How to Experience the Beauty of the Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto, known by locals as the Grotto Azzurra, is a sea cave on the northern shoreline of the island of Capri in Southern Italy. Visiting this cave by rowboat is one of the most popular things to do in Capri. The Grotto’s beauty is unprecedented. Sunlight illuminates the walls of the cave, bathing it in an azure glow that attracts tourists from around the world.

Blue Grotto, Capri

Visiting the Grotto

Several tours operate to take visitors inside the cave. You can book a boat tour which includes the Blue Grotto as part of the itinerary or you can simply opt to see the grotto on its own. Tickets can also be purchased on the day from the floating ticket office but be aware that this is a popular destination so you may have to wait.

As you approach the cave there will be a collection of rowboats bobbing on the water, each one eagerly awaiting their turn to enter the cave. As the entrance is so small the boats enter one by one and each passenger must duck as they pass through to avoid a bump on the head.

Inside the Blue Grotto

Though the entrance may be small, the cave extends more than 50 meters back into the cliff and is almost 150m deep. With an average width of about 25 meters, this certainly is a large cave to visit. Since the entrance is only 1 meter high though, the Blue Grotto becomes inaccessible during high tide, or when conditions are a little rough. Whilst your skipper will row you to the cave, the entrance is so small that a guideline runs along the roof which must be held onto to pull the boat inside. All guides exercise extreme caution when taking you on the tour and are very aware to monitor conditions so that there is no risk to you being inside the cave at any point. Swimming is forbidden within the cave for safety, and though many people would love to take a dip into the crystal-clear waters, the rule is also in place to ensure that the water stays clear. Visiting between midday and 2pm will provide you with the very best lighting of the cave due to the position of the sun in the sky. Boats will remain in the cave for about 5 minutes but the image of the gorgeous glow with remain with you for a lifetime.

Why Does It Glow?

Put simply, the glow of the cave comes from sunlight. But with such a small entrance to the grotto, the sunlight in the cave does not arrive the same way you did. The azure glow is caused by sunlight entering through a second, larger cave mouth found below the main entrance. The incredibly blue tone of the light occurs because of the distance the light has to travel to get into the cave. As sunlight travels through the water, red tones are filtered out until only blue wavelengths are left. It is these which penetrate the waters and emerge within the cave, basking it in a stunning shade of blue.

History of the Blue Grotto

Though today it is simply a beautiful natural attraction for visitors to Capri, this cave was once so much more. Under Tiberius’ reign of Rome, the Blue Grotto was used as a marine temple. The walls were adorned with beautiful statues which can now be found on display at the Casa Rossa in Anacapri. There was even a time in the Grotto’s past that the cave was avoided. Tales of demons and spirits lurking in the waters drove people away from the Grotto, but the early 19th century saw the cave regain popularity, this time as a tourist attraction.

Arguably the most popular destination on the island of Capri today, the Blue Grotto is certainly worth a visit. Whether you visit with your family, or tag along with another tour group, the glowing water, shimmering walls and gentle Italian songs from the skipper reverberating around the cave makes for an experience you will never forget.

The Singing Skippers

A wonderful bonus of a visit to the Blue Grotto is that, once inside, you will be serenaded by your skipper. As they row you around the glowing cave, they sing traditional Neapolitan love songs which reverberate around the grotto walls. Their echoing lyrics create an eerily beautiful atmosphere, making the Blue Grotto even more unforgettable.

Green and White Grotto

On the southern side of Capri lie the green and white grottos. Less busy than the more famous blue grotto, these caves are also worthy of a visit. If beautiful waters are what you’re searching for then the Green Grotto provides crystal clear sea with a beautiful blue/green hue. Unlike at the Blue Grotto where you are not permitted to swim, here you can take a dip in the warm waters and see the cave from amongst the waves.

Further east along the coast of Capri is the White Grotto. This cave is carved into the white cliffs and is formed of two levels. Boats can enter the lower level however the upper level is positioned overhead and seems to disappear into the rock. The defining feature of the White Grotto is the pointed stalactites that cling to the roof of the cave, hanging over the mouth like a gleaming set of teeth.