Haunting remains of the citizens of ancient Herculaneum
Haunting remains of the citizens of ancient Herculaneum

If you're thinking about a holiday to Pompeii in Italy, you might also be wondering if it's worth taking a trip to the neighbouring town of Herculaneum, which was also destroyed and subsequently preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. 

Pompeii is a sprawling site that covers around 170 acres and an entire day isn't enough for many visitors, what with its myriad frescoes, ancient wheel ruts that can be observed in the stony ground and its telling erotic graffiti. Herculaneum, on the other hand, is a location often missed or looked over by archaeology and history enthusiasts that visit this part of the country. There are many reasons why exploring its remains are worthwhile, from its more compact size to its incredibly well-preserved buildings. With this in mind, we've rounded up a selection of FAQs and we hope that by the end of this blog post, you'll have changed your travel plans accordingly!

Can you visit Pompeii & Herculaneum in one day?

Well, in terms of distance the answer would have to be yes. It takes around 30 minutes to drive between the two sites – traffic permitting – although we wouldn't recommend you cram both into the space of just one day because there is simply too much to discover. 

How are Pompeii & Herculaneum different?

Pompeii is the bigger of the two sites, taking significantly more time to explore in full. Herculaneum is smaller, meaning that you can get around and discover its evocative remains in just a half-day if you're pushed for time. The thing we love the most about the latter, though, is that it was buried to a greater depth than Pompeii and it boasts houses that in some cases are completely preserved up to their rooftops. What's more, it's a site that has fewer visitors, making for a more pleasant touring experience – especially under the heat of the southern Italian sun! Interestingly, Pompeii's destruction by Vesuvius's eruption was more direct and this volcano completely incinerated everything in its path here. Herculaneum, on the other hand, was buried under slower-falling ash. This meant that the preservation of buildings was much more complete - with entire houses, as well as the everyday items contained within them, paused in time. 

Which is better, Pompeii or Herculaneum?

This entirely depends on your definition of better. If you're looking for the more iconic sites, which you may have come across in books or on screen, Pompeii is the stronger choice. Here, you can find brothels, an amphitheatre and an array of amazing frescoes that will probably look familiar to you once you stand before them in person. Herculaneum is perhaps more suited to travellers with limited time to explore and who are after glimpses of more complete ruins. The richer of the two cities, the artefacts that remain here - such as lavish mosaics - tell perhaps more vivid stories about the citizens. It should also be noted that if you're up for a full-on day of walking, choose Pompeii. Those of us with less mobility might prefer the more modest yet equally rich site of Herculaneum.

Where are the preserved bodies located?

At the Boat Houses in Herculaneum there are many haunting skeletal remains in situ and you'll also be able to see plaster casts of bodies dotted around the archaeological site in Pompeii. The casts, it's worth noting, were made by excavators who poured plaster into the spaces around the human remains to bring their poses back to life. 

When is the best time to visit?

Due to the hot Italian summer, it's advisable to avoid these peak months as you'll spend a considerable amount of time outside. Our Pompeii tours pause in late May and resume again in mid-September, which ensures your trip will be as pleasant as possible! It's also really great to experience the sites in the winter, so keep an eye out for any very late or very early in the year departures. Travelling off-season also means you'll get to avoid the typical tourist crowds that can make both Pompeii and Herculaneum feel very busy at times. We have a couple of these departures, don't miss them!

Can you visit Vesuvius?

Yes, you can – and it's worth the trip as the view from the top will put the history of Pompeii and Herculaneum into context in a way that books or films simply can not. If you book our Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania tour, a bus will take you most of the way up this mighty volcanic crater, and then a short walk is required to reach its summit. From the top, you'll also be able to observe different coloured lava rock that sits in layers. Our flagship Pompeii tour includes the chance to hike to the great crater of Vesuvius - a truly memorable experience. 


Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania

This is our flagship and best-selling tour – an eight-day, expert-led discovery of Pompeii and its surrounding areas. Why visit this site with Andante? Well, this itinerary offers a selection of money-can't-buy special access experiences, including private access to the Theatre of Herculaneum, private access to the Cave of Sejanus and private access to the store rooms of Paestum Museum, where you can observe Lucanian painted tombs not on public display. Other highlights include a chance to hike the crater of Vesuvius and peer into the crater, visits to 'off the beaten track' villas at Stabiae and a tour of the newly excavated House of Leda in Regio V. All of this is in addition to discovering Pompeii in the company of an expert Guide Lecturer. Click here now to view this tour's full itinerary and departure dates.