Travel Information: Blue Grotto - Capri, Italy | Traveler Maps
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Travel Information: Blue Grotto - Capri, Italy

Long feared by locals as a mystical dwelling of spirits and monsters, the Blue Grotto has become one of the main attractions in Capri, Italy. Capitalizing on the site's popularity, boat operators have assembled quite the racket of charges, fees and tips, but the guides clear out in the afternoon when visitors can swim in and around the grotto at their leisure.

The blue grotto is  a must see for any visitor to Capri. However, keep in mind that everyone knows this and that they, most likely, will already be there.  This has two important ramifications. First, a visit to the Blue Grotto will set you back a bit - be prepared to pay. Second, there may be a wait outside. The best bet is not to visit during the peak hours during the peak season.

The Blue Grotto is one of the biggest draws on the island of Capri. It is a surreal experience. The peculiar iridescence of the water bathes the interior of the grotto with a serene light that is similar in color to a sapphire blue topaz.

TIP: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Since the Blue Grotto is situated on the north-western corner of the island, the best time to visit is in the afternoon when sunlight shines directly on the water outside the cave. We were told that the best coloration occurs when the seas are slightly rough.

The good thing is that the island of Capri is full of wonderful ocean views that, more often than not, include that splendid crystal clear turquoise blue water for which the island is famous.  They do discourage photography inside the Blue Grotto, but I managed to sneak a few pictures (Below). It is difficult to capture anyway. I would recommend that you purchase one of the brilliant coffee table books that you will find in the souvenir shops around the island. The quality is good and, as you will want to remember your visit to Capri and the Blue Grotto for years to come, they are well worth the price.  


Since the days of the ancient Romans, the Blue Grotto has inspired mystified reverence among visitors. The Roman emperor Tiberius, whose castle-like villa is another of the island's main attractions, adorned the grotto with statues paying tribute to the Roman sea gods and used it as his personal swimming hole. The grotto's fluorescent glow comes in part from a large underwater cave opening beneath the entrance used by visiting boats. The glow illuminates the grotto's water from below, similar to night lights in a pool.

Getting There

Ferries and hydrofoils travel to Capri from the mainland during tourist season from ports around one hour from Naples, and around half an hour from Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento further down the coast. Naples is accessible from other major Italian cities by high-speed train. Lining the pier in Marina Grande, Capri's main harbor, tour boat operators offer a variety of options to reach the grotto, from private boats with custom itineraries to pre-programmed trips around the island or expressly to the grotto. By land, take a taxi or the main bus from Capri town to Anicapri, then switch to the Grotto Azzurra bus to reach the grotto.
Tours and Guides

No matter what type of motorized boat you take to reach it, you will have to switch to a rowboat to enter the grotto. When you transfer to the wooden boat, you'll need to pay a fixed fee to enter the grotto -- typically around $15 as of spring 2011. Outside the grotto, a veritable queue of rowboats patiently waits for the preceding group to finish. The total wait time can be rather substantial during peak season and hours, so bring sunscreen and a hat. The oarsmen at the grotto entrance navigate their rowboats through the cave's low, narrow entrance while tourists duck down flat against the boat. Inside, the visit lasts a mere two to five minutes, depending on the line of boats outside and how well you tip the guide.



Unlike the two- to five-minute jaunt around the grotto the local rowboat operators offer, an afternoon swim lets you enjoy the cave at your own pace. The rowboat tours clear out around 4 p.m., when day-tripping tourists from the mainland have caught the afternoon ferry back. If you rent a private boat for the day or afternoon, the driver can drop you at the cave entrance and wait while you swim in, otherwise you can take a bus or taxi to the shore. While Capri's clear, turquoise-glinted waters resemble inviting tropical seas, the Mediterranean can be chilly, even in the summer, so bring a shirt to wear over your swimsuit in the water. Before venturing out, check with the local boatmen at Marina Grande or ask the front desk staff at your hotel about water conditions, because the water at the entrance to the grotto can become dangerous.