Sicily, which is a part of Italy, is the largest island in the Mediterranean. This can make it a daunting proposition to explore everything the island has to offer in a short amount of time.
In fact, several weeks is generally ideal to really experience most of the major attractions of the island. Believe it or not, though, with a little planning, you can easily experience some of the best highlights of Sicily in just a few days.
The following is an itinerary of how to spend 6 fabulous days in Sicily in order to make the most of your time on this incredible island.
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Getting to Sicily
There are three main airports in Sicily: Palermo on the northwest coast of the island, Catania on the east coast of the island, and Trapani, on the west coast. Starting in Catania will provide easier access to the most famous site in Sicily: the active volcano Mount Etna.
Catania is also conveniently located near several other major sites, including the historic cities of Syracuse and Noto, the picturesque waters around Giardini Naxos and Isola Bella, and the lovely vacation hot spot of Taormina, which is a great home base for many main attractions in the area.
There are many direct flights into Catania from major cities in Italy and the rest of Europe. Taormina can then be reached by taking a convenient one-hour bus directly from the airport.
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How to spend 6 awesome days in Sicily
Day 1 of Sicily Itinerary
After arriving at the Catania airport, follow the signs near the Arrivals area to find the public buses directly outside. You can buy a ticket for the bus to Taormina at a ticket booth located near the Arrivals exit. You will then pick up the bus nearby. The buses run pretty frequently and you can locate the correct one based on the location labeled on the front of the bus. The bus will drop you off conveniently at the central bus station in Taormina.
If you have free time in the afternoon, the Mount Etna Sunset Tour is an excellent option. It begins at 3 pm and lasts until about 11 pm. It features a trip to nearby Mount Etna, with an exhilarating drive in a four-by-four truck to the highest point on the volcano that guests are allowed to explore.
Along the way up, you will be treated to incredible views of the smoking active volcano, crevices, and craters. (Note that conditions are always changing on the volcano and that certain sections will be accessible and other sections will be inaccessible based on what is safe for visitors.)
The tour will give you a memorable experience viewing the smoking active volcano before sunset. You will also get the opportunity to take a short hike into a more recently formed crater, which features multi-colored rocks, as well as crevices that are still searing hot.
After descending back down to the main visitor center, you will have a chance to order dinner at a restaurant. It is a great way to start your time off in Sicily by giving you an up-close encounter with the island’s most famous attraction.
Day 2 of Sicily Itinerary
For Day 2, you can venture outside of Taormina and explore the historic ancient city of Syracuse, as well as the nearby baroque town of Noto.
Syracuse feature several Greek and Roman amphitheaters and other ruins dating back to the 8th century B.C. The ruins are marvelous to explore, especially with the help of a guide who can explain the history of the landmarks.
Most tours also include a stop at nearby Ortigia, a picturesque island that can technically be reached on foot from Syracuse. A highlight of Ortigia is the stunning central cathedral.
From Syracuse, some tours will also make a stop at nearby Noto. This town is small and can be easily explored on foot within about an hour. But within a small distance, there are numerous stunning baroque churches and buildings within the central historic district.
Day 3 of Sicily Itinerary
On Day 3, you can take a full-day tour that takes you to some of the best natural sites in the area, including a trip by cable car up Mount Etna, as well as a stop at an underground cave on the slopes of Mount Etna. Parts of this tour are potentially a repeat of the sunset Mount Etna tour, however, it is well worth the trip, in large part because the volcanic activity of Mount Etna is constantly changing, not only every day but even every minute.
The day tour also includes a trip to the Alcantara Gorges, which consist of a river running as a series of rapids through two towering walls of stone. The water is a bit cool, even in the summer, but it is well worth venturing out further into the gorge, to behold the awesome sight of the sunlight hitting the narrow rock walls and the rushing water between them.
Make sure to bring various clothes and shoes for the day trip. You will want to have sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots, as well as a warmer jacket and pants for the Mount Etna hike, and then a bathing suit, towel, and water shoes for the gorges.
Day 4 of Sicily Itinerary
The eastern part of Sicily is also famous for having been featured in The Godfather movies. There are many guided tours that will take you to the villages of Savoca and Forza D’Agro, where several key scenes from the movies were filmed.
A guided tour will also provide you with more information about how the movies were filmed in Sicily, as well as some history of the real mafia in Sicily. The trip to the two villages also features lovely views from high up in the Sicilian hillside.
In the afternoon, you can explore some of the main attractions in Taormina. Make sure to check out the Teatro Antico, which is an Ancient Greek theater dating from the 3rd century B.C. You can even attend concerts there on select dates.
Also make sure to visit the Villa Comunale di Taormina, which is a lovely free park in the middle of the city. It also features some historic structures and gorgeous views of the coast.
Finally, head along Corso Umberto. The main thoroughfare is lined with cute al fresco restaurants, shops, and fountains. The corso will lead you to Piazza IX Aprile, which features the picturesque Torre dell’orologio e Porta di mezzo and Chiesa di San Giuseppe. On the other end of the Corso you’ll find Chiesa di San Pancrazio, which is another lovely historic church.
Day 5 of Sicily Itinerary
On Day 5, take some time to explore the stunning beaches and waters around the nearby town of Giardini Naxos. You can take a morning boat ride, which lasts about 2.5 hours and includes a trip to the beautiful Isola Bella, a stop at an excellent snorkeling spot with beautiful colorful fish and coral, as well as plenty of time to swim in the sea, sunbathe on the boat, and take in the beautiful hills and cliffs around Taormina.
After the morning excursion, you can make your way to the western part of Sicily, to the largest city of Palermo. The city is relatively easy to get to from Taormina. You can either take a train from Taormina, with a change in Messina, or you can take a bus from Taormina to Messina, where you can pick up the train from Messina to Palermo. Both the train and bus from Taormina leave from the central train station.
Day 6 of Sicily Itinerary
Though there are a lot of sites to explore in Palermo, you can see a surprisingly large number of them in just a single day. Try to stay near Via Vittorio Emanuele in the historic center of the city. Then, simply walk down the street to explore many of the main attractions in Palermo.
Make sure to stop at the Fontana Pretoria and the nearby Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Padri Teatini. Next, stop at the Quattro Canti, which is an intersection dominated by four massive statues and fountains.
Then, go to the immense Palermo Cathedral. You can purchase a ticket to go to the roof, which features fabulous panoramic views of the city. If you have time, you can also purchase a combined ticket, which will give you access to the tombs, crypt, Treasury, museum, and Archbishop’s Rooms.
From there, continue to the Norman Palace. The centerpiece of the palace is the spectacular Palatine Chapel, which is dominated by dazzling golden mosaics on the walls and ceiling.
For a touch of nature in the bustling city, you can also visit the Botanic Gardens and Villa Giulia, which are conveniently located next to each other. Villa Giulia is a lovely free park with statues, pavilions, flowers, benches, a cafe, and walking paths.
After a full day in Palermo, it’s time to leave, which you can do conveniently from the nearby Palermo Airport. Despite the whirlwind trip, you have hopefully had a great chance to visit this magical island and explore much of the best that it has to offer.
Written by Merry Allison of Virginia Vacation Guide