The Isole Tremiti are a natural island paradise in the Adriatic sea. Crystal clear waters and rocky beaches make this Puglian archipelago a not-to-be-missed destination when planning your Puglia itinerary.
In this guide, discover the best things to do in the Tremiti Islands, how to get there, and on which islands to stay overnight if you decide to visit for longer than a day.
Isole Tremiti: A Guide to Visiting the Tremiti Islands in Puglia, Italy
The Isole Tremiti are the perfect travel destination for anyone who loves relaxing by the clear waters of the turquoise sea and lovers of nature who enjoy snorkeling and walking in pine forests. It’s truly one of the best places in Puglia to visit.
The little islands of the archipelago are sparsely traveled, which makes them a real hidden gem in Italy! The only busy months are July and August, the peak of the summer season. This makes the shoulder season months, in particular, June and September an even better time to visit. The weather is still beautiful, with cheaper hotel rates and fewer people.
Legend says that the Tremiti Islands were created by the Greek hero Diomedes by throwing into the sea three big rocks brought from Troy after the war, which is why they are also known as Isole Diomedee, or Diomedes’s Islands.
Where are the Isole Tremiti?
The Isole Tremiti are located about 12 1/2 miles off of the coast of the Gargano Peninsula, the “spur” of Italy’s boot. For reference, the Gargano is roughly 2 hours north of Bari and 3 1/2 hours north of places like Lecce and Gallipoli in Puglia’s Salento area.
The Tremiti Islands are a group of five small islands, their total area is less than 2 square miles! They are part of the Gargano National Park as its marine nature reserve.
If you decide to visit the Isole Tremiti, the first thing is to choose the island. San Domino is the biggest and the most popular, while the island of San Nicola is the historical center and where most of the islands’ locals live. These two main islands are the only ones that are inhabited and where you can stay overnight.
The other three islands are smaller and wilder: Capraia, an authentic paradise for those who love snorkeling and scuba diving; Cretaccio, a small rocky island with swimming off its shores; and Pianosa, which cannot be visited because it’s a protected marine reserve.
How to Get to the Isole Tremiti
Traghetti (ferries) to the Isole Tremiti are the most common way to go or you can also take the aliscafo (hydrofoil). The choice of ferry services varies depending on your budget, how much time you want to spend on the Tremiti Islands… and if you suffer from seasickness!
The aliscafo is faster and more expensive, while the traghetto is slower and cheaper.
Another element you need to consider is the departure port. It is possible to arrive at the Isole Tremiti from the Gargano Promontory area.
The traghetto from Vieste to the Tremiti Islands is on average two and a half hours. While it’s just two hours from Peschici and one hour and 30 minutes from Rodi Garganico.
The price is around 15 euros per adult roundtrip. The major downside to taking the traghetto for a day trip is that you will have less time to spend on the beautiful Tremiti Islands because the last ferry sets sail at around 4:30 pm.
The sea routes between the Gargano and the Isole Tremiti are open only during the summer season, typically from June to September.
A great alternative is to reach the Isole Tremiti from the town of Termoli, in the Molise region. In this case, the traghetto from Termoli to the Tremiti Islands is more frequent and runs all year round.
Another very special way to get to the Tremiti Islands is by helicopter! Flying from the city of Foggia (Puglia), it will take only 20 minutes before landing at the heliport of San Domino.
For a day trip to the islands, the helicopter gives you the most time on the islands to explore and enjoy. So if you want to give yourself a little treat, all while maximizing your time, this is the way to go!
Whichever way you choose to reach the Tremiti Islands, you’ll need to keep your rental car parked on the mainland. No cars are allowed on the islands.
Things to do on San Domino Island
Being the biggest among the islands of the Isole Tremiti, San Domino offers most of the services, including hotels, bars, and restaurants. However, it is a natural paradise as well, where the lush green of the vegetation meets the crystal blue of the water.
The island is covered by a pine forest composed almost exclusively of Aleppo pines. One of the first things you will notice arriving on the island is the fresh scent of the trees.
The breathtaking landscape offers a seemingly endless number of bays and coves to discover, which you can reach by boat. If you like to scuba dive, there are underwater caves and even a shipwreck to explore.
One of the most picturesque coves is the Grotta del Bue Marino, so-called because of the rare presence of monk seals, animals almost completely extinct in the Mediterranean sea.
This cave is special for another reason: its position and structure cause a light phenomenon that dyes the cave’s walls with the same intense blue as the water. My tip: visit the cave early in the morning or during sunset to experience the brightest spectacle of colors!
Another spectacular cove is the Grotta delle Viole.
Its name comes from the violets that sprout on the rocky slope and from an intense purple color from the algae that cover the submerged walls of the cave. The incredible contrast between the purple, the blue of the water, and the white of the stone make this cove a must-see!
The Grotta delle Rondinelle can be reached by boat or on foot and is a great spot to swim and snorkel.
If you want to sun-bath and relax, there are plenty of bays on San Domino. They are all rocky and accessible by boat, except for one: Cala delle Arene.
It may not be as Insta-famous as Lama Monachile in Polignano, but with its shallow and sandy beach, as well as its central position, it is perfect for families with kids.
Some coves like the Cala Matano have chairs and umbrellas for rent.
Things to do on San Nicola Island
The Isole Tremiti offers wonderful nature as well as historical sites. San Nicola is the best island to immerse yourself in culture.
One of the most dramatic buildings is the Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare, which rises majestically on the coast of the San Nicola Island, dominating the sea, as well as further inland. From the Abbey, you will enjoy the most amazing view that the Tremiti Islands have to offer!
Legend tells that a hermit monk arrived at the island’s shore and dreamed of the Virgin Mary, who told him where to build the Abbey. Excavating the spot shown, the monk found a treasure that paid for the construction.
The Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare was founded by the Benedictine monks in 1045. It served as a refuge against the Turkish invasions of 1567 and against the English fleets in the Napoleonic period.
The inside of the Abbey is well worth a visit! Here you can admire a Cross and a Wooden Statue of Mary with the Child and a precious mosaic floor recently restored, everything in Byzantine style.
Besides the Abbey, the Castle of Badiali is another symbolic place on the island. Surrounded by walls overlooking the sea, the castle of Badiali was built by Charles of Anjou to protect the sanctuary from enemies’ attacks.
On San Nicola Island you’ll find the tomb of the Hellenic hero Diomedes. The tomb is not easy to locate, so you’ll have to explore every corner of the island until you find the legendary burial site!
Things to do on Capraia Island
A boat excursion of the archipelago is something you should consider when visiting the gorgeous Tremiti Islands.
There are different options (in terms of hours, price, and services offered on board), but a boat tour will give you the chance to visit the surroundings of the three uninhabited islands: Capraia, Cretaccio, and Pianosa.
In particular, Capraia hides a special gem underwater: the nearly 10-foot tall statue of Padre Pio, made by the sculptor Mimmo Norcia as a sign of devotion to the Saint.
The submerged statue is a real wonder that you can admire in all its splendor by scuba diving or snorkeling. However, if you are less adventurous, it’s usually possible to catch sight of the statue from above the water as well.
Also with a boat, you’ll be able to see and explore some of the island’s coves, like Cala Sorrentino and Cala dei Turchi.
What to eat in the Tremiti Islands
The dishes of the Tremiti islands are typically Mediterranean and combine ingredients from the sea and the mainland. The typical dishes of these islands tell of a past of poverty when few resources and very simple ingredients (such as stale bread) were available.
If you want to try something traditional, I would suggest the “pesce fe’jute”, which is translated as “fish escaped”, a vegetable soup and stale bread, without – you guessed – seafood in it.
The most famous desserts are the Treccine, small breadsticks made with anise, white wine, and extra virgin olive oil and soaked in Vermiglio, the red wine typical of the Tremiti Islands.
Isole Tremiti Hotels
You will find great facilities, hotels, and tourist resorts only on the 2 inhabited islands of San Domino and San Nicola. Sleeping in the Tremiti islands is undoubtedly a great opportunity to know these islands more in-depth.
And no matter which of the 2 islands you stay on, it’s just a short distance between them. You can easily take a water taxi to reach the other island.
Hotel Kyrie is located on San Domino island, only a few minutes’ walk to the gorgeous Cala delle Arene and Cala Tramontana, as well as less than half a mile away from the ferries to Termoli. The hotel offers a pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant.
B&B La Casa di Gino is situated on San Nicola. It has seven rooms equipped with en suite bathrooms and all the necessities. The gem of this B&B is the panoramic solarium where you can have breakfast surrounded by the view of the sea.
If you are planning a trip to Puglia, at least a day trip to the Isole Tremiti should be part of your itinerary. These idyllic islands in the Adriatic Sea will make your Italy vacation unforgettable!
What are your questions about visiting the Tremiti Islands?
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