What are the most beautiful kayak or canoe tours in Salento? It’s time to find out! We have seen where to kayak or canoe in the upper part of Puglia in another article. Now let’s focus on the southern part, on Salento and on the most beautiful stretches of coast where you can go kayaking.

escursioni kayak salento
Salento kayak tours map

The borders of Salento

There is often confusion about the geographical location of Salento. Let us therefore clarify where it is located and what its exact boundaries are. The southern border of Salento is Leuca; there is no doubt about this. The most debated border to the north is probably the line that connects the Gulf of Taranto to Egnazia (Fasano).

confini Salento
The borders of Salento

WEATHER: the most important variable for kayaking in Salento

Canoeing and kayaking in Salento is a unique experience! But it is not easy. We are faced with a varied territory, with an elongated conformation, where the prevailing wind, from north-west, determines an incredible variety of marine conditions which it is good to know before to go. The general rule is that, when the Adriatic side is swept by the wind from north-west, the Ionian side, sheltered by land, is calm in the coastal strip. The choice of destination for a kayak tour in Salento on windy days (from force 3 onwards on the Beaufort scale) must always fall on a location overlooking the Ionian Sea. Let’s keep this in mind and organize our holidays flexibly, taking the weather into account and preparing to replace the set destination with an alternative.

Torre dell’Orso

Let’s admire the natural sculptures of this unique stretch of Salento coast from the kayak

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

The legend of 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 good-looking sisters went to the cliffs of Torre dell’Orso bay. Here a wind with the magical scent of pines kidnapped the youngest of the two sisters and she felt more and more attracted by the sea, to the point of throwing herself into the void. The girl’s cries were heard by her sister who dived in to try to save her. Unfortunately, in a few moments the sea swallowed them.

The two sisters’ cries for help attracted a fisherman who, when he went to the site, saw nothing except two high stacks, never seen before, which almost seemed to embrace each other.

Salento in canoa: le Due Sorelle
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 land to visit during the break.
This stretch of sea is known in Salento for being one of the most transparent and crystalline on the Adriatic side. In calm seas you can clearly see the seabed without having to dive. The sore point, however, is the weather. A wind from north-west often blows in the Otranto channel which swells the sea and poses many problems for coastal navigation by kayak.

Cave of Poetry

Near Torre dell’Orso , precisely to the north, towards Roca , there is a truly magical place: the Cave of Poetry, one of the most beautiful natural pools in the world which attracts thousands of tourists every year. The cave has a rock overlooking the crystal clear waters from which you can dive from a height of more than 5 metres. The stop with the kayak is absolutely mandatory. However, you can only do it in the low season because in the height of summer it is forbidden to enter the cavity from the sea due to the hundreds of people who crowd the rocks above and dive into it. It is even cordoned off and monitored by municipal agents of San Foca.

Salento in canoa: grotta della poesia
Cave of Poetry

Just south of Torre dell’Orso we find the famous sea stacks of Torre Sant’Andrea

Salento in canoa: faraglioni di Sant'Andrea
the stacks of Sant’Andrea

The stacks certainly represent the main attraction of Torre Sant’Andrea; a natural work of art , a meeting of elements with the sea water that laps the white rock, giving life to what seem to be “guardians” who have 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 Lovers Arc, a passage which, on days with calm seas, gives the unique possibility of swimming through it immersed in a crystalline sea.

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 1

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

We are in one of the most beautiful places in Salento where you can go kayakng. We can do two tours, a long one (18km to and fro) and a short one (7km to and fro). The short one is a kayak tour that allows even beginners to try their hand at exciting coastal navigation.

In the longest tour, which I would recommend to more experienced kayakers, the stretch of coast to visit by kayak goes from Roca (Lido RoKamel) to Frassanito and is approximately 9km long, 18km considering the going back road.

percorso in kayak a torre dell'orso
long kayak route from Roca to Frassanito

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

short kayak route from Roca to Torre dell’Orso


Let’s paddle in kayak or canoe in the easternmost waters of Salento

Otranto dal bastione dei Pelasgi
Otranto from the Pelasgi bastion

The easternmost point of the boot,  the city of Martyrs . Otranto is a jewel of Salento, a bridge between the culture of the West and that of the East. It is located in the province of Lecce and occupies that vast strip of land which, from the province of Brindisi, reaches the coasts of the Ionian and Adriatic seas. Just south of the city is the easternmost geographical point of Italy, Punta Palascia .
We discover by kayak an area full of Caribbean beaches bathed by an incredibly transparent sea, even close to the town centre. Next to the port the sea looks like this.

Otranto porto
the sea next to the port of Otranto

The coast of Otranto extends for approximately 25 km: in front of it is the canal of the same name, which separates Italy from Albania. Otranto is one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and is part of the Costa Otranto – Santa Maria di Leuca and Bosco di Tricase Regional Park .

The localities neighboring Otranto

Among the most beautiful and evocative places in the area, we mention the famous Baia dei Turchi, Baia dell’Orte, Conca Specchiulla, Laghi Alimini, Frassanito, Porto Badisco, Punta Palascia, Torre Sant’Emiliano and Torre Santo Stefano. They are enchanting places overlooking the sea, where it is also possible to swim in waters that have often boasted the Blue Flag of Legambiente and the “Cinque Vele” of the Touring Club.

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 2

DISTANCE: 10km (to and fro)
DURATION: 3-4 hours

The most interesting stretch of coast is the one north of the town centre, up to Mulino d’Acqua Bay. The coast, starting from Otranto, becomes increasingly higher and jagged.

costa della baia mulino d'acqua
coast of water mill bay

The chosen route is full of caves. We find the Monaca Cave, the Eremita Cave and the very famous Broken Cave.

grotta sfondata
Broken Cave

To visit this stretch of coast by kayak or canoe, I recommend a 10km to and fro tour. The stretch of coast to visit by kayak goes from Otranto to Baia Presix , plus return.

percorso in kayak da Otranto a Baia Presix
kayak route from Otranto to Baia Presix

Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme

let’s discover this magnificent coast of Salento by kayak or canoe

Salento in canoa: la costa tra Castro e Santa Cesarea Terme
the coast between Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme

Castro is especially famous for its very rugged coastline. The sea is transparent, with the blue and emerald green colors typical of this stretch of the Adriatic coast under the Otranto canal. The small port of Castro Marina is packed, especially in summer, with many pleasure boats.

However, the marina itself 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 detail, I’ll just tell you that access to the sea from Castro in the summer is very difficult, both due to the rules for entering the port and the shortage of car parking. I therefore invite you not to leave from the port of Castro but from that of Santa Cesarea Terme. Here there is a convenient slipway that we can reach by car to unload our kayak. Once this is done, we can park the car in one of the many guarded car parks above the port.

What see

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

Salento in canoa: grotta della Zinzulusa
Zinzulusa cave

In Santa Cesarea Terme we can disembark on the beautiful beach of Porto Miggiano . This is, in fact, also known as the “beach of 100 steps” . In fact, from above you will notice a staircase that reaches down to the beach and the number of steps you have to climb before reaching the sea is exactly 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 in all of Salento.

Salento in canoa: Porto Miggiano
Porto Miggiano

Sulfur Caves

Absolutely worth visiting are the Sulfur Caves . The entire underground territory of Santa Cesarea Terme is affected by karst phenomena which have always characterized the coast and which have caused springs of water rich in sulphurous minerals to flow in many marine ravines and caves.
The most famous sulfur caves are four and are called Fetida, Sulfurea, Gattulla and Solfatara caves. As is clearly evident, even the name of these caves indicates their most characterizing aspects. In particular, sulfur is the typical element in the composition of internal waters. When we enter with the kayaks we will have to hold our noses if we cannot bear the smell of sulfur but there is absolutely no danger to our safety.

Salento in canoa: la costa di Santa Cesarea Terme con le grotte sulfuree
the coast of Santa Cesarea Terme with the sulfur caves

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 3

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

To visit this stretch of coast, one of the most beautiful in Salento, by kayak or canoe, I recommend a 15km to and fro tour. The stretch of coast to visit by kayak goes from Santa Cesarea Terme to Castro and back. In total it is 15km.

kayak trip from Santa Cesarea Terme to Castro

We start from the slip of the small port of Santa Cesarea Terme , visit the Sulfur Caves to the north, stop on the beach of Porto Miggiano , arrive at the small port of Castro and then return back.


A dive into the beauty from the top of the most famous bridge in Salento!

Ponte del Ciolo
The Ciolo bridge

Going further south of Castro we find Ciolo, a town on the Adriatic side just north of Santa Maria di Leuca. Its name derives from the famous Ciolo Cave . The cave is about 100 meters long and can only be accessed from the sea.

Grotta del Ciolo
The Ciolo Cave

Ciolo is a very popular place in summer due to the presence of a rocky coast overlooking the sea. In summer, this location becomes the favorite place for the most fearless tourists who dive from the surrounding rocks and even from the famous 30m high bridge that joins two rock ridges. This is quite possibly the busiest seaside spot in Salento!

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 4

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

To visit this magnificent stretch of coast it is best to embark from the port of Marina di Novaglie and go down to the Grotta del Ciolo, along 3km of high and rocky coast. I recommend stopping in the Ciolo bay only for a short break and leaving immediately afterwards to visit the remaining stretch of coast. The tour is really short and suitable for everyone, as long as you choose a day with good weather.

S. Maria di Leuca

with a kayak in the southernmost point of Salento

Salento in canoa: la costa ionica nei pressi di S. Maria di Leuca
the Ionian coast near S. Maria di Leuca

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

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

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 5

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

To explore this stretch of Salento coast 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 seafront, where we will stop to swim and eat a packed lunch. We set off again towards the north to visit the Adriatic coast with the high cliffs overlooking the sea, full of wonderful caves: Grotta di Terradico, Grotta di Vedusella, Grotta delle Vore and many others. Finally follows the return to Marina di Felloniche.

Salento in canoa: costa adriatica
Adriatic stretch of the coast of S. Maria di Leuca

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 6

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

Let’s carry out this second kayak tour starting from the beach of Marina di Felloniche (the first useful embarkation point in the north) and stopping at the River Cave .

kayak route along the Ionian coast of S. Maria di Leuca

This route is also scenically stunning! It extends along a coastline that is less high than the Adriatic one but perforated by dozens of cavities into which we will enter and exit non-stop with our kayaks.

Salento in canoa: Grotta del Fiume
River Cave

The most beautiful cave of all that we will see will be the Cave of the Three Doors. An authentic marvel, as you can see from the photo below.

Salento in canoa: Grotta delle Tre Porte
Three Doors Cave

Porto Selvaggio

we reach one of the most renowned and unmissable beaches by kayak or canoe during a tour in Salento

Salento in canoa: Baia di Porto Selvaggio
Porto Selvaggio Bay

Porto Selvaggio is in the territory of Nardò and is a natural park of the Puglia region, which includes 1122 hectares of coastline. The pine forest close to the beach is the peculiar characteristic of the Porto Selvaggio reserve . One of the most renowned and unmissable beaches during a trip to Salento is that of the Porto Selvaggio Bay. 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 via a long dirt path immersed in the pine forest which puts a strain on bathers’ feet.
However, their effort will be rewarded by the presence of a cold water spring in which they can immerse themselves to cool off.

Kayak and canoe tour in Salento n° 7

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

To visit this wonderful stretch of coast of the Ionian Salento by kayak, we have developed the PORTO SELVAGGIO kayak tour. It’s our MUST kayak tour. The route starts from the port of Santa Caterina di Nardò and follows the high coast to the north, the highest of the entire Ionian side of Salento.

percorso in kayak a Porto Selvaggio
kayak route to Porto Selvaggio

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

Salento in canoa: la Grotta Verde
Green Cave

This tour is made especially for those who have never gone kayaking and want, through the introductory course, to approach sea kayaking for the first time. 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 you can dive from a rocky ledge, then re-emerging right in front of the entrance to the Gaia Cave. 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 from some openings in the ceiling.
The route is relatively short, just over 5km, considering the outward and return route.
In summary, we can say with absolute certainty that those who want to go kayaking in Salento are spoiled for choice!