Visiting Sicily: Top 25 Things to Do
Are you going to visit sicily and the charms of italy? Follow our guide to discover the top 20 things to do in Sicily!
The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea – 25 709 km² – off Calabria and bordered by the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sicily is the largest region in Italy with a population of 5,032,818 inhabitants (2017). It is an autonomous region of Italy and is the only Italian province to have two of the ten most populous cities in the country: Palermo and Catania. A leading tourist destination in Europe just three kilometers from the mainland, Sicily has a colossal historical, cultural and architectural heritage.
Anyone who has the chance to visit Sicily will soon realize it is to discover an extraordinary island full of resources just 2h30 from home. A dream climate, heavenly beaches, succulent traditional cuisine, volcanoes – including Mount Etna – and mountains for hiking, museums, churches and historic buildings, bars and restaurants to party: Sicily offers something for everyone. So exactly, what to do in Sicily?
Our top things to do and see in Sicily start of course with its capital, Palermo.
The capital of the island is an open-air museum and a mosaic of cultures. City founded in the 8th century BC JC by the Phoenicians, Palermo concentrates countless historical buildings with multiple influences: Roman, Byzantine, Muslim, Norman, Germanic, Aragonese, Austrian, Bourbon and Italian. To visit Sicily, do not miss the Palazzo dei Normanni , the Catacombs of the Capuchins, the Palermo Cathedral, the Massimo Theater, the Ballaro Market and the Cathedral of Monreale.
It is a very rich city in terms of buildings and historical monuments and the ideal place to visit if you like churches and palaces .
In Palermo, do not miss it:
- The Palace of the Normans
- Palermo Cathedral
- The Massimo Theater
- The Ballaro market
Not far from Palermo is also one of the most visited places in Sicily: the cathedral of Monreale and its thousands of square meters of gilded mosaics .
For more details, check out our article: What to do in Palermo .
This is the postcard setting par excellence and probably one of the photos of Sicily that you saw first!
Old medieval fishing port, Cefalù offers a Sicilian decoration in the shape of a postcard. Located east of Palermo, this small village perched between an immense rock and the waves testifies to the prosperity enjoyed by Sicily during its feudal era.
Well, we admit the reality is a little different because Cefalù has become especially a seaside resort very popular. With its sandy beach and medieval streets, the place is certainly pretty but downright crowded, especially in high season. We do not recommend going there if you only want to enjoy the beach, you will find much better and quieter elsewhere.
However, Cefalù is well worth a stop to admire the panorama from the old port and the pier, stroll through its narrow streets full of shops and restaurants and of course visit the Norman Cathedral, the most important building of the city.
Finally, for the more athletic, you can climb to the top of the Rocca, the cliff overlooking Cefalù and offers spectacular views.
Located north-east of the Etna range, the city of Taormina is among the unmissable and will be a must visit if you are wondering what to do in Sicily. Nicknamed the Pearl of Sicily, the city of Taormina is world famous for the magnificent view of this small town perched on the plain of Catania, Etna and Isola Bella. It is one of the most touristic cities of Sicily, so it is better to go out of season to enjoy it.
If you have decided to go to the east coast of the island, it’s a must. Do not miss in Taormina :
- Go down to swim in Isola Bella, the small island and its beach that contribute greatly to the fame of the city.
- Visit the Greek Theater of Taormina
- The view of Mount Etna and the sea from Piazza IX Aprile
- Climb the 300 steps that lead to the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the surroundings.
We give you all the tips to visit Taormina during your trip to Sicily in our article: Visit Taormina: top 11 things to do and see absolutely.
Photo credit: Flickr – Andrea Schaffer
You can not miss Etna if you are in Sicily. It is one of the island’s top attractions, to be absolutely included in your trip in Sicily .
Since Taormina and Catania, many points of view allow to admire it from a distance but since it is there, so close to you, so much to climb to see its crater no?
For this, opt for a day trip or a half day. From Catania or Taormina, many tour operators offer complete packages around 55 € with transport, equipment, equipment, guide and climb in 4 * 4 to the crater.
Of course you can also get there yourself by car but you will not be supervised level security so be careful to have shoes and equipment. Also ask before about weather conditions, access is not always allowed. Note that if you are not accompanied by a guide you will have to stop at the first level, that is to say after the gondola ride. To reach the crater, the climb to the second landing is done by minibus with a guide .
Europe’s largest active volcano – culminating at 3,330 meters above sea level – Etna experienced more than 100 eruptions during the 20th century, making it one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It is possible, summer and winter, to climb to the crater during the beautiful days from Catania. Starting from the south or north side – at Piano Provenzano -, walking or taking a bus leading to 2,400 meters above sea level. You will observe the fumaroles that continually escape from the crater in an unusual lunar and arid landscape, a desert of basalt shaped by lava.
Would you like to visit Etna during your trip to Sicily ? In this case, we recommend you to go through Getyourguide. The prices are reasonable. Click the button below for more information:
The city of Catania, 2nd largest in Sicily after Palermo is at the foot of Mount Etna. As I told you right before this is the ideal place to go to the volcano.
Nicknamed the black city because of its many buildings built of lava stone, Catania has plenty to offer.
During your trip to Sicily, I advise you to dedicate between half a day and a whole day to visit the city.
Here are some of the things to do in and around Catania, in addition to the excursion to Mount Etna:
- Take a walk in Piazza del Duomo to see the emblem of Catania: the Fontana dell Elefante
- Visit the Duomo Di Catania, the cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of the city, St. Agatha .
- Visit the “Cyclops Rocks” (Faraglioni in Italian) in the seaside resort of Aci Trezza, just 35 minutes from Catania.
Find all the best activities to do in Catania in our article: What to do in Catania?
6. Syracuse and Ortigia Island
Syracuse is an ancient city founded in the 8th century BC by Greek settlers from Corinth. It was once a powerful Greek city, known to have been the site of Hannibal and Archimedes’ fierce struggle against Roman invasions in 213 BC (during the Second Punic War).
Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2005, Syracuse is a must-see for anyone visiting Sicily. The city opens onto the sea and the island of Ortigia and concentrates ancient remains such as the Greek theater, the temple of Apollo, the temple of Athena, the fountain of Arethusa, or the Roman amphitheater. Also enjoy being in Syracuse to visit the artificial cave called the Ear of Denys. And in addition there is very good ice cream. You’ll understand, at BonAdvisor, we loved our stay on this island!
The essentials of Ortigia :
- The Piazza del Duomo simply grandiose
- The port
- The Castello Maniace
- The Aretusa fountain at sunset
In the modern city of Syracuse, only one thing to visit imperatively: the archaeological park of Neapolis with its Roman amphitheater, its Greek theater and the Ear of Denys.
Find all 15 things to do and see in Syracuse and our good accommodation plans in our article: What to do in Syracuse?
7. Noto, Modica and Ragusa
The Baroque towns of Noto, Modica and Ragusa are all UNESCO World Heritage sites. Here no specific monuments to visit. All you have to do is walk through the historic centers to admire all the beauties. On the program: palaces, churches and baroque cathedrals!
Noto is located about 34 km southwest of Syracuse. Among the best preserved remains you can admire the walls, the necropolises, the ancient amphitheater, a building with a Greek inscription and a gymnasium from the time of Hieron II.
One of the oldest cities of Sicily, baptized with multiple names and resuscitated many times, Agrigento is not to be missed during a trip to Sicily.
First of all, you have to visit the Valley of the Temples and the extraordinary exhibitions presented in its Regional Archaeological Museum to better understand that Agrigento, founded in 581 BC. BC by Greek settlers, Cretan rhodium settlers, to become Akragas in the following century, was one of the most radiating centers of the Mediterranean. That is why, in 1997, UNESCO inscribed it as World Heritage of Humanity.
Eight temples are visible in the valley, but the two best preserved ones are undoubtedly the Temple of Concord and the Temple of Hera. The walk between the temples is very pleasant and easy to do on foot .
Find more information on the valley of the temples in our article: Visit the Archaeological Park of Agrigento.
The best preserved temple in the valley of the temples of Agrigento
9. The Scala dei Turchi
About 20 minutes drive from the valley of the temples of Agrigento is the Scala dei Turchi, another must if your trip to Sicily takes you to the region!
This white limestone cliff is famous for its particular shape: it looks like erosion has carved steps! And if you add the turquoise color of the sea and the sandy beaches that border it, you will understand why the Scala dei Turchi is a place of interest very popular with tourists.
Several tens (probably hundreds in high season) of people gather here at the end of the day to see the sunset. A show not to be missed.
Address of the Scala dei Turchi: Strada Provinciale 68
Detailed information to see this beautiful landscape can be found in our article: Visit the Scala dei Turchi .
10. The temples of Selinunte
With their view of the sea, the temples of Selinunte were the big crush of my trip to Sicily. A must see!
Spread over 2 distinct sites (to go from one to the other we recommend you to take your car), several temples are to discover. Some are very well preserved others in less good condition.
The experts did not know with certainty to which divinity was dedicated the temples, they preferred to name them according to the alphabetical letters. Do not be surprised to visit temples A, B or C.
The site is really beautiful and you will take a good half of the day. If you can, stay there until sunset .
The information for visiting the temples of Selinunte can be found in our detailed article: Discover the archaeological park of Selinunte.
11. The temple of Segesta
Last temple and archaeological site of our top 20 things to do in Sicily, the Temple of Segesta .
Perched among the green hills , the Temple of Segesta dominates the surrounding countryside. Extremely well preserved, his visit is worth the detour. Without a roof, historians believe that it has never been completed.
Another vestige to admire on the site, the theater which is perched at 400 meters above the temple. It is still used in summer to host concerts and theatrical performances.
Find all of our tips on the temple of Segesta in the article: Trapani, Top 10 things to see.
12. The Torre Salsa Nature Reserve
The Torre Salsa Nature Reserve is located between Agrigento and Selinunte, making it a very nice stop on the road.
Another good reason to go there: the sandy beach is huge and there are not many people. A true paradise for swimming where picnic!
To access it, you will have to go down a dirt road for about 20 minutes, then park your car in the car park.
- This is not very well indicated, so it may be that you galley a little to find the right entrance (there are several)
- The path that leads to it is very rocky, so beware of your rental car!
- Avoid leaving your car parked on the parking lot with your belongings in it. Do not leave anything in the car.
13. Marsala salt marshes
Just out of Marsala, take the salt road that will take you to discover the salt marshes. The road then continues to Trapani .
These marshes and their mills are the subject of multiple postcards and we understand why when we see them illuminate with pink reflections at sunset. Without a doubt the best time of the day to admire them.
However if you spend the day the show is still worth a visit, do not worry! You can even stop by the road to buy some of this salt used by the great Sicilian chefs.
14. Trapani and the hilltop village of Erice
The city of Trapani itself is not a hotspot for Sicilian tourism, but it is an ideal base for at least 3 major attractions:
- The temple of Segesta I spoke to you earlier
- The visit of the perched village of Erice
- Take a trip to the Egadi Islands, which I’m talking about right below!
Returning to Erice, this small medieval village was built at an altitude of 750m on a rocky promontory overlooking the city of Trapani .
To access it, you can of course do it by road (and so good luck to find a parking place in summer!) Or then opt for a more original means of transport: the cable car!
From Trapani, a round trip by cable car costs 9 euros, and the view is breathtaking.
Once at the top, here are some of the must- see places:
- Castle Erice, from where you have a beautiful view of Trapani
- The view from the other side, on the reserve of Monte Cofano and San Vito Lo Capo
- The medieval church of the 14th century
- Discover the charm of small medieval streets and small shops (certainly tourist!)
- The pastry of Maria Grammatico, an institution in Erice!
For more info on the Trapani region, I recommend you read our article: Visit Trapani: the ultimate guide.
15. The Aegadian Islands
From Trapani, you can go on a day trip (or several days!) To one of the Aegadian islands.
Boats connect Trapani to the islands several times a day.
The 3 Egadi Islands are Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo. They are all conducive to long hikes and swimming breaks in beautiful coves. And in addition the use of cars is highly regulated, there is almost none.
Nevertheless, if you only have one day to devote to the Egadi Islands, I recommend you choose Favignana. The majority of visitors then choose to cycle as a mode of transportation to see as much as possible in one day. Impossible to get lost, everything is well indicated. The paths do not present any particular difficulty, except for some potholes.
To see in Favignana:
- Cala Rossa
- Cala Azzura
- Cala Rotonda
- Lido Burrone
For more details on each of the Egadi Islands, it’s in our article: What to do in Trapani.
16. Enna, the heart of Sicily
Enna is located in the center of Sicily, which earned it the nickname ” navel of Sicily “.
It is the only region of Sicily that does not have a mouth on the sea but has the most lakes, including Lake Pergusa, the only natural lake on the island.
Perched on a promontory at over 900 meters altitude , Enna has retained a typical charm and offers several points of interest:
- The castle of Lombardy which from the top of its main tower offers a breathtaking view of Mount Etna
- The Duomo of Enna
- Via Roma, the historic center of the city
- The archaeological museum
- Lake Pergusa where, surprisingly, are organized car races
17. The Zingaro Nature Reserve
Without a doubt the most famous natural reserve in Sicily, the Zingaro Nature Reserve is very easy to reach from Scopello or Trapani.
Located on the municipalities of Castellammare del Golfo and San Vito Lo Capo, in the province of Trapani, this beautiful nature reserve stretches over 7km. It is home to some 650 plant species, some endemic as well as many species of birds.
To learn more about the nature reserve, read our article: How to visit the Zingaro reserve?
18. The Monte Cofano Nature Reserve
Just as beautiful as the Zingaro Nature Reserve , the Monte Cofano Nature Reserve is much less well known.
And yet it has nothing to envy to its neighbor, it is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily! A path that runs along the sea and coves to swim, we loved it too!
The advantage of Monte Cofano is that in addition you will meet fewer people and may have the chance to be the only ones in your cove. If you are looking for a place to go to Sicily to be quiet, this is it!
For more seasoned hikers, the reserve also offers another trail that allows you to climb to the summit of Mount Cofano. But beware, with very steep passages where you have to stick to the ropes in the rocks, this trail requires good equipment and good physical condition.
If you want more details on the access and the trails of the reserve, we tell you everything in our article devoted to Trapani: Top 10 things to see.
19. Mysterious rock necropolis of Pantalica
Admire the mysterious rock necropolis of Pantalica in the heart of a nature reserve. Comprising more than 5,000 rock-cut tombs, this necropolis has been on the World Heritage List since 2005.
20. Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands are located in Northern Sicily. This volcanic archipelago has 7 islands plus some islets and rocks. The best known and therefore the most visited are Lipari, Salina and Stromboli.
Each of the islands has a particular charm and atmosphere :
- Lipari is the largest, the best served by the boats and therefore more animated than its sisters. It also has very beautiful beaches.
- Stromboli, the best known thanks to its erupting volcano. A grandiose night show not to miss.
- Salina, which has some beautiful hiking trails and good restaurants to eat after the effort. It is less touristy than the previous 3.
To get to the Aeolian Islands, you will need to take a hydrofoil or boat from Milazzo, Palermo, Messina. For example the boat from Milazzo to Vulcano takes about 1h30. Once on the islands, the car is forbidden and reserved for residents only.
If you only have one day to devote to the Aeolian Islands, I advise you to choose only one but if you want to see them all, you can opt for a cruise of several days.
21. Mud bath on the island of Vulcano
Discover the sulphurous atmosphere of Vulcano and treat yourself to a mud bath on the Levant side, near the harbor. Be careful, however, if the therapeutic qualities of these baths are undisputed, you will leave probably impregnated with a characteristic odor of sulfur.
22. Eat fresh fish in Mazara del Vallo
Mazara del Vallo is located along the Mediterranean Sea, less than 200km from the Tunisian coast. Possessing a beautiful historic center and an important architectural heritage, it is also the most important fishing port of all Italy.
23. Sunbath on Scala dei Turchi beach
The beach of the “Turkish stairs” has a very atypical relief composed of limestone cliffs and clay. Very photogenic, this place is ideal for sunbathing and enjoying the pleasures of the sea!
24. Cannoli, cassate, krapfen …
Enter a pastry shop and taste everything: cannoli, cassate, krapfen … Sicilian cuisine is known around the world for its flavors and variety, including desserts and other sweet treats. Enjoy your trip to discover them!
25. Other beautiful beaches of Sicily
Make a trip to Sicily, it is of course also enjoy the beach and crystal clear waters ! Here are some of the beaches and coves that we preferred during our stays on the island. This may give you some ideas to decide where to go:
- San Vito Lo Capo Beach: Ideal for families with children, this large sandy beach is perfect for swimming or sunbathing! Public beach + private beach.
- Isola Bella: Small pebble beach with crystal clear waters at the foot of Taormina. Ideal for snorkelling with lots of small fish to watch. Public beach + private beach.
- Cala Rossa in Favignana : Surrounded by huge rocks, this cove offers clear water to the turquoise color. The view from above is breathtaking.
- Beach of the Torre Salsa Nature Reserve : Huge sandy beach, very shallow water, this is the ideal place to spend a family day away from everything. Be careful however access is not easy and it is imperative to leave nothing in your car.
- Beach of Plemmirio Natural Park: Near Syracuse, the park allows swimming in several small coves all more beautiful than the others.
- Calamosche Beach: One of the busiest beaches around Syracuse for its beauty with translucent and shallow water.
And you, after reading this top, what did you plan to do in Sicily? What are your favorite places of interest?