 – Vulcano Island
The second part of this 8 days Sicily itinerary will take you to the beautiful Vulcano, one of the gorgeous Aeolian islands. These are the perfect destination for a sailing trip: the views are breathtaking, the sea clear and perfect if you love diving. However, they are nice to visit even if you are not a fan of sailing.
As the name says, Vulcano is of volcanic origins and there’s no escaping volcanoes when visiting. The island is known for its thermal mud baths which are thought to have multiple beneficial effects and which – to be frank – give out a strong smell of rotten eggs (that’s the typical smell of sulphur!). Whether you are headed there for health tourism or not, there are quite a few things to do in Vulcano to keep you busy for a couple of days.
If you are very short on time during your trip to Sicily but still want to make the most of the Aeolian islands, you can opt for a day trip there. This one departs from Milazzo and goes to Vulcano and Lipari.
Vulcano has a couple of good beaches. If you are keen to add a day at the beach in your Sicily itinerary, this is where you should do it. Both beaches have dark volcanic sand, but the water is transparent and pleasant to swim.
Acque Calde literally means “warm waters.” This name refers to the fact that in one of the beaches of Vulcano you can easily get to a spot where the water is fairly warm thanks to various submarine volcanic fumaroles which eject hot steam right into it.
As I have explained before, the mud baths are one of the main attractions in Vulcano. They are right between one of the beaches and the harbor, and very easy to get to. It costs only €3 to get in. So if you can only bare the strong smell for a short while, you won’t feel like you have wasted that big of a sum.
Valle dei Mostri
Valle dei Mostri is located in Vulcanello, which is on the north side of Vulcano. This used to be a separate island that, following a series of eruptions, was eventually joined to the rest of Vulcano. Valle dei Mostri is a lovely valley from where you can enjoy beautiful views. There, you will see a number of statues that are the result of erosion.
The fantastic view of the Aeolian Islands from Gran Cratere, in Vulcano
Gran Cratere is the main attraction in Vulcano. This is the main volcano of the island, and you can get to it via an easy hike that you can do independently following a well marked trail. You will walk through a series of fumaroles (be prepared for the horrid smell, and make sure to wear a mask to block at least some of it) and be able to admire one of the most stunning views of the entire archipelago. It takes about one hour to get to the main crater, and just about the same amount of time to walk down.
How to get from Catania to Vulcano
In order to get to Vulcano, you’ll have to travel to either Messina or Milazzo, where there are regular hydrofoil departures to Vulcano. Keep in mind there is just one daily ride departing from Messina at 2:10 pm, whereas there are 11 daily departures between 7:00 am and 7:10 pm from Milazzo. Considering the harbor in Milazzo is also much smaller, it’s just easier if you plan to travel from there. You can buy tickets online on Liberty Lines website.
Getting from Catania to Messina or Milazzo
From Catania, you can opt to take the train to Messina or Milazzo Milazzo. There are several daily departures to Messina, and if you want to continue to Milazzo you just have to change in Messina Central Station. The train to Milazzo can take anything between two and four hours, depending on which one you pick (opt for the Intercity one if you want a faster train). You can consult the train timetable andbuy train tickets here.
Alternatively, you can rent a car and take it all the way to Vulcano. However, keep in mind you won’t be able to take the car to Stromboli, as only residents can drive there. Check out the prices of car rental here.
By private transfer
A better alternative for an easier and faster trip may be opting for a private transfer from Catania to Milazzo. You can book it here.
Where to stay and eat in Vulcano
Vulcano has a selection of fantastic accommodation options. Some people opt to spend a little longer on the island and rent a private villa. If you only have a couple of days, you may opt for a good hotel or bed and breakfast.
This is a selection of the best places to stay in Vulcano:
Il Galeone is hands down the best restaurant in Vulcano. Malvasia is another great option. If you fancy a good pizza while there, make sure to go to Levante 88.
Stromboli has to be included in any Sicily itinerary
Days 7 and 8 – Stromboli
The third and final part of this Sicily itinerary will take you to the beautiful small volcanic island of Stromboli, one of the best places to visit in Sicily. A lot of people go there on just a day trip from either Vulcano or Lipari, but I believe it is nice to spend a couple of nights (if not more!) to take in the incredibly relaxing atmosphere.
Though Stromboli tends to get a bit crowded in the summer months, no more than 600 people live there throughout the year, often remaining isolated due to bad weather conditions and rough seas.
The main attraction in Stromboli is the volcano that gives it its name and that is the most active in Europe and in the world, with daily explosions every few minutes. However, a couple of days on the island will reveal a real gem of a place. Continue reading to discover the best things to see and do in Stromboli.
Things to see and do in Stromboli
Hike the volcano
Hiking to the crater of Mount Stromboli is an exhilarating experience. During the hike, you’ll get the most impressive views of the island and of the surrounding archipelago as you slowly go through lush vegetation to then start walking on what looks like the moon. You’ll reach the crater in time for a magnificent sunset and to observe the explosion.
The hike is moderate, but keep in mind you’ll be walking on sand for a good part, especially on the way down (which you’ll do after sunset, when it’s dark already). Only guided expeditions are allowed.
If you don’t fancy climbing all the way to the crater of Mount Stromboli, you can opt for the shorter hike to this view point which is located at 400 meters above sea level. You won’t need a guide and once you are at the viewpoint you can admire the Sciara del Fuoco – a lava flow that runs down the northern side of Stromboli. The best time to walk to the viewpoint it’s the late afternoon, in time for sunset. It takes about one hour to get there.
Explore the village
Stromboli has two villages. One is made up of 4 tiny “frazioni” (neighborhoods) all connected one to the other; the other is Ginostra, which is however completely isolated (you can only reach it by boat).
Stromboli village is a lovely place to explore: picture white buildings with colorful doors and windows and overflowing with flowers. Only residents are allowed to drive in Stromboli, but the streets are so narrows that you’ll at most see a few ape cars or vespas around. This means that you won’t have to worry about traffic at all.
The main landmark is the Church of San Vincenzo. The square in front of the church is the gathering point for people waking up to the crater of the volcano.
The gorgeous sea views on a quiet morning in Stromboli
Go to the beach
Stromboli has a few lovely beaches of black volcanic sand. Ficogrande and Piscità are the best known. You can also opt for a walk along Forgia Vecchia, a long stretch of black pebbles and clear waters at around 300 meters south from the harbor.
There surely is a magic ingredient in Lapillo’s gelato, or else I can’t quite explain how it can be so delicious. Pistacchio flavour is by far the best (or shall I say it’s my favorite?). If the creamy gelato isn’t your thing, opt for a refreshing granita. It’s on the main street.
How to get from Vulcano to Stromboli
There are two hydrofoils per day that go from Vulcano to Stromboli – one at 8:50 am, and the other at 2:15 pm. You can buy tickets online on the website of Liberty Lines.
How to get from Stromboli to Catania Airport
There are 4 daily hydrofoils that travel from Stromboli to Milazzo. The first one departs at 7:15 am, and the last one at 5:30 pm. Get tickets online at Liberty Lines.
Once in Milazzo, you have several options to get to Catania Airport. The overall trip from Stromboli to Catania airport takes around 4 hours and 30 minutes. I recommend giving yourself 6 hours or more to make it to the airport on public transportation.
Giuntabus connects Milazzo harbor directly to the airport. Keep in mind it only operates between April and September.
Another option is to take the train to Catania Central Station. You can find the train timetable and buy train tickets here. There are regular buses between Catania Central Station and the airport, operated by AMT Alibus. The bus runs every 25 minutes between 4:40 am and midnight.
By private transfer:
For a faster and more comfortable trip you can opt for a private transfer from Milazzo directly to the airport – book it here.
Where to stay and eat in Stromboli
For as small as it is, Stromboli has some excellent accommodation options. This is a small selection of what is available:
There are several good restaurants in Stromboli. Pizzeria da Luciano makes excellent pizzas and a lot of other local specialties. Punta Lena is a family run restaurant in a very romantic setting.
The mud baths in Vulcano are famous for their healing properties
Practical Tips For Your Sicily Itinerary
Best time to visit Sicily
Any time is a good time to visit Sicily, if you ask me. However, considering that hikes to Mount Stromboli and Mount Etna don’t run in the winter and that you can’t really enjoy the beaches then, I recommend traveling between April and mid October. If you don’t fancy the crowds or are not a fan of the heat, avoid the peak summer months (July, August and the first half of September).
Guided tours of Sicily
If you are pressed on time or aren’t a master at organizing, you may want to join a guided trip to Sicily. The following are some excellent options, though keep in mind none of them follows the exact itinerary I have suggested.
Best of Sicily – This G Adventures 8 days Sicily itinerary goes to all the best places on the island, including Catania and Mount Etna. You can review it and check the priceshere.
Aeolian Islands trekking tour – This is the perfect option if volcano hiking is all you want to do. Of all the suggested tours, it’s the most similar to those I have suggested.
Sicily is well connected to Italy and Europe via its numerous airports. For the purpose of this 8 days Sicily itinerary, the best option is to fly in and out of Catania Fontanarossa Airport. From the airport, there are several ways to reach town.
Once you get to the airport in Catania, just head out of the main terminal and you’ll find plenty of taxis
By private transfer
Another good option to get from Catania airport directly to your hotel is to book a private transfer. You can do so here or here.
The cheapest option to get from Catania Fontanarossa airport to Catania city center is by bus. AMT Alibus runs every 25 minutes, leaving from the terminal and going all the way to the city center, making various stops along the way.
How to move around Sicily
This itinerary has been created with the idea of allowing you to move as much as possible via public transportation.
You can check out the train timetable and buy train tickets here. One thing to keep in mind is that trains can be late in Italy, especially during peak season – although delays are usually no more than a few minutes. Make sure to factor in possible delays when you have to take a ferry or a flight!
If you are traveling with a small group of people, or with children, you may want to rent a car. However, consider that cars aren’t allowed in Stromboli. Check out the prices of car rental here.
Hiking shoes are a must for your trip to Sicily
What to pack for a trip to Sicily
I won’t go into too much details about what you should pack for your trip to Sicily. My overall recommendation is to pack light and to bring comfortable clothes for sightseeing and some good hiking gear. This brief packing list is suitable for the spring and summer months:
There are a few beautiful beaches in Cagliari, and some incredible ones in the immediate surroundings. They are worth going to in any season. However, they are an absolute must if you visit Sardinia in the summer.
Cagliari is one of the most underrated Mediterranean destinations. Though I feel that people visiting Italy are missing out by not coming to Cagliari, in a way I feel that the fact it is still relatively unexplored contributes to its charm. People who visit are immediately captured by the incredible atmosphere and gorgeous setting, including the incredible Cagliari beaches.
Indeed, one of the things that make Cagliari an incredible place to visit is that it is right by the sea. We locals enjoy Cagliari beaches year round, whether it is to go for a walk on a warm afternoon during the winter; for a run or to bike during the spring; or even better to spend a few hours relaxing in the sun and swimming in the summer.
We are lucky, because we don’t have to make too much of an effort (or to spend a lot of money) to get in vacation mode. All we need to do to relax for a day or even just a few hours at the end of a work day is heading to the beach.
In this post, I highlight the nicest beaches in Cagliari and a few ones in the immediate surroundings, and share some tips so that you can make the most of them.
Before I go on to highlight Cagliari beaches, one word of warning: never take any sand from Sardinian beaches. In fact, never take any sand or rocks or shells from anywhere in the world. To become a more responsible tourist, check out these few tips.
Guided tours aren’t the best way to enjoy the beaches in Cagliari. After all, they are really easy to reach by public transportation. However, there are a few interesting things to do and places to visit that are right by the beach and you may want to join a guided tour to make the most of them. These are some good options:
Top sights of Cagliari tour – this tour goes to all the main landmarks of Cagliari and, if you want, they can even arrange an additional ride to Poetto beach.
If you’d like to get out of town towards one of the beaches in Cagliari’s immediate surroundings, your best bet is to hire a car so that you can be completely independent. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour. Keep in mind the following don’t necessarily go to the beaches I mention below.
7 Beautiful Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings
Locals love Poetto. It may not be the best beach in Sardinia, but for an urban beach it’s actually one of the most beautiful you will see in the world. This Cagliari beach is a whopping 8 km long stretch of fine sand that starts in Sella del Diavolo (Devil’s Saddle), one of the landmarks of Cagliari, and goes all the way to Quartu Sant’Elena. It is extremely photogenic, which is why I argue it is one of the best beaches in Sardinia.
What you will love about Poetto is the incredible setting. On one side you will get the gorgeous Sella del Diavolo. Right behind it the lagoon of Parco Molentargius, where you can go observe pink flamingoes and other bird species. Along Poetto, you will find a running and biking lane. Of all the beaches in Cagliari, this is a local’s favorite to exercise throughout the year.
The water at Poetto is clear and very shallow, so it is ideal for families with children who can safely play there.
Poetto is a very well serviced beach. You can easily get there by bus from several locations in town, and once there you can find various places to rent umbrellas and sun beds. There are life guards on duty; children entertainment; small restaurants and kiosks where you can get a light meal or a drink. Dogs are welcome in designated areas – so it is perfect if you are traveling with your furriend.
Among Cagliari beaches, Poetto is the one that gets most crowded during the summer months. Go in the early morning to find a good spot near the waterfront if you want to spend the whole day at the beach; or in the late afternoon for a quick swim and a drink in one of the kiosks.
LOCAL TIP: Poetto is very exposed to the wind. Unless you are not bothered by it, I’d strongly recommend not going when the mistral is blowing: chances are you’ll be covered in sand in now time. Alternatively, head to Calamosca or Cala Fighera for a more protected location.
Poetto can be easily reached by bus from the center of Cagliari. Hop on either PF or PQ to get there. There are various stops along the beach. Some are more crowded than others. For a less crowded bit, get off at the 6th stop or at Ospedale Marino.
Calamosca is a popular beach among locals
I admit I don’t visit Calamosca beach nearly as much as I should. It’s a pity, as this is one of the most scenic beaches in Cagliari. It really is a small cove, with two promontories protecting it on each side: on the western side, you’ll see the famous Sella del Diavolo (on the other side of which there is Poetto); on the eastern one you’ll find Capo Sant’Elia with its ancient lighthouse.
Calamosca is characterized by very fine, white sand and beautifully transparent waters. As opposed to Poetto, is protected from the strong winds so a good option on a windy day. As the water is very shallow, it’s a good beach for families with small children.
Right on the beach there is an old hotel and behind it some historical buildings – these actually add to the charm. If you continue walking from the main entrance to the beach, you will get to “Le Terrazze” – a place where you can rent beach equipment but, most importantly, enjoy a drink with the most beautiful sunset view.
Calamosca is a well serviced beach with a small kiosk where you can enjoy a light lunch, gelato or a drink.
LOCAL TIP: Taking the road on the left of the parking lot, you’ll reach the starting point of a well marked trail that goes to Sella del Diavolo. It’s an easy hike that should take you no more than two hours (there and back) but which will afford you incredible views over the Gulf of Cagliari, Poetto beach and Molentargius Park. You’ll need hiking boots.
You can easily get to Calamosca beach by getting bus 5-11 from the center of Cagliari. There are bus stops along Via Roma.
Cala Fighera is one of the loveliest small beaches in Cagliari
Cala Fighera isn’t just one of my favorite beaches in Cagliari – it may well be one of my favorite places in Sardinia. I never tire of going and of admiring the incredible views of the sea from above.
This tiny rocky cove isn’t the most comfortable of places. It’s all pebbles and rocks, so not really suitable unless you are a fan of rocky beaches and definitely not a good place for families with children. Having said that, it’s very well protected from the wind, and the water is transparent and the rocks create a fantastic habitat for marine life.
Cala Fighera is a nudist friendly and gay friendly beach. There is a kiosk there where you can rent umbrellas and sun beds, and right above it there is La Paillote, one of the nicest restaurants in Cagliari (good food and absolutely unbeatable location).
How to get to Cala Fighera
There is no public transportation to get to Cala Fighera. However, you can take bus 5 – 11 to Calamosca and then walk or bike from there. Alternatively, opt for a taxi. It’s a short ride from the center, and there hardly is any traffic, so it won’t be expensive. Once you are at the end of the road, it is a short hike down to the beach.
Sant’Elia has a nice beach that should be better preserved
Sant’Elia is one of the least popular beaches in Cagliari, yet it is lovely. Locally known as Cala Diga, this small beach is located very close to Sant’Elia stadium, the old stadium of the city of Cagliari, and right by the Levante del Porto pier.
The beach is characterized by very fine white sand and clear waters, but unfortunately it is not very well kept (think about the odd plastic bottle here and there). It’s a pity, because it’s otherwise very beautiful and in a gorgeous setting.
It is not a serviced beach – there are no lifeguards on duty and there is no kiosk. It’s mostly a local beach so the chances of meeting other tourists there are slim.
LOCAL TIP: Not far from Sant’Elia beach you’ll find the beautiful Torre del Prezzemolo, from where you’ll get incredible views of the sea. Another nice walk in the area is that to the Fortino di Sant’Ignazio, which however can be accessed from Viale Calamosca, on the way to Calamosca Beach.
How to get to Sant’Elia beach
The easiest way to get to Sant’Elia beach is by car. Follow the directions to Poetto beach and take it right towards San Bartolomeo / Sant’Elia. Follow the signs to the Lazzaretto and from there take it left to go towards Ristorante Lo Scoglio. It’s shortly after that. There is a small parking lot.
Cala Regina is one of the nicest beaches in Cagliari’s immediate surroundings
At less than 30 minutes drive from the center of town, Cala Regina is one of the nicest beaches in Cagliari and its immediate surroundings. It is a really tiny cove, very well protected from the wind and as such an excellent choice on a windy day. It is surmounted by a promontory with a Spanish watch tower, from where you can get incredible views of the coast.
Cala Regina is pebbly, and the very transparent water is almost immediately deep – so not a good choice for families with children. On the other hand, if you like snorkeling it’s an ideal place, as hidden in the rocks you will find a lot of marine life.
This is not a serviced beach – there are no places to rent any sort of equipment and not even a kiosk or a lifeguard on duty. It’s almost as wild as it gets.
How to get to Cala Regina
From the center of Cagliari, follow the directions to Poetto and continue straight until you get to the end of the beach and a very large roundabout. Take it right to follow the directions towards Villasimius – you will be driving on SP17. You’ll find a sign on your right pointing towards Cala Regina. The speed limit along SP17 is 50 Km per hour so you won’t have trouble seeing the sign.
Mari Pintau has tremendously inviting waters
Whenever I am in need of a tropical quick fix, I head to Mari Pintau. The name literally translates as “painted sea” and it is easy to understand why this small beach was given this name, once you see it. It is simply wonderful, and one of the nicest beaches in Cagliari and its surroundings.
Mari Pintau is a pebbly beach, so if you want to be a bit more comfortable make sure to take a chair or sun-bed with you. Planting an umbrella is a bit tricky and requires a bit of patience, but it is doable.
The pebbles soon give way to a fine white sand in the water, which is transparent and of an incredibly turquoise color. Although kids can’t play in the sand, since the water is shallow this is a good place for families with children.
Here, you’ll find mostly locals and the occasional tourist. It is a well serviced beach where you’ll find a kiosk on the trail that leads to the beach, toilets and hot showers (for which you’ll have to pay a very small fee) and a place to rent umbrellas and chairs.
LOCAL TIP: Mari Pintau is one of the few nudist and gay friendly beaches in Cagliari. To be fair, I have never noticed any nudist: they all head to the very far right of the beach. Check out Nomadic Boys post about the nicest gay friendly beaches in Italy.
How to get to Mari Pintau
Mari Pintau is a bit further down on the same road that goes to Cala Regina (in fact, I sometimes swim from one beach to the other). Just continue driving along SP17, and you’ll eventually see it on your right. There is no real parking lot so you’ll have to park along the road and then head to the beginning of the trail that leads to the beach.
Nora is at an easy drive from Cagliari – photo courtesy of Trinchetto (flickr)
Nora is one of the nicest beaches within easy reach from Cagliari. It’s not very big, but truly special as it is located right by Nora archeological site, which is beautiful and well kept.
On one side of the beach you’ll spot a promontory surmounted by Coltellazzo tower. Right on the beach you’ll also find the tiny church of Sant’Efisio: it’s not uncommon to see weddings being celebrated there during the summer months. Behind the beach there is a lagoon populated by pink flamingoes.
The bay is well protected from the wind so ideal when the mistral is blowing. As opposed to many other beaches in Cagliari, this never gets too crowded.
Nora beach is well serviced with a kiosk and places to rent umbrellas and sun-beds. It is accessible to disabled.
LOCAL TIP: Make sure to pay a visit to Nora archeological site as a nice add on to a day at the beach.
How to get to Nora
From Cagliari, drive along SS195 towards Pula. Take the first exit to Pula and follow the directions to Nora, continuing along until you get to the parking lot. You’ll have to pay a small fee to park your car.
It’s always a good time to enjoy Poetto
Practical Information For Your Trip To Cagliari
Where to stay in Cagliari
There are a bunch of excellent places to stay in Cagliari, scattered around town, for any budget and any taste. You can pick a hostel, a small boutique hotel, an apartment or a hotel proper. This is just a selection:
Hostel Marina is the only hostel in town, located in the Marina district. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want easy access to attractions, restaurants and nightlife. And you can easily move around by public transportation from there. Click here for the latest rates andhere for reviews.
T Hotel is near Piazza Giovanni, one of the main in Cagliari, and right in front of the beautiful Parco della Musica. It is a great business style hotel whose main perks are a spa and a fantastic lounge and bar area where locals often go get a drink. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Cagliari has a great variety of restaurants for all tastes and budgets, and a great selections of bars to have pre-dinner or late night drinks. The ones I mention here are my go to places – so you can trust they are local!
Framento is my favorite pizzeria in the world – it even won a prize for the best 50 pizzas in Italy! They only use local ingredients; the dough is made with natural yeast and so fragrant and moist. Make sure to make reservations.
My two favorite gelaterie are Cremoso, right off Largo Carlo Felice, and Gocce di Gelato e Cioccolato, in Piazza del Carmine.
The best area in town if you are looking for seafood is La Marina. There you will find La Stella Marina di Montecristo, a trattoria style kind of place where for a reasonable price you’ll get a very good meal. It’s nothing fancy, but the food is really good. Ristorante Italia is one of the best restaurants in Cagliari. Osteria Kobutta is one of the up and coming places, that does a lot of fusion. Sabores is the best place in town to try local specialties such as prosciutto and Sardinian cheese, all accompanied by local wine. Lo Scoglio is one of the best seafood restaurants in town, in a lovely location facing the sea.
The best burgers are at Bombas in Via Università. They are prepared using only local ingredients.
Libarium is my favorite place in town for pre-dinner drinks. The sunset views from the terrace are simply stunning. Antico Caffé is an all day kind of coffee shop and also good for quick meals. It’s one of the most historic coffee shopps in town. De Candia makes good cocktails and serves good craft beers. Caffé dell’Elfo is in a great location, right by Largo Carlo Felice which is a main local hang out.
Soon I will be writing a complete guide to Sardinian food and one on the best restaurants and bars in Cagliari.
The view of Poetto beach and Molentargius Nature Park from Sella del Diavolo is simply stunning
How to get to Cagliari, Sardinia
Cagliari is well connected to the rest of Italy via ferry, with rides from and to Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo (all of them take around 13 hours), and it is also a cruise port so the best cruise companies all get here.
However, the best, cheapest and quickest way to travel to Cagliari is by plane. There are regular and budget airlines flights to Cagliari from various locations in Italy and Europe.
The airport is well connected to the city center.
Traveling to the center of Cagliari from the airport takes only 7 minutes. The station is right outside the terminal and takes you to the heart of Cagliari, by the harbor.
There are plenty of taxi right outside the arrivals terminal. Depending on the time of day or night, you will be paying between €17 and €20 for a ride to anywhere in Cagliari – it’s a flat rate.
By private transfer
If you are worried about having to juggle a taxi in a different language and just want to have it easy, you can even book a private transfer with an English speaking driver. The price is more or less the same. You can book it here.
How to move around Cagliari
Cagliari has a good public transportation system. If you plan to only stay in the city and just visit Cagliari beaches, you can rely on the buses that leave from the city center. They are cheap and easy to use. If, on the other hand, you plan on traveling around a bit more and hitting some of the beaches that are outside of town, I recommend renting a car – unless you want to opt for guided tours. You can get a quote for car rental here.
When to visit Cagliari
If you care to enjoy the beaches in Cagliari at their best, I suggest to visit in the summer months – between June and September. Having said that, any time is a good time make the most of Cagliari beaches. Locals go there year round to run, bike, walk, get a breath of fresh air or just meet friends for a coffee. Depending on your travel plans, I recommend spending between 4 and 6 days in Cagliari to make the most of it!
Getting an Indian visa on arrival is meant to be easy. But if you ask me, the information available online can actually be confusing.
I am currently planning a trip to India. It will be my second time there, and I will be traveling with my sister. The first time I visited, Italian passport holders couldn’t get an e-Visa so I opted to send my passport to the Indian consulate via a local agency.
I got a 6 months visa for India, which ended up being quite costly, not to mention unnecessary as I only spent 4 weeks there. And as it took a month to process my visa, I could not travel overseas in the meantime (which can be a bit of a hassle when you work as a travel blogger).
Thankfully the regulations have changed and even Italian passport holders can get an e-Visa for India now. So, I’d rather opt for an easier and cheaper process, and keep hold of my passport in the meantime.
That’s why I have been looking for information on how to get an Indian visa on arrival. And to make things easier for you – and for myself – I thought I’d write a step by step guide to get your visa.
In an effort to promote tourism, the government of India implemented the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), also known asTravel Visa on Arrival (TVOA)in November 2014. This allows citizens of a 167 countries and territories (including Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore, South Africa and Vietnam) to get an Indian visa on arrival.
The e-Visa program was later on extended to business travelers and medical tourism purposes.
The India tourist visa on arrival is granted for 365 days, with multiple entry and, depending on your nationality, you can stay for up to 90 or 180 days in the country.
The Indian visa application changes a lot and it can be tricky. That’s why I suggest going the easy way and getting your e-Visa with an authorized agency such asiVisa.com.
iVisa charges a $35 fee to process your visa for you, which honestly is a small price to pay to avoid the issues you can encounter if you try to do it yourself through the government site. They also provide 24/7 support and can manage your e-Visa in any language for you (if you don’t speak English).
Continue reading to discover how to get an Indian visa on arrival.
This is the image you’ll get upon clicking on the link for iVisa
How To Get An Indian Visa On Arrival
Applying for the Indian visa on arrival is actually very easy. You just need to fill out the application, which you can find here.
The “Calculate Your Visa Cost Before Applying” button will allow you to check the price of your visa depending on the processing time (36 hours, 3 days, 5 days).
If you tick the “standard processing” you pick the cheapest option.
The default currency is USD but you can change it into your home country currency if you prefer.
As you click through to fill the application form, you’ll get to this page
Proceed to make the payment. After you pay, you will see a pop up saying “Status Incomplete.” Don’t worry about that, it’s perfectly normal. Just click “complete now.”
Go on to attach additional documents. You should upload a clear copy of your passport in PDF format and a photograph in JPEG. Make sure it has a white background.
Click “save and complete request” when you finish. You will receive confirmation that the application has been received via email and your e-Visa will come to you by email.
Varanasi is one of the designated airports to enter India with a visa on arrival
Some FAQ About Indian Visa On Arrival
If you are concerned about your India visa on arrival, perhaps answering a few questions for you will help.
Do I need a visa if I am not leaving the airport?
No, you do not. If you are only having a layover in India and you are not leaving the airport you don’t need a visa.
How long in advance should I apply for your India visa on arrival?
You need to apply at least 4 days prior to departure and no more than 365 before the date of arrival. So for example, if you plan to arrive in India on 1 November, you should apply no later than 28 October. iVisa can sort out your applicationand all the correct dates so you don’t have to worry about the 365-day window.
How long will my India e-Visa be valid for?
Your India visa on arrival will be valid for a maximum of 365 days from the date of arrival in India. So if you arrive on 1 November 2019 and your passport is stamped on the same day, you can entry India until 31 October 2020.
What do I need to apply for an India visa on arrival?
In order to apply for an India visa on arrival, you will need the following:
A passport that has at least 6 months validity from the date of your arrival in India, and two blank pages. So for example, if you plan to arrive in India on 1 November 2019, your passport should not expire before 1 May 2020.
A return ticket or an onward journey ticket. You may (or may not) be asked to show proof of a valid return or onward journey ticket in order to board your flight. This is a legal requirement and if you fail to provide proof, you may be denied boarding.
A recent photo. It needs to have a white background and you need to be facing in front of you.
A clear copy of your passport. It has to be in PDF format.
A valid address in India. This can just be the hotel where you will be staying once you arrive.
The Indian Tourist Visa On Arrival (TVOA) costs $102.50 USD. You can pay by credit card upon submitting your application. Make sure not to try to pay more than 3 times, as this will block the application process and you’ll haVe to start over.
Make sure to always carry a copy of your visa with you
I have applied successfully. What should I do now?
Make sure to write down your e-Visa application ID so that you can track the status of your application. It normally takes a few days for the application to be processed once you submit it.
My Indian visa on arrival application was approved. What do I do now?
Once your Indian visa application is approved you will receive an email with your Indian visa on arrival attached. Make sure to print a couple of copies of your visa as you will be asked to show it once you get to border control.
You won’t be allowed to show your Indian Tourist Visa On Arrival on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
Please beware that you can enter India via the 28 designated airport and 5 designated seaports. Most people traveling to India fly to Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. Other designated airports include Goa, Varanasi, Calicut, Chennai and Jaipur. Your port of entry has to be the same one stated in the application form.
Can I enter India more than once on an Indian visa on arrival?
Yes, you can enter up to twice in a year on an Tourist Visa On Arrival.
Can I extend my Indian visa on arrival?
No, this is not allowed.
How many times can I apply for an Indian visa on arrival?
You can apply for up to three times in a calendar year (ie from 1 January to 31 December).
Do I need to carry my visa with me at all times?
Yes, you do. The chances you may be stopped and searched by local police or asked to show your visa by the local authorities are very slim, but make sure to carry a copy with you just in case.
Do I need a yellow fever vaccination?
If you come from a country that is affected by yellow fever, you need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entering India. If you don’t, you may be held in quarantine for up to 6 days.
I am not traveling to India anymore. Can I get a refund of my e-Visa fee?
Unfortunately, once you have paid for your Indian visa on arrival, you can’t get a refund.
Pick the easy way to get an Indian visa on arrival
The Easiest Way To Get An Indian Visa On Arrival
The most hassle-free way of getting an Indian tourist visa is to ask iVisa to arrange it for you. The best part of it is that it only takes 48 hours. That’s why my sister and I have decided to get our Indian visa with iVisa. There is a $35 USD service fee, which is actually much cheaper than asking an agency to get your passport and send it to the nearest consulate (or going to the consulate yourself, which in some cases – like for me – requires a flight and a trip proper).
Keep in mind that the rules for the TVOA are bound to change from time to time. I will do my best to keep this article updated but in case of doubt contact the embassy or consulate.
Being a responsible traveler is, now more than ever, a must.
Traveling is an incredibly enriching experience. While we travel, we have a chance to see beautiful places; admire the most amazing wildlife; learn about different ways of life and get in touch with unique cultures and interesting peoples.
However, the way we travel, the places we visit, and even the way we spend our money do have an impact on the environment and on the communities we get in touch with. The least we can do, as tourists, is to minimize the negative impact of our travels, and wherever possible try to turn it into a positive one. This is what responsible tourism is all about.
Though we should all strive to be more respectful of the environment, people and wildlife alike, it’s important to clarify something: nobody is expected to be a perfectly responsible tourist. I know for sure that I’ll never achieve perfection. The whole point here is to make sure to at least be a more aware tourist, a person that knows the real impact of his actions and, more importantly, understands that every little bit will help to make the world a better place for everyone.
In this post, I will suggest all the things you can do to become a more responsible traveler. Before I do so, however, let me clarify what responsible tourism is.
The Declaration on Responsible Tourism was signed in Cape Town
What Is Responsible Tourism?
According to the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism of 2002, responsible tourism is tourism that minimizes negative economic, environmental and social impacts; contributes to improve the well being of local communities, including their working conditions, and has a positive impact on the local economy; has a positive impact on the conservation of natural and cultural heritage and at the same time allows a more meaningful connection between the travelers and local communities; is culturally sensitive.
With the tourism industry accounting for about 10% of the global GDP, you can see how this can have an impact on the lives of people and on the environment, in both a positive and negative way. It’s up to us, travelers, to make sure that tourism has a positive impact on the world as a whole, and that responsible tourism practices are implemented.
We all should become more responsible travelers (in fact, we should learn to be more respectful of the environment on our everyday life, and not just as we travel!), and the good news is that this doesn’t have to be costly!
Continue reading to discover how to become a more responsible traveler.
Overtourism has to be taken into account by responsible travelers
25 Ways To Become A More Responsible Traveler
Beware of overtourism
Overtourism – which refers to the presence of too many tourists in a destination – regularly comes up when talking about responsible tourism. In fact, it is one of the first things you should consider in your pledge to become a more responsible traveler.
Many destinations have become increasingly popular in the last decade or so; but while some do have the infrastructure necessary to deal with the negative impact that tourism brings; others simply don’t.
In places that have a tradition of receiving large amount of tourists, tourism can cause an increase in the cost of living. If tourists are ready to pay higher rates for common goods such as groceries, local shops may increase the prices, but locals may be unable to pay them. Owners of apartment may prefer renting to tourists so that they can charge higher rental rates; and locals who have traditionally lived in the area may be forced to leave as they can’t pay those rates.
In countries where tourism is a more recent phenomenon, the infrastructure may not be sufficient to counteract the effects of overtourism, such as overcrowding; increased pollution; waste disposal; exploitation of animals and people; gentrification of specific areas; a decrease in the quality of life of the local community; as well as the spectacularization (with the consequent dilution) of culture.
Many countries have been negatively affected by tourism in this sense. A good example – though by all means not the only one – is Bali.
While the issue of overtourism should be ultimately dealt with by local tourism boards and governments, as a responsible tourist you can certainly do something to lower your impact.
So what can you do to be a more responsible traveler when it comes to overtourism?
The most obvious thing is to visit lesser-known places. Even within a very popular destination, you can easily get off the beaten path. For example, when in Sri Lanka you can go to Wellawaya instead of backpackers’ hub Ella; when in Morocco head to the Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains for a change. The locals will be welcoming, you’ll have the place to yourself and your experience will be very rewarding.
And if you really do want to go to the most popular destinations, consider going in the off season, when there will be less tourists around. The weather may not be as great, but on the plus side you won’t have to stand in line forever to visit popular sites!
Make sure that animal encounters are ethical and that animals are never abused
Be wary of activities where animals are involved
One of the most basic rules to become a more responsible traveler is to stay away of activities and tours that involve the use of animals. Keep in mind that there is a lot of money involved in wildlife tourism, and most operators are interested in profits rather than the well-being of animals.
Activities such as elephant riding, selfies with tigers, swimming with dolphins or manta rays; and shark cage diving – to name but a few – may seem harmless or plain fun to you, but they are truly irresponsible and cause lots of harm and suffering to the animals.
Read more about the use of animals in tourist attractions in this post.
Even giving money to a dancing monkey or to a snake charmer is questionable – it’s pretty much like giving money to a circus, and you surely wouldn’t want to do that, right?
But if you think that it is only activities involving exotic animals you stay away from during your travels, think again. That carriage ride through the streets of Rome or Sorrento may seem very romantic to you, but chances are that the horse is stressed by the traffic, the cars, the scooters and the noise, and all for the sake of keeping you entertained for one hour. And unless you are physically impaired, why would you want to ride a donkey or mule around Petra and why would you want it to carry your heavy backpack during a hike? Just pack as light as possible and carry it yourself!
When doing a safari, make sure that the operator is a responsible one that puts the interests of wildlife first. You should be concerned if you notice things such as jeeps speeding through a national park (speed limits help avoid hitting wild animals); or too many jeeps at a sighting – that’s what happened to my friend in Yala National Park.
Speaking of animals, do not feed wildlife
Most people mean well when they do it, but if you really want to be a more responsible traveler remember that feeding wildlife if one of the most irresponsible practices you can think of: animals should eat what they find in nature, and feeding them ultimately breaks their migration and reproduction cycle. Even feeding bread to the ducks you may see at the park isn’t good for them!
Protect local fauna
Turtle eggs, green sea turtles, sharks, river dolphins and much more. Endangered animals often become human food for the most various reasons (but rarely because of pure hunger). No matter how much the locals rave about the many advantages of eating such things, and even if your foodie self is intrigued, be a responsible traveler and avoid doing so.
For the same reason, avoid buying goods made with the leather or fur of endangered animals.
And by all means, do not pick up starfish from the water for the sake of a pretty photo or to show it to your children. These animals are very delicate and die almost instantly once they are out of water.
Always respect local laws, customs, and places of religious significance
Respect local laws, customs and culture
One of the most rewarding things when traveling is encountering new, diverse and unique cultures and ways of life. Always show respect for the local customs and traditions, and by all means for the local laws. Being a responsible traveler in this sense may require dressing up more conservatively in general; and more specifically covering your head, shoulders and legs when entering a temple or a church (this very much goes for churches in Italy and Spain as well as Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka or Hindu temples in India).
Unfortunately, sex tourism – the practice of traveling overseas in search of sexual activity, usually with prostitutes – is still a thing. Don’t be this person! Do not get involved in the exploitation of women and, by all means do not get involved in the sexual exploitation of children!
It may seem pretty obvious, but one of the basic things you need to do to become a more responsible traveler is to be polite to others – travelers and locals alike, and even more so the people that work in the tourism industry ie the reception staff at your hotel; the cleaning staff; the waiter at a restaurant and so on. Remember to treat people the same way you’d like to be treated: with respect and kindness.
Always ask for permission before taking photos of people
Ask for permission before taking photos of people
In some countries, people love posing for photos and in fact, the minute they’ll notice you snapping something or someone near them, they will call you to ask to take a picture of them too. In others, taking photos is a big no-no, with some groups in Mexico’s Chiapas thinking that photos will steal their soul. As a rule of thumb, make sure to ask permission before taking a photo, and if you get a no as an answer, say ok and politely walk away.
Learn the basics of local language
Always make a bit of an effort to learn the very basics of the language of the country you are visiting. Even saying things such as hello, thank you, please goes a long way, and the locals will appreciate your efforts.
Don’t give money to beggars
I know this sounds quite harsh, and you probably think that as a responsible tourist it is your duty to give to those in need. But are you sure that giving money to beggars is the right way of doing so? In fact, giving money to beggars may only encourage more people to ask tourists for money. Remember that there often is a network of exploitation even behind beggars.
Children are cute, but don’t give money to them – rather, engage with them!
Don’t give money to children
If giving money to beggars is questionable, giving money to children is simply irresponsible. In many places, children are taken out of school and sent to the street to beg for money or to work selling small trinkets. In some cases, it is not even the parents that are sending their kids to the street to look for money, but an actual network of criminals (the so called “begging mafia”) that exploit the children.
If you really want to be a more responsible traveler, look out for organizations that help supporting children in need through schooling, education and inclusion programs, and make a donation to them instead. Even a donation of books, pens and other necessary school material at a local school may be a good idea – check out with the school beforehand to see what is needed.
In fact, don’t even give them candy
Children love candies and in many countries, as soon as they see a tourist approach, they run to ask for a “bonbon.” However, there are many reasons why a responsible traveler shouldn’t give candy (or cookies, or sweets in general) to children.
First of all, sugary goods are unhealthy and you really shouldn’t encourage unhealthy eating habits. Sugar is bad for teeth, and this is something you really want to keep in mind in places where access to dental care (and in fact, access to water and a toothbrush!) isn’t a given.
Lastly, oftentimes candies come in plastic wraps, and many children won’t think about it twice before throwing the plastic wherever they happen to be, adding to an already dire garbage disposal emergency.
Play with the kids instead
Instead of giving money or candy to children, as a responsible traveler you should actually engage with them as kids. You can do so many things in this sense! Join an impromptu ball game in the street; teach them a few words of your language; play magic tricks; or even simply ask them questions. Do remember, however, to always wait for the children to interact first, and never impose yourself and your presence on them.
Are you sure you are devoting your time and skills to the right cause?
Volunteer for an actual cause
There is an ongoing trend among the backpackers’ community that suggests you can travel the world for free or at least for very very cheap, if you pick random jobs along the way. This is not the right post to get into a discussion about free travel (which is a myth, by the way). All I want to say is that, if you really want to be a responsible traveler, you really need to pick the jobs you do along the way (and where and how you do them) wisely.
You know that receptionist or hostel job in exchange for a bed in Antigua Guatemala? It surely helps you to save a whopping $5 to $10 USD per day. You will celebrate your savings; and at the same time the hostel owner will celebrate not having to actually pay a stipend; but the local who’d get that job instead will be left unable to support his family.
If you really want to volunteer, do so for an actual cause. And even in this case, put your responsible tourist hat on and do a thorough research before you surrender your time, skills (and at times even money) to an organization that is supposed to bring relief to a local community. This post by Uncornered Market puts volunteering and voluntourism in prospect.
Patagonia is pristine – also thanks to the fact that people pick up after themselves!
Respect the environment
It is only too often that tourists here in Sardinia, where I live, are caught stealing bags of sand from the beach. Mind you, Sardinia is hardly the only victim of this disrespectful action. I have seen people doing the same on the dunes of Sossusvlei, in Namibia, for example. Please, be a responsible tourist and leave sand (and shells, stones and plants) where it belongs: the process through which sand is formed is very complex and stealing it seriously impoverishes the environment!
Use less plastic
Plastic is an issue anywhere in the world. If you think that turtles or other marine life caught with plastic in its stomach is only an issue in Asia, think again. Less than a month ago a pregnant sperm whale was found on the shores of Sardinia and upon further examination researchers found that she had more than 22 kg of plastic in her stomach.
I know that eliminating the use of all plastic from your daily life is hard, and even harder when you are traveling. But there are some things you can do to produce less waste and to make sure you are doing your bit to become a more responsible traveler.
Use a refillable water bottle with a filter and use it to fill up at hotels and hostels. I travel with a Lifestraw and it is super handy and easy to use.
Ask for no straws in your drinks. In some countries, you’ll even get a straw in your bottle – make sure to point out you don’t want a straw when you order. And if you know you are going to be needing a straw (or else, how are you going to drink your coconut water), carry a reusable straw with you.
Use packaging-free beauty products. I am a massive fan of Lush solid shampoo and conditioner. Not only they don’t come with any plastic wrapping or bottles, but they are the best products I could be using on my delicate scalp! There are many other brands that now produce package-free beauty products.
Pack a canvas bag or two in your backpack, to use at markets or grocery shops instead of plastic bags.
By all means, do not abandon your garbage and, wherever possible, join group efforts to clean up places such as beaches and trails. Such initiatives are easy to find on the web, starting from Facebook.
All that sand in the desert? Leave it there!
Leave no trace
Make sure to leave as little footprint as possible in any place you visit – be it a city, a forest or a beach.
If you like hiking, make sure to stay on the trail as the rest of the area may be in recuperation, and if you get off you step on the local flora and endanger it. And if you need to use the bush during the hike, make sure not to abandon any toilet paper: put it in a bag and dispose of it once back.
By all means, if you have to go for a number 2 when hiking and there is no toilet, try to do it as far as possible from any water source to avoid the risk of contamination (as a general rule, at least 50 meters from a river or lake). For the same reason, avoid washing dishes or even just swimming in rivers or lakes, especially when people drink from it (this is often the case in Patagonia).
Ah, those endless hot showers! Who doesn’t love them? Well, in some parts of the world water is scarce and if you want to be a more responsible traveler (and in fact, a more responsible human altogether), you need to change your habits so that you waste less water.
Take shorter showers, for example. Only do laundry when you have a full load. Ask for your towels not to be changed. And make sure to turn the lights and air-conditioning or heating off when you leave your room. Some cities already have strict policies regarding the use of heating and air-conditioning, to limit the levels of pollution.
Buy local products and food
One of the easiest, most pleasant and fun ways of being a more responsible traveler is by shopping locally. Whether it is a small souvenir that you want to take home, or a meal or a snack that you want to have, go for something that has been locally produced and made to support the local economy.
It’s actually very easy! For example, if you are walking around Bangkok opt to have a fresh pineapple from a local vendor rather than a fruit salad in from a chain supermarket. When you are in Nicaragua, opt to have a fresh lemonade made by the small shop next door, and shop at the local market. Chances are the fruit will taste much better and it will be much cheaper!
The same goes for food. Opt for street food rather than looking for Domino’s Pizza, and check out places that have a good mix of locals and tourists – those are the places where food is bound to be very good and safe to eat.
Buy souvenir at local markets, even better if you see the artist making them – they are way cheaper than those you’ll find at a duty free shop.
Don’t get too carried away with bargaining
Do a bit of bargaining, but don’t go too far with it
Coming from a country where bargaining is not practiced, to me one of the most fun things when shopping at markets in places like Latin America, Asia and the Middle East is that I get to bargain for cheaper prices. However, remember that a nice and easy way to be a more responsible traveler is to not over-bargaining. There is no point in pushing it to get an extra discount, when in reality that is the equivalent of no more than $50 cents.
Stay at local, sustainable places
Picking sustainable accommodation when traveling is easier than you can imagine, so you can do your share as a responsible traveler even when you simply go to bed. The most obvious thing to do in this sense is to stay at local guesthouses and small hotels that are locally owned and family run: you’ll have a far more enriching experience, and you’ll save quite a bit.
Another thing you may want to look for is eco-lodges or community lodges. Eco-lodges typically strive to minimize their negative impact on the environment, and are fantastic accommodation options when staying in a natural area ie the mountains or the jungle. In places like Guyana, local indigenous communities have created several lodges in an effort to use their resources in a constructive manner. They strive to protect the local environment, the culture and since they represent good employment opportunity for the local community.
Last but not least, do your responsible traveler research and look out for places that have been approved by companies such as Green Globe, Earth Check and Rainforest Alliance. What they do is working with hotels in order to raise their profile when it comes to social and environmental practices.
A community lodge like Surama, in Guyana, is a great ethical accommodation option
Travel with ethical tour operators
Whether going on a day tour or on a longer guided trip, be a responsible traveler and pick the operator you travel with wisely. Never take part in tours where cruelty towards animals is involved and promoted, such as elephant rides, dolphin shows, etc.
Make sure to travel with a company that shows respect for the environment; that employees members of local community and gives back to it; that is owned locally or that devotes parts of its profits to a cause.
I traveled with And Beyond in Phinda, in South Africa and Botswana, and was impressed by how much they give back to the local communities and the environment, and by how much they do for the local wildlife.
Responsible tourism in terms of carbon footprint means taking less flights (overland travel can be a lot of fun!), or opting for direct ones. Indeed, taking off and landing consume a lot of fuel and increase carbon emissions.
Living in the island of Sardinia, I don’t have much of a choice and unfortunately in this sense I don’t get to be a responsible traveler: I have to fly everywhere, and more often than not, I can’t even fly directly to my final destination, as there are no direct intercontinental flights from here.
Other than taking less flights, if you really want to be a more responsible traveler start packing lighter and fly carry-on only: less weight on board means that the plane will use less fuel (why did you think Ryanair has raised the fees for checking in luggage so much?).
Do use public transportation wherever possible, and move around by train, bus, metro. Even better: walk or bike! Some cities are incredibly bike friendly!
Spread the word about responsible tourism
I must admit that being a responsible traveler is a bit of work, and while some may do it effortlessly, others may not be aware of the consequences of their (irresponsible) choices when traveling. Do your best to spread the word and help others become more responsible tourists, by politely yet firmly pointing out that certain practices may have a negative impact on the local community, the environment and the wildlife.
Are you a responsible traveler? What practices are you implementing in your every day and travel life to have less negative impact on the world?
Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling… except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated Oct 2018). Learn more about me here…