Bewitchingly Beautiful Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri [32 PICS]

February 19th, 2015 Permalink

Bewitched by the otherworldly beauty and glowing blue waters in the Blue Grotto sea cave, we scoured the web looking for more. We found out it was a favorite spot for a Roman emperor, has inspired artists for hundreds of years, and has become a huge tourist attraction on the Isle of Capri. [32 Photos]

Grotta Azzurra

Once upon a time, or the 1st century A.D., Roman Emperor Tiberius retired to the Isle of Capri, Italy, and used this beautiful Blue Grotto, a sea cave, as his personal swimming pool. Emperor Tiberius loved the Blue Grotto so much that it was his favorite nymphaeum, a temple dedicated to sea nymphs…also described as a sanctuary for water nymphs. Photo #1 by Luftphilia

Blue waters of Grotta Azzurra

Blue waters of Grotta Azzurra seem to glow, but the illumination was considered eerie for centuries after Tiberius. The Blue Grotto, known as Gradola long ago to locals, was abandoned and “feared by local sailors because of legends of spirits and demons which inhabited the cave.” But in 1826, the cave was “rediscovered” by German poet and painter August Kopisch and his friend, painter Ernst Fries. Kopisch described its extraordinary beauty in a book; that book caught the interest of Romantics and the Blue Grotto became a major tourist attraction and iconic symbol for Capri ever since then. Photo #2 by dr_tr

boating thru Blue Grotto

While the Blue Grotto is clearly famous, we hadn’t seen pictures of it until looking at Capri’s Lovers Arch, aka “tunnel of love.” Lonely Planet wrote, “Measuring 177 ft (54 m) by 98 ft (30 m) and rising to a height of 49 ft (15 m), the grotto is said to have sunk by up to 65 ft (20 m) in prehistoric times, blocking every opening except the 4 ft (1.3 m) high entrance. And this is the key to the magical blue light. Sunlight enters through a small underwater aperture and is refracted through the water; this, combined with the reflection of the light off the white sandy seafloor, produces the vivid blue effect to which the cave owes its name.” Photo #3 by Jun

Rough surf cannot enter Blue Grotto

In rough seas and high tide, the famous sea cave is not accessible; it has also been closed to tourists in the past due to water pollution in the form of raw sewage. It is not the only sea cave in the Island of Capri and it’s not the only blue grotto in the world, but it’s definitely the most famous. Photo #4 by vgm8383

Italy at night from ISS

Let’s zoom way, way out from the prospective of ISS astronauts at night. In the Gulf of Naples, the little Isle of Capri is aglow with lights like the rest of Italy. The Blue Grotto is located on the north-western coast of Capri island. Photo #5 by NASA

Mount Vesuvius, Naples and Isle of Capri

A bit closer and during daytime, here’s Mount Vesuvius, Naples and the Isle of Capri. Photo #6 by NASA


Boats below from Anacapri which has a higher elevation than the rest of Capri. Photo #7 by bcaire

View from Villa San Michele towards Marina Grande

View from Villa San Michele towards Marina Grande, the port from which many visitors depart for the Blue Grotto after renting a boat (gozzo) or via private boat. Photo #8 by Elenagm

Entrance to Blue Grotto

Entrance to Blue Grotto on a day when the water is calm enough that visitors can go inside. Wikitravel states: “The Blue Grotto is one of those ‘love it’ or ‘loathe it’ places. At peaks times the queue of tour boats and those arriving by land can be 1 to 2 hours long and the total time in the cave is only a few minutes. Some will wonder what all the fuss is about (it’s a cave with a small pool of blue water) and will begrudge the cost and time involved in seeing it. Others adore the place. As your trip finishes, your boat rower will likely ask for a tip (as if you haven’t paid enough for the 20 min service).” Photo #9 by Tony Duckles

Watch your head at the Blue Grotto in Capri

Sit in the bottom of the boat and watch your head going through the small opening. Photo #10 by dr_tr

Waiting in line at the Blue Grotto

In 1964, archaeologists recovered three statues that had belonged to Emperor Tiberius from the sea bottom. “One sculpture depicts the sea good Neptune, while the other two statues each represented the Greek god Triton, who was the son of Poseidon (Neptune, for the Romans).” In 2012, Discovery reported that during an underwater investigation “aimed at finding the original bases of the three statues, divers found a total of seven bases at a depth of 150 meters (492 feet). This suggests that at least four other statues lie on the cave’s sandy bottom.” Photo #11 by Ellie

Boats in the Blue Grotto

A story about Emperor Tiberius: “Dividing his time among 12 villas and orgiastic feasts, the emperor used to bath in the almost hallucinogenic blue light of the cave, swimming among naked boys and girls…those who displeased him were thrown into the sea from a rock near his Villa Jovis.” That, as well as the mysterious blue glowing water, helped fuel the fears and legends about monsters and witches dwelling inside the Blue Grotto. Yet on the other hand, it’s said that photos simply cannot capture the beauty of this grotto. Photo #12 by Pier Nirandara

Bend to enter Blue Grotto relatively low sea

The Blue Grotto can also be reached by land via Anacapri after walking downhill for about 40 minutes. Expect a plethora of boats, long lines and pocket gouging, according to Virtual Tourist as the Blue Grotto has about 250,000 tourists every year. Photo #13 by אסף.צ

Island of Capri Entrance to the Blue Grotto in early 20th century

There were even lines to enter the Blue Grotto back in the early 20th century. Photo #14 by Carlo Brogi (1850-1925)

Lined up outside the Blue Grotto

Lined up outside the Blue Grotto. Daniel C. Lavery, a former naval officer turned civil rights attorney, described his visit as: “A boat from Naples drove through splashing waves to the famous Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri a few miles away. Sunlight passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, created a blue reflection that illuminated the cavern. The view of the bright coastline scattered with white homes, dazzled under the bright sky, while sail and motor craft left their white wake behind. The turquoise sea shimmered with the flashes of sunlight on wind driven curls rippling the surface. Myths the tour guide shared with us attached to the Grotto predicted good luck to those who swam here.” Photo #15 by Aprile C

Outside Grotta Azzurra

Ironically however, swimming in the Blue Grotto is a big no-no, according to Capri insider guide. “Can visitors swim in the Blue Grotto? No, visitors can neither enter the cave by swimming nor disembark from their rowboat to swim inside the cave. However, after the cave closes to the public at 5:30 p.m. (when the rowboats and ticket office close), many swimmers enter the cave by sea. This is both illegal and dangerous, as the cave mouth is low and narrow and in case of high waves it is easy to get thrown against the rocks.” Other sites suggest it is not illegal, but it is dangerous. Photo #16 by Aprile C

Small Blue Grotto opening

The photographer noted, “The entrance to the Blue Grotto was a small opening, and it required careful timing with the rising and falling tide for the oarsmen to pull the boats through via the rope.” Photo #17 by Tony Duckles

Grotta Azzurra in Capri

Many people are so enchanted with the Blue Grotto that is it on their bucket list of things to do before they die. Yet other people issue a warning: “The scandalous wallet-gouging admission only gets you a quick three-minute row through, the walls echoing unromantically with a half dozen boatfuls of oohing, ahhing tourists and their oarsmen spewing out facts (occasionally true ones) or, even worse, attempting to sing.” Photo #18 by J Rodes

Toward the light at Grotta Azzurra

Boating through the luminescent blue water has served as inspiration for countless artists. When Augustus John Cuthbert Hare wrote Cities of Southern Italy and Sicily in 1883, he said, “The first point usually visited in Capri is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), which is entered from the sea by an arch under the wall of limestone cliff, only available when the sea is perfectly calm. Visitors have to lie flat down in the boat, which is carried in by the wave and is almost level with the top of the arch. Then they suddenly find themselves in a magical scene. The water is liquid sapphire, and the whole rocky vaulting of the cavern shimmers to its inmost recesses with a pale blue light of marvelous beauty. A man stands ready to plunge into the water when the boats the steamers arrive, and to swim about; his body, in the water, then sparkles like a sea-god with phosphorescent silver; his head, out of the water, is black that that of a Moor. Nothing can exaggerate the beauty of the Blue Grotto, and perhaps the effect is rather enhanced than spoiled by the shouting of the boatmen, the rush of boats to the entrance, the confusion on leaving and reaching the steamers.” Photo #19 by Luftphilia

Getting out of Grotta Azzurra

Getting out of Grotta Azzurra. Photo #20 by Frédéric de Goldschmidt

Isle of Capri blue grotto

Hare quotes Hans Christian Anderson’s The Improvisatore as saying, “Instantly we were in a vast vault, where all gleamed like ether. The water below us was like a blue-burning fire, lighting up the whole. All around was closed in; but, beneath the water, the little opening by which we entered prolonged itself almost to the bottom of the sea, forty fathoms in depth, and expanded itself to about the same width. Thus the powerful sunshine outside threw a reflected light upon the floor of the grotto, and streaming in now like fire through the blue water, seemed to change it into burning spirit. Everything gave back the reflection; the rocky arch — all seemed as if formed of consolidated air, and to dissolve away into it. The drops of spray tossed up by the movement of the oars, fell red, like fresh rose leaves. It was a fairy world.” Photo #21 by Tony Duckles

Famous Blue Grotto in Capri

The photographer said, “The water was even more beautiful than this is person!” Photo #22 by Katie

Blue Grotto, Capri, Italy

When is the best time of day for viewing? Capri Insider Guide says: “The glowing effect of the water inside the Blue Grotto is due to the sunlight which enters through a second, underwater cave mouth beneath that on the surface. For this reason, the most intense color comes with the most intense sunlight during the midday hours of noon to 2:00 p.m. The difference between the first morning light and the late afternoon light is negligible, though there is often a longer line in the afternoon. It is best to avoid visiting the grotto on overcast days, when there internal glow is much less dramatic.” Photo #23 by Pranav Bhatt

Grotta Azzurra at Capri, Italy

All of that wait, the long queued lines, for 5 minutes or less inside. Photo #24 by Ellie

Underwater sea cave Blue Grotto in Capri

Wonder Mondo does an excellent job explaining the eerie blue illumination of the grotto. The “cave has two entrances – a smaller one (1.5 m wide) at the waterline and at least ten times larger one – below the sea. A small 1 – 2 m thick barrier below the sea level divides both entrances. Thus – a little sunlight enters through the upper hole – and this bright spot of light does not allow to see the large hole below it. A lot more light enters through the enormous underwater hole.” Photo #25 by Glen Scarborough

In the Blue Grotto

Alas, “other colors are absorbed in the water and only blue light reaches the interior of the cave. As a result whole 54 m long and up to 15 m deep cave is illuminated with a mysterious, phosphorescent blue light. Visitors to the cave are illuminated from below, and if one puts his hand in the water, the skin is glowing eerily. One more interesting feature is sulphur springs at the bottom of cave – thanks to this the cave is very rich with marine life.” Photo #26 by apeofjungle

Blue water in Blue Grotto

The World Digital Library described this grotto as “a natural wonder known for the brilliant and mystical blue hue of the walls and the water within…The cavernous interior, known as the duomo (cathedral), rises from seven to 14 meters (46 feet); the water below is 13 meters (42.6 feet) deep.” While some descriptions stick to the facts, others are almost poetically inspired, and still others delve into the myths surround the Blue Grotto. Photo #27 by Rich Maloy

otherworldly beauty of Blue Grotto

For example, legends abound about the Blue Grotto according to Savory Adventures: “Was it really the home of the Nereidi–fifty nymphs of the sea in Greek mythology, each of them personified by slow soft waves that brought that brought calm and serenity to those who entered their abodes? You be the judge. According to legend, during moonlit nights, the Nereidi danced and sang in the proximity of the coastline near Positano bay, chosen for its clear waters and excellent acoustics to echo their enchanting songs.” Photo #28 by Tony Duckles

Blue Grotto where ancient Roman have been found

In “The Blue Grotto and the Myth of the Sirens,” Italia Living delightfully related this adventure: “My experience was one of comedy, terror, and awe. It began by the two of us sliding into a small rowboat with a Native Caprese sailor rowing us into the cave. ‘Lay flat and don’t move!’ He ordered. ‘Keep your arms close to your chest!’ I was smushed like a sardine in a little rowboat next to my friend, lying on my back, looking up at the sailor as he tried to navigate this little rowboat over the rolling waves and into the cave’s tiny entrance…The boat smashed into the sides of the rocks and water splashed onto our faces. ‘This is it,’ I thought. ‘I’m going to die on my way into the Blue Grotto.’ The sailor was holding on tight to a thick metal chain that was attached to the inside of the grotto, ready to force the boat through the hole.” Photo #29 by Tony Duckles

Inside Grotta Azzurra

Italia Living’s Valeria Carrano continued: “All of a sudden I heard a bang, felt the boat surge forward, and then we were engulfed in darkness. I opened my eyes and saw the most intense blue light I had ever seen shining up through the water. ‘Hurry, jump! Hurry Hurry!’ The fisherman was saying in a ‘whisper-scream,’ as swimming in the grotto is strictly forbidden. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air and into the water. I popped up and looked around. I was the only one swimming in this dark cave with blue light shining all around me. Another splash and my friend was bobbing next to me. I was terrified of what sea creatures may have been swimming below, but excited about the fact that I was submerged in this electrifying grotto…Looking back, it was two minutes of sheer panic and laughter all rolled into one.” Photo #30 by S J Pinkney

phosphorescent blue glow against pitch black sea cave

Several pictures show the light coming through the sea cave opening, but travelers Chrissy and Lindsay explained their experience as: “Once inside the grotto we saw the luminescent blue water which makes the grotto so famous. It literally looked like it was glowing in the dark, as the rest of the cave was pitch black. There were about 7 rowboats inside of the grotto at once and we spent about 5-6 minutes in there. The men rowing us through began singing and it echoed creating a beautiful song.” Photo #31 by paul.hartrick

Isle of Capri

So if you visit the Isle of Capri, will the Blue Grotto be on your “must-see” list? Photo #32 by Maritè Toledo

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