Walking in Sicily – The 9 Best Places to Hike
Sicily is an island region in Italy that is known for its incredibly diverse scenery. Not only do you have miles of beautiful coastline, but you’ve got the towering Mount Etna in the east of the island and plenty of hills and valleys home to ancient ruins, vineyards and olive groves.
If you’re a walking enthusiast then Sicily is a brilliant place to come on a vacation, with a variety of different trails on offer that are suitable for everyone from beginners right up to experienced hikers. From beautiful stretches of path along the coast to intrepid ascents up active volcanoes, there is something for everyone on this island that has made it a really popular destination for walkers.
Before you start planning a walking vacation in Sicily, take a look at our list of the 9 best places for hiking on the island.
STROMBOLI, AEOLIAN ISLANDS
Stromboli is perhaps the most popular hiking spot for people on walking holiday in Sicily, offering dramatic scenery, unbeatable views and a good range of terrain to tackle.
The location of this walk is actually just off of the coast of Sicily on one of the Aeolian Islands, on an active volcano known as Stromboli. It’s one of the most active volcanic spots in the world, which is one reason why this is on top of many walker’s bucket lists.
The walk up Stromboli begins at sea level, and you’re strongly recommended to follow the trail with a guide to ensure the best vantage points and avoid getting hurt during the walk. It’s over a 3000-foot ascent to the summit, but you’ll be treated to incredible views of the surrounding scenery as you climb and will get the opportunity to watch lava erupt from the volcano’s crater once you reach the top.
This walk isn’t suitable for everyone but is one of the most dramatic and exciting hiking opportunities that Sicily has on offer. It’s a trek of about 5-6 hours which requires a moderate degree of fitness as you cover a range of volcanic and rocky terrain.
Mount Etna is one of the most famous landmarks in Sicily and another very popular spot for walkers. It’s the largest active volcano in Europe, rising almost 11,000 feet above sea level between the cities of Catania and Messina and best suited to more experienced hikers if you’re planning on making it to the top.
Despite being an active volcano, Mount Etna very rarely erupts so is suitable for climbing almost all year round. It’s a certified UNESCO World Heritage site that lets walkers cover a wide range of terrain as they explore, and it is recommended that you take part in a guided walk if you really want to see the best that this iconic spot has to offer.
The ascent right to the top of Mount Etna takes around 3-4 hours and can be quite challenging to those who aren’t used to hiking. However, there are plenty of easier trails that wind lower down for those who still want to enjoy walking in Sicily but want a less strenuous experience, or you can take a cable car right to the summit if you’re just after for views.
VENDICARI NATURE RESERVE
The Vendicari Nature Reserve is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily, located on the island’s southeast coast. It’s a protected area that offers three different coastal hiking trails and a wide variety of different scenery including coves, beaches, lagoons and marshes that are teaming with different species of wildlife.
The Blue Route covers the northern section of the nature reserve, beginning and ending at some of the best beaches in the whole area. The trail is just over 5.6km and is suitable for most hikers, with a small scramble right at the end of the route.
The Orange Route takes you from the main entrance of the reserve and passes by the Tonnara and Sveva Tower; a 15th-century building that overlooks the beach and the sea. You’ll then walk to Calamosche beach and finish with a moderately tricky climb down stone steps to the sand, offering a beautiful location for swimming or a picnic.
Finally, the Green Route cuts through the centre of the Vendicari Nature Reserve and begins by passing by the ruins of the Cittadella Maccari; an ancient byzantine village from the 6th century A.D. The trail leads you past catacombs to another Byzantine piece of architecture known as the Trigona, before finishing at the Tonnara of Vendicari.
THE ZINGARO RESERVE
The Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro was the first-ever nature reserve established in Sicily and has been a popular place for hiking since it was opened in 1986. Located about an hour away from Palermo, it was originally going to become a highway around the coast of the island but was saved by local protests and turned into one of the most popular places for hiking in the region.
If you’re after outstanding coastal walking then The Zingaro Reserve is the ideal place to come, with plenty of beautiful beaches and views of the ocean as well as fields, forests and slopes. There are also several museums located around the park that offer the chance to let visitors learn more about the area, making it a great place to bring children.
This reserve is also famous for the incredible array of creatures and plants that have made their home in the park, with over 40 species of birds and 700 different varieties of flowers and other greenery. Not only is it a walker’s paradise; it’s a nature lover’s paradise too, offering a 7km stretch of path and lots of beautiful beaches where you can spend the day.
LA ROCCA, CEFALÙ
Cefalù is one of the best places to go in Sicily if you’re looking for a stunning seaside town, and the hill known as La Rocca that overlooks it is a brilliant place for hiking. It’s a craggy, towering outcrop of stone that provides stunning views of the town and beyond, and is a very popular place for walkers of all abilities.
The climb to the top of La Rocca takes around an hour and begins at the steep stone steps known as the Salita Saraceni staircase. You’ll see the ruins of a 12th-century Norman castle and a 9th-century Arab citadel as you near the top of the hill, making this a walk that is great for history lovers as well as hiking enthusiasts.
270m above sea level, you can enjoy the views before heading back down and exploring Cefalù.
The Capo Milazzo trail is an easy loop around a peninsula that is located north of Milazzo and is one of Sicily’s most popular walking routes. It’s a very gentle trail that is perfect for all ages and abilities, providing an excellent range of scenery along with a couple of historic sites.
As you head out to the tip of the peninsula you’ll walk through olive groves, cacti and past sweeping stretches of the coast. Passing by the natural swimming pool known as the Piscina di Venere, the trail then loops back past the site of the Santuario Rupestre di San Antonio church, built in the 13th century and said to be where the famous figure San Antonio da Padova sought refuge after being shipwrecked.
There are a variety of different routes you can take up and down the peninsula, most of which are around 3km and will only take a couple of hours. However, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches along the way, so we suggest you make a day of it and stop off to admire the scenery and dip your toes in the ocean to cool off.
ANAPO RIVER VALLEY
The Anapo River Valley is found near the famous city of Syracuse and is an ideal spot for serious walkers and fans of ancient history. The area has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status because of the large number of ancient tombs that are built into the cliffs, thought to have been there since the 13th century B.C.
There are a variety of different routes around the burial sites, but the most popular train is about 6.5km and will take around 4 hours to complete. As well as the amazing necropolis ruins, the scenery in the valley is also wonderful and offers a real sense of getting off the beaten track in Sicily. There aren’t many tourist facilities around the area so it’s more suited to experienced walkers, but offers a unique blend of natural beauty and ancient history.
TAORMINA TO CASTELMOLA
If you’re looking for a gentle hike that still lets you see a variety of Sicilian scenery, the trail between Taormina and Castelmola is a great place to start.
Taormina is a hilltop town that sits close to Mount Etna and is a lovely tourist destination for the day, with beaches, gorgeous views and ancient ruins waiting to be explored. The walk up to the village of Castelmola is steep, but once you arrive you can enjoy even more impressive views of the surrounding scenery as you catch your breath after the ascent.
The walk back down to Taormina is much more leisurely and scenic, with a couple of interesting sites to pass as you walk. You also have the option to visit the ruins of the Castello Saraceno by taking a short detour off the main path.
The hike between these two settlements is short but quite steep, so you’ll need to have a moderate level of fitness if you want to reach the top. There is the option to catch a bus to Castelmola and then walk back down to the other town if you prefer, which is a great option if you’ve got kids or older members of your travelling party.
VULCANO, AEOLIAN ISLANDS
Vulcano is another of the Aeolian Islands that is an excellent place for hiking in Sicily, with several different volcanic craters that have erupted since the late 1800s. However, they do still emit dangerous volcanic gases so you do have to be careful when walking close to the summit.
There’s a wide, signposted path up the Fossa di Vulcano to one of its most impressive craters, which is roughly a 391m climb that takes under an hour. It’s a relatively easy hike that is suitable for all ages and abilities, with very rewarding views at the end of the path of the huge crater and the surrounding ocean and the other Aeolian Islands in the distance.
Walking in Sicily is a brilliant way to spend your time on the island, whether you’re looking for a way to spend the afternoon or have arrived in the region specifically to explore its terrain. If you’d like to book a vacation in Sicily that visits some of the best places for walking, get in touch with our team for helpful advice and a bespoke Italian holiday planned by our experts.