10 best Sicily day trips from around the island
Sicily’s impressive architecture and archaeological sites attracts travelers each year in their masses. And who can blame them? There’s always something to discover, and in every part of the island.
Sicily’s also a great fit for every type of traveler. From solo explorers, to families with young children or teenagers, there’s a Sicily day trip for everyone.
Where to base your stay in Sicily
There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Choosing where to stay in Sicily depends on what you most want to see and do.
A good starting point is deciding on what type of trip you want. If staying by the beach is your number one priority, there are several options that may interest you.
The seaside town of Mondello is close to Palermo, meaning you get to be near the city and the beach. Alternatively, if you prefer to be closer to historical sites, the city of Taormina could be a better fit.
Sicily day trips from Catania
The cathedral’s been rebuilt after several disasters affecting the island including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna.
It goes without saying that hiring a car in Sicily is a must. Speaking from experience, transportation is sparse, and when it’s available, it’s not the most reliable!
Messina is also reachable from Catania. This port city not only connects passengers to the mainland, but it’s also a principal point for cargo.
1. The Aeolian Islands
From Catania, I highly recommend traveling to Messina and taking a ferry to visit any of the Aeolian Islands. Granted, you’ll more likely have a better experience if you spend a night or 2, but a day trip’s doable.
To get the best out of your Sicily day trip, why not consider taking a tour? Locals always know best, and any of these tours are ideal for all types of travelers.
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, and takes around 1 hour on a picturesque cruise by ferry.
Look out for quaint beaches and hidden viewing points around Lipari that give the best vistas of the surrounding islands.
Head to the piazza, take in the sea air, and enjoy an ice-cold lemon granita.
The other islands consist of Salina, Panarea and Vulcano. As its name suggests, Vulcano is a small volcanic island, and makes for an unusual day trip. A strong smell of rotten eggs hits you as you pull up to the shore, but don’t let that put you off.
Most travelers visit Vulcano to bathe in the outdoor warm mud baths. While you’ll most likely smell of sulphur for a day or 2, your skin will feel baby soft after a session. On top of that, you’ll also reap the therapeutic benefits of the sulphur mud. Top tip: wear an old swimsuit and leave the good one at the hotel.
Luxury boutique hotel in Salina: Hotel Signum. A 4-star choice on the island of Salina, enjoy one of their classic, superior or deluxe rooms, or upgrade to a suite. While there, take advantage of their wonderful spa and bespoke treatments.
2. Capo d’Orlando
In the province of Messina is the pretty town of Capo d’Orlando. It’s a place where you can catch an unspoiled panorama of the distant Aeolian Islands. It also makes a perfect day trip.
The archaeological site of the Roman Bagnoli Villa is within close reach of the city. You’ll see the remains of the Roman thermal baths, and mosaics that date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. The 3-level fortress, the Bastion, was once used as a watchtower to protect Capo d’Orlando from outside invaders.
Capo d’Orlando also has several festivals that take place throughout the year. They include The Sagra pesce festival (fish festival) and my personal favorite, the Chocolate festival.
Extra stop — Forza D’Agro
Visit a town that sits on the lower peak of a small mountain, with stone paved lanes and picturesque views. The small piazza in Forza D’Agro is a great place to take a break, and a reasonably priced pizza too.
Forza D’Agro is also famous for being a backdrop in The Godfather films. See if you can recognize any places when you visit.
“From solo explorers, to families with young children or teenagers, these Sicily day trips will keep everyone smiling.”
Sicily day trips — starting point: Palermo
When choosing a base for your travels in Sicily, Palermo is a good choice for many reasons. The city itself is full of incredible sites, like the jaw-dropping Palermo Cathedral, not to mention it’s a serious foodie haven too.
While on the subject of food, the seaside town of Mondello has great eats, as well as a sandy beach. It takes around 20 minutes from the center of Palermo by car or taxi, depending on traffic.
There’s also the option of taking a bus, which is a cheap option if you’re on a budget. However, while it may be cheaper to take the bus, it’s not necessarily the most relaxed route. During the summer season (late July, August), buses are packed with locals and tourists, not forgetting the traffic.
There are 2 main attractions in Mondello, the first being the beach. A long stretch of fine white sand, and clear blue waters invite you in. In the middle of the pier is the Charleston restaurant. It’s hard to miss this Art Deco building, whose restaurant is also popular with the locals.
The second, are the liberty-style villas that were built around the end of the 19th century. In total, there are approximately 300 of these historic villas to see in Mondello.
You get the most authentic taste of Mondello from the street kitchens and sellers. Small food trucks, called Apes (ah-peh), serve up the freshest seafood and at reasonable prices.
Where to stay in Palermo
Grand Hotel Villa Igiea Palermo. Check into a hotel with views overlooking the Bay of Palermo, where no 2 rooms are the same. Indulge in a massage or the solarium before taking a dip in the outdoor pool.
The equally sublime Casa Nostra is an excellent boutique B&B choice, and is also within walking distance of the historic center.
One more boutique choice to tempt you with is the sensational Hotel Torre Bonera Green Resort. Located in the Comune of Menfi, it’s ideal for exploring the historic town of Mazara del Vallo. We stayed here for 2 nights, and it wasn’t nearly enough.
The town was most likely built by native Sicilians, before being ruled by the Greeks, Romans, and then the Arabs.
Defensive walls surround the town, with the crown jewel of the castle adding the finishing touch at the top. There are steep lanes leading up and around from the Porta Trapani gateway. That said, wearing comfortable walking shoes here is a given.
What to see in Erice — Sicily days trips
One of the main sights in Erice is the impressive Castello di Venere (Castle of Venus). Dating back to the 12th century, it’s the place to catch the best views of the sea and coastline below.
Take a brief stop at one of the cafes in Piazza Umberto. Alternatively, you may want to also try the café in the park by the castle. Here, you can take some shade with your coffee, along with a side order of an awesome panoramic view.
There many churches in Erice despite it being a small town. The Real Duomo dates back to the 14th century, and was built using materials from the ancient Temple of Venus.
5. San Vito lo Capo
Another day trip that’s easily doable from Palermo is San Vito lo Capo. This picturesque seaside town has it all: beach, memorable vistas and architectural places of interests.
There are noticeably more locals in this town situated between mountains, than the tourist masses. That said, visiting San Vito lo Capo gives you a true taste of Sicilian living.
Hikers or nature enthusiasts are spoiled here. The Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro and the Riserva Naturale di Monte Cafano are excellent places to indulge in both activities. The latter offers stretching views of the waterfront, with plenty of hiking and walking opportunities.
Step back to the time of Ancient Greece with a visit to Agrigento. It was formerly the site of the city of Akragas, and during its peak, one of the wealthiest Greek colonies.
The Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is the main attraction here. Seven larger-than-life Greek temples dominate a large sacred area on the south side of the ancient city. The Doric style temples were constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC.
These impressive structures are some of the largest and best-preserved ancient Greek buildings outside Greece. Unsurprisingly, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Taking a tour from Catania to Agrigento is possible, with several companies offering competitive prices and itineraries.
Extra stop — Sicily day trips
If you’ve time after your visit to Agrigento, take a detour to Scala dei Turchi. This limestone rock formation in the shape of a staircase is a striking end to your Sicily day trip.
This historic fishing port of Sciacca in the province of Agrigento is indescribably pretty. The Ancient Greeks were first attracted to the town’s thermal springs, and decided to settle.
Divided into quarters, the town’s spread over different levels of a hillside, descending towards the sea. Be sure to visit several main sights in Sciacca, including the remains of the 14th century castle, Castello Luna. You can find the town’s principal church, the beautiful Duomo, just off Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Lastly, don’t forget to visit Piazza Scandaliato. From here, you can take in spectacular views of the harbor and sea, and all from a panoramic café.
Fellow spa and wellness enthusiasts will surely enjoy the several thermal spas in Sciacca. If you fancy following in the footsteps of the Ancient Greeks, visit the natural steam caves of Mount San Calogero.
Best Sicily day trips — starting point: Siracusa
The south of Sicily is one region I re-visit often. Using Siracusa as a base is an excellent choice. It’s not only a central spot for travelers, but there are also plenty of sights on your doorstep. On top of that, there are several great luxury boutique hotels in the city, and in neighboring Ortigia too.
I’ve written a detailed post on visiting Ragusa, and definitely recommend it as a day trip. After around 45 minutes by car from Siracusa, you enter a historic town, with beautiful churches, and an outstanding cave restaurant too.
Don’t miss on seeing the Duomo di San Giorgio in Piazza Duomo. The exterior follows the traditional Sicilian Baroque architectural style, while the inside is grand and a little theatrical.
Extra tip: wear comfortable walking shoes. Ragusa has several hilly slopes, which can be challenging at times.
Luxury boutique hotel in Ragusa
Locanda Don Serafino is an excellent and centrally located boutique hotel in Ragusa. With only 22 bedrooms, you need to book fast, and well ahead of time. Ranging from standard to junior suites, you’re guaranteed a comfortable stay.
While here, be sure to try out its excellent Michelin-star restaurant. The food, wine and service are exquisite, and there’s no chance of leaving here hungry.
Chocolate is what Modica is most famous for, and yes, you should definitely take home a souvenir or two.
Antica Dolceria Bonajuto has a variety of choice, and you can also sample some chocolate before buying. Visiting Modica from Ragusa is a 2-in-1 Sicily day trip, as it takes just 20 minutes by car.
Probably one of my favorite Duomos in Italy, the Duomo di San Pietro is an awesome sight. The town isn’t overrun with tourists, meaning it’s possible to take fantastic photos, and with no-one obstructing your view.
10. Isola delle Correnti
Take a day trip to the place where the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas meet.
Isola delle Correnti is a small island where you experience the feeling of being between 2 seas. It’s also the southernmost point of Sicily, and Italy.
There’s a short walk along a sandy beach, before you see the path leading to the island. I recommend bringing water shoes if you’ve a pair. On the island is an abandoned lighthouse, and plenty of chances to swim, bathe and snorkel.
Which one of these Sicily day trips most appeal to you? Are you planning a trip to Sicily, or would like to visit soon? Leave me a comment and let me know.
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Isole delle Correnti
Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....