As the biggest island in the Mediterranean, it will come as no surprise that Sicily is full of seemingly endless destinations and activities to see and do. All the possibilities can be overwhelming, but we want your trip planning process to be as smooth as possible. To help you out with this, we’ve come up with a list of the 20 best things to do in Sicily, Italy.
Sicily is so big and so vast that there are all sorts of different ways that you can spend your vacation and still want to come back for more. Visit buildings rich with history, take in the local culture or relax on some of the best beaches in Sicily. No matter how you choose to spend your trip, you’ll never forget this Sicilian vacation! And remember, regardless of what you’ll end up doing, make sure you book a great accommodation to complement your trip. For a true taste of Italy, we recommend renting a Sicilian villa.
Let’s not wait any longer. The sooner you get your trip planned, the sooner you’ll be relaxing in paradise. Here are the 20 best things to do in Sicily, Italy in 2021!
Any trip to Sicily is incomplete without spending some time visiting the capital city of Palermo. In Palermo, you’ll find all sorts of things to keep you busy no matter what you’re looking to get out of your Italian adventure. Some of the best things to do in Palermo are to explore the many historical sites, grandiose palaces, incredible architecture, and the city’s many world-class dining experiences.
Start your visit to Palermo by visiting the Piazza Pretoria, one of the city’s main public squares. While there, check out the Fontana Pretoria at its center before venturing out to the city. You’ll find the incredible Palermo Cathedral nearby to explore and a few museums not too much further away. When you get hungry, take to the streets to discover some of the most authentic Sicilian food anywhere on the island. Palermo is a one-stop-shop for a great day in Sicily.
Explore the Valley of Temples
One of the best things to do while you’re visiting Sicily is to explore the ancient ruins of the many temples on the island. The beauty and historical significance of these amazing structures is something you don’t want to miss out on. To see what this is all about, start your exploration at the Valley of Temples in Agrigento.
This massive complex of incredible temple structures dates back over 2,500 years ago, all the way back to 500 BC. The Valley of Temples consists of two main groups: the eastern temples and the western temples. You’ll find the best-preserved temple on the island in Tempio di Concordia in the eastern group. In the western group, you’ll find the famous Temple of Zeus, the largest in the area. Unfortunately, the Temple of Zeus was severely damaged by earthquakes in the 18th century.
Relax on the Beach in Cefalu
Cefalu is one of Sicily’s most famous cities and tends to be the picturesque Sicilian view that people think of when they picture the island. Due to its lively city, breathtaking views, and incredible beaches, Cefalu is a popular destination for visitors of all ages. Since any Sicilian itinerary will include a visit to Cefalu, spending time on the beach there is a no-brainer.
This coastal city’s shoreline offers visitors soft sand beaches, endless blue waters, and incredible views no matter where you look. For these reasons, the beach does get pretty crowded during the high travel season, so it might be better to travel during less busy times. No matter when you come, relaxing on the Cefalu coast will be something you don’t want to miss.
Climb Mount Etna
The awe-inspiring volcano residing in Sicily, Mount Etna, looms overhead and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island. Soaring over 10,000 feet into the Italian sky, Mount Etna is an active volcano that changes with each eruption. Chances are high that during your visit, you’ll see the eerie smoke making its way out of the top of the volcano.
Much of Mount Etna is open for exploration either on your own or as part of a guided tour on ATVs, just don’t get too close to the center. The views both of the mountain and from the mountain are breathtaking. Taking the time to climb to the top of Mount Etna is one of the best ways to spend half a day in Sicily.
Explore the Eastern Temples at Selinunte
As alluded to previously, exploring the ancient temples of Sicily is a remarkable experience. Their massive size, rich history, and incredible architecture and engineering are all reasons to visit. But the aforementioned Valley of Temples is not the only area to visit in Sicily. You should also make a trip to see the eastern temples at Selinunte.
This group of four massive temples date back as far as 500 BC and are worth venturing to and taking them in. They’re identified by four letters: C, F, E, & G. Temple G is one of the largest temples in all of Sicily and is big enough to encapsulate temples C, F, and E all at once. You’ll be amazed at its sheer size when you catch a glimpse.
Sail to the Aeolian Islands
While you’re visiting Sicily, you should consider taking a day (and night) trip to the little group of islands off the northern coast known as the Aeolian Islands. Along the coasts of these small islands of paradise, you’ll find amazing waters that are so clear you can see right down to the floor of the sea. You would struggle to find more inviting waters anywhere in all of Italy.
After you’re done spending the day wading in the crystal clear waters, it’s time to go ashore and experience the lively nightlife that the islands have to offer. The Aeolian Islands are well known for offering visitors and locals alike some of the best nightlife anywhere in Sicily. So if you want to relax on the beach and then hit the town for a good time, the Aeolian Islands are perfect for you.
Visit the Temple of Segesta
The last of the many temples that you should take time to see while vacationing in Sicily is the Temple of Segesta. This temple is one of the best-preserved temples in all of Italy, and its construction will leave you speechless as you walk up to it. Nearly all of its massive columns remain standing to this day, and many of the overhead structures still exist.
The Temple of Segesta is located in Sicily’s green hills and is the focal point of the rolling countryside all around it. To catch a bird’s eye view of the temple, check out the nearby theater located more than 1,200 feet above. The view of both the Segesta Temple and the endless Sicilian landscape is one that you will never forget.
Visit Isola Bella
For all the beach-lovers out there, the small island of Isola Bella off the northeastern coast of Sicily is a must-visit during your vacation. If you love relaxing on the beach and have spent time looking up the best beaches in all of Italy, chances are high that Isola Bella was on some of those lists. And for good reasons. The “beautiful island” — as it translates to in English — offers visitors some of the most amazing views of any beach in all of Italy.
Isola Bella’s beaches are rockier than they are sandy, so don’t expect to feel the soft sand between your toes. But the island’s shores are perfect for sunbathing, and the shallow waters of the sea are practically begging you to jump in and spend the day snorkeling. While you’re in the water, make sure you take time to look around and peer back towards Sicily. The views from this island are truly unforgettable.
Spend Time in Taormina
If you’re already spending time visiting Isola Bella mentioned above, then adding a visit to Taormina while you’re there is a simple addition. Isola Bella sits at the base of this hillside city and is one of the attractions that make Taormina so famous. Known as the Pearl of Sicily, Taormina is a famous city that should be on everyone’s shortlist of Sicilian activities.
Other than the beautiful island, Taormina also offers breathtaking views of Mount Etna in the distance. Visit Piazza IX Aprile for endless views of the water as far as you can see. And take some time to enjoy some delicious food and experience authentic Sicilian culture all around you.
Check Out the Scala dei Turchi
If you’re dreaming of going to a beautiful beach while you’re in Sicily, then consider visiting the unique beach at the Scala dei Turchi. As you arrive at the beach, you’ll notice that it’s not your typical sandy shore. The “shore” is a massive limestone cliff whose face has been carved into what looks like a giant stone staircase by erosion over thousands of years.
Scala dei Turchi translates to English as the “Stair of the Turks”, and you’ll see why right away. This unique beach offers some of the coolest beach views anywhere in the world. And although it takes a bit more effort to reach the waters below, it’s worth every ounce. The endless turquoise waters all around add to the serenity of the white limestone, making it a beach experience that you’ll never forget.
Visit Villa Romana del Casale
In one of the most interesting Sicilian discoveries in the last couple of centuries, Villa Romana del Casale was found nearly perfectly preserved under a nearly thousand-year-old landslide. This Roman villa was buried when a landslide unexpectedly swallowed it up in the 1100s, where it remained buried until its relatively recent discovery.
Once excavated, Villa Romana del Casale’s true beauty was uncovered, and tourists started venturing to Enna to come to see it. Due to the landslide, it’s one of the best-preserved villas from the Roman Empire and still has much of the original decoration. The villa has been named a UNESCO world heritage site due to its rich history.
Explore the Zingaro Nature Preserve
Sicily is home to more than one nature pressure that’s worth visiting, but one that you certainly don’t want to miss out on is Zingaro. The most well-known preserve on the island, Zingaro, is easy to reach and worth every second you spend there.
While exploring Zingaro, hike around the preserve and catch endless views of Sicily and the beautiful blue waters of the sea in all directions. Along the way, you’ll also find several coves and picturesque beaches tucked away in the preserve that you can jump right in. So bring your bathing suit or even wear it on the hike, and take advantage of these pristine, preserved waters and land.
Visit Parco Archeologico della Neapolis
If you take some time to visit the Sicilian city of Syracuse, one attraction that you want to be sure to hit is the Neapolis archaeological park or Parco Archeologico della Neapolis. This park houses one of the biggest theaters and amphitheaters of the ancient Greek and Roman Empires, respectively. These theaters take you back to the heyday of these great empires as you absorb the history all around you.
While walking through the park, you can also catch a glimpse of the stone quarries that were used to get the building materials for many structures that you’ll see in Syracuse. You’ll also be able to venture into underground art galleries and catch sight of some unique pieces that you won’t find anywhere else.
Visit the Medieval Village of Erice
The small medieval village of Erice is built atop a 2,100+ foot cliff overlooking the town of Trapani. This village’s main attraction is the astounding Erice Castle, offering visitors the best view of Trapani and the surrounding areas that you can find anywhere nearby.
Erice is full of medieval architecture and design, so you could spend a whole day just walking around the small village and taking it all in. The town is a popular tourist destination, so visiting during the high travel season will lead to crowds everywhere.
Take a Day to Explore Catania
Falling only behind Palermo as the second biggest city on the island, Catania is another must-visit destination while you’re in Sicily. Sitting at the base of Mount Etna, it’s the perfect place to start (and finish) your Mount Etna expedition. Due to its proximity to the volcano, Catania’s structures are made of black lava stone, which is a sight to see in its own right.
Take in the views of the plain of Catania before exploring some of the must-see attractions. Start your visit at the Piazza del Duomo before visiting the Duomo of Catania itself. Spend some of your day climbing Mount Etna before coming back down to relax with delicious seafood at Canni & Pisci while you watch the sunset.
Day Trip to the Aegadian Islands
Although the Aeolian Islands get most of the fame, another group of islands off the coast is also worth a visit — the Aegadian Islands. Consisting of Favignana, Levanzo, and Merttimo, the Aegadian Islands have endless picturesque beaches and swimming holes for you to spend a couple of days enjoying.
You’ll find one of the best beaches in all of Sicily off the coast of Favignana in Cala Rossa. This beach is one of many on these small islands, but if you’re going to go to just one location here, choose Cala Rossa. Its beauty and piercing waters are unforgettable.
Visit Ragusa and Modica
The towns of Ragusa and Modica that you can visit today are not the original cities that stood many centuries ago. In the late 17th century, a massive earthquake destroyed much of southern Sicily, claiming Ragusa and Modica along with many other towns. Today, the rebuilt cities are recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites, adding to their prominent history.
Both cities were rebuilt in an interesting way, with two levels to each. New cities were built on the hills above their predecessors, but then the original cities’ destroyed buildings were also replaced with new ones. This gives these two towns a unique flare that is worth checking out.
Spend Time in the Torre Salsa Nature Reserve
The second nature preserve that you should spend time visiting is Torre Salsa Nature Preserve. Although not as popular as the aforementioned Zingaro preserve, Torre Salsa is well worth the visit. During your temple trekking adventure, as you explore Agrigento and Selinunte, you’ll pass right through Torre Salsa, so there’s no reason not to stop!
On this preserve, you’ll find a massive beach that’s perfect for a family day of fun or a calming swim by yourself. Since it’s not nearly as well known as Zingaro, the beach here is much quieter with far fewer tourists.
Visit Ortigia Island
Nestled just off the eastern coast of Sicily near Syracuse sits Ortigia Island, or Isola di Ortigia. This small island packs plenty of fun activities and pretty sights to see in a small package, so you may be surprised by just how much you find to do.
While on the island, make sure to do the typical Italian city attraction: check out the Piazza del Duomo and the cathedral itself. It’s a gorgeous example of Italian architecture that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to check out the Arethusa Fountain nearby before ending your day with some fresh and delicious Italian gelato.
Check Out the Marsala Salt Pans
If you’re ever getting tired of the hustle and bustle of some of the bigger city areas of Sicily, consider making the short drive out to the Marsala salt pans. The salt pans offer nearly endless views of the Sicilian countryside, with views of Mount Etna looming in the distance.
The salt mills standing alone in the wide-open salt pans add a calming ambiance to any vacation. It really puts you at peace as you peer out into the void of the salt pans and see how truly vast the area is. It’s something that you simply can’t explain until you experience it for yourself!