Thinking of a beautiful Mediterranean island for your next holiday? Perhaps one that sits off the toe of Italy? Seductively beautiful and perfectly placed in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily should be at the top of your list.
Sicily is the largest of the Italian islands, and has long seduced travelers with its natural wonders and cultural treasures. It boasts wonderful weather, and a diverse range of culinary influences.
Natural wonders abound here, and the juxtaposition of sea, volcano and mountain scenery makes a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities. The island is full of history, bursting at the seams with ancient artistic and architectural gems.
There are many incredible reasons to visit Sicily. The following are just to name a few!
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5 Reasons You Should Visit Sicily
The beaches in Sicily are some of the best most beautiful in the world, and with wonderful weather year round, it’s warm enough to visit the beach for half the year. Glorious summers stretch all the way from May into October, and the mild winter very quickly becomes a warm spring.
With over 280 stunning beaches on Sicily, it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite. They come in all forms, and many colors, from town beaches to secluded inlets and coves, and with sparkling azure waters, rugged coastal landscapes, and powdery white sands.
That said, the long beach at Cefalu (pictured above) is a popular favorite with a gorgeous historic backdrop. If you’re looking to escape the crowds though, visit Calamosche; a beautiful, unspoilt beach sits with great snorkeling.
If your main reason for visiting Sicily is to spend time at the beach, there are plenty of villas in Sicily to rent, most on the Western coast within 5 minutes of the shore.
The Western coast is a great base as there are also a number of beautiful nature reserves (Stagnone, Salt Pans of Trapani and Marsala), as well as access to stunning islands like the island of Favignana.
Best Time of Year For Beaches in Sicily
Being a Mediterranean destination, the great thing about Sicily is that it’s perfect for a beach vacation all year round. Even in the dead of winter (January), the average temperatures on the coast hover around 13°C, and when the sun comes out you can still walk around in T-Shirts.
Summers in Sicily are hot, dry, and warm, so you’ll definitely be going swimming! Winters (December through March) are rainy, though still warm (though the southeastern regions are drier than the northwestern, which has higher altitude due to its mountains).
The average temperature in summer is 26°C, which drops to around 24°C by September. The water temperature for swimming sits around 27°C in August, and around 25°C by September – perfect for swimming!
Summer sees 13 – 14 hours of sunlight per day, and 8 in winter, which is incredibly high compared to the rest of Europe. Overall – the weather is mild year-round, so there’s no wrong time for a beach visit!
Walking through Sicily, history unfolds at your feet. There are an abundance of historical sites, churches, and museums, and many of the cities are some of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy due to their dramatic architecture from various time periods.
First there is Ragusa; a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the southern tip of the island. Clinging to a steep hillside with incredible views, you’ll find romantic winding streets, narrow cobbled walk ways, charming historic churches, and dramatic medieval architecture throughout.
Other baroque towns in the south with the same UNESCO status include Val di Noto, Modica, Noto, and Scicli.
Then there’s Syracuse, a beautifully preserved historic town, and another UNESCO Site. Syracuse is a dramatic mix of the old and new. It was once a key city in the Greek empire, and ancient Greek ruins are spread all over town. Those searching for Greek architecture should also visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
There are also the Temples of Selinunte; a 7th century settlement which has somehow survived (major pieces of it anyway), despite being wrecked by the Carthaginians, conquered by Rome, and devastated by an earthquake in the Middle Ages. Tour the ruins and vividly imagine how big the temples once would have been.
Food and Wine
Sicily is a haven of culinary delights, and foodies, wine lovers and those with a sweet tooth will fit right in. It doesn’t matter where you go, or what you choose eat, from street food to fine dining, the food is guaranteed to be incredible.
“Always fresh and always seasonal, the temptation to eat your way through Sicily is overpowering.” And with an emergence of local wineries like Tasca d’Almerita and Planeta, the great wine traditions of Sicily have been reborn.
Both Sicily and the regions in Sicily have their own local specialties, though one particular dish deserves a mention of its own. From the Italian for “little tube,” Cannoli is Sicily’s best-known dessert.
It is a cone shaped delight filled with mouth-watering sugary vanilla ricotta cheese, provocatively dusted with powdered sugar and sometimes even chocolate ganache.
“The true difference between a store-bought Cannoli in any other country and one here is the essential magic ingredient –Succade – the candied peel of any citrus fruit.” – Neecey Beresford.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the street markets in Sicily, as these are just as much a foodie experience as dining in any of the island’s restrauants.
In terms of markets, there are plenty across Palermo, and you’ll find fresh produce at Vucciria and Ballarò. That said, our favorite is the Capo street market, which remains virtually unchanged since the time of Arab rule.
This is a true-to-life representation of street markets through Sicilian history. The entire atmosphere rivals that of a circus, complete with some incredible feats and sights to be seen.
You’ll see heads of swordfish, stacked wooden crates that seem to defy your understanding of gravity, and even be serenaded by local vendors that cannot carry a tune in a bucket!
Image credit: jeffreyw (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
If hiking Europe’s tallest active volcano sounds like something that would excite you, you’re in the right place to do it!
Mount Etna sits at 3,323m, and erupts quite frequently, usually sending a dramatic amount of ash in big, puffy clouds ascending over the island and beyond. There are plenty of opportunities to hike the volcano, with treks for all skill levels, and panoramic views which make the journey worth it alone.
While snow caps are an unlikely image to pair with smoke and spitting lava, during winter you can choose to ski down the north face of the volcano and jump over lava bumps. But note that excursions on the mountain are often disrupted by volcanic activity.
If you’re lucky enough to witness an erupting Etna, there’s nothing more spectacular (it may just take you a little while longer to fly home!) Bubbles of fire and pods of ash shoot from the depths of this volcano and reach an incredible 11000 feet high up in the air.
Photo credit: Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
One of the best things about Sicily is its authenticity. The island today is what Italy used to be; “a preserved slice of old-world travel that is hard to find these days.”
The island has not been overly developed for tourism, so travel here offers a very real and unscripted experience. It’s the true definition of off the beaten path. There are predominantly mom-and-pop businesses, very few luxury resorts, and “no one seems keen on (or good at) ripping off visitors.”
“At Mount Etna, one of the world’s most renowned wine-making regions, there are few organized tasting rooms. But if you ask, everyone has a friend who can make an appointment for a much more personalized visit.” – Simone Girner.
It’s a good idea to learn as much Italian as you can before traveling to Sicily. Locals are kind hosts who are eager to show off their island and make travelers feel welcome, though very few speak English. English is only spoken in touristy areas, and once you get out into more rural areas, the locals speak in Sicilian dialects.
The Best Time to Visit Sicily
The best time to visit Sicily is April to June and September to October. This is shoulder season, and during this time the temperatures are mild and you will find far fewer crowds.
Summer is peak season in Sicily, though it is very hot and dry, busy, and SUPER crowded, especially in the tourist areas. We highly recommend avoiding travel during August as this is the height of summer.
How to Get to Sicily
The best way to get to Sicily is by plane, and you can choose to fly in domestically from mainland Italy (there are two domestic airports), or fly internationally into Catania, Palermo, Trapani or Cosimo (the last two are typically your low cost airlines).
From Rome you’re looking at a short 1.25 hour flight, from Naples it’s only an hour, and from London a short 3 and a half hours.
Despite being an island, you can drive to Sicily, by driving onto a ferry in Genoa, Naples, Salerno or Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland. You can also catch a ferry from Tunis in North Africa and from the islands of Sardinia and Malta.
This can be a great option as the best way to get around once in Sicily is by car – public transport isn’t the greatest, and having your own vehicle opens up the whole island for you to explore. It’s a relatively small island, where you can drive north to south in 3-5 hours.
There are also trains, buses and sailing options for getting to Sicily; you can book trains via Intercity or Eurostar, and you don’t have to disemark as the train goes on the ferry. Bus companies like Interbus run routes from major Italian cities.
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I want to visit Sicily! I’d definitely need to learn more Italian, though. I plan to spend most of my time in the rural areas.
The rural areas of Sicily are absolutely amazing Dana, you’ll have such a wonderful experience. But yes, I absolutely recommend brushing up on your Italian as it can be quite difficult to travel there without it.
You’ve convinced me that I must visit Sicily! We spent 10 days in Italy, and while I liked it I felt like it was really overcrowded nearly everywhere we went. I think Sicily may be the Italy I have been dreaming of ;)
I think you’re right Valerie! Hope you have the chance to visit Sicily soon – totally different experience to mainland Italy – I’ve found it’s reasonably difficult to get the same level of authenticity on the mainland as too much tourism has taken hold over the last couple of years.
Yes, the temptation to eat my way through Sicily IS overwhelming! I would want to stop everywhere to eat. I can’t believe there are 280 different beaches. I have ancestors from Sicily and I’ve always wanted to go, but it seems intimidating for some reason. This info helps!
You would definitely be a fan of the food Laura! It’s a foodie’s heaven here … especially if you have a sweet tooth :D! And there are enough beaches to keep you busy for a very long time!
Hope you have the chance to visit soon … stick to the main cities and towns if you’re a little unsure about how easy it will be, and they have a pretty good understanding of English there. Now that you guys will be based in Europe, maybe wet your toes with a simple trip first up, and then once you’ve got a feel for it, could plan a second trip and get more adventurous, maybe taking in one or two rural towns :)
You had me at food and wine. But seriously, I would love to go – the beach looks amazing, god, everything looks amazing! Any advice on good hostels in the area?
You’ve got a couple of hostels dotted throughout Sicily – my best advice for budget accommodation would be to pull up online comparison websites and browse the most recent reviews. There aren’t that many when compared to the big cities on mainland Italy, so it’s some pretty quick research and won’t take much time to look through :)
I have a couple of colleagues from Sicily and they always tell me I should visit as soon as possible. Hiking Etna is on my todo list and those World Heritage Sites as well. And the food… amazing!
Hope you have the chance to visit soon Hugo … your colleagues are right – Sicily won’t disappoint!
We are thinking to head south Italy next summer. Find a nice town to stay for 2 months… I wasn’t thinking about Sicily before, but now I’m considering it, specially that my husband speaks a bit of Italian, so communication won’t be a problem there… Travel decisions, so hard. Thanks for the tips!
Let me know if you have any other questions in the lead up to your trip Nat – maybe we can help sway your mind towards Sicily instead of the mainland :D!
You had me at ‘hike an active volcano’! I have found that even a bare amount of Italian and lots of gestures is a great ice breaker in the less-visited areas of Italy. I can say grazie mille a bunch and make a friend!
Absolutely Julie! When all else fails, a little bit of pictionary and charades never goes astray!!
You convinced me with the beaches and history. It looks definitely gorgeous. I would love to visit soon.
Hope you do have the chance!
I really wanted to make it to Sicily when I studied abroad in Rome but it was unfortunately out of my budget. From the sights to the food and wine I can’t wait to make it back to explore.
Sounds like the perfect excuse to plan a return trip Margaret! Hope you have the chance to visit soon :)
I love Sicily! I have eaten my way through, testing gelati throughout. Menfi has the best, despite Noto claiming that they do.
The beaches are incredible!
Palermo is great, but never drive there! It is crazy!
The people are wonderful.
Wine is amazing! Cantine Settesoli in Menfi do FREE tours, just email to arrange it.
I’m booking to go back for the 3rd time!
So glad you love Sicily too Maria!! Heading back for the third time is quite the testimonial – it really is such a wonderful place!
Enjoy your upcoming trip :) X
We’ve been saving up for a trip across Europe with the kids, which will hopefully happen in 2 or 3 years. We’re definitely visiting Italy along the way, but it’s been hard to choose which cities to visit. Sicily definitely sounds lovely.
Hi Marjorie, a trip across Europe with the kids sounds wonderful! You should definitely consider Sicily if you have the chance, it’s an amazing and authentic part of Italy that I’m sure the whole family will love :) Happy travels!
It’s a beautiful island full of beaches, love those waters and white sand and climate. Thanks to tell about Sicily, its nice place for a relaxing holiday(:, great place to explore as well as lot of historical places are there around to site see as well.
So glad you’re also a fan of Sicily Zophia! It really is one of the most beautiful countries, and the history is so fascinating, more so than a lot of other destinations we’ve been to :)
Thanks for sharing the post related to Sicily.
You’re welcome Gennaro, glad you enjoyed the post :)
Sicily is an amazing travel destination! I really want to go there in the summer!
Absolutely Susan! I hope you do have the chance to plan a summer trip soon :)
Thanks for sharing a great post!
You’re welcome Devesh – so glad that you enjoyed it :)
I can’t wait to go next year! Being sicilian, I’m interested in learning more about my roots and explore the city!
Have an amazing trip Nick! What an incredible opportunity to learn more about your roots and ancestry :)
Dear All, my husband is Sicilian and now are almost 9 years that I visit every summer Sicily. This Italian region is incredible, rich in history, culture, exquisite food and wine, amazing people, turquoise waters, and so on. I strongly recommend the Aeolian Islands (Stromboli, Panarea, Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Alicudi, and Filicudi), not-to-be-missed!
Thanks for reading Giulia! It’s so great to hear from a local perspective, and fabulous that you’re able to spend so much time in Sicily every year :)
Thanks for the tips on the Aeolian Islands!
My grandfather was from a small town near Palermo named Altavilla Milicia. He always told me it was beautiful.
In 2019 I was able to see for myself. My wife and I flew into Palermo. We rented a car and spent the next 2 weeks exploring the island, then driving back all the way to Milan. It was a blast. Over the course of my lifetime I’ve driven Indy cars, raced motorcycles, sky-dived, bungee jumped and scuba dived. None of those activities raised my adrenaline as much as driving in Palermo! It’s CRAZY!
There are no speed limits, stop signs are optional and the space between the double lines in the middle of the road is used by scooter riders as an “Express Lane”. They will literally come at you head-on, in your lane, just expecting you will avoid them. By the third day I perfected shifting and honking with my right hand and steering and waving my hands out the window, with the left.
We used only our cell phones for navigation. Once you left Palermo the roads were very empty. We traveled south thru Corleone, to the Arigento region and then east to Catania. We only passed a handful of other cars the entire way.
Since the GPS was always trying to take you north to the Autostrada, my wife chose a town in between as our destination. We wound up driving thru Prizzi. It was amazing. There were stone homes with the streets between them so narrow, that we would not have been able to open the car doors to exit, had we needed.
The Arigento region had beautiful ruins as you mentioned and as an incentive to attract people, the government was selling homes there literally for a few thousand dollars.
There was the stipulation that you will make improvements.
If you are looking for an inexpensive island getaway, it may be for you. But be sure to stock up on groceries before going, because the closest large store was about 3 hours away in Palermo.
The entire island was just gorgeous and I am grateful we had the opportunity to experience the life of which my grandfather spoke so fondly. I think he would be amazed at how little much of it has changed since he was a boy.
Hi Dan, thank you so much for sharing your memories and experience, it’s such a magical experience when we hear so much of a place from our grandparents and then finally have the chance to visit for ourselves.
Yes, that’s what I absolutely love about Sicily, that it truly does remain very unchanged in most parts, one of the very few, authentic, real places left in a world which feels like it’s losing much of its uniquieness and individuality.
LOVE your descriptions of Palermo and the adrenalin of simply being in the middle of everything!
I would jump at the chance to buy a property for a few thousand Euro!