Are you planning your holiday in Campania and you can't decide between Ischia and Sorrento? The choice is neither easy nor obvious: we are talking about two completely different destinations both loved by Italians and foreigners and that offer different services and opportunities related to relaxation, culture and entertainment. Ischia is an island of volcanic origin, while Sorrento is located on the south of the Amalfi Coast and very close to Capri: the geological origin makes them very different not only from a naturalistic point of view, but also for the travel style.
Let's see their similarities and their differences to help you choose the right destination according to your needs!
Ischia or Sorrento? Let's start with their size
With its 46 square kilometers Ischia is the largest island of the Gulf of Naples and hosts 6 towns: Ischia, Casamicciola Terme, Lacco Ameno, Barano d'Ischia, Forio and Serrara Fontana. To be able to visit the most iconic places and enjoy its famous thermal baths, you should spend several days on the island, but if you have only one day for the visit, you could organize a a One Day Trip on Ischia (in Summer departure from Capri or Sorrento are also available) to get at least a first feel of the island.
Getting around Ischia is simple: you can take the bus that connects the various towns or a taxi, but it is also possible to bring your car to move around or to rent a scooter, which is the best solution to explore Ischia during high season or at weekends.
Getting around Ischia
Thanks to land and sea connections, Sorrento is the favorite choice for those who also want to visit the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Capri: you can catch the Circumvesuviana trains as well as EAV and Sita buses, or traveling by ferries and hydrofoils for the most famous destinations in the Gulf of Naples and Salerno. In addition, it is also very easy to get around in Sorrento: the city center is quite small and can be easily explored on foot. The only exceptions are Marina Piccola and Marina Grande: if you don't feel like going down or walking back up the cliffside to Sorrento (though, it's not that long of a walk), you can take a bus back up to the center of town.
Getting Around Sorrento
The beaches of Ischia and Sorrento
Ischia boasts a varied choice of sandy and non-sandy beaches, some of which are spacious and family-friendly with the water sloping down little by little. There are also the thermal baths with private beaches where you can relax between a dip and another in the therapeutic hot springs.
Beaches on Ischia
Beaches at Sorrento
The beaches of Sorrento are small and often very crowded on weekends and during Summer. The most beautiful beaches with crystal clear sea are located far from the city center, but the effort is rewarded with dream coves and a transparent sea! Among the most famous one you find the Bagni della Regina Giovanna (a sort of private swimming pool where Queen Giovanna d'Angiò loved to bathe), the splendid beaches of Massa Lubrense or the suggestive Bay of Ieranto where it is possible to swim while admiring the Faraglioni. If you prefer to stay in the center your options will be: the beaches of Marina Piccola located under the Villa Comunale of Sorrento near the port, or the small volcanic beach of Marina Grande to be reached on foot from Piazza Vittoria or by bus.
With the exception of Monte Epomeo, rising above the flat plains at the center of the island , Ischia is mainly flat. Moreover, due to its volcanic origin the whole island is scattered with free thermal springs, such as those of the bay of Sorgeto, and private thermal parks, such as Castiglione, Negombo and Poseidon, which offer wellness services combined with the beneficial properties of thermal waters.
The thermal baths of Ischia
Geographically Sorrento is not part of the Amalfi Coast, but it belongs to the Sorrento Peninsula. Here too you will find picturesque cliffs overlooking the sea and a small historic center that can be visited entirely on foot. What makes Sorrento the destination of thousands of tourists every year is certainly its strategic position that allows to reach easily Capri, Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Ischia or Sorrento? The atmosphere
On Ischia you will find services, clubs and shops of all kinds, so that you often forget of being on an island. Compared to Sorrento, which is definitely more international, tourism on Ischia is predominantly national: many citizens from Campania region have their holiday home here, while others choose Ischia for longer holidays in B&B.
As for the nightlife, on Ischia there are a lot of nightclubs, bars and restaurants at Ischia Porto, Forio and Sant'Angelo.
In Sorrento you can feel a more international atmosphere: at Corso Italia (the main street) there are boutiques and fashion shops of Italian and worldwide brands, at Via San Cesareo and its side streets there are artisan and leather product shops, small limoncello factories. There is also plenty of restaurants, bars, ice cream and pastry shops, wine bars all mostly located in the Piazza Tasso area.
Prices and accommodation
Ischia is not particularly expensive and boasts a greater choice of hotels, villas and apartmentsand you can eat at the restaurant at reasonable prices. Sorrento, on the other hand, tends to be more expensive, but offers a vast choice of hotels, apartments and B&Bs, for all budgets. The gastronomic choice is also very varied and for all budgets too.
Ischia can be reached both from Naples and Pozzuoli by hydrofoil or by ferry. It has several ports of arrival and departure (Ischia Porto, Casamicciola, Forio), so you can choose the most convenient one based on the hotel you have booked.
Sorrento boasts excellent connections to Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Naples and Pompeii. Circumvesuviana, buses, ferries, hydrofoils allow you to reach easily different areas of Campania region.
Ferries to and from Ischia
Ischia or Sorrento? In conclusion
Choose Ischia if:
You have more days of vacation but you don't want to travel too much
You love thermal baths and you are looking for wellness services
Prefer a less tourist destination but with many services
Choose Sorrento if:
You are planning to visit other destinations such as Capri, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast
Prefer a vibrant and more international atmosphere
Take also a look at our articles about the differences between Ischia and others famous destinations of Campania Region:
Ischia or Amalfi Coast
Ischia or Capri