Sicily’s turquoise waters, looming mountains and dramatic coastline come together to create the ultimate holiday for travellers seeking inspiring views and long hikes.
From volcanoes to vast beaches, hikers of all experience levels have the opportunity to traverse some of the world’s most beautiful terrain on this island in the middle of the Mediterranean. The landscape welcomes all-day adventurers, and those just looking for a morning walk to gear up for a day full of eating Cannoli and Caponata.
And for the curious explorer, history buffs or archaeologists, exploring Sicily by foot is the best way to take advantage of its ancient roots, temples and cathedrals, while avoiding a day spent inside of a museum.
All you have to do is lace up your hiking boots and prepare for experiences well worth the trek.
Anapo River Valley
A staple near the city of Syracuse, the Anapo River Valley offers an enchanting experience as the natural world forges with the history of the ancient world to give you this UNESCO site and the depths of the Pantalica Canyon.
While the river snaking through the valley glints and gleams with refreshing magic, the pull of Anapo River Valley is the steep cliffs shading the trail and the thousands of rock-infused tombs that evolved around the 13th century BC. When you visit Anapo River Valley you’re hiking through a beehive of tombs, and a rocky cemetery forever forged in the past.
This is one of the best off-the-beaten path destinations to walk through time and walk off yesterday’s helping of pasta.
Anapo River Valley’s history lesson with one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops will keep children and parents enthralled as they trek along this four-mile expanse for half the day.
Head north of Milazzo and enjoy the leisurely loop that winds around Capo Milazzo. As one of the most scenic walks in all of Sicily, explorers should expect views at every corner and switch-back.
As you follow the water’s glint underneath the Sicilian sun, you will walk next to olive groves and ancient cacti. Before long, your descent to the sea will give way to the idyllic landscape at the peninsula’s northern point and the Piscina di Venere.
The Piscina di Venere is a welcomed stop for hikers as they submerge themselves in the natural pool, washing away the sweat and blisters from a hard-earned afternoon galivant. The rocky pool offers the best lunch views, as you picnic to the sound of the sea filling its very depths in front of you.
And just after lunch and before the trail loops back around, hikers and tourists alike have the opportunity to glimpse the sun-kissed ruins of the 13th century Santuario Rupestre di San Antonio, the famous church where San Antonio da Padova sought refuge from a shipwreck.
Capo Milazzo is an easy walk through one of Sicily’s best open-air museums as history and nature intertwine to create quite the experience for all who wander.
Without stops, this trek takes about an hour through a 2-mile coastal landscape.
Not ready for the volcanic activity on Mount Etna? Swap that hike for a relaxing walk from Taormina up to Castelmola – a charming village peering down from its rocky perch on the east coast of Sicily.
If you’re a diver or a curious tourist you’ll likely be in Taormina anyways and the Castelmola hike is a can’t miss experience, especially during the springtime when the almond trees wake up from their wintery slumber.
These trees will guide your hike as its blooming branches extend to meet the rays of the Sicilian sun. The two natural forces combine for one of the most incredible pinkish hues to guide the trail.
While this effect will motivate your hike, the sunset waiting for you at the top of the hill will be your reward. There’s nothing more magical than watching the sun fall behind the waves and orange rooftops for the most idyllic Sicilian experience that not even a postcard can capture.
Spend an hour hiking this moderate path and capture a lifetime of Sicily from the top.
In the province of Syracuse, Cavagrande is hidden just outside of Avola. It’s a nature reserve known for being one of Europe’s largest canyons at six miles long, and nearly 1000 feet deep.
Instead of starting your hiking ascending to beauty, you descend into the depths of the canyon along an overgrown footpath to the greenish-blue hues rolling along in a swift current.
To reach this seemingly secret beauty in the heart of Sicily, it will take you an hour or so to descend, and two hours to ascend. The path is treacherous at parts, so kids and novice hikers should stay home for this one – although Gole di Alcantara is a similar excursion that was formed from the lava spewing from Mount Etna, and its family friendly.
A trek within the canyon of Cavagrande is a hidden gem on an island already full of golden experiences.
La Rocca towers over the town of Cefalù with a watchful eye similar to the warrior goddess Athena as she helped Odysseus find his way home.
Once a cathedral steeped in Norman and Arab history, La Rocca now offers a rocky vantage point of the sandy beaches, winding streets crisscrossing through alleys and the sleepy town of Cefalù below.
Follow the stone staircase, known as the Salita dei Saraceni, etched into the terrain’s exterior and wind through pine trees and remnants from a 12th-century Norman castle and a 9th-century Arab citadel. The remaining walls of these structures will greet you as you reach the highest peak.
To find the summit, follow the signs for Tempio di Diana and then Vicolo Saraceni off of Corso Ruggero.
As you ascend for 45 minutes straight, you’ll find solace in the surrounding Madonie Mountains and the Tyrrhenian.
Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano that looms over the east coast of Sicily – it’s hard to miss piercing the sky at almost 11,000 feet. It sits between the cities of Messina and Catania just waiting for the experienced hiker to walk amongst its diverse landscape, climates and vegetation.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, this hike is a can’t-miss for the avid trekking traveller. Expect to be transported to the icy surface of the moon as you summit this natural beast and breathe in the overwhelming cloud of sulphur just waiting to greet you with worthwhile views.
Although only just over a 2-mile and 4-hour jaunt alongside a lava breathing volcano, this hike is hard, and only recommended for the experienced trail warrior. And while you can take on the summit yourself, it is recommended that you hire the services of a guide to give you the full experience. Not as experienced and worried about the rocky surfaces ahead? Take a cable car to the top so you don’t miss out on experiencing a living, breathing volcano under your feet.
And for those looking for an easier hike, there are out of this world craters to explore well before the summit – Mount Etna has it all for the adventure-seeker.
While Piano Battaglia is only an hour drive from Palermo’s typical Sicilian holiday, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the Swiss or French alps as you traverse the beautiful landscapes of green swatches and refreshing shade far from the rays of that hot Italian sun.
Piano Battaglia has the best of both worlds as it doubles as the ultimate holiday escape for skiers and snowboarders in the winter and for hikers and walkers in the summer. Or you can just stay here all year long and get the best of both Sicilian worlds deep in the mountains.
In the summer, hikers start at Castelbuono, a little picturesque town worth the visit, then trek 5,000 feet to Piano Battaglia for charming views of the rolling countryside. And if you can’t get enough of the postcard views, then continue on to Pizzo Carbonara. The additional 1,000-foot ascent is Madonie Mountains highest peak, and an even cooler escape from the summer’s heat wave. Remember: the higher the peak, the better the view.
If you’re only hiking to Piano Battaglia expect about a 5-hour day amongst the refreshing shade of the looming mountains.
Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro
Are you vacationing in the dreamy Palermo? Then spend a day hiking in Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro, Sicily’s first ever nature reserve.
Since 1986, this has been a popular one-hour trip west of Palermo for both tourists, and locals. And if you meet a local thank them for your Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro experience because without their protest the seamlessly endless shoreline of beauty would have been disrupted by a highway system. But instead, you can hike alongside 40 bird species and over 700 species of diverse flora snaking along the path without any traffic to scare away the birds or drown out the soothing tone of the sea’s song. Just like everywhere else in Sicily, Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro is ripe with history and offers various museums along the way to better educate yourself on this area’s history deeply rooted in its wildlife population and farming community.
Start this out-and-back hike from the park’s southern point for a 5-hour moderate hike that will take you on an 8.5-mile adventure.
As an Aeolian staple off the northern coast of Sicily, Stromboli is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The volcano peering down from its 3,031-foot summit touches the natural landscape with lava and a historical past so rich it mirrors the ancient Greek architecture found all over Sicily. And yes, if you’re daring, you can hike to the top too. Summiting the Stromboli volcano will require a guide but imagine trekking up real volcanic rock to catch the sunrise of a lifetime – worth it. From volcanic craters to the little town of Stromboli quietly nestled into the landscape, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views and postcard pictures with a hazy filter.
This moderate to hard hike will take about five to six hours to traverse about 5 miles as the rocky terrain crunches underfoot.
Vendicari Nature Reserve
Escape the hustle and bustle of southeast Sicily to visit the Vendicari Nature Reserve for a leisurely afternoon spent listening to the crash of waves and the calls of the thousands of species of bird, who migrate here from Africa to enjoy the tranquility. This relatively quiet nature reserve was first established in 1984 for its incredible natural environment with lagoons, beaches, sloping dunes and its diverse ecosystem attracted to the high salinity wafting from the ground and nearby sea. And you can’t miss the 15th-century tower or the old fishermen’s houses lining this hike’s path.
Head for the Torre di Vendicari entrance off of Noto-Panchino road for the option to walk north or south depending on which way your wind blows. Bird watchers, beachgoers and hikers alike will find paradise at Vendicari Nature Reserve – for the hikers expect an easy 1.5-hour hike over three miles of boardwalks for the perfect views.
And how does one prepare for an entire holiday dedicated to the Sicilian outdoors? Here are some trail secrets to keep your feet happy, and camera ready:
The best time to travel to Sicily for a hiking holiday is during the shoulder seasons when the crowds are few and far between, and the sun’s rays are less damaging, especially for longer hikes. Or even better, plan for a sunrise or sunset hike to avoid the crowds and heat. Be sure to pack a lunch or snack, also known as a Merenda, for most of these excursions because restaurants and cafes are hard to come by in these quieter and remote reserves and parks. And a Sicilian inspired lunch is exactly what you’ll crave after summiting a steep ascent.
Bring layers! While Sicily is known for its warm climate, you’ll be happy to have that rain jacket or thermal sweater in the mountains, especially in climates like Mount Etna. And an extra pair of socks is crucial to avoiding blisters and ruining your hiking escape on one of the most beautiful islands of the Mediterranean.
The best part about hiking in Italy? When the day is over you can relax with a soak in the natural pools and the lapping calm of the ocean’s waves.
To discover more about Sicily and the rest of your Italian holiday, check out Italian Breaks for where to go, where to stay and what to do.