The sights that can be seen in Sicily offer you many facets, monumental Greek temples that still bear witness to the ancient colonization of the Hellenes, and impressive natural spectacles that alternate between island idylls and the splendor of plants.
Palermo: the capital of Sicily
Some may get to know the city for the first time through Wim Wenders’ film “Shooting in Palermo” (2008), but Palermo is considered one of the most popular places on the northern coast of Sicily. Especially in the spring and autumn low season, the region surrounding the metropolitan area is a popular place and worth a walk around the city.
However, those who want to explore Sicily with children or are sensitive to heat should keep in mind:
In the middle of summer, the air temperature may exceed 40 °C. Throughout its 200-year history, the city has experienced numerous cultural influences and is still witnessing the influence of the Arabs and Normans with its impressive cathedrals and ornate facades of Baroque houses. Our travel tips to get to know Palermo:
We recommend a walk from the old town of Palermo to the port of the Tyrrhenian Gulf. Start at Parliament Square and take the opportunity to see the Norman Palace.
Via Vittorio Emanuele will take you directly to the marina of La Cala, which invites you to stay, especially at night, thanks to its maritime atmosphere. If you walk fast, it will take about 30 minutes.
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Cefalu: a popular seaside resort with the charm of a small town
We stayed on the northern coast of Sicily. Cefalu, the city with the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, has ceased to be a secret and attracts many tourists. Located about 70 km east of Palermo, a coastal city that can also be easily reached on a day trip, for example, if you make a round trip by car through Sicily.
Nevertheless, this quiet town with a population of just under 14,000 people not only fascinates with its golden sandy beach.
Messina: Gateway to Sicily in the northeast
Only 3 kilometers separate mainland Italy, the tip of Italy, Sicily and the city of Messina, which are connected by regular ferry service. The fact that the city now has such a picturesque view is due to the painstaking work of its inhabitants. The city was destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries and rebuilt again and again, giving rise to the most diverse architectural styles in the urban landscape.
Therefore, the city is a popular holiday destination in Sicily, especially for culture lovers interested in history.
The Regional Museum, for example, intended to present statues and paintings of churches and cathedrals that were saved from destruction. The Cavour Art Gallery exhibits not only paintings, but also modern photographs with free admission. Filigree fountains such as the Fountain of Orion (Fontana di Orione) and house decorations meet with the luxurious Zanca Palace, which is the town hall of Messina.
Taormina: spectacular view of the bay and volcano
This small town in eastern Sicily is not without reason one of the most popular holiday destinations in Sicily. Small cafes with stunning flower arrangements and picturesque alleys are waiting for you. We recommend visiting the ancient theater, built by the Romans in the third century BC on the foundation of the Greek theater, built 100 years ago. It is the second largest in Sicily, and not only allows you to feel the atmosphere of an influential culture, but also offers you a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Naxos and the island of Isola Bella.
The deep blue of the ocean contrasts with Mount Etna, just 40 kilometers away, which can also be seen from the heights of the theater.
Among the most famous sights of Taormina are also found
- Odeon (ruins of a small theater)
- Cathedral of San Nicolo (cathedral of the fifteenth century, located in the center)
- Korvadzha Palace (noble palace of the eleventh century)
- Corso Umberto (lively pedestrian streets with cafes and boutiques)
Etna: the most active volcano in Europe
One of the most exciting events of your trip to Sicily awaits you when you visit the active volcano Etna. This 3,323-meter-high mountain is the largest volcano in Europe and remains active as the continental plates of Africa and Europe continue to collide in the Mediterranean Sea.
The last eruption of Etna occurred in 2017, and the volcano is still active on a small scale. The most explosive attraction in eastern Sicily can be climbed by experienced climbers under the guidance of a professional. The tour of Etna lasts about eight hours and costs from 160 to 190 euros.
Aeolian Islands and Stromboli Volcano
Volcanoes are undoubtedly among the most fascinating places in Sicily. If you are interested in both fire-breathing mountains and wild, romantic islands, it is worth going to the Lipari Islands, also known as the Aeolian Islands. The archipelago consists of seven separate islands, one of which is formed by the Stromboli volcano. Seismological activity is continuously recorded in the eruptive crater and small lava flows from the sea are observed from time to time.
For this reason, Stromboli is also called the lighthouse of the Mediterranean. The best place to start your journey is Skiing. You can reach the Aeolian Islands by ferry, which can be reached by bus from Cantania or by plane with small regional flights.
Catania: UNESCO World Heritage Site on the east coast of Sicily
Don’t miss the second largest city in Sicily, located south of Etna and right on the coast, the city offers you the perfect combination of relaxation and a lively urban lifestyle. But peaceful coexistence contributes to the special charm of the city. If you want it to be a little more sheathed and original, it’s worth visiting the rocky coasts of Santa Tecla or Aci Castello.
By train you can reach these small towns from Catania in about 15 minutes. Unlike white beaches, this is the nickname of Skiing, which is also called the “black city”. Due to the proximity of the volcano, it is not surprising the appearance of volcanic stone, which has been processed in numerous buildings. Unusual building material attracts attention without a doubt.
If you want to see this for yourself, we recommend the following walk: Start at the Botanical Garden on Via Etnea, Catania’s longest shopping street, and stroll among the many shops and the ornate Toscasno Palace.
Finish your walk at the Putia dell’OSTELLO restaurant. The restaurant is not only a popular meeting place for visitors of all ages, a river flows in the basement of the bar, which meanders impressively between lava rocks. An absolute view of Catania that has no analogues in Sicily.
Syracuse: Greek temples and Christian catacombs
One of the most popular destinations in the southeast of Sicily is the city of Syracuse, which exudes its charm thanks to a mixture of Roman and Greek culture. A popular place for excursions is the island of Ortigia (ital. Ortigia), in which the historical center of Syracuse is located.
During the visit, you can discover the almost 2,700-year-old walls and crafts that are still preserved today.
You can also stroll around the Duoma Square, a square characterized by tension between the Christian religion and the Greek temple atmosphere, and relax in many cafes. The Duomo of Syracuse impresses many visitors with its monumental character.
If you want to explore Syracuse a little more thoroughly, visit the catacombs of Chiesa di San Filippo Apostolo.
Under the church, narrow staircases lead to the ancient tombs of poor and wealthy residents and the place of Jewish ritual purification. The influence of the Greeks in ancient times is also noticeable in quarries.
Latomia is a witness to the extraction of limestone, which was used for the construction of Syracuse.
Latomia del Paradiso is a giant gallery with impressive acoustics. Syracuse is also called the Ear of Dionus.
Cavagrande del Cassibile: hiking in the reserve
For millions of years, the Cassibile River has excavated a deep gorge in the limestone of the surrounding mountains, north of the Sicilian city of Avola. The current Riserva Naturale orientata Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve impresses not only with its 10-kilometer gorge, but also with its diverse flora and fauna.
A guided hike will take you 250 meters deep into the gorge in just over an hour, passing waterfalls and giant trees. Parents even report that they can take a tour of the breathtaking view of southeastern Sicily with their children.
Noto: a Baroque city with a sandy beach
If you are looking for excellent water quality and white beaches in Sicily, it is highly recommended to visit the Baroque town of Noto. Not only is it a great place to relax on the shores of the Lido di Noto, but you can also take a short but unforgettable walk around the city to see the impressive Baroque buildings.
The Corso Vittorio Emanuele connects almost all the sights of the city center.
Whether it’s the magnificent Noto Cathedral or any other almost golden building:
After a day on the beach, don’t miss the playful streets decorated with works of art and carpets of flowers at the annual Noto Flower Festival. The festival is always celebrated in May and is a must-see due to the mild climate of Sicily at this time of year (average 18.5 °C).
By the way, Noto belongs to the late Baroque towns of the valley, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 for its special architecture. Ragusa, with its stunning Sicilian views, also belongs to these cities. The Duomo of San Giorgio, Ragusa Cathedral and Donnafugata Castle stand out here. Two Baroque cities are less than an hour’s drive away.
Agrigento: Archaeological sites
Among the most popular archaeological sites in Sicily are undoubtedly the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Akragas, south of the modern city of Agrigento. The density of the surviving remnants of the Greek colonization of Sicily impresses amateur archaeologists. The Agrigento area, colloquially known as the Valley of the Temples, attracts numerous cultural enthusiasts to southwestern Sicily.
For an entrance fee of about 10 euros, you can visit ancient sites and get acquainted, for example, with the impressive Doric Temple of Concord. But Agrigento offers not only historical monuments: The city is located just 4 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea and also offers lovers of swimming and water sports quite a variety of entertainment. A boat trip along the coast offers a completely new experience of the coastal region surrounding Agrigento and lasts from 3 to 6 hours.
By the way: just 40 kilometers from Agrigento, you will find a very special sight in the west of Sicily:
Torre Salsa Nature Reserve. Here you will find a stunning coastal landscape with hills, limestone cliffs, various species of animals and birds. Being a nature reserve, you won’t find a single tourist attraction here.
Therefore, it is advisable that you bring your own food and drinks. However, the most important thing is to pick up the trash at the end.
Trapani: The city of salt on Mount Eris
Trapani, on the west coast of Sicily, became prosperous and famous in the nineteenth century due to the extraction of salt. The large insolation of the coastal city and the shallow sea level along the beach were ideal conditions for the extraction of sea salt by evaporation, which led to the development of large-scale industry in the region. The so-called marshes are a real attraction today, especially for a very strong population of flamingos.
From the hills of Mount Ericke and the municipality located on it, you can especially impressively contemplate the marshes. The small town of Erice is a popular sightseeing destination in the province of Trapani, which can even be reached by cable car. A round trip from Trapani costs 9 euros, and a gondola ride offers stunning panoramic views of the coast and the city of Trapani itself. Contemplative Erice, on the other hand, has a well-preserved old town and attracts many tourists.
If you deviate a little from the province of Trapani, then in a short time you will arrive at many picturesque places, such as Castellamare del Golfo and the popular San Vito Lo Capo, which, with its turquoise blue bays, belongs to the most beautiful seaside resorts in Italy. The Aegean islands surrounding Marettimo, Favignana and Isola di Levanzo are easily accessible by ferry from Marsala and Trapani.
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In the south of Trapani province, in an extremely well-preserved setting, you will find impressive temple buildings, an acropolis that rises powerfully into the sky, and the history of two rival cities. Selinunte and Segesta fought in 409 BC, as Segesta allied with the occupiers of Carthage. The once wealthy city of Selinunte was almost completely destroyed in the attacks.
In the following centuries, the region suffered even more from earthquakes, and the buried remains of the municipality surfaced only as a result of excavations in the nineteenth century. It remains to note:
The archaeological sites of the west coast of Sicily are a real alternative to the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento. The relatively low ticket price, which is currently 6 euros (for adults), is also easy for the travel budget if you want to make a family trip. The highest provincial town in Sicily is Enna. It is often called the navel of Sicily for its location, as it is located almost in the center of the island.
Sicily Tour by car
Many places in Sicily are best reached by car. Either you have already arrived by car, or you can rent it comfortably in your vacation spot. We will give you some basic tips for such a trip:
- Due to the length of the route, which more or less coincides with the distance between Hanover and Venice, you should provide at least seven days to see part of the island, but also have enough free time to relax.
- If you are going to Sicily by your own car, we recommend that you take a ferry from Villa San Giovanni to Messina. The price of a ferry for one car is about 80 euros (round trip). The fee for using Italian motorways on the continent is currently about 120 euros.
- If you are flying directly to Sicily and landing at one of the airports of Palermo, Catania or Trapani, it is worth arranging a car rental right at the airport. This way you can easily return the car when you leave. Car rental costs from 270 euros per week, including insurance. Most highways in Sicily are free.