9 Best Kayak Tours in Puglia

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map of places where to kayak in puglia
map of places where to go kayaking in puglia

Kayaking in Puglia is a unique experience! Puglia is one of the most beautiful regions in the world. The National Geographic has entered Puglia among the 21 best destinations in the world for 2014 .  “Puglia – reads the reasons – boasts the best of southern Italy: the rhythms of life, the traditions, the beauty of the places. Indomitable. ” . Another similar recognition is that which Puglia was awarded, at the end of 2013, by the famous Australian guide Lonely Planet , which included it in second place among the top ten “Best value travel destinations in the world for 2014” .

Where to go kayaking in Puglia?

For those who love kayaking, you are spoiled for choice. Puglia has a coastal perimeter of 820 km, to which the approximately 50 km of the Tremiti islands must be added. In Salento we have the greatest concentration of beaches and stretches of coast that are nothing short of wonderful. Just mention, on the Adriatic stretch, the Gargano , the Tremiti Islands , the coast of Polignano and Monopoli , Torre dell’Orso , Santa Cesarea Terme , Castro , Santa Maria di Leuca and, on the Ionian stretch, Ugento , Gallipoli , Porto Selvaggio , Porto Cesareo ,Torre Lapillo and San Pietro in Bevagna . There is something for everyone. Wonderful beaches with crystal clear waters and stretches of rocky coast full of ravines and caves, all to be explored. It is therefore a must to do at least one canoe excursion in Salento.

By kayak to visit Puglia

The canoe and in aboveall its most performing version, the sea kayak, is the perfect means for this type of exploration. In fact, its small size allows you to reach places and beaches otherwise unreachable by land or by large motor boats. The perspective from the sea then gives indescribable emotions, difficult to tell or express in words. Now we just have to describe the 9 most beautiful places to go kayaking/canoeing in Puglia.

San Domino – Tremiti Islands

the circumnavigation by kayak of the only archipelago in Puglia

Cala Pagliai
Cala Pagliai

The Tremiti Islands represent one of the most unspoiled places in Puglia. They are a protected marine area and are part of the Gargano National Park. The archipelago is made up of five islands. Two are inhabited: San Nicola and San Domino. The others, Capraia, Cretaccio and the distant Pianosa, are uninhabited.

Best kayak tour n° 1

DISTANCE: 8.2km
DURATION: 2-3 hours
DIFFICULTY: easy/medium

The most beautiful island to go kayaking in the archipelago and in Puglia in general is undoubtedly San Domino. It is chock full of beautiful caves, each one different from the other. Unfortunately there is no possibility to rent kayaks or take guided tours, so if you want to visit the archipelago, you are forced to bring your kayak to the ferry from Termoli and use the slide next to the San Domino port for boarding and landing.

kayak tour around S. Domino island
kayak tour around S. Domino island

In 2018 I made the circumnavigation of all the islands of the archipelago and I filmed the most beautiful moments of navigation during the tour of San Domino in this video.
The most trained kayakers will certainly be able to tour all the islands (except Pianosa) in a single day of navigation. It is better to choose a day of absolutely calm sea, without mistral, and turn San Domino and San Nicola in the 7 hours that elapse between the arrival at the port of the ferry, about 9:30 am, to the departure of the same in the afternoon, about 4:30 pm. It is important to have a trolley to transport the kayak on the ferry and on the quay.

For those who want to stay two or more days, perhaps to pay a visit ashore or to travel fewer miles a day with a kayak, there is the problem of an overnight stay. Unfortunately, there are few beaches suitable for night bivouacs. There is the beach of Cala delle Arene and that of Cala Pagliai , both close to the port of San Domino. The first, being the only equipped beach in the entire archipelago and being quite narrow, is very crowded in summer.

Cala delle Arene
Cala delle Arene

It can be suitable for a bivouac from October until May. The second is a beach with only access from the sea and forbidden due to the danger of falling rocks but it is beautiful!

Cala Pagliaigrotte-santa-cesarea-terme-santa_cesarea_terme-kayak-puglia
Cala Pagliai

In summer it is the only alternative. Try not to get noticed, do not light fires (remember that you are always in a park), set up the tent in the dark and take it down early in the morning. If you use these concerns you will have no problems.

East coast of Gargano

paddling with the kayak among the stacks of the largest promontory in Puglia

zagare bay
zagare bay

The Gargano promontory , also known as the “spur of Italy”, is an area rich in natural beauty, on a par with the much more noble Salento, another jewel of Puglia. Along the coast you can find ancient watchtowers or, on the higher ones, the characteristic trabucchi , ingenious fishing machines built entirely of wood, now almost all converted into restaurants.
The Gargano is home to the homonymous National Park since 1991. Its coasts are characterized by the presence of long beaches and high and steep slopes covered with vegetation. Characteristic is the fairly brittle yellowish rock consisting mainly of limestone. It gives the waters a particular green color that distinguishes it from that of the rest of the Apulian coast.
The stretch of coast that goes from Mattinata to Vieste is simply gorgeous! It has a very high and indented coast and is full of caves, some of which are immense!

Best kayak tour n° 2

DISTANCE: 16km (to and fro)
DURATION: 5-6 hours
DIFFICULTY: medium

The first route I recommend is about 16km long. It starts from the small beach of Baia della Pergola , easily reachable by car. With the kayaks you will go north to the beach of Baia San Felice . Along the way you can admire a myriad of caves, including the famous Grotte Sfondate , small and large. I highly recommend, once you arrive at the Bay of San Felice, to stretch a little longer and pass under the famous Arco di San Felice . Here you can see a video of a kayaking tour in 2019.

KAYAK TOUR (NORTH) ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE GARGANO

Best kayak tour n° 3

DISTANCE: 17km (to and fro)
DURATION: 5-6 hours
DIFFICULTY: medium

The second route I recommend is about 17km long. It always starts from the little beach of Baia della Pergola and goes down to the Vignanotica beach . the path is full of caves and coves but the flagship is the passage to the monumental Baia delle Zagare .

baia delle zagare
baia delle zagare
KAYAK ROUTE (SOUTH) ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE GARGANO

If you can, avoid landing on the beach of Pugnochiuso. It is a private beach and access is allowed only to customers of the tourist village located inside. A real shame, as it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of the Gargano. On the other hand, there are many others, smaller but no less beautiful. I advise you to identify them in advance so that you can get there without problems in navigation, perhaps with the help of a mobile phone or a GPS.

Polignano a Mare

one of the most famous places in Puglia seen from the unique perspective of the kayak

Polignano's coast seen by kayak
Polignano‘s coast seen by kayak

Polignano is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Puglia. Thousands, in any month of the year, flock to see the town of Domenico Modugno. A pearl a few kilometers from the regional capital. The view from the sea is a scream, without equal in Puglia! For us canoeists the real wealth of the country consists in its high rocky coast overlooking the sea. Here there are a myriad of caves, one more beautiful than the other. From the sea it is possible to visit the famous Lama Monachile , two sheer rock walls and a small cove in the middle.

Cala Monachile view from kayak
Cala Monachile view from kayak

The rocky promontory that borders the bay to the south is the Bastione di S. Stefano . Famous for being the 27m high springboard for a stage of the World Diving Championship, Red Bull Cliff Diving , in October. Just below we find a beautiful cave with a double entrance where it is possible to slip in with our canoes. Continuing south we find, worthy of attention, the Grotta dell’Arcivescovado , the cave with the widest entrance in Polignano. It is said that the Polignano prelates who lived in the bishop’s house right above, used it, thanks to a tunnel dug into the rock, as a way out to the sea in case of enemy invasions.

A few hundred meters to the south is the Grotta Palazzese , the largest of all the Polignano caves. It is so called because it belonged to the Leto marquises, feudal lords of Polignano in 1700. The cave can be accessed both from the ground, through a small staircase carved into the rock by the Leto marquises, and from the sea through two openings.
A large terrace overlooks the cave and allows visitors to admire it in all its majestic beauty. Inside it is made up of a very large semicircular room, with a diameter of about 30 meters, communicating with a second smaller room with an outlet to the sea and a small pebble beach on the bottom. For several decades the cave has been home to a restaurant, with an adjoining hotel, known all over the world.

grotta palazzese
Palazzese Cave

In addition to the famous Grotta Palazzese there are many others, which can be visited in all their meanders only and exclusively by kayak.
The most beautiful and characteristic of all, in my opinion, is the Grotta Sotto Favale . Unique for the transparency and reflections of its waters, it is ideal for a stop with the kayaks inside. A double pebble beach allows you to disembark comfortably. We can swim, shelter from the summer heat and explore the passage in the rock that connects it to the adjacent cave. Once you have left, you can continue to visit the high coast, circumnavigate the Islet of the Hermit and finally land at the pebble beach of Portalga., a small fishing port created in an inlet at the end of which there is a group of white houses with blue window frames that is very reminiscent of those of the Greek islands.

For more information on the caves I suggest you read this article , accompanied by images, where I describe one by one all the caves of Polignano a Mare.

Best kayak tour n° 4

DISTANCE RT: 5km (to and fro)
DURATION: 2-3 hours
DIFFICULTY: easy

Polignano a Mare kayak trip

The Polignano kayak trip is a new trip that we offer as a guided tour. The path we follow is 3 + 2km long, considering the outward and return journeys without entrance to the caves.

 KAYAK tour near POLIGNANO
KAYAK tour near POLIGNANO
Momento durante l'escursione
moment during a trip

The stretch of coast visited goes from Lama Monachile to the islet of the Hermit , while the points of embarkation and disembarkation useful for the excursion are Portalga (to the south) and Cala Paura (to the north).

Torre dell’Orso

let’s admire from kayak the natural sculptures of this unique stretch of coast of Puglia

Torre dell’Orso is a marina of Melendugno (LE). It has a beautiful, very extensive and crescent-shaped beach, between two cliffs. Offshore you can admire the two famous white stacks, the Two Sisters .

The Two Sisters owe their name to a story that is handed down from year to year. It is said that one day two sisters with wonderful features, left the countryside, went to the sea to look for a bit of coolness and refreshment in the summer heat. They went to the cliff of the Torre dell’Orso bay where a magical breeze smelling of the sea and Scots pine blew so intense and bewitching that the younger sister felt more and more attracted to the sea, to the point of throwing herself into the void in an act. desperate for love. The cries of the girl, who struggled in vain among the foam, attracted the other sister who in turn threw herself into the void in an attempt to tear her from death. Unfortunately in a few moments the sea swallowed them.

The cries of the two sisters were however heard by a fisherman who, on his way to the place, saw nothing but two high stacks, never seen before, placed side by side, which seemed to embrace.

 the Two Sisters
the Two Sisters

The beach of Torre dell’Orso is very crowded in summer, the only point where you can disembark is in the far south, where there are also some beautiful caves with entrance from the ground to visit during the stop.
This stretch of sea is known in Puglia for being one of the most transparent and crystalline of the Adriatic side. In calm seas you can see the bottom clearly without having to dive. The sore point, however, is the weather. A mistral wind often blows in the Otranto canal which swells the sea and poses many problems for coastal navigation by canoe.

In the vicinity of Torre dell’Orso , precisely to the north, towards Roca , there is a truly magical place: the Grotta della Poesia , one of the most beautiful natural pools in the world that attracts thousands of tourists every year. The cave has a rock overlooking the crystalline waters from which you can dive from a height of over 5 meters. Stopping with the kayak is absolutely mandatory. However, you can only do it in the low season because in summer it is forbidden to enter the cavity from the sea due to the hundreds of people who crowd the rocks above and dive. It is even cordoned off and guarded by municipal agents of San Foca.

 Cave of Poetry
Cave of Poetry

Just south of Torre dell’Orso we find the famous Saint Andrew stacks.

Saint Andrew stacks
Saint Andrew stacks

The Faraglioni certainly represent the main attraction of Torre Sant’Andrea; a natural work of art , a meeting of elements with the water of the sea that laps the white rock, giving life to those who seem “guardians” emerged from the water to keep company with the nearby lighthouse, overlooking this wonderful stretch of coast. Of all the stacks, the most evocative is the Arco degli Innamorati , a passage that, on calm days, gives the unique opportunity to swim through immersed in a crystalline sea.

Best kayak tour n° 5

DISTANCE: 18km (to and fro)
DURATION: 6-7 hours
DIFFICULTY: hard

We are in one of the most beautiful places in Salento where you can go canoeing. We can do two trips, one long (18km a / r) and a short one (7km a / r). The short one is our guided excursion and also allows beginners to try their hand at an exciting coastal navigation. Here you will find all the details.

Torre dell'Orso kayak trip

In the longest excursion, which I can recommend to the most experienced canoeists, the stretch of coast to visit by kayak goes from Roca (Lido RoKamel) to Frassanito and is about 9km long, 18km considering there and back.

kayak tour near torre dell'orso
KAYAK ROUTE FROM ROCA TO FRASSANITO

In the shorter one, instead, you stop on the beach of Torre dell’Orso and go back.

KAYAK ROUTE FROM ROCA TO TORRE DELL’ORSO

Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme

let’s discover with our kayaks this magnificent coast of Puglia

la costa tra Castro e Santa Cesarea Terme-kayak-puglia
the stretch of coast between Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme

Castro is an ancient medieval village which has now become very famous above all thanks to the wonderful characteristics of its coast, which is very indented here. The sea in this area takes on an intense blue, with bright shades of bright green and the seabed turns out to be perfect for diving enthusiasts. Castro Marina is in a panoramic position among the most beautiful in the whole Adriatic, its marina welcomes, especially in the summer, numerous boats from every corner of Europe.

However, the small port is the pillory of summer boaters and in particular of us canoeists, always looking for a convenient point from which to start. Access to the port area is subject to a permit from the local Harbor Master’s Office and the rules for parking cars and boats are quite stringent. Without going into details, I just tell you that access to the sea in the summer from Castro is very difficult, both for the rules of entry into the port and for the lack of car parks. I therefore invite you not to leave from the port of Castro but from that of Santa Cesarea Terme. Here there is a comfortable slide that we can reach by car to unload our canoe. Once this is done, we can park the car in one of the many guarded parking lots above the port.

Along the coast between Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme there are various caves of marine and non-marine formation, including the famous cave of Zinzulusa and that of Palombara , which cannot be visited from the sea.

grotte-santa-cesarea-terme-santa_cesarea_terme-kayak-puglia
Zinzulusa Cave

In Santa Cesarea Terme we can land on the beautiful beach of Porto Miggiano . In fact, this is also known as the “beach of 100 steps” . In fact, from above you will notice a staircase that reaches the beach and the number of steps that you have to walk before reaching the sea is 100. When you get down, however, you will not regret it at all and you will enjoy the breathtaking view of one of the most beautiful beaches of all of Puglia.

santa_cesarea_terme-kayak-puglia
Porto Miggiano

Absolutely worth visiting are the SULPHUROUS Caves . The whole underground territory of Santa Cesarea Terme is affected by karst phenomena that have always characterized the coast and that have caused springs of waters rich in sulphurous minerals to gush in many marine ravines and caves.
The most famous sulfur caves are four and are called Fetida, Sulfurea, Gattulla and Solfatara. As is evident, even the name of these caves indicates their most characteristic aspects. In particular, sulfur is the typical element of the composition of inland waters. When we enter with the kayaks we will have to stop our noses if we can not bear the smell of sulfur but there is absolutely no danger for our safety.

la costa di Santa Cesarea Terme con le grotte sulfuree-kayak-puglia
THE COAST OF SANTA CESAREA TERME WITH THE SULPHUROUS CAVES

Best kayak tour n° 6

DISTANCE RT: 15km (to and fro)
DURATION: 6-7 hours
DIFFICULTY: hard

To visit this stretch of coast among the most beautiful in Salento by canoe, I recommend a 15km round trip excursion. The stretch of coast to visit by kayak goes from Santa Cesarea Terme to Castro and back. In total they are 15km.

da Santa Cesarea Terme a Castro
CANOE TRIP FROM SANTA CESAREA TERME TO CASTRO

You start from the slide in the small port of Santa Cesarea Terme , visit the Sulphurous Caves to the north, stop on the beach of Porto Miggiano , arrive at the small port of Castro and then go back.

S. Maria di Leuca

by kayak in the southernmost point of Puglia

 THE IONIAN COAST NEAR S. MARIA DI LEUCA
THE IONIAN COAST NEAR S. MARIA DI LEUCA

Santa Maria di Leuca is the southernmost town in Puglia. It is in fact located on the heel of Italy, where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. The coast is high and rugged, interspersed with coves and sandy beaches. It is full of caves and inlets that we can go to find thanks to our precious marine vehicle: the kayak.

There are two routes that can be done by kayak. Both depart from the small beach of Marina di Felloniche , on the Ionian side. It is a large pebble beach with a disused slipway next to it, used by swimmers to spread their beach towels. By kindly asking for the courtesy to pass, you will not have problems boarding and we can take advantage of the convenient parking behind to leave our car.
It is the last boarding point before Santa Maria di Leuca on the Ionian side and allows us to get as close as possible to the last beautiful stretch of sea before the “heel”.

Best kayak tour n° 7

DISTANCE: 18km (to and fro)
DURATION: 6-7 hours
DIFFICULTY: hard

To explore this stretch of coast of Salento full of caves by canoe, we must skirt the splendid Ionian coast of Santa Maria di Leuca. We will enter many caves including: Grotta del Drago, Grotta della Stalla, Grotta Tre Porte, Grotta del Presepe, Grotta del Diavolo and Grotta Porcinara . Finally we will land on the only beach in Santa Maria di Leuca, close to the elegant promenade, where we stop for a swim and have a packed lunch. We leave towards the north to visit the Adriatic coast with the high cliff overlooking the sea, full of wonderful caves: Grotta di Terradico, Grotta di Vedusella, Grotta delle Vore and many others. Finally, the return to Marina di Felloniche follows.

costa adriatica
ADRIATIC STRETCH OF THE COAST OF S. MARIA DI LEUCA

Best kayak tour n° 8

DISTANCE RT: 5km (to and fro)
DURATION: 2-3 hours
DIFFICULTY: easy

S. Maria di Leuca kayak trip

We make this second trip starting from the beach of Marina di Felloniche (the first useful boarding in the north) and stopping at the Grotta del Fiume .

KAYAK ROUTE ALONG THE IONIAN COAST OF S. MARIA DI LEUCA

This route is also beautifully landscaped! It extends on a shorter coast than the Adriatic coast but punctured by dozens of caves in which we will enter and exit without stopping with our kayaks.

Grotta del Fiume
CAVE OF THE RIVER

The most beautiful cave of all that we will see will be the Cave of the Three Doors. A real marvel, as can be seen from the photo below.

Grotta delle Tre Porte
CAVE OF THE THREE DOORS

Porto Selvaggio

let’s reach one of the most famous and unmissable beaches by kayak during a trip in Puglia

Porto Selvaggio bay
Porto Selvaggio bay

Porto Selvaggio is located in Nardò, a town in the province of Lecce between Gallipoli and Porto Cesareo. The area, since 1980, has been a Natural Park established by the Puglia Region, which includes 432 hectares of coastline. The pine forest surrounding the beach is what makes the Porto Selvaggio reserve a unique and relaxing place. One of the most famous and unmissable beaches during a trip to Salento is that of the Bay of Porto Selvaggio . It is an enchanting place, which offers visitors one of the most evocative landscapes of the entire Salento coast. The beach can be reached by land through a long dirt path immersed in the pine forest that puts a strain on the feet of bathers.
However their effort will be rewarded by the presence of one spring of cold water in which they can immerse themselves to cool off.

Best kayak tour n° 9

DISTANCE RT: 6km (to and fro)
DURATION: 2-3 hours
DIFFICULTY: easy

Porto Selvaggio kayak trip

To visit this marvelous stretch of coast of Ionian Salento by canoe, we have set up the kayak trip to PORTO SELVAGGIO . It is our most popular excursion. The route starts from the beach of the small port of Santa Caterina di Nardò and follows the high coast to the north, the highest of the whole Ionian side of Salento. You can see hidden caves and ravines, all to be explored!

kayak tour near Porto Selvaggio
kayak tour near Porto Selvaggio

You pass under the Tower of S. Maria dell’Alto , where the most beautiful caves of the route are found. If the sea allows it, you can enter the beautiful Green Cave!

Green Lagoon cave
Green Lagoon cave

This excursion offers great emotions and allows you to immerse yourself in the transparent waters of the Porto Selvaggio beach . Here you can immerse yourself in the cold waters of the spring that comes out of some cavities adjacent to the beach, you can snorkel and dive from a rocky ledge, then re-emerging right in front of the entrance to the Grotta Gaia . Too low to enter with kayaks, however, it is possible to visit it by swimming and appreciate the beauty of the play of lights that penetrate through some openings in the ceiling. The route is relatively short, just over 5km, considering the outward and return journey.


In summary, we can say with absolute certainty that those who want to kayak in Puglia are spoiled for choice!

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