Last updated on April 14, 2023 by Wandering our World
Italy is famous for many things, from its delicious food to its historic cities. This country also happens to be home to some idyllic islands, with Ischia and Capri being two of the most beautiful and best-known examples.
Both located in the Gulf of Naples, with Ischia to the north and Capri to the south, these islands are popular destinations for those planning an adventure in the south of Italy, offering stunning scenery, lively vibes, and a surprising array of activities and attractions.
However, despite having a couple of things in common, Ischia and Capri are very different places. For starters, Ischia is significantly larger than Capri, with more towns to visit, and a more homely and traditional vibe compared to Capri’s upmarket, touristic atmosphere.
Typically popular with Italian tourists, rather than international travelers, Ischia is famed for its volcanic rocks and soothing thermal springs. Meanwhile, Capri is more of a glamorous, jet-set destination, with high prices, fancy boutiques, and luxurious accommodation.
Not only that, but these islands also differ in terms of their beaches, accessibility, activities, nightlife scenes, and other key areas!
Luckily that’s where we can help!
Right here we’ll cover all you need to know about Ischia vs Capri to help you figure out which one is right for you. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Hiking?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Is Best For Hotels?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Has The Best Shopping?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Best For Backpackers?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview: Ischia vs Capri
Ischia: A Quick Overview
Ischia is a volcanic island situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples.
It’s located about 19 miles from the city of Naples and is the biggest island in the Phlegraean group, which also includes Procida, Vivara, and Nisida.
Over 60,000 people live on Ischia, and the island is close to 18 square miles in size.
It’s formed in a trapezoid shape, running around six miles wide and four miles tall, with around 21 miles of coastline, and large parts of the island are covered in mountains, with Mount Epomeo being the tallest peak at over 2,500 feet.
Thanks to the volcanic rocks here, the waters in and around Ischia are highly rich in minerals, attracting local marine life, like wales and dolphins, while also providing several soothing hot springs for visitors to soak in – even the Ancient Greeks used to visit this island to enjoy its healing waters.
Wine-making is a big part of the island’s economy, with large parts of the land taken up by vineyards, but tourism is also important to Ischia.
It attracts millions of visitors each year – mostly Italians, which makes Ischia feel far less cosmopolitan and touristic than Capri.
As well as feeling more authentic and Italian, Ischia generally feels more lived-on, as well; a lot of travelers spend at least a couple of nights here among the locals, so the nights can feel just as lively as the days, and the larger size and wider range of towns gives Ischia a surprising amount of diversity.
Capri: A Quick Overview
Capri is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, situated to the southern side of the Gulf of Naples, not far from the western tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula. In prehistoric times, Capri was simply part of that peninsula, but broke away many years ago.
Close to 13,000 people live on Capri, and the island covers just four square miles of land, making it a fraction of the size of Ischia.
Because of this, it’s possible to see a lot of the island in only one day, and Capri is a very popular day trip destination from nearby places like Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast.
Geographically, Capri is quite different to Ischia. It’s made up of limestone and sandstone, rather than volcanic rock, giving it a very different aesthetic – it looks very similar to the nearby Sorrentine Peninsula, while Ischia has a more striking and dramatic appearance.
Capri has been a popular resort destination for many years. Even back in the 19th century, wealthy travelers and artists visited this island, and tourism is the biggest part of Capri’s economy.
Fittingly, the island has undergone a lot of tourist development, with various shops, restaurants, and hotels opening up in its two main towns.
When it comes to vibe and atmosphere, Capri gives off a glitzy and glamorous feel. It draws in countless tourists every single day, and there are lots of English-speakers around to greet you, which isn’t the case on Ischia.
However, many people head back to the mainland in the evening, leaving Capri feeling much quieter and emptier than Ischia after-dark.
Which Is Best For Beaches?
The south of Italy is famed for its beautiful beaches, particular in areas like the Sorrentine Peninsula and Amalfi Coast.
You might, therefore, assume that Capri and Ischia both have lots of lovely beaches for sunbathing, swimming, and other fun in the sun.
However, the reality is quite different! While Ischia has a number of beaches to choose from along its 21 mile coastline, Capri actually doesn’t have any sandy spots at all. Instead, it has just two small beaches, and the rest of the island’s coast consists of rocky spots and dramatic cliffs.
The two beaches on Capri are called Marina Grande and Marina Piccola. They’re quite small and made up of pebbles, and since the island attracts such massive crowds of tourists, these beaches fill up fast, with very little space to sunbathe or relax.
So, if you’re looking for soft sands and mile-long beaches, Capri might not be the spot for you.
Instead, the best option here is to either pay to enter a private beach club, or head along the coast in search of a scenic rocky spot where you can sit and enjoy the view or dive into the water.
Beach lovers will have a much easier time finding free public beaches over on Ischia. It’s the only island in the Bay of Naples to boast long, sandy expanses, and it’s certainly the best choice for those who enjoy spending time sunbathing, swimming, or strolling on the shore.
The Bay of Citara is one of Ischia’s best beaches, offering sugary white sands and crystal clear waters, with some magical sunset views. The Spiaggia di San Montano is another gorgeous spot, lined with lush greenery and tropical trees.
There are many other pleasant places to have some fun in the sun on Ischia. Maronti beach is one of the longest on the island, ideal for long walks, while Cavagrado is a small and cozy spot where nearby thermal springs provide wonderfully warm swimming conditions.
Which Is Best For Activities?
As well as the beaches and coastal cliffs, Ischia and Capri have various landmarks to visit and ways to spend your time.
And, depending on what kinds of activities you enjoy the most, you may find that one of these islands is far better-suited for your personality and preferences than the other…
Ischia: The Activities
There are a few big sights to see on the island of Ischia, beginning with Aragonese Castle.
An extraordinary sight, this castle is built on a patch of volcanic rock, just off the coast of the island. A long stone bridge – built in the 15th century – leads to the castle, which has history dating back to 474 BC.
The La Mortella gardens are also worth visiting.
Once owned by the classical English composer, William Walton, and designed partly by his wife, Susana, the gardens are filled with a variety of tropical and Mediterranean plants, providing some of the most breathtaking sights on the entire island. Concerts are often held here, too, and there’s a museum dedicated to Walton.
Other popular landmarks to visit include the architectural gem of Villa La Colombaia and the stunning Church of the Soccorso.
But when you’re finished sightseeing, you might like to soak your troubles away in the island’s natural springs – you can find free springs in places like Baia di Sorgeto or pay to enter various ‘Thermal Gardens’, with spa treatments and private pools.
Along with its naturally warm waters, Ischia is also famous for its wine. There are many vineyards dotted across the island, and wine-lovers might therefore like to book a wine-tasting or vineyard tour, sampling some of the local Forastera or Biancolella wines, grown in Ischia’s rich, volcanic soil.
Ischia also offers some pleasant walking trails, especially along the coast, and it has no less than six towns to visit, each with its own charms, shops, and features.
Ischia Porto is the lively, bustling capital, while Forio is famed for its colorful harbor, Lacco Ameno is exceptionally pretty, and the little village of Sant’Angelo has some of the best views on the island.
Capri: The Activities
With Capri being much smaller than Ischia, you might assume that it has far fewer attractions and activities to offer.
However, despite being so compact, this island manages to pack in an impressively long list of sights to see and things to do, and it actually has more historic and cultural landmarks to check out compared to Ischia.
One of the island’s most famous landmarks is undoubtedly the Blue Grotto.
This gorgeous sea cave stretches for over 50m in length, and a small opening allows just enough sunlight to enter to create an ethereal blue glow that lights up the entire space.
It’s a magical sight, and various famous figures, including writer Mark Twain, have fallen in love with this spot over the years.
Other natural landmarks include the famous Faraglioni sea stacks – there are three stacks in total, each with its own name, and the tallest one rises to a height of 358 feet.
There’s also Mount Solaro, which is the highest peak on the island and provides some of the very best views. Active travelers can hike all the way up, or you can take the easy option and ride the chairlift.
As well as boasting some beautiful natural sights, Capri also has a number of man-made attractions and sights to see, from the 14th century Certosa di San Giacomo monastery to the ruins of Ancient Roman villas which were built by the emperor Tiberius. The most famous example is Villa Jovis, where Tiberius actually lived for the last decade of his life.
While the island’s ancient villas may be little more than ruins these days, Capri also boasts multiple modern villas that are open to tourists.
The Villa San Michele has gorgeous gardens and an amazing art collection, for example, while the Villa Malaparte is widely-regarded as one of the finest examples of contemporary Italian architecture.
Overall, Capri has more notable landmarks and touristic sights than Ischia. From its villas to its museums, the list of places to visit goes on and on.
At the same time, Ischia still has plenty of great activities, with its springs and spas standing out as some of the best places to spend time and a host of interesting towns to explore.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
If you want to keep on having fun once the sun has set, you’ll be interested to hear how the nightlife scenes of Ischia and Capri compare.
Well, both of these islands have several places to go for a good time in the evening, but their nightlife vibes are quite different, with Ischia being much livelier and Capri being relatively calm.
Ischia has an impressive array of nightclubs to suit people with a wide range of musical tastes, along with numerous bars, pubs, and plenty of restaurants that stay open late.
In general, Ischia Porto is the place to be for the biggest range of nightclub destinations, but you can find pubs and clubs in a couple of the other towns, like Forio.
As mentioned earlier on, Capri tends to quiet down a little in the evenings, as so many people simply see the island as a day-trip destination and head back to Naples or Sorrento in the evening.
Still, even if Capri doesn’t have thumping clubs to rival Ischia, it still has some nice taverns around the Quisisana and Piazzettta.
Which Is Better For Hiking?
If you like to hike, you can have a great time on either Capri or Ischia, as both of these islands have numerous signposted trails and paths to walk along, with scenic landscapes to admire along the way.
Capri is awesome for hiking, as almost the entire island is walkable.
Those who love a challenge can trek their way up Mount Solaro, and there are a couple of fun ways to walk between Capri and Anacapri – you can either take on the iconic Phoenician Steps or walk the old Sentiero del Passetiello, which offers a three-hour hike through Mediterranean foliage.
Hiking is also very enjoyable on Ischia, and it’s possible to walk around most parts of the island.
There are mountain treks to places like Mount Epomeo, as well as pretty coastal walks around the towns. A lovely hike takes you from Sant’Angelo to Maronti Beach, while the Sentiero Baia Pelara leads down to a secluded, rocky bay.
Overall, there’s no clear winner in this category. Given Ischia’s larger size, it has more hikes and trails than Capri. But both islands have lovely landscapes to admire and plenty of walking opportunities for visitors of all ages.
Which Is Better For Food?
Italy is famous for its food, but will you have more enjoyable dining experiences on Capri or Ischia?
Well, the simple fact of the matter is that both islands have great restaurants, along with some lovely local specialties. Ischia has Coniglio all’Ischitana – a flavorful dish made with rabbit – while Capri has cheesy Ravioli Caprese.
Since Capri is more tourist-oriented, it tends to have quite overpriced eateries, but the food is good enough to justify the high prices.
There are several Michelin-starred restaurants on the island, and you can eat very well on this island, if you have the budget to do so, with great pasta dishes and super seafood.
As the larger island, Ischia has more eateries with cheaper prices. Plus, since it’s such a popular destination for Italian travelers, the food here feels really authentic and traditional, with lots of family-owned delis, bakeries, and cozy restaurants.
It might not be as glamorous as Capri, but Ischia still has a fantastic culinary scene.
Which Has The Best Hotels?
Next, let’s discuss accommodation, as this is another area in which these two islands differ a great deal.
As you might expect, Capri’s accommodation tends to be quite luxurious and expensive, with fancy B&Bs looking out over the sea and boutique hotels with plenty of swimming pools and amenities.
In contrast, the accommodation on Ischia is a little more homely. There are several low-price hostels, as well as family-friendly hotels that are clean and comfortable.
For those with more money to spend, there are also some fancier guesthouses, but they never quite reach the same luxurious levels of Capri.
So, the best island for you in terms of accommodation will depend mainly on your budget and what kinds of places you like to stay at.
Those who appreciate simple, good value hotels will enjoy Ischia, while those looking for maximum indulgence will undoubtedly prefer Capri.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: Capri Sea View Villa is a lovely self-contained apartment with gorgeous sea views. It’s often reserved months in advance, and no wonder considering the very reasonable price considering it’s in Capri. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Set in an exceptional location and with world-class service, the five-star Villa Marina Hotel and Spa is the ultimate in luxury. From the breathtaking views to the outdoor plunge pool, expect an incredible stay. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Sat right on the beachfront with unparalleled views, Hotel Cava Dell’Isola is one of those hotels that will make anyone jealous. The pool is fantastic, as is the service and decor – and all at a very good price point. See photos and rates!
Which Has The Best Shopping?
You might like to do a little shopping during your time on either Capri or Ischia, picking up some local produce, grabbing some souvenirs and gifts to take back home, or even splashing out on some of the latest Italian fashions. But which island is best?
Well, Capri is generally quite well-known for its big-brand boutiques. In fact, there are very few places in all of Italy that have so many designer boutiques and ateliers stuffed into such a small space.
The Via Camerelle is the main place to shop, but if you’re looking for something local, the island is famed for its limoncello, sandals, and perfume.
Over on Ischia, you can also find some popular brands from Italy and beyond, with the Vittoria Colonna Course in Ischia Porto being filled up with fashionable boutiques.
Forio is another good place to shop, and there are many clothing stores and jewelers on this island. Visitors looking for a unique souvenir should grab a bottle of Rucolino, Ischia’s very own liqueur.
Overall, shopping is fun on either island. Ischia has the advantage of diversity, with lots of independent shops to uncover in its six main towns, but Capri is a dream destination for fashion stores and famous brands.
Which Is Better For Families?
If you’re planning a trip to an Italian island with kids, you’ll find family-friendly things to do on both Ischia and Capri.
Ischia has its famous castle, as well as lots of beaches where little ones can play on the sand or splash around in the sea.
Some of the Thermal Gardens are also great to visit with children, and the island in general has quite a relaxed and family-friendly vibe.
Capri, meanwhile, has lots of interesting attractions, like its ruins, villas, and museums, which should keep kids of a certain age entertained. However, the lack of beaches here might make Capri feel a little dull to very young children.
Overall, Ischia is probably the better option for most families, but it’s still quite easy to have a fun family adventure on Capri, as long as you don’t mind the absence of sand.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
Couples may have a tricky choice to make between Ischia and Capri, as both of these islands can offer romantic vibes and fun things to do with a special someone by your side.
Ischia has its famous hot springs and spas, for example, where you and your partner can slip into a state of total relaxation.
It also has numerous sandy beaches for sunbathing and sunset-watching, and it’s less touristic, making it a nice choice for those who like to avoid the big day trip crowds of Capri.
However, Capri also has its benefits. The glitzy and glamorous style of this island makes it a really luxurious place, and it’s an idyllic honeymoon destination, with excellent accommodation for couples.
You and your partner can enjoy boutique shopping, great food, intriguing museums, and some sightseeing, too.
Overall, both islands have lots to offer for couples of all ages, and it’s tough to call a winner in this category.
Ischia might have a slight edge, in terms of its romantic atmosphere, but it all depends on what kinds of activities and experiences you’re looking for.
Which Is Better For Backpackers?
For backpackers, the choice between Capri and Ischia should be a relatively easy one to make, as Ischia is far more backpacker-friendly than Capri.
On Ischia, you’ll find multiple hostels to stay at, with very low nightly rates. The island’s public transportation is pretty easy to use, and there’s lots of land to explore and little towns and to hop between.
It’s got a great ‘off-the-beaten-path’ feel compared to Capri, and there are some super hikes. However, you will have to deal with the fact that most people here don’t speak English.
Capri has the advantage of being really compact, allowing you to get around easily on your own two feet. It’s also got many more English speakers, which can be a benefit to solo travelers who might not be too confident in their Italian language abilities.
However, Capri has no real hostels to speak of and is significantly more expensive than Ischia.
Which Is Cheaper?
As you may have guessed, when it comes to affordability, Ischia is by far the most budget-friendly option. It’s perfect for those who want to get the best value for money.
Both accommodation and dining are cheaper on Ischia, and the island’s larger size gives you more options in terms of cheap places to stay and eat.
However, since it’s much bigger, you will have to take transportation costs into account, which could include bus fares or rental car fees.
In contrast, Capri is a pretty expensive place. It has a very luxurious, jet-set feel, with high price tags to match.
This won’t be a problem for those who can afford it, and the more up-market vibe of Capri is a big selling point for many people, but it won’t appeal to travelers with limited budgets.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Neither Capri nor Ischia has its own airport, so the only way to reach either one of these islands is by sea. Fortunately, there are several ferry services running to and from both of these islands, making them pretty easy to access.
Travelers heading to Ischia can take ferries or hydrofoils directly from the city of Naples. It’s possible to reach the island in about an hour, and Naples has quite a big and busy airport you can fly into from Europe, the US, and other parts of the world.
For Capri, you can also take ferries out of Naples or from Sorrento, and it only takes 20 minutes if you depart from Sorrento. During the peak summer months, ferries and boats to Capri also operate from towns along the Amalfi Coast, like Amalfi and Positano.
With more ferry routes and faster access times, Capri is the easier island to access, but travelers shouldn’t have any trouble getting to Ischia.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
In terms of making your way around these islands, the small size of Capri makes it a very walkable place.
You can see most of the island on foot, although you may need to rely on buses to get between the two main towns of Capri and Anacapri.
Buses can also take you to other key locations, like the Marina Grande and Punta Carena Lighthouse, but the buses are small and lines quickly build up at the most popular stops, so you might have to wait a while. That’s why walking is generally the best way to get around.
Rental cars aren’t allowed or needed on Capri, but you can rent a car to tour the larger island of Ischia.
Having your own vehicle gives you a lot of freedom to visit the various towns, but traffic can be quite bad in summer and parking may be a problem in the most popular places, too.
Renting a scooter is a convenient and fun way to have that same freedom without the parking headaches, or you can rely on Ischia’s buses to get around – the buses here are bigger than those on Capri and tend to be a little cheaper and more convenient, too.
Thanks to this, despite being larger, Ischia is the easiest to get around.
Ischia vs Capri: Which Is The Better Choice?
So, which island should you visit between Ischia and Capri?
Well, even though Capri is easily the more famous of the two islands, drawing in thousands of visitors and day-trippers on a daily basis, it’s worth noting that Ischia actually wins in a lot of the key categories throughout this comparison.
Ischia has cheaper prices, better nightlife, and more space to spread out and appreciate the island. It’s also got many more beaches than Capri, along with more diverse landscapes, thanks to its volcanic past.
Its natural springs and spas provide even more appeal, and it can work well for anyone, from solo backpackers to families and couples, too.
For all of these reasons, Ischia takes the win in our comparison.
However, Capri is still a terrific island that is absolutely worth visiting. It’s ideal for a day trip if you’re heading to Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast, but the high prices and crowded nature of Capri might deter most travelers from spending more than a night or two here.