Italy is the country with the most UNESCO heritage sites in the world and big portion of that you can find on the island of Sicily. Throughout the history many different civilizations conquered Sicily because of its strategic position in Mediterranean sea. All of them left piece of their culture in Sicily and that makes it incredibly diverse and interesting place to visit.
Together with great weather, food, architecture and nature it should be on every traveler’s list.
We have visited Sicily many times and now we put together our 14 best places to visit in Sicily.
Best places to visit in Sicily
Agrigento is the city on the south coast and it is famous for the partially restored ancient greek city which was established around 500 BC.
If you are history lover it might be really interesting for you to see the Valle dei Templi – restored remains of greek temples and other archaeological legacy.
For us it was interesting stop on the way to Scala dei Turchi and we walked around for maybe 2 hours.
Entrance fee is 12 euros (10 euros outside the main season). EU visitors under 18 have a free admission and between 18 and 25 with 50% discount. Every first sunday of month is free for everyone.
The town of Taormina is sitting on the cliff of the east coast. The main sight is the famous ancient greek theatre, but beside that you can find also many old churches, good restaurants and shops in Taormina.
The city of Taormina is connected by cable car with the beach and famous Isola Bella nature reserve.
To be honest – the place definitely has its charm, but in our opinion it is very touristy and expensive town. There are many posh beach resorts around Taormina, but if it’s what you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed.
Syracuse is almost 3000 years old city situated on the east coast. It has very rich history and was established by ancient greeks.
Nowadays there are many well preserved ancient buildings from greek and christian period as tourist attraction. Especially beautiful is island Ortigia which is connected with the rest of the city by bridge.
Ortigia holds many landmarks on such a small area, so it is very easy to walk around the island by foot and explore everything in few hours.
Modica is another historic city listed as UNESCO heritage, situated just few kilometres from Ragusa and it is the home of the finest baroque architecture. The city is sitting in valley between two hills, so again prepare for a lot of stairs and steep slopes. Modica is a great place to experience local culture and regional cuisine.
There is a long tradition of chocolate making, so you should definitely try that, because the Modica chocolate is like no other you have ever tasted. There is almost no added cocoa butter and no white sugar (just brown granulated sugar). Well – one try is better than thousand words.
10. Scala dei Turchi
Scala dei Turchi is a huge cliff located on the coast of south Sicily. It is formed by a marlstone which has characteristic calcium white color and it makes the place very photogenic. The cliff is surrounded from both sides by beach, so you can have a swim there after you climb the natural stairs (scala means stairs) of the cliff.
The place is very beautiful and totally worth spending few hours there, especially around sunset. It deserves the spot on the best places to visit in Sicily list.
Catania is the 2nd biggest city of Sicily after Palermo and it is situated on the east coast. It will take you about 3.5 hours to drive a car from Palermo to Catania and these two cities are connected by the highway.
Catania is sitting in the shadow of active volcano Etna and it is good starting point for the Etna tours.
The city was destroyed by huge earthquake in 17th century and most of the city was rebuilt using volcanic stone (basalt) from Etna. That’s why you can see so many black features on the buildings around the city. Even the symbol of the city – elephant – standing on the main square is made by volcanic basalt.
We recommend to visit elephant square, park Bellini, morning fish market and to eat cannoli at Savia cafe.
If you are looking for accommodation close to the city center for good price – we stayed in this two bedroom apartment with kitchen. Great value for the price.
More interesting places and exact locations are described in separate article about Catania (coming soon).
Etna is on of the most active volcanoes in the world and it is in constant state activity. It is about 3300m high and the top is often covered in snow. You can go to the level of 1900m by car where is huge parking lot. From there you can have a hike around the volcanic landscape or you can pay for the cable car which will bring you to the 2600m altitude. There you can hike around crater area at 2900m. Alternatively you can walk there from the parking lot at 1900m, but it is quite a walk. The top is not accessible due to the volcanic activity. You can also opt for one of the many Etna tours which will bring you to the volcano and prepare everything for you.
If you choose any spot to enjoy the Etna landscape, it will not disappoint you.
Noto is small baroque town nearby Syracuse listed as UNESCO heritage. It is famous for its fine architecture of Sicilian baroque style. You can find many churches and palaces in walking distance from the center. It is definitely worth a stop for few hours on your way to Syracuse or other places of south Sicily.
Scicli is a small and very cozy town on the south of Sicily listed on the UNESCO heritage list. You can easily see the most iconic landmarks by foot in few hours. One of the landmarks is San Matteo Church which is sitting on the hill above the town and it is great viewpoint.
Surrounding hills are full of caves where poor locals lived until 1958!
The town is also famous for its parades and festivals throughout the year. If you are visiting Scicli in March, May or during Easter or Christmas time, check out the precise dates as this is unique experience.
We were hesitating for a long time to visit the town, but now we have been there we can say it is one of the best places to visit in Sicily and you can combine the trip together with nearby Modica and Ragusa.
Palermo is the capital of Sicily and it is almost 3000 years old. It is famous for its architecture, culture and food which will take you through the history of Sicily and show you all different civilizations which influenced Sicily.
There are many beautiful landmarks around Palermo, so we recommend to stay there at least 2 full days. Palermo is city with unique atmosphere and the most beautiful places are Cathedral of Palermo, Teatro Massimo, Quattro Canti and Pretoria squares, Church of Saint Catherine,….
There is very nice morning street market in Palermo next to the Teatro Massimo and we stayed in apartment just above the market. It has great location, good price, beautiful cozy decoration, kitchen and 2 bedrooms. We could imagine to live there for some time, going for fresh fruits and pastry in the morning and enjoying atmosphere of Palermo.
You can read about recommended itinerary and our tips for Palermo in this separate article (coming soon).
Ragusa is stunning historic city built on limestone hill between 2 valleys and it is part of Val di Noto UNESCO heritage site. The city is not very friendly for people with physical disabilities because the whole city is situated in steep slopes full of small stairs and narrow streets. On other hand it gives the city unique atmosphere and getting lost in the curvy roads where a beautiful church is peaking from every other corner is amazing experience.
Ragusa is divided into two parts – Ragusa Ibla and Ragusa Superiore – separated by deep ravine, so prepare to walk up and down a lot. Both parts have plenty of historic landmarks and it is worth exploring them both.
Once you are in Ragusa we recommend to visit nearby Modica and Scicli (also on the list).
Zingaro nature reserve is the spot any nature lover should not miss. It is located on the north-west point of Sicily and it spreads several kilometers along the coast. There are small pebble beaches with crystal clear water every few hundred meters which makes it great for the hike along the coast with stunning views and amazing swimming all the time.
The entrance fee is 5 euros and you can enter the park either from the north or south.
Read more about the best beaches in separate article.
Scopello is a small coastal village west of Palermo with cozy atmosphere and breathtaking landscape around. It is just few kilometres from the beautiful Zingaro nature reserve with many small cute beaches along the coast. But Scopello itself has also very nice pebble beaches sitting between high cliffs (so called stacks) which are spread along the coast.
On one of the cliffs 16th century tower is standing which is on private property and you can rent an apartment there. It is magical place and you will have an access to the tower and also to your own private swimming site. We stayed there for 3 nights and never wanted to leave. It is definitely the most romantic and atmospheric place you can stay at with beautiful views on the sea.
Scopello has also very important “tonnara” which is the place where locals catch and process red tuna fish in traditional way.
Read more about Scopello travel sites in this separate article (coming soon).
1. Aeolian islands
Aeolian islands is a volcanic archipelago north of Milazzo. They are easily accessible by ferry and in summer attract many visitors. There is no wonder, because there are not many places around Europe where you can see lava flow and bath in volcanic mud. The landscape of the islands is very dramatic and you can hike around the coast.
We stayed at amazing guesthouse Casa del Sole. It has great terace with view on the sea and Stromboli volcano. It is not on booking.com, so you have to contact them.
Read more about how to get there and about islands’ landmarks in separate article.
So these are the best places to visit in Sicily. Sicily has it all – beautiful architecture, breathtaking nature, great food, good weather and hospitable people. That’s true at least for tourists. Locals have difficult time to live there because of the high unemployability reaching up to 40% at some regions and many young people are leaving the island to find better life somewhere else. But that’s another story. Locals are very helpful and we felt safe everytime and everywhere we visited Sicily.
If this list is too overwhelming for you, we also suggested 2 different itineraries for 4 days in Sicily. One for history lovers and another one for nature seekers.
We have a soft spot in our hearts for Sicily and after you visit it you will have too.