The 10 Most Adventurous Things to Do on Tuscany's Elba Island

woman on electric mountainbike at the coastline of Elba Island, Tuscany, Italy
Uwe Moser / Getty Images

Isola d'Elba, or Elba Island, is the largest of the Tuscan Archipelago, the group of seven enchanting islands off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. While it's a popular beach destination for droves of Italians, Europeans, and, increasingly, North Americans, Elba is also a hub for adventure lovers. Much of the island, especially in the rugged interior, is undeveloped and laced with hundreds of trails for hiking and biking. The pristine sea surrounding Elba invites lovers of water sports, while other attractions on the island are designed with soft adventure in mind.

Of course, if you want to visit Elba and pass your time hopping from one beach to the next, there are plenty of opportunities for that. But if you yearn for a more active vacation, here are our top-recommended things to do on Elba Island, starting with mild and escalating to wild!

01 of 10

Ride to the Top of Monte Capanne

Island Elba
Ronald Wittek / Getty Images
Address
57030 Isola d'Elba LI, Italy

At 950 meters above sea level, Monte Capanne is the highest mountain on the island. From viewing platforms at the top, you can catch glimpses of the islands of Capraia, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio, and even the French island of Corsica on a clear day. But the real fun is in getting to the summit. Up to two riders at a time stand in bright yellow, bird-cage-like cable cars (cabinovia in Italian) that slowly climb up the mountain. During the 20-minute ride, you get spectacular views of the terrain and sparkling blue sea in the distance, and you might spy a mouflon or two—the wild sheep are common on the island. In the summertime, there's a bar when you reach the top of the mountain.

02 of 10

Descend Into Miles of Abandoned Mines

Inside the Calamita Mine, Elba Island

Miniere di Calamita Capoliveri Isola d'Elba

Since at least Etruscan times, Elba was prized for its rich mineral sources, especially magnetite, or iron ore. While the operations at the Calamita Mine in Capoliveri are much more recent—the mine only closed in the 1980s—they tell the history of mining on Elba. Via a guided tour, you can trek through underground tunnels and mine sites, learning about its mechanics and the dangerous, difficult lives of the miners who worked there. There are more than 7 miles of tunnels, though the tour visits just a portion of them. Don’t worry—the mines are safe to visit these days, and hard hats are mandatory.

03 of 10

Jump on a Mountain Bike or E-Bike

woman on electric mountain bike on Elba Island, Tuscany, Italy
Uwe Moser / Getty Images

With so many miles of terrain and trails on Elba, think about exploring the island on a bike. Cyclists of all skill levels will find a route to meet their match, with trails rated in difficulty level from green to double black diamond. You can rent a traditional mountain bike or e-bike—perfect for getting some extra oomph on those steep hills—from Bike Centre Elba, which also offers guided tours of the island.

04 of 10

Tackle a Challenging (or Easy) Hiking Trail

Sentiero dell'Amore on Elba (Tuscan Archipelago, Italy)
Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

One really cool thing about hiking on Elba? It's hard to get lost. That's because the island's miles and miles of trails are fully charted on Google Maps thanks to the Elba Smart Exploring project. Using drones and a 360-degree camera, the project mapped every hiking and biking trail and beach on the island, making it super easy for anyone to navigate Elba with their smartphone. 

One of Elba's most epic hikes is the Grande Traversata Elbana (GTE), a 31- to 34-mile, multi-day trek across the entire island. There’s also plenty of short, flat trails, so anyone can join in on the fun regardless of fitness level. 

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Snorkel in the Tyrrhenian Sea

Elba Island - Snorkeling near Sansone beach
Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images
Address
Tyrrhenian Sea

Crystal-clear water, amazing visibility, colorful corals, and lots of fish: Snorkeling in the Tyrrhenian Sea is one of the best ways to cool off on Elba. You can bring your own snorkel and fins, though most sizable beaches and seaside towns have stores that offer gear rental. Once you’ve got your mask, simply swim out from the beach—no boat required. Some of the best snorkeling spots on Elba include the beaches of Capo Sant'Andrea and Marciana Marina. Do be aware of and avoid the medusas, or jellies, that float on the top of the water—several species here have a nasty sting.

06 of 10

Kayak Over Crystal-Clear Waters

Kayaking near Biodola Beach, Elba

Elizabeth Heath

Elba looks spectacular from any angle, but especially from the water. If you’re ready to make a splash, plan a morning of kayaking on the calm beaches of the island. There are plenty of kayak rental places that will provide you with everything you need, including tips on how to kayak safely. It’s a solid workout, but if you get too hot, no problem—just jump in the sea! Kayaking is also a great way to beat the summer crowds; most tourists flock to the beaches on a sunny day, but not everyone picks up a paddle. Kayaks can also take you to hidden coves and beaches that are not otherwise reachable by land.

07 of 10

Keep Your Balance on a SUP

SUP on Elba

Elba Water Sports Procchio

Address
Spiaggia di, 57030 Procchio LI, Italy
Phone +39 366 209 8908

Ready to put your balance to the test? Try stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, on the calm waters close to shore. Whether you stay on your knees or stand all the way up, the challenge of balancing on the water (without falling in!) is a lot of fun. It’s great exercise, but also a sport that requires no experience. At Elba Water Sports on Procchio Beach, you can rent paddleboards or take a lesson before heading out. 

08 of 10

Take a Deep Dive

Divers and fish in Elba

Diving in Elba

Address
Via del Mare, 2, 57030 Procchio LI, Italy
Phone +39 347 371 5788

If you have your scuba diving certification or want to get certified on vacation, there’s a whole new world to be discovered under the sea. Elba is a celebrated dive site, thanks to its abundant marine life, rock formations, reefs, and lots of shipwrecks, some dating back to ancient Rome. Local dive shop Diving in Elba runs regular dive boat excursions, including to the Pomonte, the island’s most famous wreck. Advanced open water divers will love the Scoglietto dive site, which features caves, walls of coral, and deep blue water. 

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Ascend to New Heights

For thrill-seekers and gravity-defiers, Elba offers some great rock climbing spots. With so many granite mountains and cliffs to scramble up and down, arrampicata sportiva (or free climbing with ropes and a harness) is popular throughout the island. Popular climb sites include Monte Capanne, Fetovaia, and San Bartolomeo. If you’re heading to the island to climb, you might want to link up with the Elba Free Climbing Club; shoot them an e-mail to find out about any planned organized climbs while you’re visiting.



10 of 10

Catch the Wind in Your Sail

Windsurfing on Elba

Elba Water Sports Procchio

Address
Spiaggia di, 57030 Procchio LI, Italy
Phone +39 366 209 8908

Relish the feeling of sea spray on your face and the wind at your back? If so, take to the sea on a windsurfer, sailboat, or catamaran, and enjoy an exhilarating ride as you breathe in the stunning island scenery. Elba Water Sports rents out windsurfers and other boats, and also offers charter trips around the island. If you prefer to speed around the island a bit faster, you can also rent small motorboats and gommone (zodiac rafts) that don't require a marine license.

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The 10 Most Adventurous Things to Do on Tuscany's Elba Island