The 9 Best Places to Visit in Sicily

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

Home > Blog > The 9 Best Places to Visit in Sicily

There are some amazing things to do in Sicily which makes it one of the best parts of Italy to visit. With ancient temples, stunning landscapes and quaint villages, there are so many wonderful areas of the island to explore. If you’ve been thinking about heading to this astonishing island but aren’t sure what to see in Sicily, this guide is for you.  

In this article, we highlight 9 of the best places to visit in Sicily that will make your trip to the largest Italian island truly sensational. We highlight the best places to go in Sicily for history, beaches and day trips, providing an overview of what you can expect at each of these Sicily attractions. 

Whether you’re eager to explore ancient temples or soak up the charming village atmosphere, you will be mesmerized by the beauty of Sicily.

The Best Places to Visit in Sicily for History

Sicily is doused in natural and architectural splendor but there is also a great range of historical sites which make it a haven for travelers wanting to step into the past. With ancient temples, gorgeous cathedrals and cities brimming with wonders, there are so many places to visit in Sicily that will appeal to history buffs. 

The Valley of the Temples

One of the best places to visit in Sicily to experience the ancient past is the Valley of the Temples. Situated near Agrigento, the site is famous for its exceptionally preserved Greek temples. The complex dates back to the 5th Century BCE and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its astounding cultural offering. 

The Valley of the Temples is split into an eastern and western zone, meaning there is so much to explore when you visit this Sicilian landmark. There are various Doric temples at the site dedicated to a range of deities like Zeus and Hera. One of the standout features of the Valley is the Temple of Concordia, which has remained remarkably intact since its construction in 430 BCE.  

When visiting the Valley of the Temples, you can wander the archaeological site and imagine you have stepped into Sicily’s ancient past. You can also admire the incredible views of the surrounding landscape, characterized by the blossoming almond trees. As you take in these stunning vistas you will realize that the Valley of the Temples is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily.

Syracuse and Ortigia Island

One of the best towns in Sicily for travelers who want to explore the local history is Syracuse. Located on the eastern coast, the city is connected to Ortigia Island by a footbridge and offers even more historical delights for visitors. Syracuse has so many historical landmarks, archaeological sites and ancient architecture making it an ideal destination in Sicily for travelers desiring to immerse themselves in antiquity. 

Syracuse was a major Greek city-state founded in 733 BCE and was so powerful that it rivaled Athens. On a visit to Syracuse, you can see remnants of the Greek occupation including the Temple of Apollo and the Greek Theater, which bring to life the city’s classical heritage. 

The historic center of Syracuse is Ortigia Island which is abundant with Greek, Roman and Norman influences. The narrow streets of Ortigia Island are home to a plethora of ancient sites, most notably the Cathedral of Syracuse which was originally built as a temple to the goddess Athena.

Palermo

Aside from being one of the best places to stay in Sicily, Palermo also has plenty of historical sites which make it an ideal place to visit. The capital city of Sicily has some of the best architecture on the island, with palaces, squares and cathedrals which highlight Palermo’s cultural prowess. 

The Norman Palace stands out as one of the most significant historical sites in Sicily. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 9th Century AD and served as the seat of power for many Sicilian kings. It’s one of the best places to visit in Sicily as it showcases the multicultural nature of the island, with beautiful Byzantine mosaics and the Palatine Chapel. 

For travelers who prefer Gothic architecture, Palermo Cathedral is just what you’re looking for. This brilliant structure has elements of Norman, Moorish and Baroque styles, making it a visual masterpiece. On your visit to the Cathedral, you can explore the royal tomb and treasury, gaining insight into the religious significance of the building. 
Another landmark of Palermo is the Capuchin Catacombs which offer one of the more unique historical experiences in Sicily. In these eerie underground chambers, visitors can see the mummified remains of Palermo’s elite. It’s one of the best places to visit in Sicily to learn about local burial traditions and gain fascinating context regarding Palermo’s social history.

The Best Places to Go in Sicily for Beaches 

One of the best reasons to visit Sicily is to soak up the sun on its world-renowned beaches. The island has over 922 miles of coastline, meaning that no matter where you visit there is a beachside escape waiting for you. In this section, we will highlight some of the best beaches in Sicily that are perfect for any visit. 

Cefalù

Situated on the northern coast of Sicily and around 44 miles from Palermo is the coastal paradise of Cefalù. The sandy beach and inviting turquoise water make Cefalù one of the best places to visit in Sicily for travelers seeking beachside relaxation. Alongside the natural beauty, you can also relish the marvelous backdrop of the Rocca di Cefalù, a towering cliff dotted with ancient ruins. 

At the beach, visitors can enjoy sunbathing and watersports making it ideal for families visiting Italy. Cefalù beach is much quieter than other coastal destinations in Sicily. This allows visitors to absorb the authentic charm of Cefalù without having to worry about crowds and tourists. 

Within the town of Cefalù, visitors can explore narrow medieval streets filled with quaint shops and cafes. This offers a welcome break from the beach and is perfect for those who want to experience culture while spending time on the fabulous Sicilian coast. There are also some excellent restaurants in the town, perfect for foodies who want to sample the very best dishes in Sicily.

San Vito Lo Capo

Our next must-visit beach town in Sicily is San Vito Lo Capo, found on the northwest coast near Trapani. This coastal haven is famous for its elegant crescent shape as well as its fine white sands and crystalline waters. This beach in particular is often regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. 

What makes San Vito Lo Capo one of the best places to visit in Sicily is its proximity to the Zingaro Nature Reserve. This pristine natural sanctuary is filled with trails and serene landscapes, making it one of the best places for hiking in Sicily.

Marzamemi

The charming fishing village of Marzamemi is located on the southeastern coast of Sicily, just over 50km from Syracuse. This captivating coastal town offers stellar views of the Ionian Sea making it the perfect place to visit in Sicily for a beachside stroll. 

The beach at Marzamemi is notable for its golden sand, crisp waters and serene atmosphere. The benefit of visiting Marzamemi compared to other coastal towns in Sicily is that it is much quieter, resulting in a peaceful ambience for sunbathing and relaxation. 

Marazemi offers one of the most unusual things to do, which is visiting the Tonnara di Marzamemi, a historic tuna processing plant. Despite its ancient roots, the area has been transformed into an artistic space which compliments the remaining structures. A visit to the Tonnara is a great way to spend a day in Marzamemi and provides a dose of culture alongside beachside leisure.

The Best Places to Visit in Sicily for Day Trips

Many visitors choose one area of Sicily and stay there for the remainder of their trip. While this can be ideal for enjoying the delights of the best hotels in Sicily and allows you to get familiar with your surroundings, it means that you miss out on so many incredible places on the island. Therefore, we have recommended some of the best places to visit in Sicily for day trips which will help you bulk out your itinerary and experience more of this Italian travel destination.

Mount Etna

As one of the most famous natural landmarks in Sicily, Mount Etna needs no introduction. This marvelous mountain is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe and can be found on the east coast of Sicily. It is one of the best places to visit in Sicily as the unique landscape is dominated by lava fields and volcanic formations, resulting in one of the most uniquely beautiful areas in Sicily. 

Mount Etna is one of the best places to visit in Sicily for views of the colorful countryside and the Azure Ionian Sea. You can take the cable car to reach higher altitudes and on a clear day you can see as far as the Aeolian Islands to the north. 
Mount Etna is also a great place to go hiking in Sicily, which makes it a top spot for outdoor enthusiasts. There are a variety of trails which cater to different fitness levels, making it very accessible for first-time hikers. Upon summiting the highest craters on Mount Etna you will feel truly accomplished and can relish the unrivaled natural vistas.

Noto

Nestled within the Val di Noto region, Noto is a charming Baroque town in southeastern Sicily that is perfect for a day trip. The exquisite architecture of the town has awarded it UNESCO World Heritage status and sites like the Cathedral of Noto and the Palazzo Ducezio stand out for their exceptional beauty. 

The focal point of Noto is Piazza del Municipio, the central square surrounded by Baroque buildings. This is a great place to go for a walk and take in the astonishing architecture of the town. As you wander the spirited alleys you will come to realize why Noto is considered one of the most beautiful places in Sicily. 

Noto is known for its culinary heritage, making it one of the best places to visit in Sicily for foodies. You will find a variety of authentic restaurants and cafes serving delightful dishes in keeping with local traditions. Be sure to try some of the incredible Sicilian wines and save room for the almond-based sweets, which are a local delicacy.

Erice

Another exceptional place to visit on a day trip in Sicily is Erice, a stunning medieval town situated on a mountain of the same name. At a height of 750 meters above sea level, visitors can marvel at the majestic views of Sicily’s western coast. To get to Erice, you will need to take the cable car from Trapani which offers an exciting ascent to the idyllic town. 

The elevation of Erice makes it much cooler than other parts of Sicily and also makes it rather isolated. This is ideal for visitors who want to escape the bustle of Sicily’s urban areas and enjoy some peace and quiet. When visiting Erice, give yourself plenty of time to explore the various churches, palaces and temples that make up the town.     

Standing at the highest point of Erice is Venus Castle where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Trapani and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The castle was constructed by the Normans in the 12th century on the site of a temple dedicated to Venus, also known as Aphrodite. It is one of the most popular attractions in Erice, giving visitors the opportunity to step into the past and experience the elegant architecture and surrounding natural beauty.

Summary

There are so many amazing places to visit in Sicily that promise to amaze. With historical wonders, lavish beaches and idyllic day trips, there is something for everyone on this incredible island. 

History buffs will be delighted by the Valley of the Temples as well as the ancient structures found in Palermo and Syracuse. Travelers visiting Sicily for its blissful beaches will be blown away by the heavenly shores of Cefalù and San Vito Lo Capo. Meanwhile, travelers seeking to experience as much of Sicily as possible will find so much joy in exploring Mount Etna and charming towns like Noto and Erice. 

Thinking about taking a spectacular sojourn to Sicily? Explore our selection of custom-made tours in Sicily or contact us now to book your next Italian escape.

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

Other Blog Posts You Might Like

Enquire