Situated adjacent to Italy’s “boot,” Sicily, the expansive island in the Mediterranean proudly boasts a captivating allure that draws in visitors worldwide. Beyond the Dolomites, Trevi Fountain, and Amalfi Coast, and steeped in a vibrant tapestry of heritage, its remarkable past finds expression in various landmarks, and there are plenty of things to do in Sicily for any traveler.
Ancient temples, delicious cuisines, erupting volcanoes, stunning beaches, and a rich culture remind even the most hardcore traveler that there is much more to Italy than meets the eye. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, we’re breaking down the best things to do in Sicily.
How to Get to Sicily
Before we dig into the best things to do in Sicily, let’s chat about getting there. There are several ways to get to Sicily, depending on your starting point and travel preferences. The most common is to fly, especially if you plan to spend your entire Italian vacation on the island, though other ways may work for you.
By Air: The most convenient way to reach Sicily is by flying into one of the major airports on the island. Sicily has several airports, including Palermo Airport (Falcone-Borsellino Airport) and Catania Airport (Fontanarossa Airport), which offer domestic and international flights. We flew to Sicily with Ryan Air from London and flew out of Sicily with a low cost carrier called Volotea (we do not recommend them). There are plenty of low cost carriers connecting Sicily with the rest of mainland Europe.
By Ferry: If you prefer traveling by sea, you can take a ferry to Sicily. There are numerous ferry services that connect Sicily with mainland Italy, including ports such as Naples, Genoa, Livorno, and Reggio Calabria. It’s also possible to connect a ferry to Tunisia. We always check Ferry Hopper for the most up to date ferry routes and schedules.
By Train: Sicily can also be accessed by train from mainland Italy. You can take a train to cities such as Naples, Villa San Giovanni, or Reggio Calabria and then transfer to a ferry or train that will transport you across the Strait of Messina to Sicily.
By Car: If you prefer a road trip, you can reach Sicily by driving through Italy and taking a ferry from the mainland. You can access Sicily by car through the ferry ports mentioned earlier, such as Villa San Giovanni or Reggio Calabria. It’s important to check ferry schedules and book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Read more about all you need to know about renting a car in Italy.
The Best Things to Do in Sicily
Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro
One of the best things to do in Sicily is head to the beautiful Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro near San Vito Lo Capo. There are more than 40 species of birds that can be observed in Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro year-round and as you watch the skies, you have a good chance of spotting eagles, peregrines, partridges, owls, wrens and nightingales.
Even if birdwatching isn’t your thing, this is a great place to spend a day outdoors surrounded by nature and beautiful scenery consisting of mountains, coastline and sandy beaches.
The reserve spans approximately 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) along the coastline and is home to several well-marked hiking trails. The main trail, known as the Sentiero del Costone, runs the entire length of the reserve and offers breathtaking views of the crystal-clear turquoise waters and rugged cliffs. In addition to the main trail, there are several secondary trails that branch off, allowing hikers to delve deeper into the reserve and discover hidden coves, scenic viewpoints, and diverse flora and fauna.
If you only have time to visit one beach in the reserve, make sure it’s Cala dell’Uzzo. This was easily the most beautiful and serene, and on a calm sunny day there’s nowhere else I’d rather spend a few hours!
Eat Your Way Around Palermo
Italy is known for its cuisine, and Sicily is known as a foodie destination in Italy, and Palermo is known as the best foodie destination in Sicily – catching my drift? For absolutely amazing food, you’ll have to make your way to Palermo.
One of the best things to do in Sicily is book a food tour in Palermo. Local guides will be able to take you to all the best spots to get the tastiest street eats. Arancine is one of the country’s most easily recognized street eats, and is a must try in Palermo. It’s essentially a savory fried rice ball, and you can choose different fillings. Don’t worry you’ll find them around Palermo, but the best place we had them was Sfrigola Palermo.
Other street eats include granita, Pani Ca Meusa, Sarde a Beccafico, and Sfincione. For dinner make sure to try Caponata and Pasta alla Norma!
Visit Mount Etna
That imposing peak you see from far and wide while exploring Sicily is an active volcano and yes, you can get up close to this natural wonder known as Mount Etna.
Whether you drive there, embark on a guided ATV tour, or hike to the crater, you’ll be in awe of both the beauty and geological features of Europe’s biggest active volcano. For many, visiting Mount Etna is one of the best things to do in Sicily!
Go Snorkelling in Isola Bella Marine Park
It’s scenic, it’s colorful and it’s full of incredible beaches lined by the sparkling, clear waters of the Mediterranean. But Taormina, which is on the east coast of Sicily, is mostly known for being the launching spot for incredible snorkeling excursions to the Isola Bella Marine Park and Grotta Azzura Sea Cave.
Beneath the waves, you’ll see beautiful sea vegetation, and you’ll have a good chance of spotting marine creatures including octopus, stingrays and barracuda.
If you don’t feel like getting in the water, don’t worry. There’s a stunning stretch of beach for those that just want to lounge in the sun.
Admire the Beauty of Scala dei Turchi
Scala dei Turchi isn’t an ordinary limestone cliff; when you see it, you’ll instantly notice that it looks like white steps have been carved into the side of it. The contrasting colors of this cliff and the bright turquoise water makes for a beautiful sight!
Walk along the sandy beach and admire the natural beauty and later in the day, find a spot to sit and enjoy a spectacular sunset.
While you used to be able to walk onto the actual limestone, access is now restricted as the popular site was being loved a little too much. Now there are multiple places to admire it from a distance, including along the road from above as well as walking down to the beach below and swimming near Scala dei Turchi.
Immerse in Ancient Art at Villa Romana Del Casale
Constructed in the 4th century, Villa Romano Del Casale is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s features some of the most notable and most beautiful mosaics from the Roman Empire on the entire European continent.
Although it was abandoned in the 12th century, the site is well-preserved, including the floor-to-ceiling artwork inside.
One of our top Italy travel tips is to learn about the art of aperitivo. What is aperitivo? An aperitivo embodies a beverage enjoyed before a meal, which is like a cultural ceremony in Italy, and Sicily is no different! With roots in the Latin term “aperire,” this tradition aims to “open” the appetite before indulging in a feast.
Throughout the ages, Italians have upheld the practice of toasting – “cin cin” – while savoring drinks and appetizers during the early evening interlude between work and dinner. Many Italians drink Aperol Spritz as an aperitivo. We love those or a Negroni – depending on our moods, but you can also order a beer or anything else you fancy. Oh, and the accompanied small plate of food is typically complimentary!
You can find a place to have an aperitivo in any of the Sicilian towns or cities!
Spend a Morning in Sciacca
Trying to get off the beaten path a bit we aimed for the southern city of Sciacca. It is situated in the province of Agrigento and has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. Arriving to this lively town and you’ll instantly feel the local vibes. This is not a tourist city, but one where you can see real Sicilian culture at its finest. It’s one of the main fishing communities in Sicily, which is evident as you walk around the old harbor.
The town has a charming historical center with narrow winding streets, picturesque squares, and several churches and palaces. Notable landmarks include the 13th-century Church of San Nicolò Inferiore, the Church of Santa Margherita, and the Norman-style Church of San Michele. The Enchanted Castle, perched on top of a hill, offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding coastline.
If you venture there, make sure to grab at Bar Roma – Zio Aurelio near the harbour. For Є2 you can indulge in the best granita of your life. The owner has been there for years and doesn’t speak a lick of English, so you know it’s going to be am
Have a Cannoli
The cannoli is a traditional Italian pastry that originates from Sicily, believed to have been created in Palermo, during the Arab rule of the island in the 9th century.
The word “cannolo” means “little tube” in Italian, which refers to the tube-shaped shell of the pastry. This traditional Italian pastry consists of a tube-shaped shell made of fried pastry dough. The dough is typically crispy and flaky, and the shell is usually filled with a sweet and creamy filling. The filling often includes a mixture of ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and sometimes flavored with ingredients like vanilla, chocolate, or citrus zest. The ends of the cannoli are often adorned with chopped pistachios, candied fruit, or chocolate chips. My personal favorite is small chocolate chips!
Over time, cannoli gained popularity throughout Italy and eventually became known and loved worldwide as a delightful Italian dessert. We are sure you have heard of one, but if you haven’t, trying one while in Sicily is a must. Don’t worry, you can find gelato shops selling them in every city and town, though we recommend you do your research on Google Reviews to see who has the best in whatever town you are in. There are good cannolis and crap cannolis even in Sicily.
Venture Around Trapani
Trapani is one of the most beautiful cities in Sicily. Located on the west coast, it’s a popular spot for those after a more laid back Sicilian cultural experience. Here you can walk around the old town, or visit Lido San Giuliano, about twenty minutes’ walk from the city center.
Trapani is also popular as it’s a jumping off point for those looking to take the ferry to the Aegadian Islands, less than an hour away by boat. You can also easily reach the Marsala Salt Pans from Trapani as well as the hillside town of Erice.
See the Hillside Town of Erice
Perched atop a rocky cliff over 750 meters above sea level, this medieval village presents a captivating spectacle, offering breathtaking views of Trapani, the Aegadian Islands, and San Vito Lo Capo. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in Sicily and is renowned as one of Sicily’s most stunning vantage points.
To reach this enchanting village, you have two options. The first is to embark on a scenic 30-minute car very windy car journey from Trapani. It’s not the best place to learn how to drive a manual car if you know what I mean. Upon arrival, you can park your vehicle at a paid parking lot near the village entrance. There is a small parking fee to park, however parking is limited up here so if you come on a beautiful summer day it’s best to arrive early in the morning to secure a spot.
Alternatively, you can opt for the second choice, which entails taking a cable car from Trapani to Erice. This convenient mode of transport offers a round trip at a cost of 9€, whisking you to the village within approximately 10 minutes. Certainly the more scenic option!
One in Erice take time to stroll the streets and venture into the small shops. We also had one of the best meals of our Sicilian trip at Gli Archi di San Carlo, in Erice, and highly recommend making a reservation there for lunch or dinner!
Tonnara di Scopello
Tonnara di Scopello is a popular swimming area outside Castellammare del Golfo. It’s known for being an Instragram perfect destination in Sicily and as you can see from the photo above, it certainly is beautiful.
The land is now privately owned and there is a fee to access this location now. Expect to pay €10 for access to this crystal clear water. Despite the fee, it still gets insanely busy in the summer, so best to arrive early and secure a chair!
Try Brioche con Gelato
Brioche con gelato is an Italian dessert that consists of a sweet brioche bun or bread roll filled with gelato, which is Italian ice cream, and on of the best things to do in Sicily is try it! The brioche used in this dessert is typically light, fluffy, and slightly sweet, making it an ideal vessel for holding the creamy gelato.
It may sound strange to mix bread and gelato, but trust me when I say it’s a delicious combination that must be had at least once on your Sicilian trip.
Brioche con gelato is a popular dessert, particularly in Sicily. where it is often enjoyed during the warm summer months as a refreshing and indulgent treat. Many locals even have it for breakfast or an early lunch!
Check out the Selinunte Temples
Not only are the Selinunte Temples a stunning example of well-preserved, ancient Greek architecture, but they’re also beautiful! And that beauty is multiplied by the fact that these seven temples are set to stunning sea views.
Take The Ferry to the Aegadian Islands
The Aegadian Islands are a group of three main islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily, near the cities of Trapani and Marsala. Favignana (the largest), Levanzo, and Marettimo make up the islands and are the perfect place to spend a few days.
You can easily get to the islands by taking a ferry from Trapani. In under an hour you can feel as though you are away from it all on Favignana. Ferrys depart Trapani regularly, but it’s still best to book ahead on Ferry Hopper!
Once on the islands we highly recommend renting a bike to get around. We rented cruisers for €5 for the day and it was the best investment ever (here is where we rented them). With a whole day we were able to explore most of the island, including Cala Azzura, Cala Rotonda, and Bue Marino!
Spend a Day by the Sea at Torre Salsa Nature Reserve
The weather is nice enough in Sicily year-round to enjoy spending time outdoors in nature and fortunately, there are many nature areas to enjoy! In Torre Salsa Nature Reserve, you’ll find a beautiful, remote sandy beach to explore.
Whether you like to just walk barefoot in the sand and enjoy the views or you prefer to get in the water and enjoy swimming and snorkelling, a day spent in this uncrowded paradise is sure to be one you’ll remember! Take a picnic and spend the whole day there!
Head to the Opera
Get glamoured up and head out for a lavish night out at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. You may not have heard of it, but this extravagant venue is the third biggest opera house in Italy, and it showcases the best of the arts in the region.
The building itself is a symbol of opulence during the period when it was built in the 1800s. Ballet and opera are the main events, but you can opt for a daytime, backstage tour if you’re not up for a live event.
Go See the Marsala Salt Pans
Just outside of the town of Marsala is a fascinating and unexpected place that draws visitors from all over who come for the unique photo ops. You know you’re close to the Marsala Salt Pans when you make the turn onto the salt road that leads directly to them.
The salt pans with the mills in the background create a beautiful image but it’s most beautiful at sunset when the landscape takes on that golden glow.
Anyone can visit the salt pans and walk around, entrance is cheap at under €2 a person and the site takes around 30 minutes to walk around. Guided tours are available upon request!
Escape the Crowds at Monte Cofano Nature Reserve
If you’re seeking somewhere remote and with fewer people around, Monte Cofano Nature Reserve is a great choice. This is where you can escape into a pristine wilderness area and enjoy spectacular vistas of the coast and hike on a beautiful path that runs alongside the sea.
A great way to spend a day by the sea, get some fresh air and catch some thrills all at the same time is to go Paragliding! This exhilarating activity is a great way to enjoy the scenery. Paragliding is popular in many areas around Sicily including Palermo, Agrigento, Taormina, Cefalu and Trapani.
Get a History Lesson at Syracuse
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can bet that you’ll see incredible ancient wonders in Syracuse. This living museum showcases a history that spans 3,000 years through its well-preserved ruins that include catacombs, theatres, temples and a fort.
On-site, you’ll also find a limestone cave and the Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum.
Sail to the Aeolian Islands
Seven volcanic islands make up the Aeolian archipelago and each one is unique from the others. The islands are a UNESCO site which means they are protected but visitors can sail there via boat from Milazzo, Palermo or Messina. Lipari is the biggest island and is home to stunning beaches.
Vulcano features volcanic terrain and relaxing mud bath hot springs while Stromboli is home to an active volcano that puts off quite the show after the sun goes down! On Salina, you’ll enjoy nice restaurants, hiking trails and fewer crowds.
Get the Inside Mafia Story
While most tours maintain a neutral stance towards questionable activities in their city, the tour you can do through Addiopizzo in Palermo is undoubtedly anti-Mafia.
As you make your way around the inner-city streets where the Mafia was once a strong force, you’ll hear stories and learn about how the Mafia’s dealings affected the city and local business owners. You’ll also get to see some of Palermo’s most iconic landmarks.
Go Hiking in Madonie Regional Natural Park
Situated on the north coast, Madonie Nature Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in Sicily.
This fairly remote and rarely crowded nature area features beautiful trails that pass through holly tree groves and as you explore the area, you’ll see over 1,000 different types of plants and perhaps even spot some wildlife! Make your way to the scenic look-off on the plateau and enjoy incredible views of the distant Mount Etna.
Visit the Temple of Segesta
It’s hard to miss The Temple of Segesta. This large, incredibly preserved temple is situated in the middle of the sprawling countryside. Looking at it, you wouldn’t think it was so old, but it’s thought to have been built around 420 BC.
It’s also thought to have been deserted before it was completed as it has no roof! Several hundred meters away from the main temple is the ancient theatre which is still used for concerts and other events during the warmer months.
Wine and Dine at Principe Cerami
Are you a fan of White Lotus? Then make a reservation at Principe Cerami, the restaurant where many scenes were filmed in Season 2! You only live once, right? So why not treat yourself to an exquisite multi-course meal featuring Sicilian cuisine in a Michelin Star restaurant? The Principe Cerami isn’t just any old downtown diner; it’s Sicilian dining at its best and it’s situated in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel.
Enjoy beautifully presented dishes made with fresh, local ingredients such as seabass, lamb and red tuna. Take a seat in the elegant dining room or outdoors on the terrace that looks out over the spectacular scenery of Taormina Bay.
Enjoy a Day at the Beach
Sicily is known for its long, sandy beaches and crystal-clear water with warm temperatures perfect for swimming. There are many beaches around the island and each one is unique.
If you’re traveling with children, San Vito Lo Capo Beach is a popular choice, but if you’re traveling as a couple, perhaps a romantic sunset at Scala dei Turchi is a better choice!
Cala Rossa has stunning scenery you can admire while floating in the clear waters and Calamosche Beach is where you go for a more festive atmosphere with larger crowds.
Some of the best beaches in Sicily include:
- San Vito lo Capo
- Isola Bella
- Cala Rossa
- Calamosche Beach
Hang out At Gole Dell’Alcantara
Many years ago, lava waves from a volcanic eruption hardened to create huge 50-meter-high canyons vastly different from any other in Europe. Today, the canyons are home to many species of plants and animals. Take a hike to the top before climbing back down to enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool waters of the gorge.
Step Back in Time in the Valley of the Temples
Ancient archeological sites are in no short supply in Sicily, but if you only have time to visit one, make it The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. At this site, you’ll see eight ancient temples that date as far back as 2,500 years.
As you walk around the area, you’ll notice that two of these temples are very well-preserved so you can really see the detail in the Greek architecture and artwork that adorn them.
Visit the Antonio Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum
Antonio Salinas Regional Archeological Museum is the oldest museum in Sicily, and it also houses some of the oldest ancient relics found in the region including the Palermo Stone. Notable exhibits in this museum include Greek artworks, Roman artifacts and artifacts that were discovered underwater.
Sample the Local Wine
Some of the best wines on earth come from Sicily and with so many wineries and vineyards in the region, it’s easy to sample a wide variety of them during your visit. A visit to a winery usually includes a tour of the property and a tasting.
Sicily has some delicious red wine, and there are three main indigenous varieties which helped bring the island to wine fame: Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, and Frappato. So if keep those in mind when looking a wine list.
Most wineries also have a gathering room where you can sit and enjoy live music or the company of other wine lovers. Some of the top wineries in Sicily include Azienda Fuasta Mansio, Tenuta la Favola and Caruso & Minini.
As the capital of Sicily, Palermo serves as a main commercial hub in Sicily, but it’s also rich in culture and history which makes it a must-visit on any trip to the island. The architecture is stunning to say the least and as you walk the city’s streets, you’ll see many notable structures such as the 12th-century Palermo Cathedral and Norman Palace.
Browse Ballaro Market, head to the top of the Monreale Cathedral to get a bird’s eye view of the city and its surroundings and feast on the renowned local cuisine that’s served in the amazing eateries around town.
Get Outdoors at Zingaro Nature Reserve
Zingaro Nature Reserve is the most popular nature area in Sicily and that’s probably because of the variety of outdoor activities you can participate in!
Start your day by admiring the incredible scenery that’s all around before embarking on a hike along the beautiful trail looking out over the sparkling sea. After your hike, cool off with a refreshing dip in one of the scenic coves.
Godfather and Mafia Tour with Sicilian Lunch
If you’re a Godfather fan one of the best things to do in Sicily is learn more about its origins. Embark on a captivating day trip from Taormina to the enchanting villages of Savoca and Forza D’Agro, where you can delve into the enthralling plot of The Godfather saga while exploring the real-life history of the Sicilian Mafia. Relax in a comfortable minivan as you are picked up from your hotel and dropped off after the tour. Treat your taste buds to an authentic Sicilian lunch accompanied by a glass of exquisite wine.
Commence your journey with a scenic drive to Savoca, where a guided walk through the old town awaits you. Immerse yourself in the world of The Godfather as you visit filming locations, including the renowned Bar Vitelli, where Michael Corleone encountered the father of his future wife, Apollonia. Marvel at St. Lucy’s Church, the sacred place where their matrimonial vows were exchanged.
Expand your knowledge of the Sicilian Mafia’s gripping history and its pervasive influence across Italy. Gain insights into the fierce battles between Mafia clans vying for territorial control.
How to Get Around Sicily
The best way to get around Sicily is with a rental car. Rental cars can be rented in Palermo Catania, or Trapani when you land at the airport. Having a rental car allows you the freedom to get where you want to get on your own time. If you are traveling in a group, they are often more cost efficient too.
Though a fair word of warning, driving in some of the Sicilian towns is not for the faint of heart. Roads are narrow, extremely narrow, and hilly. VERY HILLY. Also the Sicilians are among some of the worst drivers we have found in Europe, and we found many drove quite recklessly.
If you cannot drive a manual car, Sicily is not the place to learn and it’s best to get an automatic car for your trip. The main highways in Sicily, are comparable to the rest of Italy and in general in good shape. Check rental car prices here.
The railway system in Sicily is known for its efficiency and affordability and offers a well-developed network with regular and relatively fast train services primarily connecting Messina and Palermo, as well as Catania.
Sicily boasts an extensive and affordable bus network that covers a wide range of destinations. While Palermo and Catania serve as the primary transportation hubs, the bus routes effectively connect most major towns, often with frequent services, and even offer at least one daily connection to most small towns. No matter which town you find yourself in, you can typically find a direct bus route to Palermo.
When is the Best Time to Visit Sicily?
The best time to visit Sicily depends on your preferences and what you want to experience during your trip. Sicily generally enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. It’s often thought of as the hottest place in Europe, so when it’s cold and dreary in Central Europe in January, consider heading to Sicily for the best warmth you can get on the continent.
That being said, it’s location means it’s also one of the hottest places in Europe come summertime. In July and August temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F) and this is when you’ll find everyone at the beach, or locals hiding away between 12-6.
If I were to pick the ideal time for visiting Sicily it would be late May, June, September, and October.
How Long Should You Spend in Sicily?
We personally spent 10 days in Sicily and barely scratched the surface of what was on offer. During our 10 days we stuck mainly to the west side of the island, and in an ideal world, we would have had a full two weeks to travel around the entire island, though we would have by no means seen all that we wanted to in even that amount of time.
If you can swing the time I would recommend at least 7 days to Sicily, though you won’t be disappointed with longer. Anything less than 5 days on the island and it’s best to just save it for another time when you can give Sicily a bit longer.
Is Sicily Expensive?
In general Southern Italy is much more affordable than Northern Italy, and this is no different in Sicily. One can easily get by for under $100 a day in Sicily, even during the summer season.
The more you get away from the hot spots of Taormina and Cefalu the better deals you’ll find! To save some money in Sicily, travel outside of the summer season, cook for yourself or eat street eats, and try to travel as a group so you can split expenses.
- Wondering what to wear in Italy? Read our full Italy packing list!
- Wondering what travel in Italy is like? Check out our Italy travel tips!
- How much does a trip to Italy cost? We break it down!
- Renting a car? Here are 18 Helpful Tips for Renting a Car in Italy
- And to top it off here are 32 Fun Facts About Italy You Should Know!
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
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- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
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